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Table of contents :
Cover
Fictions of Credit in the Age of Shakespeare
Copyright
Acknowledgments
Contents
List of Figures
Introduction
I.1. Polonius in the Marketplace
I.2. Economics and Fiction
I.3. “Equipment for Living”: Practical and Dramatic Texts
I.4. Archive and Structure
1: Reckoning Reputation
1.1. Jealous Arithmetic
1.2. Partnership Problems
1.3. Economic Language in Othello
1.4. Credit versus Honor
1.5. “For the Seas’ Worth”
2: Friendly Credit and its Dangers
2.1. Commonplaces, Common Goods
2.2. Proverbs and Contradiction
2.3. Managing Contradiction in Letter-Writing Manuals
2.4. All That Glisters in The Merchant of Venice
2.5. Pairs and Networks in A Woman Killed with Kindness
3: Debt’s Poetry, Credit’s Fictions
3.1. Debt Plus Poetry Equals . . . ?
3.2. Timon of Athens: or, The Rich Beggar
3.3. Debt’s Poetry
3.4. Origin Stories
4: Other Worlds
4.1. Unpuzzling Credit
4.2. The Stuff of Poetry
4.3. Volpone’s Will
4.4. The Magnetic Lady’s Logarithms
4.5. Interest’s Contradictions
4.6. “The World Over”
Coda
Bibliography
Index
Recommend Papers

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OUP CORRECTED AUTOPAGE PROOFS – FINAL, 23/12/2020, SPi

Fictions of Credit in the Age of Shakespeare

OUP CORRECTED AUTOPAGE PROOFS – FINAL, 23/12/2020, SPi

OUP CORRECTED AUTOPAGE PROOFS – FINAL, 23/12/2020, SPi

Fictions of Credit in the Age of Shakespeare LAURA KOLB

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Great Clarendon Street, Oxford, OX2 6DP, United Kingdom Oxford University Press is a department of the University of Oxford. It furthers the University’s objective of excellence in research, scholarship, and education by publishing worldwide. Oxford is a registered trade mark of Oxford University Press in the UK and in certain other countries © Laura Kolb 2021 The moral rights of the author have been asserted First Edition published in 2021 Impression: 1 All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, without the prior permission in writing of Oxford University Press, or as expressly permitted by law, by licence or under terms agreed with the appropriate reprographics rights organization. Enquiries concerning reproduction outside the scope of the above should be sent to the Rights Department, Oxford University Press, at the address above You must not circulate this work in any other form and you must impose this same condition on any acquirer Published in the United States of America by Oxford University Press 198 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016, United States of America British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data Data available Library of Congress Control Number: 2020951761 ISBN 978–0–19–885969–7 DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198859697.001.0001 Printed and bound in the UK by TJ Books Limited Links to third party websites are provided by Oxford in good faith and for information only. Oxford disclaims any responsibility for the materials contained in any third party website referenced in this work.

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Acknowledgments This book has been many years in the making, and I owe many debts of gratitude. Richard Strier first encouraged me to think about money and language together. Without his initial astute questioning and continued conversation, Fictions of Credit would never have come into being. Bradin Cormack pushed me to think beyond the obvious: to dwell on knotty problems and thorny questions, and to find beauty in them. Josh Scodel has been a model of scholarly generosity; his depth of knowledge and readerly insight have benefited this work in countless ways. Baruch’s English department has been a welcoming academic home. I am especially grateful to Jessica Lang, for her steady, clear-eyed mentorship, and to Mary McGlynn, for her unflagging support. I could not have wished for better colleagues; special thanks to (among many others) Amina El-Annan, Tim Aubry, Lisa Blankenship, John Brenkman, Eva Chou, Allison Deutermann, Matt Eatough, Shelly Eversley, Stephanie Hershinow, Sean O’Toole, Rick Rodriguez, Brooke Schreiber, Lauren Silberman, Cheryl Smith, Steven Swarbrick, and Nancy Yousef. It was a delight and an adventure to learn the ropes with Allison Curseen. My Baruch students’ energy, enthusiasm, and willingness to do new things with old words have been an inspiration. I have been fortunate to be able to share portions of this work in a variety of settings. Early drafts of some of this material received feedback at the Renaissance Workshop at the University of Chicago and at the Folger Shakespeare Library’s Researching the Archives dissertation seminar. I am grateful to leaders and participants in both groups, with special thanks to Michael Murrin and the late David Bevington, in Chicago, and to Nigel Smith and Peter Lake, at the Folger. More recently, the Shakespeare Seminar at Columbia University has been a forum for some of this work. I am grateful for the community that the Seminar fosters and the writing groups it has spawned. For freely flowing talk (and coffee, and wine) my thanks to Caralyn Bialo, Dave Hershinow, Gavin Hollis, András Kiséry, Alex Lash, Zoltán Márkus, Bernadette Myers, Vim Pasupathi, Debapriya Sarkar, John Staines, and Matt Zarnowiecki. It has also been a joy to share ideas with J.K. Barret, Adhaar Desai, Lara Dodds, Billy Junker, Lynne Magnusson, Lucy Munro, Dan Shore, Philip Goldfarb Styrt, Ben VanWagoner, Michael West, and Jessica Wolfe. Portions of the project received valuable comments in SAA and BSA seminars, RSA and MLA panels, and an interdisciplinary conference on Early Modern Debts organized by George Oppitz-Trotman.

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Material support from the Weissman School of Arts and Science’s Dean’s Office, CUNY’s Research Foundation, PSC-CUNY, the Eugene Lang Foundation, and CUNY’s Faculty Fellowship Publication Program has facilitated research for this project. A three-month fellowship at the Folger Shakespeare Library saw the completion of the first full draft. I am grateful to the Folger Institute and to the staff of the Library’s reading room. I would also like to thank the staffs of the Huntington Library, the British Library, the University of Chicago’s Special Collections, and Columbia University’s Rare Book and Manuscript Library. An earlier version of Chapter 1 appeared in Shakespeare Studies 44 (2016). Part of Chapter 3 appeared in SEL 58, no. 2 (Spring 2018). Thanks to both journals for their permission to use this material here. I am grateful to everyone at OUP for making this book a reality. Ellie Collins has been a wonderful editor, offering clarity, support, and insight. The press’s anonymous readers provided generous, thoughtful, and productive comments that significantly strengthened the work. Many thanks, also, to Ella Capel-Smith and Sam Downes for shepherding the book through its final stages, and to Tim Beck for meticulous copyediting. Francis Bacon tells us that, if a person “tosseth his Thoughts” to friends, “he seeth how they looke when they are turned into Words.” For helping my thoughts become words, and for countless good words of their own, my thanks to Laura Aydelotte, Greg Baum, Dave Gerrard, Armando Mastrogiovanni, Lindsay Nordell, Caryn O’Connell, Aleks Prigozhin, Michael Robbins, and Matthew Schratz, who is also my very dear cousin. Chris Mead offered life-saving advice and excellent company. Reina Hardy, conjurer, called at least one dream into existence. Together, Jessica Rosenberg and Megan Heffernan have made up the smartest, funniest, long-distance book-writing club I could have asked for. Penny became so involved she required her own desk chair. Matthew Harrison read every word, often more than once, generally on short notice. Ana Harrison fed me, made me laugh, kept me afloat. Their friendship has sustained me through much more than the writing of this book; I cannot pay them back, but I will gladly rest their debtor. Conversations with Ben Robinson shaped my thinking on every level. His enthusiasm for the project, along with the many acts of care he extended to me while writing it, gave me the faith needed to finish. For the daily joy and sheer good luck of having Ben in my life, I am grateful beyond measure. My family has given me more than can be enumerated. To Andrew, Amy, Kublai, Sasha, and James, and to Margaret, Nick, Calvin, and Emily: boundless love and gratitude. My parents, Daniel and Kazhia Kolb, filled my earliest world with words. Their love made everything else possible; this book is dedicated to them.

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Contents List of Figures

Introduction I.1. Polonius in the Marketplace I.2. Economics and Fiction I.3. “Equipment for Living”: Practical and Dramatic Texts I.4. Archive and Structure 1. Reckoning Reputation 1.1. Jealous Arithmetic 1.2. Partnership Problems 1.3. Economic Language in Othello 1.4. Credit versus Honor 1.5. “For the Seas’ Worth”

ix

1 1 11 20 33 37 37 42 54 65 74

2. Friendly Credit and its Dangers 2.1. Commonplaces, Common Goods 2.2. Proverbs and Contradiction 2.3. Managing Contradiction in Letter-Writing Manuals 2.4. All That Glisters in The Merchant of Venice 2.5. Pairs and Networks in A Woman Killed with Kindness

77 77 84 88 98 110

3. Debt’s Poetry, Credit’s Fictions 3.1. Debt Plus Poetry Equals . . . ? 3.2. Timon of Athens: or, The Rich Beggar 3.3. Debt’s Poetry 3.4. Origin Stories

124 124 128 135 143

4. Other Worlds 4.1. Unpuzzling Credit 4.2. The Stuff of Poetry 4.3. Volpone’s Will 4.4. The Magnetic Lady’s Logarithms 4.5. Interest’s Contradictions 4.6. “The World Over”

151 151 155 160 169 183 191

Coda

195

Bibliography Index

201 217

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List of Figures I.1. Excerpt from “The Ladder to thrift” in Thomas Tusser’s Fiue hundreth points of good husbandry (London, 1573), sig. C1r. STC 22109, The Folger Shakespeare Library, Washington, D.C. Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0.

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I.2. Engraved title page to William Scott, An essay of drapery: or, The compleate citizen (London, 1635). STC 24377, The Folger Shakespeare Library, Washington, D.C. Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0.

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1.1. Title page of An introduction for to lerne to recken with the pen, or with the counters (London, 1539). Tanner 55, The Bodleian Library, University of Oxford.

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2.1. Nicholas Breton, “A letter to a friend, to Borowe Money,” the first model epistle in Conceyted letters, newly layde open (London, 1618), sig. A4r. RB 82001, The Huntington Library, San Marino, CA.

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2.2. Title page of Thomas Gainsford, The secretaries studie (London, 1616). RB 59902, The Huntington Library, San Marino, CA.

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4.1. The first breviat in Richard Witt’s Arithmeticall questions (London, 1613), along with an accompanying practice question (sigs. C3v–C4r). RB 79708, The Huntington Library, San Marino, CA.

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4.2. One page of the 111-page table of logarithms, from one to 9,999, printed in Edmund Wingate, Arithmetique made easie in two bookes (London, 1630), sig. N4v. RB 79926, The Huntington Library, San Marino, CA.

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4.3. Title page of John Penkethman, The Purchasers Pinnace: or, The Bargainees Brigantine (London, 1629). STC 19600.8 (folio), The Folger Shakespeare Library, Washington, D.C. Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0.

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4.4. Title page of The money monger: or, The Vsurers Almanacke (London, 1626). Antiq.f.E.13 (1), The Bodleian Library, University of Oxford.

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4.5. Title page of The Treasurers Almanacke: or, The Money-Master (London, 1627). Antiq.f.E.13 (2), The Bodleian Library, University of Oxford.

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Introduction I.1. Polonius in the Marketplace “Neither a borrower nor a lender be” (1.3.75).¹ Of the “few precepts” Shakespeare’s Polonius heaps upon his son as he departs for Paris, this piece of economic counsel stands out as the most straightforward. What could be more sensible than staying out of debt and refusing loans to others? Hamlet’s first audiences would have recognized this counsel as directed at themselves, as well as at the fictional Laertes: in the 1603 first quarto, Polonius’s speech is printed with commonplace marks, the printer’s signal that this chunk of text can be extracted, exported, and redeployed in the world beyond the play.² Even without such markings, the speech would have looked (or sounded) deeply familiar. Polonius’s heaped-up precepts are instantly recognizable as a certain kind of counsel, in their style as well as their content. At once aphoristic and dilatory, mingling assertions with qualifications, his speech rhetorically resembles a great deal of the practical literature that was central to the operation and dispersal of economic thinking in the period.³ Yet for Hamlet’s first audiences, “neither a borrower nor a lender be” would have been difficult if not impossible advice to follow. Limited supplies of hard currency and expanding market activity meant that, in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, English people used credit far more often than cash.⁴ As the poet Thomas Tusser put it: “Who liuing but lends, & be lent to they must, / else buying & selling, mought lye in the dust.”⁵ Tusser’s Fiue hundreth points of good husbandry

¹ William Shakespeare, Hamlet, ed. Harold Jenkins (London: Methuen, 1982). Subsequent references to Hamlet are from this edition and are to act, scene, and line. ² Zachary Lesser and Peter Stallybrass, “The First Literary Hamlet and the Commonplacing of Professional Plays,” Shakespeare Quarterly 59, no. 2 (Winter 2008): pp. 371–420, esp. pp. 376–8. The specific injunction against borrowing and lending does not appear in the first quarto’s truncated version of Polonius’s speech. Like the surrounding precepts, however, this injunction scans as a brief, pithy, extractable saying. ³ See Louis B. Wright, “Handbook Learning of the Renaissance Middle Class,” Studies in Philology 28, no. 1 (1931): pp. 58–86, esp. p. 70; and Middle-Class Culture in Elizabethan England (1935; repr., Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1958), pp. 121–200. ⁴ Craig Muldrew, The Economy of Obligation: The Culture of Credit and Social Relations in Early Modern England (New York: St. Martin’s, 1998). See also Alexandra Shepard, Accounting for Oneself: Worth, Status, and the Social Order in Early Modern England (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015); and Keith Wrightson, Earthly Necessities: Economic Lives in Early Modern Britain (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2000). ⁵ Thomas Tusser, Fiue hundreth points of good husbandry (London, 1573), sig. C3v.

Fictions of Credit in the Age of Shakespeare. Laura Kolb, Oxford University Press (2021). © Laura Kolb. DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198859697.003.0001

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(1573) primarily offers its rhymed advice to farmers, but it identifies participation in debt relations as a condition of life for everyone: in early modern England, to live was to lend and be “lent to,” regardless of profession or status. Credit was a ubiquitous currency. It was also a profoundly personal one. Before the rise of modern banking and subsequent development of institutionally determined measures of creditworthiness, like credit limits and credit scores, credit equaled reputation. A person’s credit was intimately connected to his or her good name and community ties: to public perception of virtue and trustworthiness, to verbally disseminated opinions, to bonds of kin and friendship. Most debts represented interpersonal bonds with social and affective content alongside their economic function. Moreover, a single individual might be involved in numerous debt relations at any given time, operating as one node in a vast network of linked and crisscrossing bonds. The result is what Craig Muldrew has termed England’s “culture of credit”: a nexus of social relations, cultural practices, and discursive forms begotten of economic necessity but extending into every aspect of life.⁶ Polonius goes on to justify his injunction in two ways, claiming that debt relations both harm friendships and deplete household wealth: “For loan oft loses both itself and friend, / And borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry” (1.3.76–7). The counselor’s definitive-sounding precepts tell only part of the story, and once again they prove unworkable as guides to action. Though period writers do sometimes note the potentially corrosive effect of mixing monetary and amicable relations, social costs did not—could not—put a stop to borrowing and lending among friends. In fact, loans not only flowed through structures of affiliation and affection; they also nourished and reinforced those structures.⁷ Similarly, managing debts, rather than simply avoiding them, was a central concern of literature on “husbandry,” or household economy. In a well-known letter of housekeeping advice sometimes cited as a source for Polonius’s speech, William Cecil, Lord Burghley, offers his son counsel both on lending wisely (avoid suretyship, extending direct loans instead) and on borrowing judiciously: “In borrowinge of money be ever pretious of thy worde, for he that cares to keepe day of payment is lord Commaunder many tymes in another mans goodes.”⁸ The punctual repayment of debts translates into renewed credit: that is, into the ability to take on new debts in the future. Tusser gives similar advice to his

⁶ Muldrew, Economy, passim. ⁷ Katharine Eisaman Maus, Being and Having in Shakespeare (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013), pp. 59–74 and Lorna Hutson, The Usurer’s Daughter: Male Friendship and Fictions of Women in Sixteenth-Century England (New York: Routledge, 1994), pp. 1–14, p. 138. See also Chapter 2, below. ⁸ William Cecil, Lord Burghley, Letter 83, in A Seventeenth-Century Letter-Book: A Facsimile Edition of Folger MS. V.a. 321, ed. A.R. Braunmuller (Newark: University of Delaware Press, 1983), pp. 277–86, pp. 284–5. On the letter’s relation to Polonius’s speech, see Jason Powell, “Fathers, Sons and Surrogates: Fatherly Advice in Hamlet,” in Medieval into Renaissance: Essays for Helen Cooper, ed. Andrew King and Matthew Woodcock (Cambridge: D.S. Brewer, 2016), pp. 163–86.

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readers: “who quick be to borrow, & slow be to pay: / their credit is naught, go they neuer so gay.”⁹ The statesman’s letter and the farmer’s couplet acknowledge what Polonius’s speech elides: that even the wealthiest households had cash poor seasons, and that within an economy composed of webs of intertwined borrowers and lenders, husbandry’s “edge” could be as easily sharpened as dulled by access to “another mans goodes.” In his directives on debt and credit, then, Polonius gets it wrong. He oversimplifies the complexities of everyday economic life and urges an unsustainable course of action. Yet, I want to suggest, Polonius also gets a great deal right—if not about borrowing and lending in and of themselves, then about the intricate social machinery that underpinned these economic activities and made them possible. Taken as a whole, Polonius’s speech provides a remarkable window into early modern credit culture, and especially into how people presented themselves and assessed one another within it. To see this, we have to look beyond what Shakespeare’s counselor says specifically about borrowing and lending and attend to the rest of his precepts: precepts about when and how much to speak, what to wear, how to handle disputes, and generally how to manage an outwardfacing, public persona in the face of constant social scrutiny. These activities are, in fact, the central concerns of all practical economic advice; that is, of all counsel delivered from the point of view of worldly experience and directed at the profitable navigation of worldly life. Period practical literature suggests, over and over, that the questions at the heart of credit culture are not whether to borrow or lend, or even how or when to do these things. The questions that come up over and over again—in texts addressed to merchants, farmers, and lords’ sons; to country-dwellers and urban people—are how to present oneself in the most positive, and therefore most profitable, manner and how to assess others’ selfpresentations. Advice for borrowers taught them how to dress, speak, and act in such a way that “being lent to” remained a real possibility; advice for lenders reminded them not to take surface appearances at face value. Early modern English credit relations were both socially embedded and rhetorically constructed, and they were driven by the interplay of persuasive speech, conduct, and interpretation. This book examines how period writers treated this fact—that language and interpretation shaped economic relations on a fundamental level—and how they explored its implications for the construction of the self, for social bonds, and for the fabric of society. It unfolds from the premise that England’s culture of credit was a thoroughly rhetoricized arena, marked by widespread social indeterminacy brought about by the rhetorical and interpretive strategies through which credit itself was constructed. Scholars have debated whether the use of interpersonal credit as England’s dominant

⁹ Tusser, Fiue hundreth points, sig. C3v.

