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Performing Economic ThoughtEnglish Drama and Mercantile Writing 1600-1642$
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Bradley Ryner

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780748684656

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: September 2014

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9780748684656.001.0001

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Stage-Managing Interpretation

Stage-Managing Interpretation

Ben Jonson's The Staple of News

(p.133) Chapter 5 Stage-Managing Interpretation
Performing Economic Thought

Bradley D. Ryner

Edinburgh University Press

This chapter examines techniques by which mercantile writers and playwrights attempted to manage reception by comparing Thomas Milles's copious use of paratext to Ben Jonson's direct addresses to the audience and his use of onstage audiences. Milles, who attempted to make his readers’ experience of his treatises coextensive with his own, may seem to be a kindred spirit to Jonson, whose interest in controlling the circulation and interpretation of his works is often taken for granted in literary criticism. However, this chapter argues that Jonson could flaunt his skill not by enforcing a single authorially sanctioned way of receiving a play but by crafting self-consciously unstable theatrical representations meant to activate and thematise the multiple interpretive energies of his audiences. In The Staple of News, Pennyboy Senior, Pennyboy Junior, and Lady Pecunia jarringly shift between appearing as heavy-handed allegories and as quasi-realist characters. The failure of the The Staple of News's onstage audience -- ridiculous as it is -- to arrive at a suitable way of making sense of the play's shifts between allegory and mimesis underscores for the play's real-life audience the tenuous relationship between abstract representations of economic systems and material reality.

Keywords:   allegory, Ben Jonson, Thomas Milles, mimesis, onstage audience, paratext, reception, The Staple of News

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