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Chaste ValueEconomic Crisis, Female Chastity and the Production of Social Difference on Shakespeare's Stage$
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Katherine Gillen

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9781474417716

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: January 2018

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9781474417716.001.0001

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Chastity and the Ethics of Commercial Theatre in Measure for Measure, Pericles and the Revenger’s Tragedy

Chastity and the Ethics of Commercial Theatre in Measure for Measure, Pericles and the Revenger’s Tragedy

Chapter:
(p.33) Chapter 1 Chastity and the Ethics of Commercial Theatre in Measure for Measure, Pericles and the Revenger’s Tragedy
Source:
Chaste Value
Author(s):

Katherine Gillen

Publisher:
Edinburgh University Press
DOI:10.3366/edinburgh/9781474417716.003.0002

This chapter explores the ways in which chastity is invoked to designate representational, economic, and ethical legitimacy. Antitheatrical tracts often depict the theatre as a brothel that commoditizes people and as a deceptive seller of cheap, corrupt wares. Shakespeare’s Measure For Measure, Shakespeare and Wilkins’s Pericles, and Middleton’s The Revenger’s Tragedy reproduce these antitheatrical arguments, presenting prostitution as a synecdoche for economic exchange that commoditizes bodies and sells them using theatrical artifice. Each play invokes the figure of a chaste woman to trouble this association between the theatre and the brothel, interrogating the imputation that the theatre, like the brothel, traffics in human bodies and in excessive, supplemental, and therefore disingenuous forms of representation. Although the plays reach disparate conclusions about the possibility of creating an ethical commercial theatre, they collectively illuminate the problematics of theatrical chastity, as it is used to interrogate the theatre’s commercial and representational investments.

Keywords:   Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure, Shakespeare’s Pericles, Middleton’s The Revenger’s Tragedy, chastity, prostitution, representation, semiotics, commercial theatre, antitheatricality

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