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currency gave rise to widespread interpersonal trust or to a generalized attitude of suspicion.¹⁰ Writers of practical literature like Burghley and Tusser and dramatists like Shakespeare point us to a third possibility. As their treatment of credit suggests—and as this book argues—economically motivated social indeterminacy gave rise to interpersonal dynamics both more complex and more volatile than either straightforward trust or blanket suspicion: to rhetorical strategies designed to produce trust and to corresponding interpretive strategies aimed at evaluating the trustworthiness of others. Buying, selling, borrowing, lending, and negotiating were embedded in relationships and subject to manipulation by means of artful language, conduct, and interpretation. As a consequence, social performance—of access to resources, of virtuous intent, of status, of well-off kindred and allies—became a practical skill; and reading others for signs of solvency and trustworthiness became an economic necessity. And this is what Polonius’s speech, taken as a whole, is fundamentally about: crafting the self as a legible text, interpreting the texts presented by others, and navigating a milieu thoroughly structured by the expectation of social artifice and interpretation. I turn once more to Polonius’s speech because this well-known passage elaborates the model of credit culture articulated in its less familiar real-world analogs: a model in which rhetoric and thrift are intertwined, and in which the contingencies of a rhetoricized social sphere produce a repertoire of flexible, shifting responses. Polonius’s mode of advice-giving is, as I have said, typical of period economic counsel. It is especially typical of the kind of counsel given to young men coming of age, embarking on new careers, or entering novel social contexts: to young men, that is, who need to think hard about cultivating credit. The speech’s style, as well as its content, is fairly standard. Polonius bombards Laertes with precepts—nine in total, counting conservatively—and these precepts are almost all tempered, qualified, revised mid-stream. They run: Give thy thoughts no tongue, Nor any unproportion’d thought his act. Be thou familiar, but by no means vulgar; Those friends thou hast, and their adoption tried, Grapple them unto thy soul with hoops of steel, But do not dull thy palm with entertainment ¹⁰ For the view that early modern credit relations required and facilitated trust, see Muldrew, Economy, pp. 4–6, pp. 123–47; Richard Grassby, Kinship and Capitalism: Marriage, Family, and Business in the English-Speaking World 1580–1740 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001), pp. 300–1; and Richard Strier, The Unrepentant Renaissance: From Petrarch to Shakespeare to Milton (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2011), pp. 153–86. For challenges to this view, see David J. Baker, On Demand: Writing for the Market in Early Modern England (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2009), pp. 62–92; and Amanda Bailey, Of Bondage: Debt, Property, and Personhood in Early Modern England (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2013), p. 2, pp. 8–9.

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Of each new-hatch’d, unfledg’d courage. Beware Of entrance to a quarrel, but being in, Bear’t that th’opposed may beware of thee. Give every man thy ear, but few thy voice; Take each man’s censure, but reserve thy judgment. Costly thy habit as thy purse can buy, But not express’d in fancy; rich, not gaudy; For the apparel oft proclaims the man, And they in France of the best rank and station Are of a most select and generous chief in that. Neither a borrower nor a lender be, For loan oft loses both itself and friend, And borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry. This above all: to thine own self be true, And it must follow as the night the day, Thou canst not then be false to any man. (1.3.59–80)

Perhaps the speech’s most striking feature is the way Polonius consistently reworks his own counsel. Almost every assertion receives immediate qualification: be familiar, but not vulgar; love your friends, but don’t have too many (or too costly ones). The result can sound jumbled or even contradictory to modern ears. Yet this is what advice, especially about money matters, looked and sounded like in Shakespeare’s England.¹¹ Beyond the world of the play, Polonian echoes are everywhere. The zig-zagging style, the habit of qualification, the nearcontradictions as the counselor cycles through conflicting attitudes and behaviors all appear in myriad texts about cultivating credit. In a letter to a young courtier in an epistolary manual, Nicholas Breton writes, “Keep your purse warily, and your credit charily, your reputation valiantly, and your honor carefully: for your friends, as you finde them, vse them: for your enemies, feare them not, but looke to them.”¹² In a 1589 handbook for young merchants, The marchants avizo, John Browne urges: “Be earnest in noting & marking euery thing that you may, but be your selfe as secret and silent as is possible.”¹³ And novice farmers, Tusser advises, are “To answer stranger cively, / but shew him not thy secresie” and “To learne how foe to pacifie, / but trust him not too trustely.”¹⁴ This kind ¹¹ The passage has occasionally been read in light of a particular advice genre, letters from fathers to sons. See Powell, “Fathers, Sons and Surrogates”; W. Lee Ustick, “Advice to a Son: A Type of Seventeenth-Century Conduct Book,” Studies in Philology 29, no. 3 (July 1932): pp. 409–41; and Louis B. Wright, ed., Advice to a Son: Precepts of Lord Burghley, Sir Walter Raleigh, and Francis Osborne (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1962). ¹² Nicholas Breton, A poste with a madde packet of letters (London, 1602), sig. B1r. ¹³ John Browne, The marchants avizo (London, 1589), sig. B1r. ¹⁴ Tusser, Fiue hundreth points, sig. C1r.

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of advice tends to be aphoristic, sing-song, constructed along contrasting or otherwise related pairings: every/few, friend/foe, borrower/lender. Deceptively homespun in style, these precepts in fact address great social complexity. They posit a sophisticated wider world from which adviser and advisee momentarily stand apart, speaking and listening “plainly” to one another. This wider world is one where speech is slant and surfaces deceive, and where one must, as Polonius elsewhere puts it, “by indirections find directions out” (2.1.66).¹⁵ So, if Polonius’s advice suggests constant self-policing along faintly contradictory lines—do this, but sometimes do the opposite; do that, but not too much of it—it is not because he is a hypocrite or a fool. It is because he is practical. The waffling nature of his precepts is a function not of his own inconsistency but of the world’s. The slippery world posited by advice literature is often also a new world: France, for Polonius; the court, for Breton; Iberian ports for Browne; rural communities for Tusser; the city for other writers, including Thomas Wright and Henry Peacham.¹⁶ Despite the differing milieux assumed in each of these texts, the gist of their counsel remains the same: dissembling one’s own motivations and desires while discovering others’ are always central goals. In each case, the specified milieu’s novelty calls for heightened attention to social performance and hermeneutics, but these are also presumed to be everyday strategies within it. Its inhabitants have to read others, constantly and vigilantly, for clues as to real intention behind trustworthy- and friendly-seeming surfaces. At the same time, they must craft personae for themselves that invite a certain kind of reading. A newcomer simply has to catch up to what are universal, everyday practices. The specifics of his strategies—clothing, manners, cultivated friendships—will differ from the English countryside to the London streets, and from Spain to Paris, as local custom dictates. But everywhere the basic need to fashion a persuasive, outward-facing self remains in play. Breton’s letter, Browne’s manual, Tusser’s verses, and Polonius’s precepts all address, directly or obliquely, the matter of constructing credit. The topics on which Polonius focuses are nearly universal in the literature of economic advice: how much and when to speak; cultivating fruitful but non-exploitative friendships; developing an air of “performed secrecy.”¹⁷ Even his concern over dress is typical, and this concern is yet another connection to credit culture. Polonius’s advice—“Costly thy habit as thy purse can buy”—begins like a straightforward

¹⁵ I borrow the term “slant” for artfully oblique language from Emily Dickinson, who writes, “Tell all the truth but tell it slant— / Success in circuit lies.” Emily Dickinson’s Poems: As She Preserved Them, ed. Cristanne Miller (Harvard: Belknap, 2017), p. 563. ¹⁶ Thomas Wright, The passions of the minde in generall (London, 1604), sigs. A4v–A5r; and Henry Peacham, The art of living in London (London, 1642). ¹⁷ Ceri Sullivan, The Rhetoric of Credit: Merchants in Early Modern Writing (Madison, NJ: Farleigh Dickinson University Press, 2002), p. 22.

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admonition to thrift: don’t spend more than you have on clothing.¹⁸ The primary message, however, is about display: Laertes’s habit should be “not express’d in fancy; rich, not gaudy” (1.3.71). He should dress to invite the assumption, on the part of the French, that he is of “the best rank and station” (73). This is advice, as Hamlet himself might put it, on seeming rather than being. Related advice shows up in Breton’s courtier letter—“goe neat, but not gaie, lest it argue lightnesse”— and in Browne’s Marchants avizo, which holds that a young trader should neither gamble nor “go fine and costly in apparell: for all these things are especially noted, and doe bring any yong beginner to vtter discredit and vndoing.”¹⁹ In all three cases, the issue of restraint in clothing is a matter of managing an audience’s perceptions. Polonius puts this in terms of social legibility—“The apparel oft proclaims the man”—and Breton in terms of evading critique. Browne writes in openly economic terms: once “noted” by others, conspicuously expensive clothing leads to the beginner-merchant’s “vtter discredit and vndoing.” The possibility of losing credit is always on a merchant’s mind, but Polonius and Breton are also concerned with credit, in a broader sense: as reputation constructed within an environment where artfully creating a legible self is both necessary and profitable. In all the contexts these speakers and writers address—France, the court, a foreign trading post—appearance is of paramount importance because of what it implies about character, status, and spending abilities and habits. Approached as an artifact of credit culture, perhaps the strangest thing about Polonius’s speech is not its unworkable advice on borrowing and lending, but its final directive: “This above all: to thine own self be true / And it must follow as the night the day / Thou canst not then be false to any man” (1.3.78–80). The injunction to be true to “thine own self” at first seems to scan as a crowning contradiction: How can you be true to yourself when you are orienting all your behaviors towards an outside gaze? How can you be true to others when your interactions with them are marked by the expectation of artifice on both sides? Like the impossibility of “Neither a borrower nor a lender be,” the obvious difficulty of “To thine own self be true” reflects a problem at the heart of England’s culture of credit, one that advice literature and plays revisit again and again: how to balance the protean performances more or less demanded by a credit-driven marketplace while maintaining a consistent set of values and a stable sense of self. The general knowledge that advice literature offers is that the world is structured by contingency. The skill or “know-how” that it teaches involves responding to that contingency by being oneself contingent: flexible, responsive ¹⁸ See also the manuscript verses by Yorkshire landowner John Kaye: “A gentleman can not goo gaye / And manteyne costly fare / Except he knowe the shifte & way / Both how to spend and spare.” Folger MS X.d.446. ¹⁹ Breton, Poste (1602), sig. B1r and Browne, Marchants, sig. B2r. On clothing’s economic function see Ann Rosalind Jones and Peter Stallybrass, Renaissance Clothing and the Materials of Memory (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000), pp. 17–33.

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to changing conditions and shifting contexts, capable of profitable improvisations as well as longer-term self-fashioning. Some period thinkers, as we will see, understood the rhetoricized economic sphere to foster inwardly rooted as well as outward-facing alterity, arguing that the constant production of a creditworthy surface led to an estrangement from the self as well as an unethical orientation toward others. From this point of view, self-protective social improvisations slide into profitable deceptions; practical performances beget subtle “practice,” in the period sense of the word as scheming trickery. Polonius’s final injunction to Laertes offers an alternative to this view, asserting the possibility of a core of self-sameness, untouched by the perpetually shifting exterior world and uncorrupted by the unceasing demands of social performance.²⁰ Taking as its starting point the social and rhetorical structures to which Polonius points, and that real-world advice-givers even more fully describe, this book reconceptualizes early modern credit in terms of fiction. I use the word fiction here in several senses: primarily in the very broad sense of that which is crafted, fashioned, or made; but also in the senses of (literary) invention and of legal, political, or social conventions “known to be at variance with fact” but “accepted . . . for practical convenience.”²¹ Credit culture generated endless fictions, large and small. In a way, credit culture itself was a fiction: a sphere shot through with countless local acts of “making” and a set of social relations widely known to be in some sense “unreal,” yet accepted (more or less, most of the time, day-to-day) because it had to be. Within credit culture, would-be borrowers worked to imply that they were solvent and trustworthy, while would-be lenders scrutinized what they saw and heard. Since most people both used credit and extended it, the dual strategies of implication and inference, of producing and reading evidence, were everywhere. As a result, credit culture was a profoundly indeterminate sphere, within which, to borrow from Frank Whigham, “transparency—the obvious—is revealed as one more fiction, requiring analysis ²⁰ In Hamlet, the movement of the tragic plot actively works against this possibility. Especially for the play’s titular prince, but really for everyone caught up in palace intrigue, including Polonius, habitual strategic seeming proves profoundly disruptive both to stable selfhood and to bonds with others. But in the speech’s real-world advice literature analogs, potential contradictions between artifice and stability, and between scrutiny and sociability, generally receive brief treatment if any. Such contradictions inhere in worldly life, but to dwell on them is to reach a tragic—and impractical— impasse. See Lionel Trilling’s discussion of Polonius’s final injunction in Sincerity and Authenticity (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1971), pp. 3–6. For a slightly later period articulation of a similar sentiment, see Francis Bacon’s “Of Wisedome for a Mans selfe,” in which he writes, “Be so true to thy Selfe, as thou be not false to Others.” The essayes or counsels, civill and morall (London, 1625), p. 135. As Bacon’s nineteenth-century editor E.A. Abbott notes, he echoes Polonius in voicing the opinion that “truth to [oneself] is incompatible with falsehood to others”; Bacon’s Essays, vol. 2, 8th ed. (London: Longmans, Green & Co., 1889), p. 183. Bacon, however, places the emphasis differently. Where Polonius suggests that truth to others necessarily proceeds from truth to self, Bacon sees no such causal link. Moreover, he advocates truth to others first, merely advising his reader to be “so true” (as true, true to the same degree) to himself as he is “not false to Others.” He writes, “It is a poore Center of a Mans Actions, Himself” (p. 135). ²¹ OED Online, “fiction, n.,” definition 5.

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and situation before it can be accepted.”²² In this context, even Polonius’s aphoristic plainness may be seen as a persuasive tactic, one that conspicuously conceals its own efforts at persuasion: a gesture of participation in credit culture’s slippery rhetoricity, and a small-scale act of fiction-making. The fictional aspects of early modern credit relations—their madeness, their unreality—have been overlooked by early modern literary scholars and historians.²³ In the past decade or so, within literary studies, debate has gathered around Muldrew’s claim that, in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, English society “came to be defined . . . as the cumulative unity of the millions of interpersonal obligations which were continually being exchanged and renegotiated.”²⁴ Literary scholars have tended to either agree or disagree with the essential optimism of this statement. They have characterized it is as either a fair or an overly positive characterization of credit’s effect on society, without probing the implications of the “cumulative unity” for which Muldrew argues: the daily strategies that gave rise to it, the experiences of the people using those strategies, and what the aggregate (“unity” or no) might have looked and felt like to those people.²⁵ In stage plays and in the literature of advice, England’s culture of credit is sometimes presented as unified, sometimes as fragmented, but in either case as fictive: both made (or made up) and always at least slightly unreal. In these works, credit

²² Frank Whigham, Ambition and Privilege: The Social Tropes of Elizabethan Courtesy Theory (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1984), p. 36. ²³ By contrast, scholars of the eighteenth century frequently analyze the relationship between fiction and credit’s instruments and institutions. See for example Catherine Gallagher, “The Rise of Fictionality,” in History, Geography, and Culture, vol. 1, The Novel, ed. Franco Moretti (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2006), pp. 336–63; and Mary Poovey, Genres of the Credit Economy: Mediating Value in Eighteenth- and Nineteenth-Century Britain (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2008). Gallagher argues that novels (defined as “believable stories that do not elicit belief,” p. 340) bear a specific type of fictionality that goes along with the economic structures of modernity: the same “imaginative play” (p. 346) and “suspension of literal truth” (p. 347) that readers brought to novels structured those readers’ encounters with banks, banknotes, and commercial enterprise in general. Similarly, Poovey argues that rise of the banknote parallels the rise of the novel, each form usefully “mediating” users’ experiences with the other. My own sense is that the interplay of belief and disbelief, which Gallagher calls “a disposition of ironic credulity” (p. 346), was already a feature of English economic life before the rise of the banknote or the bank—but that this attitude was then embedded in communities and relationships, extending towards persons and reputations as well as (or more than) institutions and instruments. It should be noted that, in early modern studies, works of economic criticism with methods and aims related to those of Poovey and Gallagher—unearthing the shared mechanisms of and hermeneutic strategies required by economic and literary forms—in fact abound, though these have for one reason or another tended not to focus on credit and its fictionality. See for example J.C. Agnew, Worlds Apart: The Market and the Theater in Anglo-American Thought, 1550–1750 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986); Douglas Bruster, Drama and the Market in the Age of Shakespeare (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005); Natasha Korda, Labors Lost: Women’s Work and the Early Modern English Stage (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2011); Valerie Forman, Tragicomic Redemptions: Global Economics and the Early Modern English Stage (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2008); and Linda Woodbridge, English Revenge Drama: Money, Resistance, Equality (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010). ²⁴ Muldrew, Economy, p. 123. ²⁵ For these opposing views, see Richard Strier, Unrepentant, p. 157, note 13, and Bailey, Of Bondage, pp. 8–9.

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culture resembles a vast, collaborative fiction, compounded out of millions of small artifices and local interpretive acts. The rhetoricity of credit relations produced social fictions, and these fictions took many forms: from the transitory, improvised performances that facilitated localized transactions, to the longer-term project of maintaining a reputation within a community, to the widespread indeterminacy that arose from the constant interplay of economic performance and interpretation across English society. In turn, literary fiction and the range of activities and processes associated with it in period texts (making, inventing, feigning, counterfeiting, dissembling) provided a vocabulary and a set of cognitive structures for thinking about credit-driven behavior and its effects on individuals, social bonds, and society. Within the field of economic history, Alexandra Shepard has proposed a model of credit that challenges a different aspect of Muldrew’s work: not the claim that credit unified society, but rather the argument that an individual’s credit was rooted in public opinion.²⁶ For Muldrew, credit ultimately rested on “the public perception of the self in relation to a communicated set of both personal and household virtues.”²⁷ Like Muldrew, Shepard locates credit in a “culture of appraisal.”²⁸ Unlike him, she argues that early modern people evaluated their own credit and that of others on the basis not of virtues, but possessions. Shepard argues that movable goods “were conceived of as the foundation for credit and expenditure,” and that such goods, therefore, in fact formed the basis of the interpersonal trust Muldrew identifies as the credit economy’s “glue.”²⁹ Moreover, when early modern people offered estimations of their own worth when serving as witnesses in certain courts, they almost always did so in terms of the total worth of their movable goods.³⁰ Movables both guaranteed debts and underwrote a person’s word, since they backed up his or her testimonial veracity. Thus, in Shepard’s words, “the brokerage of credit had a very hard material edge.”³¹ Despite their differences, Muldrew’s and Shepard’s arguments are not entirely incompatible. Taken together, they remind us that credit was situationally constructed according to shifting criteria. In his work on reputation, Muldrew mainly (though not exclusively) analyzes the long-term forms of credit constructed dayto-day within communities. Shepard examines material goods as indices of status, and status in turn as an index of believability, primarily in the highly particular, charged atmosphere of the courtroom. Though both are concerned with the overlap of economic credit, credibility, and social worth, they track these things in shifting configurations, across differing (if also overlapping) contexts. In practice, even in the narrow economic sense of “the ability to take on loans,” credit took various forms. Credit developed within communities and among friends

²⁶ Muldrew, Economy, pp. 148–72. ²⁷ Muldrew, Economy, pp. 156. ²⁸ Shepard, Accounting, p. 2. ²⁹ Shepard, Accounting, p. 36. ³⁰ Shepard, Accounting, pp. 37–81. ³¹ Shepard, Accounting, p. 36.

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tended to produce informally arranged loans, underwritten by mutual knowledge and trust, while short-term credit offered by strangers or professional moneylenders involved formal, legally enforceable debts, underwritten by material assets. Ultimately, this book does not seek to settle the historical question of early modern credit’s fundamental grounding. Rather it takes up credit’s multifaceted presentation in period literature, and it analyzes the ways in which the fictionmaking dynamics of rhetoric, performance, and hermeneutics both augmented and unsettled credit’s grounding—whether that grounding is understood to be goods, or reputation, or something else.³² In the works surveyed here, credit always involves interplay between ground and groundlessness: between what ought to underwrite it, and the language, conduct, and interpretations that both signal and obscure that ground. Advice literature and stage plays were two genres that responded urgently and inventively to the fictions of credit. Both genres identify rhetoric and interpretation as credit culture’s salient features, and both analyze the fictions that arise from this. Yet their interventions into economic life diverge radically. Aimed at navigating this fictive sphere with maximum profit and minimum loss, advice literature often contributes to credit culture’s fictionalization of the world, advising slant speech and shifting hermeneutic strategies. Plays do a different kind of work, exposing the fictions undergirding everyday economic life and calling attention to the often unanswerable questions opened by these fictions: questions about the unknowability of others and the contingent nature of the self. Before digging more deeply into these two genres’ differences, however, it is worth surveying the shared terrain they both map: the social fictions, large and small, to which credit culture gave rise.

I.2. Economics and Fiction The most common period term for imaginative literature—for what we now classify broadly as fiction in the sense of not non-fiction—was poetry, a word that Philip Sidney, George Puttenham, and other theorists were quick to remind readers derives from the Greek poiein, to make.³³ A poet is a maker; poetry is making; a poem is a made-thing. (“Fiction” bears the same meaning but descends from Latin rather than Greek.) At the broadest and most basic level, poetry was defined by its having-been-made by human beings. But many other things are similarly made (or made-up), including social formations, conventions, and ³² Period writers offered their own varying senses of credit’s grounding: in goods and reputation, but also in land (see Burghley’s letter to his son in Braunmuller, ed., A Seventeenth-Century Letter-Book, p. 281) and friendship (see Chapter 2). ³³ Philip Sidney, An apologie for poetrie (London, 1595), sig. C1r; George Puttenham, The arte of English poesie (London, 1589), sig. C1r.

