Jump to ContentJump to Main Navigation
Performing Economic ThoughtEnglish Drama and Mercantile Writing 1600-1642$
Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content.

Bradley Ryner

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780748684656

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: September 2014

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9780748684656.001.0001

Show Summary Details

The Panoramic Stage

The Panoramic Stage

William Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice and Cymbeline

(p.106) Chapter 4 The Panoramic Stage
Performing Economic Thought

Bradley D. Ryner

Edinburgh University Press

This chapter examines how plays and treatises reflected on their construction of vantage points from which an economic system is visible. Mercantile writers described their treatises as ‘maps’ and claimed to give readers a totalising view of commercial activity. They contrasted ‘maps’ to ‘utopias’, fictional representations that only simulated this vantage point. Distinct from maps or utopias, Renaissance plays could foreground the problem of abstraction by simulating a synchronic view necessarily undercut by the diachronic experience of live theatre. The chapter culminates in an examination of two Shakespeare plays that present what at first appears to be a panoptic view of exchange before reinforcing the impossibility of such a view. The panoptic view of the casket test in The Merchant of Venice allows audiences to predict which casket holds Portia's picture, but the fantasy nature of this vantage point is underscored by the obscurity of the offstage mercantile transactions. Cymbeline suggests that a panoramic vantage point would be necessary to track and predict changes of value undergone by its principal characters, but reinforces the impossibility of achieving such a view by insisting on the limited perspective of characters and audience members alike.

Keywords:   abstraction, Cymbeline, diachronic, maps, The Merchant of Venice, Shakespeare, synchronic, utopias

Edinburgh Scholarship Online requires a subscription or purchase to access the full text of books within the service. Public users can however freely search the site and view the abstracts and keywords for each book and chapter.

Please, subscribe or login to access full text content.

If you think you should have access to this title, please contact your librarian.

To troubleshoot, please check our FAQs, and if you can't find the answer there, please contact us.