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institutions. Broadly conceived, then, the category of poetry could include both Spenser’s Faerie Queene and the state. This is not to say literary fiction was not distinguishable from other types of convention. But it existed on a continuum with social, legal, and political structures that were widely understood to be artfully constructed. As Victoria Kahn tells us, the state could be understood as “an artifact that was brought into being by a powerful, if sometimes fictional, speech act”; and, as Lawrence Manley notes, it was understood as maintained through ongoing mutual consent—consent to believe in a fiction.³⁴ Credit culture was a similarly functional yet fictional reality. Fictions of credit, however, differed from legal and political fictions in important ways. The state was rarely if ever represented as an accident or a dream, incoherent and irreducibly multiple. Even the Leviathan has a head. Credit’s poetry, by contrast, is always a kind of amalgamated beast: a teeming multitude of persons, bonds, utterances, and interpretations, unauthored and quasi-accidental. The many-headed-ness of credit’s fictions was the result of how they were made: not out of a single speech act or ongoing mutual consent, but from innumerable local actions and interpretations. Perhaps the closest analogous form of social fiction is not the state, then, but the court: an arena where the relationship between individual actions and social indeterminacy is welldocumented. Frank Whigham, Daniel Javitch, and others have argued that life at court required participation in a kind of lived, practical poetics.³⁵ Courtly relations unfolded in the interplay of stylized self-presentation and social interpretation, both of which were, ideally at least, obscured or dissimulated. Rhetoric, hermeneutics, and a degree of sprezzatura may be fundamental to social relations, period, but at court these activities were amplified.³⁶ The result was an air of unreality over the whole—unreality that wasn’t authored so much as compounded out of myriad local actions and interpretations. As Whigham argues, the Tudor court was marked by radical social indeterminacy, and the strategies designed to navigate (and exploit) this indeterminacy often served to intensify it.³⁷ And, as Javitch writes, there were “affinities between proper court conduct and the stylistic procedures of poetry.”³⁸ Thus social indeterminacy—the uncertainty bred of obscured intentions, indefinite relations, and flux—resembled poetic indeterminacy: the quality of inviting interpretation. These affinities between social and poetic registers appear most clearly in the personifications of poetic tropes as courtly types in the third book of George ³⁴ Victoria Kahn, Wayward Contracts: The Crisis of Political Obligation in England, 1640–1674 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2004), p. 1; and Lawrence Manley, Convention 1500–1700 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1980), pp. 2–3. ³⁵ Whigham, Ambition; Daniel Javitch, Poetry and Courtliness in Renaissance England (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1978). ³⁶ For artifice and interpretation as universal features of social interaction, see Erving Goffman, The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1959). ³⁷ Whigham, Ambition, pp. 34–5, p. 42. ³⁸ Javitch, Poetry, p. 6.

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Puttenham’s The arte of English poesie (1589). Here, paradiastole becomes “the Curry-fauell,” paradox “the Wondrer,” and hyperbole “the loud lier, otherwise called the ouerreacher.”³⁹ Each trope represents a social strategy, a way of speaking or acting, as well as a rhetorical and poetic figure. The Arte suggests that troped social behaviors added up to a milieu that itself resembles a poem. Puttenham writes that “euery speach wrested from his owne naturall signification to another not altogether so naturall is a kinde of dissimulation.”⁴⁰ Such dissimulation runs throughout all social discourse. We “dissemble . . . in earnest aswell as in sport, vnder couert and darke termes, and in learned and apparant speaches, in short sentences, and by long ambage and circumstance of wordes, and finally as well when we lye as when we tell truth.”⁴¹ As a result, life itself comes to resemble “Allegoria,” or the “figure of false semblant,” which Puttenham defines as “when we speake one thing and thinke another, and that our wordes and our meanings meete not.”⁴² Puttenham is untroubled by the overlay of poetic and social indeterminacy at court and in social relations more generally. Other theorists of court life, though, saw the tissue woven by the continual interplay of feigning and interpretation in a darker light: “The court is a perpetuall dreame,” writes Antonio de Guevara, “a botomelesse whorlepole, an inchaunted phantasy, and a mase.”⁴³ If courtly culture resembles courtly poetry—troped, indeterminate, but approachable with a fairly stable set of hermeneutic strategies—credit culture then might be said to resemble the “mungrell” productions of the public theater: multi-class, polyvocal, variegated, protean.⁴⁴ The court was an elite sphere with a relatively small population of players arranged in dense, crisscrossing, but ultimately circumscribed hierarchies. Credit culture was far broader, more amorphous, and labile: a placeless or rather ubiquitous phenomenon that existed wherever transactions or the possibility of transactions did. Within it, a larger and more eclectic range of people could come into contact, directly or indirectly, in shifting configurations. Credit culture was also decentered and non-hierarchical, organized in ways that cut across normal social stratification. A courtier operated both within a grand hierarchy, at the top of which sat the monarch, and within more local hierarches made of up immediate associates and patrons. His efforts to achieve a better place were always predicated on his already having a place, one that was known to him and legible to others. And though place was notoriously unstable at court, subject to the caprices of fortune and favor, within credit relations it was by nature constantly changing: you might be in a position to lend one day but need to borrow the next. The mechanism at work was not the momentous turning of fortune’s wheel, casting down the mighty and displacing

³⁹ ⁴¹ ⁴³ ⁴⁴

Puttenham, Arte, sigs. X3v, 2C1r, and 2M1r. ⁴⁰ Puttenham, Arte, sig. X4r. Puttenham, Arte, sig. X4r. ⁴² Puttenham, Arte, sig. X4r. Antonio de Guevara, A looking glasse for the court, trans. Francis Bryan (London, 1575), sig. G4v. Sidney, Apologie, sig. K2r.

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the favored.⁴⁵ This was a more workaday whirligig, whose reversals were matters of prudence and policy and folly but also of luck, chance, time, place, and the truly impossible-to-control fortunes of dozens or even hundreds of other people whose credit was intertwined, in one way or another, with one’s own. Credit transactions moreover often cut across hierarchical lines: the elite frequently borrowed from tradespeople with ready access to cash; householders at times lent to artisans and at others borrowed from their own servants; husbands borrowed from wives.⁴⁶ The temporary, horizontal bonds of credit moved all the time, in a kaleidoscopic shifting of persons and relationships. At the local end of the scale, credit’s fictions took many forms. Perhaps most straightforwardly, the details of specific transactions could be subject to dispute and distortion, sometimes because of transactors’ disingenuousness and sometimes because of the frequently informal and undocumented nature of those transactions. In a letter from 1605, for example, Henry Brooke, Lord Cobham grumbles that his creditor exaggerates the extent of a debt; the amount he owes “grows by discourse and not of truth.”⁴⁷ In Cobham’s case, a truth exists beyond his and his creditor’s disputing “discourse”: a debt consisting either of the five hundred and fifty pounds he admits to owing or of the seven hundred his creditor claims. Other cases afforded a less clear circuit between fact and fiction, truth and discourse. Period writers frequently note a state in which the appearance of riches floats on an ocean of invisible debt. Surface wealth belies a diminished substance; economic signs throw off false meanings. This was in fact a common state for courtiers like Cobham, whose lifestyle required substantial expenditure for purposes of display. But really anyone could be what Burghley calls a “rich begger” and Bacon an “Inward Beggar,” as long as their debts invisibly outstripped their assets.⁴⁸ Such persons, Bacon tells us, have “many Tricks, to vphold the Credit of their wealth” even when that wealth has no material basis.⁴⁹ They were themselves fictions—false wealthy people—and they used the strategies of fiction-making to maintain the estimation of their communities and creditors. People needed “Tricks” to uphold “the Credit of their wealth” even when they were not broke. It was never enough to simply possess; one had to also perform. Mary Poovey and Ceri Sullivan have demonstrated the rhetorical dimension of merchants’ accounts, where, as Poovey writes, “balances exhibited in the ledger

⁴⁵ De Guevara notes that courtiers frequently invoked the image of fortune’s wheel to discuss changes to their own status. Looking glasse, sig. G6r. ⁴⁶ Muldrew, Economy, 97. ⁴⁷ Letter from Henry Brooke, Lord Cobham to the Earl of Salisbury (June 14, 1605), Historical Manuscripts Commission, Calendar of the Manuscripts of the Most Honourable The Marquess of Salisbury, vol. 17 (London 1883–1976), p. 260. ⁴⁸ Braunmuller, ed., A Seventeenth-Century Letter-Book, p. 281; Bacon, Essayes (1625), p. 148. ⁴⁹ Bacon, Essayes (1625), p. 148.

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constitute a public declaration of credibility.”⁵⁰ Even for non-merchants, performance was a crucial element of everyday economic life, though most people lacked the persuasive apparatus of double-entry bookkeeping. The eyes of what one handbook writer terms the “misconstruing world” had to be guided, or beguiled.⁵¹ Because most people’s fortunes fluctuated over the course of a lifetime, or even over the course of a year, one’s crafted surface appearance bore a varying relationship to “truth.” Thus, though the strategic feigning that negotiating credit relations required could be long-term and programmatic, it was also often improvisatory and situational, a dialogic response to particular interlocutors inhabiting particular conditions. Credit culture all but required a kind of protean self-hood, responsive to and persuasive within shifting environments and varying milieux. Scholarship on education in Elizabethan England has pinned period dramatic characters’ “constant internal movement . . . between seeming and being, persona and person” to similar movement required in rhetorical exercises, like arguing in utramque partem or translating and re-translating Latin speeches.⁵² Beyond the schoolroom, such persuasive movement was a part of everyday life, at every level of society. It informed ephemeral transactions (buying, selling, negotiating) and longer-term economic projects (cultivating credit). Within credit culture, social identity was always fictive: a performed surface that invited estimative interpretation. Ben Jonson’s Every Man Out of His Humour articulates a hyperbolic version of the program of cultivating of credit through the presentation of a fictional surface. Early in the play, the urban trickster Carlo Buffone advises the would-be gentleman Sogliardo to establish credit in London by hiring attendants and dressing them in “fine pied liveries laid with good gold lace” (1.2.103–4).⁵³ Buffone also tells Sogliardo, “you must pretend alliance with courtiers and great persons. And ever when you are to dine or sup in any strange presence, hire a fellow with a great chain (though it be copper, it’s no matter) to bring you letters, feigned from such a nobleman or such a knight, or such a lady, to their ‘worshipful, right rare, and noble qualified friend or kinsman, Signor Insulso Sogliardo’: give yourself style enough” (74–81). Solgiardo should reinvent himself as a gentleman with liveried servants and elite friends. Sogliardo objects to the possible cost of all this pretense: “’Twill bring a man in debt” (106–7). “Debt?” Buffone responds, “Why, that’s the more for your credit, sir. It’s an excellent policy to owe much in these days” (108–9). Buffone insists that what matters is not steady access to material

⁵⁰ Mary Poovey, A History of the Modern Fact: Problems of Knowledge in the Sciences of Wealth and Society (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1998), p. 41; see also Sullivan, Rhetoric, pp. 30–1. ⁵¹ William Scott, An essay of drapery: or, The compleate citizen (London, 1635), sig. G4r. ⁵² Lynn Enterline, Shakespeare’s Schoolroom: Rhetoric, Discipline, Emotion (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2012), p. 46. ⁵³ Ben Jonson, Every Man Out of His Humour, ed. Helen Ostovich (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2001). References are by act, scene, and line.

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resources, but the continuous production of a creditworthy surface. Moreover, the performance of creditworthiness was never simply a performance of having money: it was a performance of being embedded in profitable relationships; as Buffone’s advice suggests, one way to cultivate esteem is to signal that one is already esteemed by others. Jonson’s comedy makes a serious point: economic actors had to be actors. Put differently, they had to be texts: carefully crafted, nonliteral, poetic texts that invited, manipulated, and at times misdirected outside interpretation—which was credit, which was wealth. As Whigham notes, “performative life” can become a “predicament” for the individual orienting all behavior towards an audience’s evaluative gaze.⁵⁴ Interpretation grows “paranoid”; “self-judgment is undercut.”⁵⁵ Jonson’s Sogliardo is willing enough to let his given identity disappear under a newly constructed self made out of words, costumes, and staging; his only hesitation is that in fashioning himself as creditworthy he will fall into debt. For many other dramatic characters, however, the realization that public estimation could be manipulated and that social identity could therefore be fabricated leads to a crisis: the discovery that, in the marketplace of public opinion, “I am not what I am,” to borrow from Shakespeare’s Iago. The performative self is also an interpreted self, subject to social hermeneutics and talk which, in turn, shape behavior and even sense of self. As Stefano Guazzo put it in his conduct book The ciuile conuersation, “the knowledge of our selues, dependeth of the iudgement and conuersation of many.”⁵⁶ Sullivan describes this dynamic as especially troubling to merchants: since a merchant “could never separate out mercantile promises from everyday speech, he was thrust back repeatedly into the slippery realm of intention and interpretation,” his “image” subject to “multiple meanings.”⁵⁷ Within credit culture, controlling the meanings others attached to one’s image—one’s social self, one’s credit—was difficult for everyone, not just merchants. On stage, the grounding of social identity in performance and interpretation often constitutes a crisis, because it opens onto the possibility that the self itself is a fiction, both made and unreal. In practical literature, by contrast, the performance of creditworthiness is either cordoned off from the inward self—Polonius’s and Tusser’s strategy—or treated as unproblematic, as in Guazzo. From a practical standpoint, the existential problems of performative life are best left unmentioned. Fictions of the self tend to be momentary and localized, improvisatory and situational. They are matters of making, not made things, fluid process rather than finished product. In aggregate, they produce larger-scale fictions: fictions of the social. In a passage that influenced English writings on debt, Rabelais’s Panurge describes debt as a kind of social glue: “You’ve got to always owe something to ⁵⁴ Whigham, Ambition, p. 37. ⁵⁵ Whigham, Ambition, p. 42. ⁵⁶ Stefano Guazzo, The ciuile conuersation, trans. George Pettie (London, 1581), sig. G4r. ⁵⁷ Sullivan, Rhetoric, p. 43.

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someone. That way, there’ll always be someone praying to God that He’ll grant you a good, long, happy life—because he’s terrified that he’ll lose what you owe him.”⁵⁸ Social glue depends on falsehood. Panurge imagines a “world, in which everyone lends, everyone owes, we’re all debtors, we’re all lenders . . . . For human beings I see peace, love, delight, loyalty, repose, banquets, festivals, joy, gaiety, gold, silver, and small change, too, and chains and rings and all manner of goods passing back and forth . . . . By God, won’t this be the Age of Gold . . . ? Everyone will be good, everyone will be beautiful, everyone will be just. O happy world!”⁵⁹ Panurge’s “happy world” is an ironic version of the classical Golden Age. There, abundant shared natural resources correspond to a harmonious society. Here, surface harmony belies a secret foundation of self-interest, competition, and calculation. Private vice leads to public good.⁶⁰ The joke is that though this is actually an extraordinarily atomized world, it is functionally communal. In a satirical encomium to debt largely lifted from Panurge’s speech, the English essayist William Cornwallis writes that without “debt and loane the Fabricke of the world will be disioynted and fall asunder into its first Chaos.”⁶¹ Yet that “Fabricke” is woven of myriad falsehoods, pretenses, lies.⁶² Rabelais and Cornwallis trace social fictions back to a particular kind of interpersonal feigning: creditors’ false solicitousness for debtors’ well-being. For them, what binds society is also what turns it into a fiction. Self-interest is the only imaginable condition for concern for another, and the dissembling concealment of sociability’s antisocial undergirding lets society run. Other period writers identify rhetoric, rather than self-interest, as the thing that both binds and fragments human associations. In George Pettie’s translation of Guazzo’s Ciuile conuersation (1581), Annibale declares that all the world’s a stage: a site of acting and spectatorship.⁶³ It is also, he notes, a market: a place where people congregate, mingle, and exchange words as well as money and things.⁶⁴ Guazzo’s handbook is overwhelmingly positive about a sociability he conceives of as always slant, fictive, a matter of artifice and interpretation. But it was possible to critique the unreality of civil society rooted in “conuersation,” as Francis Bacon does in his definition of the idola fori, the idols of the marketplace, in the New Organon (1620). These idols ⁵⁸ François Rabelais, Gargantua and Pantagruel, trans. Burton Raffel (New York: Norton, 1990), p. 253. The source for Panurge’s encomium is Erasmus’ colloquy, “The knight without a horse, or Faked nobility” (Ippeús anippos, sive Ementita nobilitas). On the tradition of the defense of debt, see Anne Lake Prescott, Imagining Rabelais in Renaissance England (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1998), p. 88. ⁵⁹ Rabelais, Gargantua, p. 257. ⁶⁰ A.O. Hirschman traces the development of this idea in The Passions and the Interests: Political Arguments for Capitalism before its Triumph (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1977). ⁶¹ William Cornwallis, Essayes of certaine paradoxes (London, 1616), sig. G3v. ⁶² Jonson’s Buffone similarly describes credit relations as social glue: “where you are indebted any great sum: your creditor observes you with no less regard than if he were bound to you for some huge benefit, and will quake to give you the least cause of offence, lest he lose his money” (1.2.112–15). ⁶³ Guazzo, Ciuile, sig. G6r. ⁶⁴ Guazzo, Ciuile, sig. G6r.

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are illusions and impediments to knowledge thrown up by discourse itself: partly by the inherent mismatch between word and thing, but mainly by the misuse and misapprehension of language shared among various interlocutors. “Men associate through talk,” Bacon writes, and talk renders their associations theatrical, illusory, unreal.⁶⁵ Economic activity was in the period often thought of as a kind of epitome of social relations, concentrating and intensifying their ordinary dependence on rhetoric and interpretation. John Wheeler in A treatise of commerce (1601) describes negotiation as a natural consequence of sociable speech: “it is almost vnpossible for three persons to conuerse together two hours, but they wil fal into talk of one bargaine or another, chopping, changing, or some other kind of Contract.”⁶⁶ Negotiation is a natural element of “humane societie” and “ciuil life.”⁶⁷ Even “Children, assoone as euer their tongues are at libertie, doe season their sportes with some merchandise, or other.”⁶⁸ Economic activity also incentivizes a different form of slant speech: willful deceit. As Wheeler himself notes, “the dexteritie and sharpness of [man’s] wit” is directly related to the “naughtiness and corruption which is naturallie in him.”⁶⁹ And, if sociable negotiation could structure society, so, too, could lies. In A treatise against lying (1636), the preacher John Downame laments that, though everybody lies, habitual untruth is particularly endemic to “Citizens, shopkeepers and artificers.”⁷⁰ Similar critiques of commercial activity and of “market values” abounded in early modern England, despite “the advance of that market itself.”⁷¹ Merchants and tradesmen were strongly associated with acquisitiveness, a vice traditionally understood as harmful to the commonwealth.⁷² What makes Downame’s work worth pausing on is his association of market values with a particular kind of speech—lies—and lies with a profound unsettling of all of society. Profit-hunting encourages little lies, which then open the door to outright fraud, so that in the end, Downame laments, “Mysteries and Crafts” descend into “craft and deceit.”⁷³ The very words that designate professional profit-oriented activity become corrupt.⁷⁴ ⁶⁵ Francis Bacon, The New Organon, trans. Lisa Jardine and Michael Silverthorne (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000), p. 42. ⁶⁶ John Wheeler, A treatise of commerce (London, 1601), sig. A3v. ⁶⁷ Wheeler, Treatise, sig. A3r. ⁶⁸ Wheeler, Treatise, sig. A3v. ⁶⁹ Wheeler, Treatise, sig. A3v. ⁷⁰ John Downame, A treatise against lying (London, 1636), sig. B4r. It should be noted that Downame was accustomed to preaching to tradespeople. Over his lifetime, he held several benefices within the City of London. He was also made the inaugural William Jones lecturer in 1615 by London’s company of haberdashers, with whom he retained life-long financial ties. ⁷¹ Andrea Lynne Finkelstein, Harmony and the Balance: An Intellectual History of SeventeenthCentury English Economic Thought (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2000), p. 15. ⁷² Finkelstein, Harmony, pp. 15–16. ⁷³ Downame, Treatise, sig. C1r. ⁷⁴ J.C. Agnew writes that, in the early modern period, “Words like ‘cunning,’ ‘art,’ and ‘craft’ no longer evoked the unequivocal meanings of ingenuity, skill, and workmanship. Instead, they implied a capacity for misrepresentation and treachery that, by the late sixteenth century at least, was popularly identified with Machiavellianism.” Worlds Apart, p. 76.

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Downame’s slide between craft-as-work and craft-as-cunning is no mere wordplay. Rather, it epitomizes what he sees as the destabilizing effect of lies on social relations as they are structured by linguistic exchange. Lying for gain makes a kind of human-scale sense, but lots of lying results in universal senselessness. Downame writes, “if lyes bee spoken in stead of Truth, there can nothing follow but confusion, like that of Babel, whilest speaking one thing and thinking another, they cannot understand one anothers language, nor guesse at their meaning by their words, whereby the building of the State, and the worke and welfare of the Common-wealth is much hindred.”⁷⁵ Local artifice has global effects. It turns the state into a kind of interpretive Babel, where no one can correctly “guesse at” the meaning of anyone else’s utterance, but where guesswork is all anyone has to go on. The result is not a coherent, unified fiction, like Rabelais’s mock Golden Age, but rather a condition of widespread fictiveness: a quality of slippery ambiguity that the mere potential for falseness casts over all speech. As a result, all linguistic exchange, and all social relations, require (but also thwart) ever-shifting hermeneutic responses. In A treatise against lying, slant speech and its corollary, the need for interpretation, operate as fragmenting forces. Other writers, however, present the rhetorical dimension of social relations as foundational and binding. As Puttenham argues, to enter into dialogue with another is to dissemble, whether a little or a lot, but that is not necessarily a scandal or a catastrophe. According to Puttenham, we encounter other people in an allegoria, where “our wordes and our meanings meete not,” and we usually more or less make do. Another period word for Puttenham’s allegory might be Guazzo’s “conuersation.” Guazzo defines “ciuile conuersation,” as “an honest commendable and vertuous kinde of liuing in the world.”⁷⁶ Conversation is also of course, talk; the word designates “interchange of thoughts and words” as well as “consorting or having dealings with others.”⁷⁷ Puttenham himself uses “conuersation” variously to designate both “babble and talk” and a mode of living together.⁷⁸ Living together and living together in language are inseparable. And since language is slant in even its most mundane uses, inviting multiple competing meanings, social life bears an innate resemblance to fiction. It is both made and unreal, and it requires interpretation along multiple, shifting axes. Because they depend on a repertoire of strategies for speaking, acting, and interpreting, interpersonal credit relations intensify the rhetorical dimension of social life. They heighten “conuersation’s” binding aspect—shared reality is woven of everyday language and interpretation—and its fragmenting one: multiple meanings obscure truth, turning the social into “a botomelesse whorlepole, an inchaunted phantasy, and a mase.” ⁷⁵ Downame, Treatise, sig. R1v. ⁷⁶ Guazzo, Ciuile, sig. C6r–v. ⁷⁷ OED Online, “conversation, n.,” definitions 7a. and 2, respectively. ⁷⁸ Puttenham, Arte, sig. F3v.

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I.3. “Equipment for Living”: Practical and Dramatic Texts This book tracks the fictions of credit through two genres and their interactions: stage plays and practical texts. This latter group consists primarily of economic advice texts but also includes works like arithmetics and letter-writing manuals, in which economic advice is either implicit or given obliquely. I argue that both genres identify rhetoricity as a central, problematic, but also generative feature of credit culture, and that both treat credit’s rhetorical dimension as a site for thinking through questions of selfhood and social bonds, on the one hand, and of language and fiction-making, on the other. Both genres are “equipment for living,” to borrow a phrase from Kenneth Burke.⁷⁹ They are, however, very different kinds of equipment, ultimately making very different claims about what it means to be a person enmeshed in myriad overlapping credit relations, actual and potential. Practical texts offer strategies for navigating credit culture, which is to say they present credit culture as navigable. They address the conflicting demands produced by credit relations as ordinary and livable, often advising readers in the same breath to be open but secretive, generous but penny-pinching, outwardly trusting but inwardly suspicious, ready to borrow but unwilling to lend. By contrast, dramatic works zoom in on credit culture’s conflicting demands, making its impasses and contradictions the ground for tragic and comic actions. Plays of the period stage credit culture’s thorniest problems without offering solutions (often in fact suggesting that they have no solutions). Nevertheless, what credit plays offer is not a straightforward critique of monetized society, as has been argued.⁸⁰ Rather, they offer emplotted analyses of the possibilities for selfhood, language, and sociability inherent to a world fictionalized by credit. The work they do is analytical and descriptive, rather than palliative or prescriptive. And if the glass they hold up to credit culture is something of a funhouse mirror— showing hyperbolic, amplified, extreme versions of persons and relationships that practical texts treat as utterly mundane—it is because dramatic hyperbole operates as an analytical tool. It defamiliarizes the artifice of everyday life and demystifies the fictions of credit. The handbooks and manuals discussed in this book constitute a specific subset of the enormously various body of instructive literature that made up a substantial portion of the early modern print market.⁸¹ This subset is itself internally eclectic, including letters, housekeeping manuals, treatises on debt and sociability, ⁷⁹ Kenneth Burke, “Literature as Equipment for Living,” in The Philosophy of Literary Form: Studies in Symbolic Action (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1973), pp. 293–304. ⁸⁰ See for example Peter Grav, Shakespeare and the Economic Imperative: “What’s aught but as ’tis valued?” (New York: Routledge, 2008); Hugh Grady, Shakespeare and Impure Aesthetics (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009), pp. 90–129; and David Hawkes, Shakespeare and Economic Theory (London: Bloomsbury, 2015), pp. 89–184. ⁸¹ Natasha Glaisyer and Sara Pennell, “Introduction,” Didactic Literature in England 1500–1800: Expertise Constructed, ed. Glaisyer and Pennell (Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2003), pp. 1–18.

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arithmetic textbooks, tables for calculating interest, legal formularies, handbooks for merchants and retailers, and epistolary manuals. In addition to texts recognizable as advice literature—that is, texts that resemble Polonius’s speech, in message or style or both—this book draws on a range of practical subgenres, including commercial arithmetics (Chapters 1, 3, and 4); proverb collections and letter-writing manuals (Chapter 2); satirical and moralizing tracts on debt (Chapter 3); and legal formularies and tables of interest (Chapter 4). These texts would have been used by people in different walks of life, with varying relationships to wealth management and money-making. They differ in form, style, and imagined readership. In some, expert authors address their inexpert readers directly, the printed word acting “as a substitute for oral, face-to-face educative relationships.”⁸² Some are formularies: collections of letters and legal documents to be copied and repurposed. Others, like early mathematics textbooks, combine instruction with exercises for the reader to work out, learning by doing. Still others are largely non-verbal, like the printed numerical tables that helped seventeenthcentury people calculate interest on long-term loans. Yet the texts that make up this eclectic group share a set of key features that make them worth studying both together, and in dialogue with drama. All of them address credit relations, either directly or obliquely. All of them are written from the point of view of experience, and all are aimed at the profitable navigation of worldly life. Above all, all of them are practical, in the sense that they promote what Aristotle terms praxis: skill in worldly affairs.⁸³ Praxis differs from manual skill (technē) and from the knowledge of unchanging truths (epistemē). It is, according to Aristotle, the special province of “household managers and politicians”: those who deal with money, with people, and with language.⁸⁴ As Thomas Wright would put it in the seventeenth century, “prudence and policie are wonne by experience, experience by practise, practise by conversation, conversation by communication with people.”⁸⁵ Glossing Aristotle, Pamela O. Long notes that practical wisdom “requires judgment in contingent or uncertain situations.”⁸⁶ It is precisely such responsiveness to contingency that all the practical works surveyed in this book promote. Whether they teach merchandizing or farming, letter-writing or arithmetic, these works model how to think and how to act in response to variable conditions and shifting environments. The actions, attitudes, and habits of mind they teach— calculation, negotiation, prudence, thrift, policy—all take contingency into account. Even mathematics textbooks, which we may be inclined to think of as

⁸² Glaisyer and Pennell, “Introduction,” p. 9. See also Jessica Rosenberg, “The Poetics of Practical Address,” Philological Quarterly 98, no. 1/2 (Winter–Spring 2019): pp. 95–117. ⁸³ Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics 6.3–8, trans. Roger Crisp (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000), pp. 105–11. ⁸⁴ Aristotle, Ethics 6.5, p. 107. ⁸⁵ Wright, Passions, sig. A4v. ⁸⁶ Pamela O. Long, Openness, Secrecy, Authorship: Technical Arts and the Culture of Knowledge from Antiquity to the Renaissance (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2001), p. 2.

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teaching abstract rules, embed their instruction in the shifting coordinates of daily life. These textbooks’ most common generic feature, the narrative problem, asks readers to suppose themselves making calculations in a highly specific situation: making a will, selling cloth, investing in a mercantile voyage. Like all early modern practical literature, mathematics textbooks posit a world of kaleidoscopic variety and flux: an infinite set of possible and actual situations to be approached with flexibility.⁸⁷ To gain a deeper sense of the differing aims and strategies of practical and dramatic texts in the face of credit-driven contingency, it is worth looking at specific examples, especially of the former, less-studied genre. While practical literature has received increased prominence in literary studies in recent years, the literature of economic advice remains curiously under-read, beyond a few frequently quoted examples like Tusser’s Points.⁸⁸ Frances E. Dolan’s assessment of scholarship on domestic manuals is applicable here, as well: “While many scholars return again and again to the same few books and even the same passages from these books, often plucked from anthologies of excerpts, those who read oftencited books cover to cover and against lesser known works turn up eye-opening surprises; they are also able to challenge assumptions that still govern generalizations about this literature and the advice it offers.”⁸⁹ A handful of the practical works discussed in Fictions of Credit are indeed well known; others are at least not unknown; still others are obscure. My aim is to treat these works not merely as illuminating sidelights to a play or plays, but as artfully constructed texts, whose rhetorical and representational strategies both reward critical attention and reveal a surprisingly wide and flexible range of responses to the vicissitudes of credit. Because both genres isolate the same features of credit culture for scrutiny, close attention to practical works helps us—maybe even requires us—to rethink dramatic portrayals of credit culture. But the converse is always also true, and it is my hope that close attention to plays’ representations of credit culture will, in turn, afford us a sharper and more precise understanding of period practical literature. ⁸⁷ Pamela H. Smith argues that practical texts taught—above and beyond specific professional skills—the twin capabilities of intuition and improvisation. “Why Write a Book? From Lived Experience to the Written Word in Early Modern Europe,” Bulletin of the German Historical Institute, no. 47 (Fall 2010): pp. 25–50. While Smith’s discussion of these capabilities focuses on the mastery of handicraft, the ability to intuit and improvise both socially and verbally is a central lesson of practical texts more generally. ⁸⁸ For recent work on practical literature in England see Glaisyer and Pennell, eds. Didactic Literature; Natasha Korda, Shakespeare’s Domestic Economies: Gender and Property in Early Modern England (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2002); Wendy Wall, Staging Domesticity: Household Work and English Identity in Early Modern Drama (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002); Recipes for Thought: Knowledge and Taste in the Early Modern Kitchen (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2016); and Jessica Rosenberg, “The Point of the Couplet: Shakespeare’s Sonnets and Tusser’s A Hundreth Good Pointes of Husbandrie,” ELH 83, no. 1 (Spring 2016), pp. 1–41. ⁸⁹ Frances E. Dolan, True Relations: Reading, Literature, and Evidence in Seventeenth-Century England (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2013), p. 165.

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In the remainder of this introduction, I offer readings of a sampling of practical texts, all drawn from the subgenre of advice literature, all aimed at different audiences (farmers, statesmen, and urban retailers), and all explicitly addressing rhetoric and interpretation as economic skills. I then give a brief account of how each of the book’s ensuing chapters proposes to read handbooks and plays together. Thomas Tusser’s Fiue hundreth points makes a good starting point. After noting credit’s ubiquity, in a passage quoted above, Tusser comments on its dangers: Who liuing but lends, & be lent to they must, else buying & selling, mought lye in the dust. But shameles & craftie, that desperat are: make many full honest, the worser to fare.⁹⁰

The first half of this quatrain is sometimes cited on its own, creating the impression that Tusser (and by extension early modern English people more generally) found no cause for alarm in credit’s ubiquity.⁹¹ But it is the anxiety expressed in the quatrain’s second half, which warns against “shameless & craftie” people, that forms a thread through Tusser’s work and other texts like it. Here and elsewhere, Tusser presents sociability as both economically necessary—“who liuing but lends . . . ?”—but also potentially costly. Fundamental to his text is a tension between the moral imperative to be honest and the pragmatic expectation of others’ dishonesty. A poem titled “The Ladder to thrift” exemplifies this tension. This poem consists of thirty-four rhymed points, each of which represents a step on the ladder whose end is thrift, or thriving (see Figure I.1). Like Polonius’s “few precepts,” the “Ladder’s” points are loosely ordered, but they return over and over to a core set of ideas. In addition to advocating hard work and limited spending (both fairly obvious components of thrift) they repeatedly counsel courtesy, honesty, and the strict keeping of covenants. At the same time, however, they assume a world rife with dishonesty. Thrift thus requires an actively suspicious and strategic approach to life. One must “get by honest practisy, / and kepe thy gettings couertly” and “walke thy pastures vsually, / to spie ill neighbours suttlety.”⁹² Tusser is particularly distrustful of neighbors, dedicating a whole poem to their jealousy, anger, and double-dealing; in it, we learn that a wicked neighbor’s “promis to trust to, as slipper as Ise. / His credyt much like, to the chance of

⁹⁰ Tusser, Fiue hundreth points, sig. C3v. ⁹¹ See Craig Muldrew, “Interpreting the Market: The Ethics of Credit and Community Relations in Early Modern England,” Social History 18, no. 2 (May 1993): pp. 163–83, esp. p. 171; and Economy, 95. ⁹² Tusser, Fiue hundreth points, sigs. B4v and C1r.

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Figure I.1. Excerpt from “The Ladder to thrift” in Thomas Tusser’s Fiue hundreth points of good husbandry (London, 1573), sig. C1r. STC 22109, The Folger Shakespeare Library, Washington, D.C. Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0.

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the dyce.”⁹³ In the face of real and potential malice and deceit, thrift requires what Tusser terms “polecy.”⁹⁴ At the same time, policy must not shade into what he condemns as “craft.”⁹⁵ But where is the line? And isn’t programmatic secrecy and the surveillance of neighbors at odds with another of the ladder’s precepts: “To liue in conscience quietly”?⁹⁶ Yet the strategic unquiet born of the ceaseless busyness of calculated self-presentation and suspicious delving into others’ motives cannot be avoided. For Tusser, these lessons derive from experience. In an autobiographical prefatory poem, he recalls how “wiely geeses” drained him of resources when he first took up farming.⁹⁷ Books of economic counsel offer a wide range of strategies for coping with the indeterminacies of credit culture, but these responses can be very roughly organized into two camps. One advocates an approach similar to what Tusser and Polonius advise: to head off deception by being oneself a little deceptive, primarily by means of secrecy and self-concealment, but ultimately, underneath all that, to remain true to a stabilizing set of values and a fixed sense of self (a task whose monumental difficulty these works often elide). These writers speak to their readers from a fictional standpoint outside of what Guazzo termed civil conversation. In plain language, claiming to speak “vnfaynedly,” they figure social flexibility as necessary but suspect: a tool that the advice-giving speaker both recommends and warns against.⁹⁸ The second camp seeks to manipulate and master the slippery world by participating in it: not merely anticipating others’ dissimulations but dissembling freely. In general, texts in the second camp bear a more direct genealogical relation to Italian Renaissance courtesy books, which entered the English print market in translation in the mid-sixteenth century.⁹⁹ They teach what Harry Berger Jr. terms “transactional” rhetoric, which “consists in mastering the strategies of linguistic communication, the relations of senders to receivers,” and which emphasizes, “ēthos and pathos”: “the speaker’s selfrepresentation” and “the skills by which he moves the audience.”¹⁰⁰ Francis Bacon’s essay “Of Negociating” (1597) belongs to this second camp. Though broadly addressed to negotium, or “ciuill Business,” this essay’s counsel

⁹³ Tusser, Fiue hundreth points, sig. Z1v. ⁹⁴ Tusser, Fiue hundreth points, sig. C1r. ⁹⁵ Tusser, Fiue hundreth points, sig. C1r. This concern appears in other period works on navigating sociability with a degree of craft. See for instance Wright, Passions, sig. A5v. ⁹⁶ Tusser, Fiue hundreth points, sig. C1v. ⁹⁷ Tusser, Fiue hundreth points, sig. A1v. On the Points’ autobiographical framing, see Meredith Anne Skura, “Adding an ‘Author’s Life’: Thomas Tusser’s Revisions of A Hundreth Good Points of Husbandry,” in Tudor Autobiography: Listening for Inwardness (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2008), pp. 126–48. ⁹⁸ Tusser, Fiue hundreth points, sig. C1v. ⁹⁹ Wright, Middle-Class Culture, pp. 123–7 and Anna Bryson, From Courtesy to Civility: Changing Codes of Conduct in Early Modern England (Oxford: Clarendon, 1998), p. 32. ¹⁰⁰ Harry Berger Jr., “Narrative as Rhetoric in The Faerie Queene,” English Literary Renaissance 21, no. 1 (Winter 1991): pp. 3–48, p. 6.

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would have been readily applicable in matters of exchange.¹⁰¹ In fact, at several points in his Essayes, Bacon analogizes politics to merchandizing, suggesting an overlap in the skills useful to each.¹⁰² Bacon recognizes negotiating as rhetorical and dialogic, and each of the essay’s opening precepts centers on anticipating and manipulating audience response. So, for example, “To deale in person is good when a mans face breedes regard, as commonly with inferiours” and “It is better to sound a person with whome one deales a farre off, then to fal vppon the pointe at first, except you meane to surprise him by some shorte question.”¹⁰³ Conversational tactics depend upon desired response. Like Tusser, Bacon anticipates that others may be hiding their own self-interested motives; accordingly, much of his advice aims at thwarting duplicity. When selecting intermediaries, for instance, “it is better to choose men of a plainer sorte that are like to doe that that is committed to them . . . then those that are cunning to contriue out of other mens businesse somewhat to grace themselues.”¹⁰⁴ Those with whom we negotiate, as well as our agents, may prove tricky; therefore, “In dealing with cunning persons, we must euer consider their endes to interpret their speeches, and it is good to say little to them, and that which they least looke for.”¹⁰⁵ So far so Polonius: interpret others, but give them little or nothing to interpret in turn. Bacon goes further, however, advocating for more than simply surveillance and self-concealment. Near the essay’s end, he delivers an aphorism that represents a densely compressed articulation of both the aims and methods of the “transactional rhetoric” he has been describing: “All practise is to discouer or to worke.”¹⁰⁶ By “practise,” Bacon clearly means the world of practical affairs, where negotiating is a crucial activity. But “practise” also refers to subtlety, manipulation, cunning, and trickery, and this set of meanings is active, here, too.¹⁰⁷ “All practise is to discouer”: that is, to uncover others’ motives and desires, to interpret. Alternately, “all practise” is “to worke”—a word, here, less synonymous with labor than rhetorical manipulation: to work on people, divining and exploiting their dispositions, weaknesses, interests, and needs. Bacon goes on: “If you would worke any man, you must either know his nature, and fashions and so leade him,

¹⁰¹ The phrase “ciuill business” appears numerous times in Bacon’s essays; see Essayes (1625), p. 5, p. 63, p. 306. ¹⁰² See for example “Of Cunning” (pp. 127–34) and “Of Seeming Wise” (pp. 146–8) in Essayes (1625). ¹⁰³ Quotations from “Of Negociating” are from the earliest published version, in Essayes. Religious meditations. Places of perswasion and disswasion. Seene and allowed (London, 1597), sigs. C4r–C5r. This version exhibits the emphatically aphoristic style characteristic of Bacon’s early essays and in some ways reminiscent of Polonius’s precepts. For the textual history and an account of the essays’ stylistic development from the first publication to their final form in 1625, see Michael Kiernan, “General Introduction,” in The Essayes or Counsels, Civill and Morall, ed. Kiernan (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000), pp. xix–lii, esp. pp. xxxi–xlvi. Early modern editions of Bacon’s essays are distinguished by date in these notes. ¹⁰⁴ Bacon, Essayes (1597), sig. C4r–v. ¹⁰⁵ Bacon, Essayes (1597), sig. C5r. ¹⁰⁶ Bacon, Essayes (1597), sig. C4v. ¹⁰⁷ See Agnew, Worlds Apart, p. 76.

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or his ends, and so winne him, or his weakenesses or disaduantages, and so awe him, or those that haue interest in him and so gouerne him.”¹⁰⁸ Such working-on must involve mastery not only of psychology but of persuasion, which facilitates the social manipulations that, in turn, lead to advantage or profit. Taken as a collection, Bacon’s essays model the contradictory flexibility demanded by life-in-the-world, now praising forms of calculated dissembling as “Politick, and Morall,” now criticizing them as “Crooked.”¹⁰⁹ Such variations and switchings-of-tack are fundamental to practical literature. What looks like selfcontradiction is in fact a performance of social flexibility: the ability to adapt oneself, and one’s degree of feigning, situationally. As Bacon himself puts it, “The best Composition, and Temperature is, to haue Opennesse in Fame and Opinion; Secrecy in Habit; Dissimulation in seasonable vse; And a Power to faigne, if there be no Remedy.”¹¹⁰ More directly than “Of Negociating,” William Scott’s An essay of drapery: or, The compleate citizen (1635) presents artifice and interpretation as business skills. This text presents social flexibility in even more boldly contradictory terms than Bacon’s Essayes, which Scott had evidently read.¹¹¹ An essay of drapery is worth dwelling on here, since it offers an extended treatment of marketplace rhetoric and conduct, shaped by the demands of credit. It also offers a stylistic opposite to the plainspoken advice-giving that Tusser exemplifies. Even where these works overlap—and they all advocate for some combination of honesty and distrust, secrecy and surveillance—differences in style model different ways of being within England’s credit culture. Bacon’s “Of Negociating” is written in an aphoristic style, and like Polonius’s speech it lacks “transitions and connectives” between its sentences.¹¹² Nevertheless, in their syntactical complexity and in the interpretive demands they place on the reader, Bacon’s sentences mirror the sophistication of the world, rather than eschewing it. This is counsel of a different kind. William Scott goes further, clothing his equivocating lessons in supple prose, performing the social flexibility for which he argues, and enacting a kind of citizen sprezzatura.

¹⁰⁸ Bacon, Essayes (1597), sigs. C4v–C5r. ¹⁰⁹ Bacon, Essayes (1625), p. 28, p. 127. ¹¹⁰ Bacon, “Of Simulation and Dissimulation,” in Essayes (1625), pp. 25–31, p. 31. ¹¹¹ Scott does not credit Bacon, as he does classical and continental authors, yet he is deeply indebted to the earlier essayist. Scott’s discussion of balancing private interest and public good, near the end of his tract, closely follows (and at times outright copies) Bacon’s “Of Wisedom for a Man’s self,” in Essayes (1625), pp. 135–8. The first sentence of that essay appears almost verbatim in An essay of drapery (sigs. H3v–H4r), as does its memorable image of harmful self-interest: a man who would “set another mans house on fire, to rost [his] owne eggs” (Scott, Essay, sig. H7v; see Bacon, “Wisedome,” in Essayes [1625], p. 137). Scott’s text also absorbs lessons from “Of Negociating”: “Knowing every mans nature and fashions, he may lead him: knowing his ends, he may perswade him; knowing his weakeness or disadvantage, he may awe him” (sig. F11v). Indeed, the entire final third of Scott’s book is Baconian, not only in its frequent verbal borrowings but also in a thematic emphasis on dissembling as a necessary if dangerous aspect of prudence. ¹¹² Kiernan, “General Introduction,” p. xxxii.

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As modern commenters have noted, An essay of drapery contains very little about the ins-and-outs of Scott’s trade; one historian complains that “Scott has nothing to say about drapery.”¹¹³ Only nine of the book’s total of 169 pages focus on the draper’s main commodity, cloth (these pages, moreover, are almost perversely uninformative). Scott does advise readers to learn the skills useful to all retailers and tradespeople, like arithmetic and account-keeping, but offers no relevant instruction.¹¹⁴ Scott’s lessons in “Trading justly[,] pleasingly[,] profitably,” as his book’s title page puts it, turn out to be lessons in language.¹¹⁵ A citizen must be skilled in “pleasing discourse,” and his words “should flow from his mouth, so that it might be said of them, they are non tam verba quam mella, not so much words as Honey.”¹¹⁶ Early in An essay of drapery, Scott delivers the aphorism, “Hee cannot be a good Draper which is not first a good man,” echoing the classical definition of an orator as “a good man skilled in speaking”—a definition that might equally describe Scott’s ideal London citizen.¹¹⁷ He teaches verbal decorum, writing “In as much as [a citizen] is to deale with men of divers conditions, let him know that to speake according to the nature of him with whom he commerceth, is the best Rhetorick.”¹¹⁸ A tradesman should vary speech according to a customer’s status: “To his superiour, his words must carry much humility . . . ; to his equalls familiarity . . . mingled with a little state. To his inferiours familiarity too, but not too much of it, lest hee breed contempt.”¹¹⁹ “Courtesie,” he writes, “payes a great deale, yet is never the poorer” and “satisfies every man, yet lessens not the Stock.”¹²⁰ “Small ceremonious matters” help sell commodities.¹²¹ So, too, does the artful description of wares: in “perswading his Customer to the liking of his commodity, hee must put on the same liking himselfe; for putting on the same passion hee would stir up in others, he is most like to prevaile.”¹²² Here, again, An essay of drapery draws on the long tradition of rhetorical theory that holds that to move an audience, one should be moved oneself.¹²³

¹¹³ K.G. Davies, review of Sylvia Thrupp, ed., An Essay of Drapery, 1635 by William Scott (Boston: Baker Library, 1953); The Economic History Review, New Series, 7, no. 2 (1954): p. 267. ¹¹⁴ Scott, Essay, sig. D2v. ¹¹⁵ For Scott’s lessons in language and conduct, see Agnew, Worlds, pp. 79–84. For Scott’s pragmatism, see Tracey Hill, Anthony Munday and Civic Culture: Theatre, History, and Power in Early Modern London (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2004), p. 58. ¹¹⁶ Scott, Essay, sig. E4r. ¹¹⁷ Scott, Essay, sig. A9r; Quintilian, The Orator’s Education, 12.1.1, in The Orator’s Education, Volume V: Books 11–12, ed. and trans. Donald A. Russell, Loeb Classical Library 494 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2002), pp. 196–7. ¹¹⁸ Scott, Essay, sig. E5r. ¹¹⁹ Scott, Essay, sig. E6v. ¹²⁰ Scott, Essay, sig. E2v. ¹²¹ Scott, Essay, sig. E2v. ¹²² Scott, Essay, sig. E5r. ¹²³ See for example Horace, “Ars Poetica,” lines 102–3, in Satires. Epistles. The Art of Poetry, trans. H. Rushton Fairclough, Loeb Classical Library 194 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1926), pp. 458–9; Quintilian, The Orator’s Education 6.2.26, in The Orator’s Education, Volume III: Books 6–8, ed. and trans. Donald A. Russell, Loeb Classical Library 126 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2002), pp. 58–9.

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Like Polonius, Tusser, and Bacon, Scott notes the practical necessity of selfconcealment, but he also advises more actively outward-facing artifice.¹²⁴ Such artifice cannot be dishonest, but it doesn’t need to be strictly truthful, either: “My Citizen . . . must never turne his back to honesty; yet sometimes goe about and coast it.”¹²⁵ In the book’s first major section, on trading “Justly,” Scott lists “Flattery,” “Dissimulation,” and “Lying” as the “unjust wayes of deceit which I would have my Citizen to shun.”¹²⁶ He treats each form of deceit in turn, and his attitude towards each is surprisingly complex; in the end it is not at all clear whether he is teaching his citizen-reader what to avoid, or what to do. Writing on flattery, he condemns shopkeepers who reflect their customers’ desires and moods: “There bee some whom Gaine will transforme into all shapes; let the Customer looke how hee will, they like a Looking-glasse will have something in them like him.”¹²⁷ Yet he acknowledges, “Some Customers will grow dull and displeased, if they bee not often whetted by a Flatterer; downe-right honest speeches discontent them.”¹²⁸ He adds “For this cause, as the Apostle said; Be angry, but sin not: So I say, Flatter, but sin not, if that be possible.”¹²⁹ Similarly, “woe to them which dissemble to an ill end,” but “Dissimulation is a thing more tollerable with a Citizen; it is with him as with one who hath married a wife, whom hee must use well, pretending affection to her, though hee cannot love her.”¹³⁰ Period accounts of lying distinguish between dissimulation (concealing the truth) and simulation (actively speaking an untruth). Scott cannot bring himself to shut the door on even this last, extreme degree of slant speech. “Lying is a base vice,” he declares, “pernicious to humane society.”¹³¹ Even here, though, he leaves wiggle room. To the conclusion, “Lying then is to be banisht,” he immediately adds “but this rule must bee observed; as wee may not lie, so we need not speake all the truth.”¹³² This softening qualification echoes the Essay’s title page’s Latin tag, Neq[ue] nihil, neq[ue] omnia dicenda sunt (Figure I.2). Neither nothing, nor everything needs to be said. The contradictions that crop up around rhetoricized social relations are here very much on display: never flatter, flatter a little; never dissemble, dissemble as needed; don’t lie, don’t tell the truth. Credit relations intensify such contradictions, and it is within credit relations that Scott locates his book. An essay of drapery opens with a dedicatory letter to his uncle, George Scott, in relation to whom he claims a state of unrepayable, ever-growing debt: “The interest of your love exceeds the principall of mine abilities.”¹³³ His book constitutes imperfect restitution, since, as he puts it, “I must borrow of your patience and protection, while I present you with this in part of payment: so striving to disingage my selfe

¹²⁴ ¹²⁵ ¹²⁸ ¹³¹

Advice on secrecy and self-concealment appears on sig. F12r–v. Scott, Essay, sigs. G3v–G4r. ¹²⁶ Scott, Essay, sig. B7r. ¹²⁷ Scott, Essay, sig. B7v. Scott, Essay, sig. B8v. ¹²⁹ Scott, Essay, sig. B8v. ¹³⁰ Scott, Essay, sig. B9r. Scott, Essay, sig. B10v. ¹³² Scott, Essay, sig. B12v. ¹³³ Scott, Essay, sig. A3r.

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Figure I.2. Engraved title page to William Scott, An essay of drapery: or, The compleate citizen (London, 1635). STC 24377, The Folger Shakespeare Library, Washington, D.C. Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0.

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I runne further into debt.”¹³⁴ Most of the debts the book addresses, however, are more literal: the monetary debts between customer and retailer. Noting that “it is ordinary, to buy wares for time, yet pay not for them at the time agreed upon,” Scott describes two kinds of customers who fail to make good their debts: those who knowingly overstretch their credit and “will finde no time at all to pay, breaking deeply indebted to many,” and those who “would pay every man his owne, but cannot,” due to “the violent blasts of crosse accidents.”¹³⁵ Debtors’ intentions and fortunes both affect the shopkeeper, and both lie beyond his control. Scott notes that it would be difficult to find any citizens “whose Bookes are without some debts, which they never hope to see discharg’d.”¹³⁶ Since refusing to sell on credit is not really an option, shopkeepers must both cultivate and conceal a habit of suspicion in order to extend it wisely: “It is necessary, my Citizen defend himselfe, by this buckler, distrust, which is a great part of prudence; it is even the very sinew of wisedome, for a mans selfe to take heed of all men; the nature of the World induceth a man to this, which is wholly composed of lyes, fraud, and counterfet dealings.”¹³⁷ The crookedness of the world calls for an answering crookedness in worldlings. For Scott, such crookedness is not inherently bad, and participating in it may in fact provide opportunities for virtue. He writes that: a man must trust few, and those known by long experience, and distrust must be disguised; for open diffidence inviteth as much to deceive, as an overcarelesse confidence; Multi fallere docuerunt, dum timent falli; many fearing to be deceived, have taught how to deceive; wheras often a professed trust hath taken away a desire to deceive, by obliging fidelity; every man would be credited, and a beliefe of his honesty, doth many times bind him to be honest; a professed trust then doth well with a conceald diffidence.¹³⁸

Pretending to trust customers makes them trustworthy; seeming to credit them makes them creditworthy. Here, we get a positive version of the idea that rhetoric and performance shape a harmonious society. Credit relations breed social indeterminacy, indeterminacy breeds distrust, distrust begets dissimulation, and dissimulation (in a happy twist) obliges fidelity. Elsewhere, Scott tells us, “Silence is more sociable than untrue speech.”¹³⁹ But as An essay of drapery makes clear, more sociable still than silence is artful speech: speech that sits somewhere between transparent truth, and a lie. Like Guazzo’s conduct book, Scott’s drapery manual ultimately defends the artifice of everyday life; it is both how-to and apologia. Guazzo calls feigning of the

¹³⁴ Scott, Essay, sig. A3v. ¹³⁵ Scott, Essay, sigs. C4v and C5v–C6r. ¹³⁶ Scott, Essay, sig. D7r. ¹³⁷ Scott, Essay, sig. G4r–v. ¹³⁸ Scott, Essay, sigs. G4v–G5r. ¹³⁹ Scott, Essay, sigs. B10v–B11r.

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kind Scott advocates, “a good kinde of deceit,” since it “tendeth to a good ende, and . . . is profitable to the partie deceiued.”¹⁴⁰ The designation a “good kind of deceit” could be applied to the literary creations, as well. We might be reminded, here, of Gorgias’ description of tragedy, “in which the deceiver is more honest than the non-deceiver, and the deceived is wiser than the undeceived.”¹⁴¹ The world, Guazzo tells us, is both a “mercate” and a “stage,” and early modern playwrights exploit the connections between marketplace and theater, engaging self-reflexively with the obvious theatricality of credit relations.¹⁴² At the same time, however, they do not fully or even frequently identify their work with this other, off-stage theatricality, which runs through “conuersation.” Rather, they make it the object of analysis. For the playwrights I study, the fictions of credit are not, first and foremost, occasions for meta-theatrical reflection. They are sites of inquiry, exploration, and critique. If, as I have been arguing, credit relations intensify the rhetoricity of social life, they also amplify its multiplicity, its element of flux, its danger. Credit plays analyze the experiential dimension of credit culture, investigating both its outward formal architecture and its inward phenomenology: what it feels like to live with credit—to live, that is, inside a fiction.¹⁴³ How do they perform this this analysis? Early modern historicist criticism is in part founded on the assumption that plays and other imaginative texts offer insights into the past that non-fictional texts do not, and that they do so precisely because they are fictions, bearing a slant rather than a direct relation to truth.¹⁴⁴ Looking at the angle of that slant yields critical and historical insights; surveying the gap between text and world helps us recover the relationship of text to world. ¹⁴⁰ Guazzo, Ciuile, sig. E4r. ¹⁴¹ Plutarch ascribes this paradox to Gorgias in the Moralia. The translation quoted here is from Scott Consigny, Gorgias, Sophist and Artist (Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 2001), p. 178. ¹⁴² See Agnew, Worlds Apart, p. x, pp. 101–48; and Aaron Kitch, Political Economy and the States of Literature in Early Modern England (Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2009), pp. 129–53. ¹⁴³ I here draw on Gail Kern Paster’s idea of “historical phenomenology” and critical project of “recover[ing] some of the historical particularity of early modern emotional self-experience.” Humoring the Body: Emotions and the Shakespearean Stage (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2004), p. 23. See also Theodore Leinwand, Theatre, Finance, and Society in Early Modern England (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999). Leinwand’s subject is, specifically, affective “responses to socio-economically induced stress” (p. 1). My work takes up his suggestion that “a financial relationship like indebtedness may stimulate multiple affects” (p. 3) but attends primarily to linguistic and interpretive practices and their (often, affect-laden) consequences. ¹⁴⁴ I am here indebted to several decades of historicist work—work that has, over those decades, shifted in its emphasis and in its political stakes, but that has nevertheless maintained both a strong sense that culture shapes texts (at thematic and formal levels) and that texts in turn have agency in their surrounding culture. The new historicism and cultural materialism of the 1980s and 1990s remain for me powerful influences and useful frameworks, though where these approaches worked to excavate the invisible workings of power and capital, this book focuses on what was very much out in the open: the rhetorical and interpretive strategies people knowingly employed within credit culture and reflected on in practical literature and plays. As such, it has more in common with recent economic criticism that has taken an up-close, granular approach to the material, dialogic, strategic, and experiential dimensions of economic and social life. On this turn, see Douglas Bruster, Shakespeare and the Question of Culture: Early Modern Literature and the Cultural Turn (New York: Palgrave, 2003), pp. 191–205.

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In a recent study of staged representations of economic life, Michelle M. Dowd writes that plays “shed light not so much on social realities as on the cultural fantasies that were envisioned and circulated in order to make sense of those realities during a period of significant social and economic change.”¹⁴⁵ On stage, “what is imaginable takes precedence over what is actual or even historically possible.”¹⁴⁶ Here, plays are the cultural unconscious made manifest; like dreams, they reveal the truth even as they enact the impossible. Early modern plays about credit offer a variation on this structure. These plays tend not to be departures from reality so much as hyperbolic, intensified versions of it. In them, “what is imaginable” and “what is actual or . . . possible” are separated not in kind, but by degree. To take one example: Timon of Athens, which I discuss in my third chapter, gives us an ordinary enough situation: a rich man in a great deal of debt, unaware of his financial situation, borrowing and spending large sums. In reality, having more debts than assets was a common, if unwelcome plight. In the play, it is existentially destructive and ultimately fatal. His credit broken, Timon renounces his name, identity, and ties to his community. He dies alone in the woods. Timon’s playwrights created a tragedy out of an ordinary situation, by making the ordinary extreme—or rather, by teasing out the extreme possibilities that are, in many ways, simply logical extensions of everyday practices. Rather than crossing into the realm of the impossible, credit plays show us just how far the possible may extend, and how strange it is. The tools of their inquiry are hyperbole and amplification, on the one hand, and a kind of radical simplification or stripping-down, on the other. They pry open what’s closed, and they reveal as deeply strange—as ridiculous, outrageous, wondrous, or tragic—the conditions that handbook writers treat as ordinary, invisible, mundane. Texts of economic advice offer practical strategies for addressing credit’s indeterminacies. Plays foreground the existential problems these practical solutions elide, exacerbate, or even produce. By looking at both together, we recapture different dimensions of the past: a repertoire of outward-facing and strategic actions, along with a phenomenology of inward experience.

I.4. Archive and Structure Each of the chapters that follow pairs a play or plays with a specific type of practical literature. Chapter 1 analyzes a play rarely discussed in economic terms alongside sixteenth-century commercial arithmetics. It argues that Othello makes a problem that haunts the edges of these math books into grounds for tragedy: the

¹⁴⁵ Michelle M. Dowd, The Dynamics of Inheritance on the Shakespearean Stage (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015), p. 11. ¹⁴⁶ Dowd, Dynamics, p. 11.

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problem of calculating the value of persons in a society where new forms of commercial credit were unsettling traditional notions of worth grounded in status, military prowess, and sexual purity. Social evaluation comes to the fore in the specific set of narrative puzzles, “partnership problems,” which were designed to teach merchants how to calculate returns on joint ventures but which also demanded skill in reckoning the worth of words and of persons. In Shakespeare’s play, Othello’s jealousy operates according to an extreme version of the logic inherent to these problems. This chapter rereads Othello’s notoriously swift turn to jealousy and its corollary, his altered sense of self, in light of a strain of economically charged language that runs from Iago’s sneering epithets for Cassio as an account-keeper to Othello’s comparison of his murdered wife to a discarded pearl. The evaluation of others and of the self are linked, in Othello, to acts of evaluation drawn from the world of trade—the world reflected and addressed in arithmetic textbooks in general, and partnership problems in particular. Where Chapter 1 addresses the fictional nature of persons within credit culture—social evaluation is fundamental to the construction of individual reputation—Chapter 2 looks at how credit’s fictions inhabit the intimate bonds of friendship. This chapter reads Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice and Thomas Heywood’s A Woman Killed with Kindness alongside early modern letter-writing manuals. In the early seventeenth century, popular epistolary manuals began to include examples of letters begging for money and letters denying or extending loans. This epistolary subgenre is marked by a stark bifurcation, with one group of letters emphasizing the demands of love and another foregrounding the demands of thrift. The former grounds urgent requests for aid in the ancient saying that friends share all things in common; the latter justifies denial in the (equally ancient) injunction against entering bonds of surety even for friends. As templates for future real-world letters, these fictional epistles offer a repository of stock phrases and rhetorical moves useful for eager borrowers and unwilling lenders alike, two positions most of the books’ users would occupy at one point or another over the course of their lives. Letter-writing guides teach their users the necessity of self-contradiction over time: of now adhering to one set of values and practices, now to another, as contingency demands. Shakespeare’s and Heywood’s plays analyze their protagonists’ inability to do precisely this: to contradict themselves by exercising the social flexibility necessary for balancing both the demands of love and the demands of thrift. In both plays, an idealistic refusal to acknowledge that friendship itself can be subject to the logic of rhetoricized marketplace leads to tragic consequences. Chapter 3 revisits the previous chapters’ central concerns—social evaluation and friendship—and links them to an investigation of credit’s large-scale fictions. This chapter turns to works on what we might now call personal finance, but which in the period take on wildly different tones as they dispense advice, ranging from earnestly admonitory to bitingly satirical. These handbooks teach readers

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how to interpret the fictionalized credit world that surrounds them—a world full of false surfaces that invite misconstrual. I focus on these texts’ portrayal of a particular hard-to-read figure: the “rich begger,” an outwardly wealthy person whose debts invisibly outstrip his assets. While handbook authors simply warn readers against lending to such persons, Shakespeare and Thomas Middleton go further, probing the conditions that produce this paradoxical figure. Their coauthored Timon of Athens suggests that rich beggary results less from poor estate management than from the interplay of language, conduct, and interpretation. In the play’s opening scenes, the protagonist’s dazzling surface appearance of wealth generates limitless credit, hides catastrophic levels of debt, and invites endless flattery: an outpouring of language that further augments Timon’s credit and obscures his debts, turning the protagonist into a kind of one-man debt bubble. The play’s second half takes place after this bubble bursts. It extends its treatment of the fiction-making power of debt and credit from the individual “rich begger” to the fabric of society, constructed as it is out of countless false surfaces and countless misreadings. Timon’s final scenes present credit as an agent of universal falsification: a demiurgic power that upends hierarchies and rewrites social identity. In closing, this chapter looks at Timon’s pessimistic account of sociability structured by wealth alongside positive versions of the same model of social relations, put forward in commercial arithmetics, assizes of bread, and merchant manuals. Chapter 4 turns from social fictions to fictive renderings of the wide and variegated world of trade. This chapter has two distinct parts: the first argues for a deep correspondence between the world of trade and the imagined worlds of poetic invention, and the second demonstrates how changes in credit culture— changes in calculation that led, ultimately to changes in how credit itself was understood—corroded that correspondence. The chapter opens with the overlap between seventeenth-century poetic theory and commercial abundance. Early modern merchandise mirrored—and fueled—the poetic imagination. In turn, poets conjured fantastic visions of the world structured by trade: a far-flung, variegated constellation of distant shores and rich goods. Ben Jonson’s Volpone exemplifies the period association of circulating commodities with feverish creativity. The imaginative productions of the play’s central figures mirror the abundant material goods on offer in its Venetian setting. Analyzing the remarkable absence of credit from this play, I argue Volpone represents a fantasy of full material possession: of owning without owing. This fantasy underlies the materialist poetics exemplified by Jonson’s early economic plays and by their major influence, Marlowe’s Jew of Malta. In these works, the material world inspires the poetic word, and poetry strives to call newer, richer worlds into being. Decades later, Jonson revisits the relationship between word and world in his late, strange play, The Magnetic Lady. Here, credit takes center stage. The play’s central figure of both creativity and greed, Sir Moth Interest, is a moneylender whose verbal and

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imaginative capacity marks him as an heir of Jonson’s Volpone and Marlowe’s Barabas but renders him out of place in an economy increasingly oriented towards abstract capital and away from tangible wealth. In his characterization of Moth Interest, Jonson explicitly draws on a particular type of practical handbook: the recently invented table of logarithms, a precursor to the slide rule that allowed for swift and accurate computation of interest on loans. With the aid of his trusty tables, Sir Moth Interest can calculate the profit on a mercantile loan no matter what is being traded, or by whom, or where. In other words, he can calculate profit that has been abstracted from the world, from objects, from social bonds, and even from language. The Magnetic Lady’s human drama plays out in front of a backdrop of global trade and finance. While individual characters vie for dowries and inheritances— money attached to persons—an implacable, depersonalized system generates larger and larger sums for financiers like Sir Moth Interest. The play tells part of the story of capitalism’s rise. That story, as David Graeber argues, is “not the story of the gradual destruction of traditional communities by the impersonal power of the market” but rather “the story of how an economy of credit was converted into an economy of interest.”¹⁴⁷ In its portrayal of a world turning toward the abstract, numerical, and impersonal and away from the verbal, material, and interpersonal, Jonson’s late play signals an end to the fictions of credit that animate the Shakespearean stage: fictions that are fundamentally local and dialogic, developed in the interplay of artifice and interpretation, but that in aggregate mimic the world-making power of poetry itself.

¹⁴⁷ David Graeber, Debt: The First 5,000 Years (New York: Melville House, 2011), p. 332.

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1 Reckoning Reputation 1.1. Jealous Arithmetic In a mocking list of moral lessons to be drawn from Othello, Thomas Rymer writes, “Thirdly, this may be a lesson to Husbands, that before their Jealousie be Tragical, the proofs may be Mathematical.”¹ The double-meaning of “proof”— both the demonstration of truth and the derivation of a mathematical theorem— underscores what will become Rymer’s major critique of Shakespeare’s play in A short view of tragedy (1693). The human calculations on display are, to Rymer, preposterous: inexact to the point of improbability, based on hints and inferences rather than demonstrations systematically pursued. Despite his tone of ridicule, by contrasting Othello’s “Tragical” jealousy to “proofs . . . Mathematical,” Rymer makes a serious point: Othello is deeply concerned with evaluation, and evaluation, in Othello, opens onto the domain of mathematics. Throughout, language of calculation abounds, from Iago’s denigration of Cassio as a mere account-keeper, calling him “debitor and creditor” and “counter-caster” (1.1.30), to Bianca’s “weary reckoning” (3.4.171) of her beloved’s “absent hours” (169).² More centrally, Iago’s scheme to have Desdemona “undo her credit with the Moor” (2.3.344) involves a lesson in reckoning: he teaches Othello to evaluate his wife in a new way, reading her according to a hermeneutic of suspicion more appropriate to commercial credit, which he here invokes, than to marital trust.³ Following this linguistic and conceptual thread, what might it mean to push back against Rymer’s critique—to claim that reckoning in Othello is, in a very real sense, mathematical? Critics from Rymer’s day to ours have called attention to the improbable suddenness of Othello’s turn to jealousy.⁴ The most illuminating explanations ¹ Thomas Rymer, A short view of tragedy (London, 1693), p. 89. ² William Shakespeare, Othello, ed. Michael Neill (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006). Subsequent references to Othello are from this edition and are to act, scene, and line number. ³ David J. Baker, On Demand: Writing for the Market in Early Modern England (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2010), p. 63. ⁴ Rymer complains that “never was any Play fraught, like this of Othello, with improbabilities” (A short view, p. 92). Later, more sympathetic critics have made similar observations. See Stephen Greenblatt, “The Improvisation of Power,” in Renaissance Self-Fashioning: From More to Shakespeare (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1980), pp. 222–54; Stanley Cavell, “Othello and the Stake of the Other,” in Disowning Knowledge in Seven Plays of Shakespeare (1987; updated, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003), pp. 125–42; and Joel B. Altman The Improbability of Othello: Rhetorical Anthropology and Shakespearean Selfhood (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2010).

Fictions of Credit in the Age of Shakespeare. Laura Kolb, Oxford University Press (2021). © Laura Kolb. DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198859697.003.0002

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for this suddenness center on the structures of knowledge Iago instills or awakens in Othello: sexual anxiety, philosophical skepticism, a sense of the potentially arbitrary tie between word and thing, a rhetoricized view of sociability and selfhood.⁵ Iago teaches Othello to know differently, critics argue, and his understanding of his wife, his world, and himself undergoes a swift and total metamorphosis. This chapter argues that the change in Othello is practical and evaluative, rather than primarily epistemological. Rather than creating or revealing new knowledge, Iago reworks the ongoing processes through which knowledge— especially the always provisional, imperfect, and incomplete knowledge of other people—gets constructed. In other words, Iago makes available a new mode not simply of seeing and knowing the world, but of reckoning it. In early modern usage as now, “to reckon” meant to count or to calculate but also designated nonnumerical forms of evaluative figuring, judging, and working-out.⁶ Othello repeatedly stages the reckoning of human worth: a complex act of calculation conducted by Othello and others, both before and after his turn to jealousy, according to multiple, overlapping criteria including birth, status, military prowess, conduct, and public opinion. In order to alter Othello’s (and others’) habits of reckoning, Iago emphasizes evaluative strategies drawn from the world of trade, an arena in which calculating both human and material value was of paramount importance. Whereas trade inflects Othello relatively subtly—shaping its setting and language, but not driving its plot—the practical texts I consider alongside Othello place commercial activity squarely in the foreground. Often called simply “arithmetics,” these books of practical mathematics for merchants and tradespeople offer lessons in numbers: what they are, how to write them, how to use them in both simple and complex calculations.⁷ They ask students to figure amounts and values of a wide variety of goods, in a range of measures and currencies. Even here, though, questions of quantifiable material worth inevitably entwine with questions of human value. Especially in narrative problems featuring mercantile transactions, social reckoning proves integral to figuring profit and loss. Arithmetics have long been recognized as windows into both commercial practices and certain aspects everyday life.⁸ They reveal details about the pricing of goods, the circulation of commodities, and the geographic coordinates of trade. They have rarely if ever been studied, however, for what they have to tell us about social dynamics within commercial settings. Yet alongside lessons in addition, ⁵ The accounts invoked briefly here are, in order: Greenblatt, “The Improvisation of Power”; Cavell, “Othello and the Stake of the Other”; Kenneth Gross, “Slander and Skepticism in Othello,” ELH 56, no. 4 (Winter 1989): pp. 819–52; and Altman, Improbability. ⁶ OED Online, “reckon, v.” ⁷ A book of this type was initially called a practica or an algorism. On terminology, see Frank J. Swetz, Capitalism & Arithmetic: The New Math of the 15th Century (La Salle, IL: Open Court, 1987), pp. 27–9. ⁸ D.E. Smith, Special Topics of Elementary Mathematics, vol. 2, History of Mathematics (New York: Dover, 1923), pp. 552–3.

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fractions, and proportion, these books teach skills in assessing human worth, especially as that worth was constructed within contingent associations of people drawn together by trade. Mercantile partnerships required “Wainge before hand with whom thou doest deale,” as the prefatory poem to a 1569 account-keeping textbook put it.⁹ Without such “wainge,” even the most diligent account-keeper risks “crackt” credit.¹⁰ Arithmetics are not conduct books, but they (at times directly, though often obliquely) address the dynamic interplay of social performance and hermeneutics central to that genre. Problems of social evaluation inflect their pages, rather than taking center stage. Nevertheless, these manuals consistently imply that social and numerical reckoning are the province of the same people, working in the same contexts. One of arithmetics’ crucial if largely implicit lessons is that reckoning human intentions and trustworthiness is indeed mathematical. Printed vernacular arithmetics appeared throughout Europe in the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries.¹¹ Though their prefatory material often makes claims to the universal benefits of mathematical learning, it also underscores specific usefulness for merchants. For example, the preface to the earliest surviving English arithmetic (discussed at length below) opens with the claim that arithmetic is fundamental to all branches of learning but ends by specifying that the book contains “many proper rules veray profitable for all maner of artyfycers & marchauntes / and chaungers.”¹² Such “rules” included problems of pricing and measuring goods, dividing the profits of mercantile partnerships, and exchanging currencies. If their contents reflected increased prominence of trade as an activity, arithmetics in fact owed their existence to trade. Their most fundamental lessons had initially spread through merchant networks. As Frank J. Swetz writes, “In trade contacts around the Mediterranean and Barbary coasts, Italian merchants became exposed to the Hindu-Arabic numeral system and its methods of computation.”¹³ Arabic numerals and calculation “with the pen” began to replace Roman numerals and calculation by means of abacus or counters, as they spread further, first through reckoning schools (which in Italy especially drew an

⁹ James Peele, The pathe waye to perfectnes, in th’accomptes of debitour, and creditour (London, 1569), sig. *2v. Accounting manuals were a closely related genre to arithmetics; their lessons in doubleentry accounting required many of the skills that arithmetics taught. ¹⁰ Peele, Pathe waye, sig. *2v. ¹¹ Important accounts of the genre—often focused on particular examples, but drawing useful general conclusions—include A.W. Richeson, “The First Printed Arithmetic in English,” Isis 37, no. 1/2 (May 1947): pp. 47–56; P. Bockstaele, “Notes on the First Arithmetics Printed in Dutch and English,” Isis 51, no. 3 (1960): pp. 315–21; Natalie Zemon Davis, “Sixteenth-Century French Arithmetics on the Business Life,” Journal of the History of Ideas 21, no. 1 (Jan.–Mar. 1960): pp. 18–48; Swetz, Capitalism; Travis Williams, “The Earliest English Printed Arithmetic Books,” The Library 13, no. 2 (June 2012): pp. 164–84. ¹² An introduccion for to lerne to rekyn with the pen, & with the counters (London, 1537), sig. A2v. ¹³ Swetz, Capitalism, p. 11.

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international clientele), and then through print.¹⁴ After the earliest printed arithmetic appeared in Treviso in 1478, followers cropped up in Germany, France, Spain, Portugal, the Low Countries, and England.¹⁵ By the mid-sixteenth century, the genre was widespread. Yet as Patricia Parker has argued, it could still be seen as an invasive novelty. As it took root in Europe, arithmetic or algorism remained “identified with Arabs, Saracens, and Moors” and retained associations with religious and racial others, enchantment, and secrecy.¹⁶ Like the central figure in Shakespeare’s play—simultaneously “of Venice” and “an extravagant and wheeling stranger, / Of here and everywhere” (1.1.135–6)—arithmetics could be both accepted as an ordinary, necessary feature of commercial life, and treated with suspicion, as interlopers with “ ‘infidel’ origins.”¹⁷ This chapter considers arithmetics alongside Othello because both the manuals and the play link social evaluation and mathematical calculation. The manuals present this link as a matter of fact; the play as grounds for tragedy. Moreover, both register the complex ways in which international trade, and the social heterogeneity it fostered, destabilized traditional methods of reckoning both human and material value. Othello’s sea voyage, its Venetian-Cypriot setting, and the far-flung places to which it alludes (among them Barbary, Rhodes, and Aleppo) locate its action within the crisscrossing trade routes of the Mediterranean. The “service” Othello has “done the state” (5.2.338) results from an economic arrangement: like many historical Venetian officers, he is foreign; like all of them, he is a mercenary, and his mercenary status simultaneously depends on and mitigates his foreignness.¹⁸ At stake in the ongoing conflict against the Turks, and the raison d’être of the Venetian military, is control of a commercial empire within which Cyprus is an important trading post. Both the arithmetics and the play encourage us to think, to borrow from Emily Bartels, “in terms of ‘worlds,’ charted . . . across bodies of waters and boundaries of nationstates, configured dynamically as transnational and international economies, and defined by mixed and ethnically intermixed populations.”¹⁹ Trade worlds are vast

¹⁴ For reckoning schools in Italy, see Swetz, Capitalism, pp. 18–24; for England, see Linda Woodbridge, “Introduction,” in Money and the Age of Shakespeare: Essays in New Economic Criticism, ed. Linda Woodbridge (New York: Palgrave, 2003), pp. 1–18. The phrase “with the pen” is standard in English arithmetics of the period. ¹⁵ Swetz, Capitalism, p. 33. ¹⁶ Patricia Parker, “Cassio, Cash, and the ‘Infidel 0’: Arithmetic, Double-Entry Bookkeeping, and Othello’s Unfaithful Accounts,” in A Companion to the Global Renaissance: English Literature and Culture in the Era of Expansion, ed. Jyotsna G. Singh (2009; repr. Malden, MA and Oxford: Wiley Blackwell, 2013), pp. 223–41, p. 223. ¹⁷ Parker, “Cassio,” p. 224. ¹⁸ High-ranking condottieri like Othello benefited from a “system of rewards,” including offices, houses, and land, “designed . . . to turn fidelity and long service into norms.” Michael Mallett and John Hale, The Military Organization of a Renaissance State: Venice, c. 1400–1617 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1984), p. 186. ¹⁹ Emily Bartels, Speaking of the Moor: From Alcazar to Othello (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2008), p. 13.

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constellations, and their local nodes—as big as cities, as small as mercantile partnerships—are sites of cross-cultural encounter. The contingent fellowships that appear throughout the arithmetics and in the cosmopolitan Venice of Shakespeare’s play constitute such internally heterogenous sites. In these contexts, contact with strangers is simultaneously a necessity and a risk. At times, it facilitates tolerance and cultural exchange; at others, it forces the solidifying of identities along oppositional lines.²⁰ Othello stages how reckoning produces difference. As Patricia Akhimie argues, blackness in Othello is a “stigmatized mark of difference” which is itself “the product of marking, a form of scrutiny or social judgment within a system that advocates universal access to strategies of self-improvement while denying certain groups access to these strategies.”²¹ Here, I make the case that the play’s treatment of race as the product of social judgment is intimately connected to its treatment of trade and of credit. Othello dramatizes what happens when mercantile modes of valuing persons—which construct difference situationally, expediently—extend into other, often older systems of affording social value: birth, status, sexual behavior, military feats. The Venetian evaluating gaze that marks Othello as other variously also constructs him as valorous (and therefore valuable); as noble; and, at least hypothetically, as a worthy son-in-law for a Duke. Othello’s mixed evaluations, positive as well as negative, are made possible both by the socially heterogenous mercantile city he inhabits and serves, and by that city’s still-firm ideological investment in non-mercantile sources of human value. Historians of credit have sometimes suggested that economic credit seamlessly merged with traditional forms of social value—honor, reputation, opinion—in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Othello registers a moment of greater complexity than this assessment might suggest, a moment when commerce interacted in new ways with traditional social structures, and when the terms honor and credit designated distinct and at least partly contradictory types of worth even as they at times overlapped. At its start, the play presents a world rife with multiple forms of evaluation, existing as choices within a broad, complex field. Over the course of the play, these choices become reorganized—largely through Iago’s efforts—into binary oppositions: between intrinsic and extrinsic forms of value; between honor and credit; between Venetian insider and Moorish outsider; between virtuous wife and villainous whore. This systematic reorganization depends on Iago’s exploitation of the basic tension between external appraisal and intrinsic quality that haunts both credit and honor, but that inflects each differently: credit depending almost wholly on others’ estimations, and honor

²⁰ Daniel Vitkus, Turning Turk: English Theater and the Multicultural Mediterranean, 1570–1630 (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003), pp. 8–9, pp. 16–18. ²¹ Patricia Akhimie, Shakespeare and the Cultivation of Difference: Race and Conduct in the Early Modern World (New York: Routledge, 2018), p. 49.

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being grounded (at least in theory) in birth, virtue, or both. Doubling down on the potential disconnect between outwardly constructed and inwardly rooted worth, Iago unsettles Othello’s mode of reckoning his wife and himself. Othello comes to see himself as other not only because Iago teaches him that such a point of view is possible, as has been argued.²² Rather, it is because Iago reveals that his credit— his public self, constructed by an external, evaluating gaze—potentially renders invisible those honorable attributes (birth, valor, virtue) he has long thought of as its source. In what follows, I will first examine problems of social reckoning and racial difference within one particular English arithmetic, which retains striking traces of the far-flung trade worlds merchants inhabited, charting a path from commercial reckoning to Othello’s final account of himself in Act Five. I will then turn to the play’s economic language and its complex presentation of reputation, credit, and honor. The chapter concludes with a consideration of Othello’s engagement with Romance, a genre that critical tradition links to Shakespeare’s tragedy, and one that shows up, in glimpses and flashes, within the pages of early arithmetics as well. Michael Murrin has argued that expanding trade networks in the early modern period shaped Romance’s heterogeneous worlds and episodic structures.²³ Such Romance eclecticism offers an alternate mode of reckoning to the tragic, binarizing logic Iago promotes.

1.2. Partnership Problems What is probably the earliest printed arithmetic in English dates to 1526 and survives only in fragments.²⁴ The first example of the genre to survive in full dates to 1537. Titled An introduccion for to lerne to rekyn with the pen, & with the counters, the book is compiled and translated from Dutch and French sources.²⁵ A significantly revised version appeared in 1539 as An introduction for to lerne to recken with the pen, or with the counters (Figure 1.1).²⁶ This revised text became

²² Altman, Improbability, p. 287. ²³ Michael Murrin, Trade and Romance (Chicago: University Chicago Press, 2014). For Othello and Romance, see Mark Rose, “Othello’s Occupation: Shakespeare and the Romance of Chivalry,” ELR 15, no. 3 (Autumn 1985): pp. 293–31; Dennis Austin Britton, “Re-‘turning’ Othello: Transformative and Restorative Romance,” ELH 78, no. 1 (Spring 2011): pp. 27–50; Greenblatt, “The Improvisation of Power,” pp. 237–9. ²⁴ Williams, “Earliest,” pp. 164–6. As Williams notes, this was not the earliest printed arithmetic in England, but rather the first in English. Cuthbert Tunstall’s Latin De arte supputandi libri quattuor (London, 1522) predates it. ²⁵ Williams, “Earliest,” gives a detailed and thoroughly convincing account of these sources, their relation to one another, and their influence on the English editions. See also Bockstaele, “Notes,” but note that Williams’s work, based on an expanded archive, corrects Bockstaele’s. ²⁶ I distinguish between the two editions by date in these notes. For the precise differences between the two editions, see Williams, “Earliest,” pp. 171–4.

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Figure 1.1. Title page of An introduction for to lerne to recken with the pen, or with the counters (London, 1539). Tanner 55, The Bodleian Library, University of Oxford.

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the basis for seven subsequent editions over the next nine decades.²⁷ Though not as popular as Robert Record’s later The ground of artes (1543), which was reprinted and expanded several dozen times throughout the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, An introduction for to lerne to recken was nevertheless a groundbreaking and influential text.²⁸ Moreover, it bears more traces of arithmetics’ multi-national, cross-cultural history than Record’s book. Many of these traces are artifacts of the manner of the text’s creation. Whereas Record’s stated goal in writing The ground of artes is to supply a gap in English learning, An introduction for to lerne to recken often does little more than translate its sources word for word, frequently choosing an English word very close to the original (“betromped” for the French “trompé,” for instance). The translation sometimes updates place names, but not consistently, and it generally leaves foreign currencies as they are: in addition to problems of pounds, shillings, and pence, the book features francs, crowns, guilders, and stuivers. Its creators address this last point explicitly. The 1537 edition ends with a brief note acknowledging the text’s debt to “diuers other bokes” but at the same time claiming a kind of authorship over problems featuring foreign currency: “And bycause the marchaunt men occupyenge beyond the see, maye haue the better knowlege of the beyonde see coynes, we have set dyuers proper rules as of crones, ducats, and of frances, and with all other small money after theyr value.”²⁹ “Rules,” in this passage, means “problems”; the claim is that a great many questions feature foreign money because the “marchaunt men” using the book should familiarize themselves with “beyonde see” currencies.³⁰ Decades later, Gerard de Malynes would echo this idea when he sought to codify the practical customs necessary to merchants in his massive Consuetudo, vel lex mercatoria (1622). He lists both “science of Arithmeticke” and “the weight, finenesse, and valuation of the moneyes of all countries” in his catalog of “what a compleate merchant ought to know.”³¹ Though England’s early printed arithmetics purported to teach only the first of these skills, the postscript to the 1537 edition of An introduccion for to lerne to rekyn acknowledges that the book offers lessons in the second, at the same time. Other such semi-inadvertent lessons go unmentioned in the book’s postscript, but they abound in its pages. As we will see, some of the most critical involve reckoning the worth of persons.

²⁷ Richeson, “First,” pp. 47–8. ²⁸ Record may indeed have had this book in mind in his preface, when he anticipates the readerly objection that “other bokes haue ben wryten of Arithmetyke all redy so sufficiently, that I neded not now to put pen to the boke.” The ground of artes (London, 1543), sig. π7r. ²⁹ An introduccion (1537), sig. S8r. ³⁰ In this and other English arithmetics, “rule” can designate either a method of working problems (the rule of three), a type of problem (the rule of company), or a specific narrative problem (like “The rule and question of zaracins,” discussed below). ³¹ Gerard de Malynes, Consuetudo, vel lex mercatoria (London, 1622), pp. 6–7.

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As is typical of early arithmetics, all versions of An introduction for to lerne to recken move from very basic material to complex problems for the student to work. The book’s first major section teaches calculation “with the pen” and covers numeration, various mathematical operations, fractions, and “the rule of three” for working out problems of proportion, so called because “with thre nombers certayne ye maye know and fynde the fourthe number uncertayne.”³² Discussion of the rule of three ushers in a set of problems asking the reader to determine the cost of a given amount of merchandise, such as cloth, pepper, corn, or saffron; a second set of problems based on narrative scenarios involving merchants’ investments and returns; and finally miscellaneous problems, some of which have to do with more homely and local forms of commerce, like selling eggs or apples in a market, and some of which are non-commercial but which nevertheless exercise skills—like calculating rates and distances—useful for merchants. The book then offers a relatively cursory account of reckoning “with the counters” (a method that was diminishing in importance, though still in use), returns to the rule of three (now called the Golden Rule), and, starting with the 1539 edition, ends with the rule of false position.³³ An introduction for to lerne to recken contains a number of narrative examples belonging to a particular problem type, which it terms questions of “company” and which later English arithmetics often called questions of “fellowship.”³⁴ These problems addressed profit-sharing in the age before corporations, when merchants entered into temporary partnerships for particular ventures. As D. E. Smith and A.W. Richeson note, such partnerships offered a way for Christian merchants to band together, creating adequate capital for their ventures while avoiding interest-bearing loans from Jewish moneylenders.³⁵ These “partnership problems” ask readers to calculate how much each of a number of merchants should profit on a voyage, having laid out different amounts at the outset.³⁶ They sometimes also involve time; in these cases, the student has to reckon profits according to different investment durations, as well as different investment

³² An introduction for to lerne to recken with the pen, or with the counters (London, 1539), sig. G1r. On the rule of three’s use in problems of proportion, see Michael Baxandall, Painting and Experience in Fifteenth-Century Italy: A Primer in the Social History of Pictorial Style, 2nd ed. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1988), pp. 95–102. ³³ On the rise of the pen and the slow decline of the counters, see John Denniss, “Arithmetical Textbooks 1478 to 1886: A Progression?” BSHM Bulletin: Journal of the British Society for the History of Mathematics 21 (2006): pp. 26–33, p. 26; and Parker, “Cassio,” pp. 224–5; on false position, see Williams, “Earliest,” p. 174. ³⁴ On this problem type, see Smith, Special Topics, pp. 554–6; and Ad Meskens, Practical Mathematics in a Commercial Metropolis: Mathematical Life in Late 16th Century Antwerp (New York: Springer, 2013), pp. 83–6. An introduction follows its French sources in using the word “company,” but Record uses “fellowship.” ³⁵ See Smith, Special Topics, pp. 554–5; and Richeson, “First,” p. 55. The quoted passage appears in Smith, p. 555. ³⁶ I owe this term to Smith, who consistently uses the word “partnership” to describe the relationships these problems discuss. Special Topics, pp. 554–5.

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amounts. In An introduction for to lerne to recken, partnership problems open by specifying a number of merchants who “laye money together for wynning” or “laye money in company for to haue gaynes therby” or simply “haue made companye together.”³⁷ Each problem then continues through a brief account of who invested how much (and, in problems involving time, for how long). Each culminates in a direct address to the reader, demanding a solution. A typical example, the first in An introduction for to lerne to recken, runs: Thre[e] marchauntes put theyr monye togyther for to haue gaynes, the whiche haue bought suche marchaundyse as hath cost 125 francz / whereof the fyrste hath laide 25 francz. The seconde 64 fz. and the thyrde 36 fz. And they have goten 54 franc. of clere gaynes. I demaunde how shall they deuyde it, so that eche man have gaynes accorynge to the money that he hath layd downe.³⁸

The closing “demaunde” is followed by the word “Answer,” instructions for working out a solution, and finally the solution itself. In general, partnership problems traffic in quantifiable categories: numbers of people, lengths of time, amounts of money. A few, however, acknowledge that the world of trade is shaped by contingency, chance, and accident. Calculations may need to be made (or revised) because of what Malynes calls “The mutabilitie and inconstancie of all worldly affaires (and especially of Merchants estates).”³⁹ Take, for example the “Question of losse” included in Record’s The ground of artes. In this variation on the typical partnership problem, merchants at sea cast a hundred pounds’ worth of goods overboard during a storm. Record asks the student to calculate “how moch shuld eche man bere in this losse” based on varying initial outlays.⁴⁰ The “Question of losse” identifies the sea as a destabilizing force that must, at times, be reckoned with. Pamela H. Smith has argued that reckoning with such forces constitutes one of the central lessons of early “how-to” books. Analyzing an eclectic fifteenth-century treatise on mathematics and shipbuilding by Michael of Rhodes, Smith demonstrates that the book’s arithmetic problems, in particular, model “thinking and working through” variable situations.⁴¹ “Endless practice in computation” allowed Michael to “master the storms and contingencies of sea travel” and to hone “a higher-order intuitive response to tides and winds or the fluctuations in commodity prices.”⁴² Like Michael’s manuscript, printed arithmetics offer “training of intuition and improvisation” in the face of mutable, inconstant seas, prices—and people.⁴³ ³⁷ The quoted passages are from An introduction (1539), sigs. G8r, H1r, and H2r. ³⁸ An introduction (1539), sig. G7r–v. ³⁹ Gerard de Malynes, Lex mercatoria, p. 221. ⁴⁰ Record, Ground, sig. P4v. ⁴¹ Pamela H. Smith, “Why Write a Book? From Lived Experience to the Written Word in Early Modern Europe,” Bulletin of the German Historical Institute, no. 47 (Fall 2010): pp. 25–50, p. 37. ⁴² Smith, “Why Write a Book,” p. 37. ⁴³ Smith, “Why Write a Book,” p. 39.

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Mercantile fellowship itself produces “mutabilitie and inconstancie,” as a number of problems in An introduction for to lerne to recken suggest. Merchants seeking advantage over one another, for instance, produced incentive to lie, a possibility that registers in one of the 1537 edition’s early problems, when one transactor asks another to “sell vnto him his gowne without any subtylte.”⁴⁴ Though this problem disappears from later editions, a whole section of problems invoking the disturbing possibility of “subtylte” continued to be printed. One opens, “Two marchauntes wyll chaunge theyr marchaundyse, & the one begylyd the other”; another, “Two marchauntes wyl chaunge theyr marchaundyse / and the one defraude that other.”⁴⁵ These two questions assume underhanded dealing to be a potential feature of “chaunge” (exchange): beguiling and defrauding evidently happen as a matter of course. A third problem demonstrates how arithmetical skill might offer an effective means of avoiding such trickery. This problem begins with a scenario of two merchants exchanging wool for cloth; it concludes by asking how much the cloth merchant ought to charge for his wares, “to the ende that he be not betromped” by the wool dealer.⁴⁶ Placing the reader on the side of the cloth merchant, this problem asks him or her to come up with a numerical answer and to save the cloth merchant from being cheated. Skills in mathematical and social calculation, here, work together. Curiously, where this problem holds up arithmetic as a defense against fraud, the section title under which all of these problems cluster advertises them, perhaps inadvertently, as aids to trickery: all three appear under the heading “The thyrde rule of chaunges for to vse deceyte or fraude.”⁴⁷ Though perhaps accidental, the suggestion that mastering mathematics may help perpetrate fraud reminds us that profitable deceit, as well as wary suspicion, was a potentially useful skill. Malynes would later ask whether a merchant “may vse lyes (as being officious) in the selling of commodities?” and “whether he may be craftie without deceit?”⁴⁸ This section of An introduction for to lerne to recken raises the same questions. At the same time, it points to the underlying problem that produces them: that the fundamentally sociable structure of merchant association is subject to all the risks attendant on sociability itself. The language of competitive deception in and around these problems underscores the lesson that multiple forms of calculation come together in any given exchange. People must esteem one another as well as goods, and test the worth of words as well as coins. Thus, An introduction for to lerne to recken proves practical in two senses: it teaches forms of calculation applicable to real-world situations, and it models responsiveness to contingency within highly variable situations, from maritime venturing to negotiation. Rather than presenting money as something that works ⁴⁴ An introduccion (1537), sig. F4v. ⁴⁵ An introduction (1539), sigs. H5r and H6r. ⁴⁶ An introduction (1539), sigs. H5v–H6r. ⁴⁷ An introduction (1539), sig. H5r. ⁴⁸ Malynes, Lex mercatoria, p. 6.

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according to immutable mathematical laws—two plus two equals four—certain problems present it as something that can be affected by various factors external or internal to a particular transaction. Two plus two can equal four, but it might equal three and a half, or five, or less than zero—depending on unexpected good fortune, savvy dealing, catastrophe, or fraud. Almost from the first, printed arithmetics included recreational puzzles alongside their more obviously useful problems, which historians of mathematics have classified as “semi-practical and recreational” rather than “real or practical.”⁴⁹ Book-length collections of such puzzles constitute a recognizably separate genre, but the distinction between practical problems and recreational ones becomes blurred in the context of commercial arithmetics.⁵⁰ Examining one such puzzle in An introduction for to lerne to recken, “The rule and question of zaracins,” suggests that the book’s creators have in fact taken pains to effect such a blurring, and in so doing, to teach readers how to add yet another factor to their calculations in the face of contingency. Though rarely treated as window into early modern commercial practices—the puzzle is of ancient, somewhat obscure origins; it cannot be solved by any of the skills taught elsewhere in the book; and most iterations in other texts have nothing to do with merchant culture—the arithmetic’s creators introduced certain changes to their version, which make it practical and mercantile, and which again draw attention to non-numerical forms of reckoning necessary to commercial partnership. “The rule and question of zaracins,” is a version of an ancient problem often referred to as “Turks and Christians,” which D.E. Smith describes as “a well-known problem which relates that fifteen Turks and fifteen Christians were on a ship which was in danger, and that half had to be sacrificed. It being necessary to choose the victims by lot, the question arose as to how they could be arranged in a circle so that, in counting round, every fifteenth one should be a Turk.”⁵¹ Smith conjectures that the problem “goes back to the custom of decimatio in the old Roman armies,” though others scholars have also claimed it to be of Muslim or Gaelic origin.⁵² In medieval and early modern European versions, the two groups on-board ship are most often Christians and Turks (or Saracens), but the puzzle’s us/them logic proved portable. A twelfthcentury version by the Jewish scholar Abraham ben Ezra pits students against ⁴⁹ Richeson, “First,” p. 55; see also Smith, Special Topics, pp. 533–6. ⁵⁰ Smith identifies Claude-Gaspard Bachet’s Problèmes plaisans & délectables (Lyon, 1612) as “the first noteworthy collection of recreative problems to appear in print” (History, p. 535). A comparable English example is Thomas Johnson’s A new booke of new conceits with a number of nouelties annexed threreunto (London, 1630). Both contain versions of the “Turks and Christians” puzzle, discussed below. I am grateful to Christopher McKeen for bringing the latter text to my attention. ⁵¹ Smith, Special Topics, p. 541. ⁵² Smith, Special Topics, p. 541. For an excellent annotated bibliography both of iterations of the problem and extant scholarship on it, see David Singmaster, “Arithmetic & Number Theoretic Recreations,” in “Sources in Recreational Mathematics: An Annotated Bibliography,” Assorted Articles on Recreational Mathematics and the History of Mathematics, accessed August 14, 2019, https://www.puzzlemuseum.com/singma/singma-index.htm.

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“good-for-nothings,” while a late fifteenth-century French manuscript features Christians and Jews.⁵³ A Florentine manuscript from 1485 places friars and monks on-board ship.⁵⁴ An early twentieth-century American version in a puzzle book for children offers yet another variation: girls versus boys.⁵⁵ Each version activates the mechanics of difference to produce an outcome with clear social and emotional content: insiders win, outsiders lose. And each maps the problem’s logic onto groups whose difference extends beyond the scenario of the puzzle, into the wider world its readers inhabit. The version in An introduction for to lerne to recken troubles the simple division into insiders and outsiders, by revealing it to be only one possible way of “reckoning” the two groups involved. True, the puzzle begins by strongly emphasizing division between Christians and Saracens, and it places the book and its reader firmly on the Christians’ side. Its full title makes drowning Saracens sound like a goal in itself: “The rule and question of zaracins, for to cast them within the see.” Yet the details of the problem as it unfolds destabilize the initially straightforward opposition between Christians and Muslims, suggesting that their difference is in some ways temporary and situational, rather than permanent and fixed. In most versions, no reason is given for the two groups’ being on the same ship; they simply “find themselves” on-board together.⁵⁶ In An introduction for to lerne to recken, however, the problem suggests a clear rationale: a mercantile partnership. It opens: “There is a galle[y] vpon the see wherein be therty marchauntes, that is to wit 15 crysten men, and 15 sarazyns.”⁵⁷ Uniquely, this version of the puzzle identifies the thirty travelers not only along (opposed) racial and religious lines, but also along (shared) professional ones. All thirty are, specifically, merchants. At this point in the puzzle, we might indeed be inside a partnership problem—perhaps something similar to Record’s “Question of Losse,” for here, too, a storm arises, and here, too, merchandise goes overboard. In other versions of the problem, the storm immediately precedes the decision to drown half the men. Here, however, there’s an added step: when “there falleth great tempest,” the thirty merchants first “cast all the marchaundyse into the see.”⁵⁸ Only when they realize that “for all that they be not in surete from perysshing, for the galle[y] is feble and weke” do they deem it necessary to cast half the men overboard, as well.⁵⁹ At this point, the title’s us/them logic reasserts itself: “the sarazyns wyll not ⁵³ Elliott Oring, “On the Tradition and Mathematics of Counting-Out,” Western Folklore 56, no. 2 (1997): pp. 139–52, pp. 141–2. ⁵⁴ The 1485 manuscript, an arithmetic by Filippo Calandri, is housed by the Biblioteca Riccardiana di Firenze. The relevant page, which bears an illustration of the shipboard friars and monks, is reproduced and discussed in Rudi Mathematici, no. 75 (April 2005): p. 23. ⁵⁵ Sam Loyd, Sam Loyd’s Cyclopedia of 5000 Puzzles, Tricks, and Conundrums with Answers (New York: Franklin Bigelow, 1914), p. 198. ⁵⁶ In Bachet’s version, for instance, the Christians and Turks “se treuuent sur la mer dans vn mesme nauire” (“find themselves on the sea in the same boat”). Problèmes, sig. G4r. ⁵⁷ An introduction (1539), sig. I2v. ⁵⁸ An introduction (1539), sig. I2v. ⁵⁹ An introduction (1539), sig. I2v.

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be caste in, nor also the christiens / then by apoyntment made, they shall sette them downe in a rowe, & then counte them vnto 9 / and he that sholde fall vpon the 9 to be caste into the see.”⁶⁰ The puzzle concludes with by addressing the reader: “how wold ye set them that none of the chrystyens shold be caste into the see[?]” Faced with this question, even the most diligent of An introduction for to lerne to recken’s early readers would have been hard-pressed to come up with an answer. The puzzle cannot, in fact, be solved by any of the skills taught in the book’s previous pages.⁶¹ A solution, minus the instructions typical in most of the book’s answers, does appear below the problem, unusually in Latin as well as English.⁶² The English version tells us that, in order to “set them that none of the chrystyens shold be caste into the see,” the merchants must be arranged as follows: “4 chrystiens 5 sarazins 2 christyens 1 sarazyn, 3 christyens 1 sarazin 1 chrystyen 2 sarasyns, 2 christiens 3 sarazyns 1 christyen 2 sarazyns 2 chrystiens 1 sarazyn.”⁶³ There is no immediately discernible sequence to the numbers. The visible pattern is, rather, the alternation of Christians with Saracens. The real reckoning involved is evidently social and religious: a division of the band into two groups, Saracens and Christians, the drowned and the saved. In its solution, “The rule and question of zaracins” both assumes and promotes a system of evaluation in which merchandise is reckoned to be worth less than lives and Muslim lives are reckoned to be worth less than Christian ones. Yet the details unique to this specific iteration of the problem push back against an absolute version of this logic. The added elements—a shared profession, merchandise discarded before men—alter the puzzle’s meaning. Behind the traditional riddle and its us/them binary, a possible world of commercial fellowship and shared endeavor opens up. In context—surrounded, as it is, by problems about merchants investing together and exchanging merchandise—the problem becomes legible not as a purely recreational puzzle, but as a practical one. In early modern Europe, commercial relations increasingly brought strangers together for mutual profit. The bonds that arose from shared ventures might be fragile and contingent, but they might also be lasting and firm. Malynes praises “the sinceritie and Candor Animi amongst Merchants of all nations beyond the seas,” who honor one another’s instruments of exchange.⁶⁴ Further, he notes that, though “for Manners and Prescriptions, there is great diuersitie amongst all Nations,” when ⁶⁰ An introduction (1539), sig. I2v. ⁶¹ Until the nineteenth century, brute force counting-out remained the only way to solve the problem numerically. Oring, “Tradition,” p. 145. ⁶² The solution is followed by a postscript: “Or for to know it more shortely ye may work by ths verse following by the number of vowels: Populeam virgam matrem regina tenebat.” Oring explains the mnemonic: “Each vowel is accorded a numerical value (a=1; e=2; i=3; o=4; u=5) and the thirty passengers are ordered according to the numerical value of the vowels of the verse beginning first with 4 Christians.” “Tradition,” p. 142. ⁶³ An introduction (1539), sig. I3r. ⁶⁴ Malynes, Lex mercatoria, p. 101.

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it comes to customs observed in “the course of trafficke and commerce” there is by contrast generalized “sympathy, concordance, and agreement.”⁶⁵ According to Malynes, merchants’ shared customs—and their interdependence—override differences of race and nation. Even if the puzzle’s Saracens and Christians do not bear each other long-term affection, as merchants voyaging together, they form a functional, cooperative group. These “therty marchauntes” travel together, throw away their goods together, and at last line up together to be counted out. In the end, the Saracens are tricked because they trust. For them, the bonds of shared enterprise outweigh differences in race and religion. This must also be the case for the Christians, at least up to a point; it is only when the storm arises that they reckon differently. And that is also a practical skill: knowing how to value human beings, according to what criteria, and when. As Benedict S. Robinson argues, the term “Turk” in the early modern period pointed to multiple identities, variously designating “an enemy, a rival, a trading partner, a diplomatic and military ally.”⁶⁶ The puzzle’s narrative scenario requires first the suspension of these identities, then a brutally sudden selection among them. In a heterogenous trade-world, reckoning what Bartels terms “the line on difference” is a crucial skill, useful in the same arenas as arithmetic itself.⁶⁷ It is a skill exercised differently on land and at sea, in calm weather and in storms. Commercial enterprise is always subject to shifting conditions which bring with them new demands, requiring variously that strangers be accepted as partners, or rejected as enemies. A similar mechanism, and a similar arc—the suspension of multiple relational identities, followed by a sharp assertion of difference— structures the plot of Othello. Like “The rule and question of zaracins,” Othello contains a storm at sea with no Christian lives lost. “Our wars are done, the Turks are drowned” (2.1.197), the general declares as he comes ashore at Cyprus. Beyond this surface similarity, Othello resembles the puzzle in a deeper sense. It is also a kind of partnership problem, where the boundary between Venetian and other shifts depending on the needs of the state, personal loyalties, and public opinion. “The rule and question of zaracins” offers a schematic version of a problem at the heart of Othello: the problem of assigning value to persons in a community at once predicated on and threatened by the absorption of difference. Like the band of merchants on the galley, Shakespeare’s Venice is a society in which incorporating others is both necessary and risky. The ship in the puzzle and the city in the play are both commercial enterprises that depend on cooperation and trust among members of different racial, national, and religious backgrounds. In both spaces,

⁶⁵ Malynes, Lex mercatoria, p. 3. ⁶⁶ Benedict S. Robinson, Islam and Early English Literature: The Politics of Romance from Spenser to Milton (New York: Palgrave, 2007), p. 5. ⁶⁷ Bartels, Speaking of the Moor, p. 7.

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the boundary separating insider and outsider is fluid and shifting, at times obscure, at others sharply evident.⁶⁸ The center of a trading and military empire, Venice drew people from across the Mediterranean and beyond. Thomas Coryate wrote that Venice facilitated “concourse and meeting” of people from “many distinct and sundry nations,” including “Polonians, Slauonians, Persians, Grecians, Turks, Iewes, Christians of all the famousest regions of Christendome” as well as “barbarous Ethnickes,” natives of Barbary, or North Africa.⁶⁹ English readers of Lewis Lewkenor’s 1599 translation of Gasparo Contarini’s The commonwealth and gouernment of Venice would find mercantile enterprise linked to social heterogeneity on the first page: “so vnmeasurable a quantity of all sorts of marchandise to be brought out of all realmes and countries into this Citie” and “wonderful concourse of strange and forraine people” inspire “infinit maruaile” in the city’s visitors.⁷⁰ The “wonderful concourse” of foreigners took many forms and entailed varying relations with the state. Especially in the arenas of trade, banking, and the military, aliens residing in Venice imported specific skills necessary to protect and fund the city’s commercial empire. War, commerce, and finance offered aliens “a legitimate, valued, and to some degree respected place within the social, economic, and political community.”⁷¹ The figure of Othello embodies the ambiguous, insider-outsider status fostered by Venetian cosmopolitanism. Professionally, his “occupation” (3.3.359) depends both on his loyalty to the Venetian state and his foreignness. Contarini explains that Venetians prefer “forreyn mercenarie souldiers” in their armies; the “Captaine Generall of our Armie,” he reports, is “alwaies a straunger.”⁷² Some Venetians speak of Othello with racist epithets; most, however, esteem him highly. Few of the play’s characters seem either consistently concerned or consistently unconcerned with the question of Othello’s difference. As Bartels puts it, in Shakespeare’s Venice “terms of prejudice seem hard to stand by, if not hard to come by.”⁷³ No one, including Iago, conceives of him as an outsider all of the time, while even Desdemona acknowledges that his “visage” (1.3.250) sets him apart. Brabantio’s broken bond with Othello epitomizes the complexity of his position within Venetian society. Desdemona’s father “loved” Othello and “oft invited” (1.3.128) him into their home before accusing him of bewitching Desdemona to

⁶⁸ Bartels, Speaking of the Moor, p. 7, p. 13; and Vitkus, Turning Turk, pp. 7–24. ⁶⁹ Thomas Coryate, Coryats crudities (London, 1611), sig. P1r, sig. O7r. ⁷⁰ Gasparo Contarini, The commonwealth and gouernment of Venice, trans. Lewis Lewkenor (London, 1599), sig. B1r. ⁷¹ Graham Holderness, Shakespeare and Venice (Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2010), p. 193. ⁷² Contarini, Commonwealth, sig. S2r–v. Though not all soldiers or commanders were foreign, mercenaries were generally perceived and represented as non-Venetian. See Michael Mallett, Mercenaries and their Masters: Warfare in Renaissance Italy (Totowa, NJ: Rowman and Littlefield, 1974), pp. 43–5, p. 209. ⁷³ Bartels, Speaking of the Moor, p. 163.

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run to the “sooty bosom / Of such a thing as thou—to fear, not to delight” (1.2.70–1). The links that bind the Moor to Venice complicate his otherness, not only for the Venetians, but for himself. In his last long speech, Othello separates himself into two opposed identities before committing suicide: Set you down this; And say besides that in Aleppo once, Where a malignant and a turbaned Turk Beat a Venetian and traduced the state, I took by th’ throat the circumcisèd dog And smote him—thus. (5.2.350–5)

He appears to divide himself into that which is of Venice, and that which is opposed to it—foreign, Turkish, other—and casts the latter out. Othello’s stark self-division speaks to the success of Iago’s plot, which not only destroys his faith in his wife, but also corrodes his sense of self. For many readers, this moment demonstrates Othello’s psychological internalization of an external, racist gaze. As Joel Altman puts it, by his final lines, Othello has discovered that “the self can harbor an unexpected stranger from a foreign land, who is introjected through the gaze of another.”⁷⁴ That gaze, however, has been neither steady nor consistent. Othello’s final self-division reveals something that existed dormant before Iago’s plot began: a multiple self-hood that reflects Venice’s heterogeneity and his own complex status within it. Like the group of merchants in the storm-tossed ship, Othello is both unified and divided. Or rather, he is unified until he is divided. The action of the play resembles the storm at sea: a cataclysmic situation revealing fault lines hidden within a prior symbiotic partnership, itself predicated on the situational elision of cultural, religious, and racial difference. The play foregrounds the problem of evaluating people that lurks behind all partnership problems, flickers into view in An introduction for to lerne to recken’s questions about deceitful traders, and takes center stage in “The rule and question of zaracins.” Through the stormy events of the play’s middle acts, the complex multimodal judgments possible in the Venice of the play’s start re-emerge as a set of destructive binaries—perhaps most obviously the Christian versus Turk binary that, in the play’s closing moment, Othello applies to himself, but also others: the binary of chaste wife versus adulterous whore through which his jealous mind re-constructs Desdemona, and the binary of worthless “trash” versus the infinitely precious “jewel” of a spotless reputation that Iago uses to effect this change in his victim. In what ⁷⁴ Altman, Improbability, p. 287.

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follows, I lay out the mechanics behind this shift in the play’s modes of reckoning, from the multimodal to the starkly binary. To do this, I turn to the play’s symbolic language of value—language that Iago harnesses in service of his logic of difference—and then to its presentation of good name, a complex category whose intricacies Iago flattens into sharply oppositional terms.

1.3. Economic Language in Othello In Othello’s first scene, Iago complains of having been passed over for lieutenancy, and declares: “I know my price, I am worth no worse a place” (1.1.10). How does he know his price—how is he reckoning, here? In multiple ways. For one thing, he has strong social connections: “Three great ones of the city” (7) brought his suit to Othello. For another, he has proven his worth as a soldier, and he knows Othello has witnessed him in action. As Iago tells Cassio, in the play’s first articulation of a link between seeing and knowing, the general’s “eyes had seen the proof” (27) of Iago’s valor “At Rhodes, at Cyprus, and on other grounds, / Christened and heathen” (28–9). Moreover, he can compare his own “price” to the relative worth of his rival, Michael Cassio, whom he disparages as one inexperienced in actual warfare and terms “a great arithmetician” (18), more suited to keeping accounts than managing a military company. Various perspectives on social value emerge in Iago’s self-assessment: the social climber’s sense of worth deriving from well-placed associates; the practiced soldier’s contempt for “bookish theoric” (23); martial or even borrowed aristocratic contempt for mercantile activities—which Iago apparently associates with his rival either because of Cassio’s name’s irresistible sonic associations, or because the military “theoric” Cassio has studied was, in fact arithmetical in nature.⁷⁵ Iago’s sense of his own worth thus derives from several streams, including his own history and social connections, and a culturally available, if not particularly Venetian, attitude of contempt towards professional money-making. Envy and resentment clearly color Iago’s evaluations, both of himself and Cassio. Nevertheless, his manner of reckoning according to multiple criteria at once in fact appears to be the norm in Shakespeare’s version of Venice. Iago’s is one of several self-assessments in the play’s first act: acts of reckoning in which characters figure their own social worth. Othello conducts such a reckoning in the following scene. Faced with the prospect of Brabantio’s appeal to the law, he first reminds Iago of “My services which I have done the Signory” (1.2.18) and then reveals that “I fetch my life and being / From men of royal siege” (21–2). His account, he predicts, will outweigh the noble Senator’s, both because of his ⁷⁵ Paul A. Jorgensen, Shakespeare’s Military World (1956; repr. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1973), p. 113.

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well-known deeds and because of his not-yet-revealed royal birth. If social calculations in Shakespeare’s Venice involve multiple criteria, they also vary situationally. Brabantio reckons Othello’s worth differently before the elopement and after: at first valuing his conversation and rich personal history, and then judging him exclusively according to his race—a mode of reckoning that the Duke in turn fails or refuses to take up. Staging repeated acts of self-evaluation and comparative evaluation in Act One, Shakespeare establishes a mixed and highly variable system of social reckoning: one in which aristocratic emphasis on social value linked to birth mingles with a high estimation of professional (especially military) accomplishment, along with an emerging recognition of personal attributes and conduct as legitimate sources of publicly acknowledged worth. The mixed system that Shakespeare establishes in Othello’s early scenes is in keeping with early modern English ideas about Venice: a heterogenous city whose mercantile and military systems required an unusual degree of interdependence across lines of class, profession, race, and religion—a city that, therefore, demanded particularly intricate forms of social arithmetic. In determining their “prices,” both Iago and Othello consider their market value, so to speak—that is, their own publicly circulating reputations, and the currency of those reputations in specific circumstances: receiving an office, or disputing over an elopement. Social reckoning, for these characters, does not simply involve adding up attributes. Rather, it takes account of external, public opinion, and the ability to weigh their own publicly acknowledged merits against others’ reputations in context. Iago’s sense of his value in the play’s first scene, like Othello’s sense of his own worth to the state, does not so much derive from a private sense of exceptionalism as from a sense that others know of his history, his deeds, and his associations. Othello’s declaration that “My parts, my title, and my perfect soul / Shall manifest me rightly” (1.2.31–2) has sometimes been taken as a statement of exceptional idealism: an articulation of Othello’s belief in a tight fit between inner attributes, their external signs, and the public reception of those signs. To see Othello is to know him. Yet his sense that the Duke and Senators will see him, know him, and side with him is also the product of careful calculation, of a kind common in his Venetian milieu: he knows what is known and said about him; he knows himself as a public figure. And, just as he places faith in the weight and heft of his own reputation, he trusts others’ reputations, along with their conduct, as reasonably accurate signifiers of character and trustworthiness. As Iago notes, he “thinks men honest that but seem to be so” (1.3.389). Yet he is not alone in this, as the general reception of Iago himself attests. Throughout Act One, Shakespeare establishes that public life in Venice, far from a site of slipperiness and generalized distrust, is instead grounded in a more or less communal sense that conduct and reputation both constitute external, visible badges of worth, and that worth takes multiple forms, some of which may “count” more than others, situationally. This habit of crediting of others keeps the city

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functional; trust, for the Venetians and those with whom they deal, is evidently a better bet than suspicion. If Venice brings reputation’s multiple possible sources and situational variations to the fore, Cyprus puts pressure on the tension between its status as an index of an individual’s qualities and as a publicly constructed resource, subject to external threats. When the scene shifts to Cyprus in Act Two, the dominant mode of social reckoning narrows. The island is “a town of war” (2.3.204), where military values prevail. The early Cyprus scenes establish male martial honor as the dominant social currency and call particular attention to honor’s status as something fragile and easily lost. Laying out his plot against Cassio, Iago recounts drinking with three “noble, swelling spirits” (51) who “hold their honours in a wary distance” (52)—that is, who keep their honor out of slander’s reach—and calls them “the very elements of this warlike isle” (53). These unnamed three epitomize the values of Venetians in Cyprus, whose status as embattled occupiers calls for a particular mode of social reckoning. The rest of the scene bears this out, as characters previously encountered in Venice dispute over honor. Cassio raises his sword against Roderigo, crying, “A knave teach me my duty?” (138). Iago, pretending to discourage the brawl, warns “You’ll be ashamed for ever!” (153). And, when the wounded Montano fails to explain his involvement in the quarrel, Othello upbraids him: “What’s the matter / That you unlace your reputation thus, / And spend your rich opinion for the name / Of a night-brawler?” (184–7). The scene repeatedly calls attention both to honor’s relationship to action, and to its fragility: its status as a form of “price” that can be lost, or spent, in an instant. All of this serves as prologue to Cassio’s despairing lament over his own lost reputation, and Iago’s articulation of the skeptical view that reputation is an empty construct, “an idle and most false imposition, oft got without merit, and lost without deserving” (259–61). At the same time, it calls attention to the dominant form of social value in this specific setting, and to the problems inherent in a heightened emphasis on honor. Yet even here, where reputation is more fragile and less elastic, prior to Iago’s manipulation reputation is assumed to be a reasonable measure of merit, and it is lost because of faults both seen and known. Iago’s plot against Othello involves unraveling contradiction, and sorting multiplicity into opposition. He accomplishes this task by emphasizing the possibilities of fraudulence in social performance and of misapprehension in social reckoning. In general, he works to unsettle the functional link between being and seeming, and the related link between publicly circulating reputation and inherent qualities, both of which are generally accepted in Venetian society and among the Venetians in Cyprus. Take, for example, his assertion to Roderigo that Cassio’s taking Desdemona’s hand was “lechery” (2.1.249), and that Desdemona “is directly in love” (213–14) with the lieutenant. Roderigo’s objections—Cassio’s gesture is clearly “courtesy” (248); Desdemona herself is “full of most blest condition” (242–3)—speak to a way of reading others according to a hermeneutic of trust,

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rather than suspicion. Like Othello, Roderigo thinks men (and women) honest when they seem to be so, and when they are said to be so. Iago insists that both actions and reputations are false flags, worth noting for what they obscure rather than for what they signal. Later on, with Othello, he repeats and expands this lesson. Troubled but not yet destabilized by Iago’s hints, Othello asserts: “’Tis not to make me jealous / To say my wife is fair, feeds well, loves company, / Is free of speech, sings, plays, and dances well” (3.3.186–9). Othello reads Desdemona’s beauty, conduct, and enjoyments in much the same way that Roderigo reads Cassio’s courtesy: as signs of healthy participation in sociability’s codes and pleasures. Like Cassio’s handpaddling, Desdemona’s actions do not signal wantonness, pointing rather to her “blest condition”; as Othello puts it, “Where virtue is, these are more virtuous” (189). In reply, Iago expresses relief at Othello’s lack of suspicion, but adds, “I know our country disposition well: / In Venice they do let God see pranks / They dare not show their husbands; their best conscience / Is not to leave’t undone, but keep’t unknown” (205–7). Othello, he suggests, is reading—or reckoning—incorrectly. What looks like virtue may obscure vice; in the case of Venetian women, Iago suggests, it often does. In this passage, Iago tacitly reminds the general that he is not Venetian, and suggests that the general’s mode of trusting appearances is unique to him, an aspect of a “free and noble nature” (202) that makes him ill-suited for navigating his adopted culture, and, specifically, romantic and sexual relationships within that culture. In order to turn Desdemona’s “virtue into pitch” (2.3.345) and “out of her own goodness make the net / That shall enmesh” (346–7) his enemies, Iago corrodes Othello’s mode of reckoning others—a mode of trusting appearances and reputations that is not unique to him but that he indeed robustly practices, as Iago and others frequently note—and by prying apart the faith he places in appearance, reputation, and the links between them. To further accomplish his end, Iago harnesses a strain of economic language that runs throughout Othello. Neither in Venice nor Cyprus do Othello’s scenes centrally feature economic activity, a fact that sets it apart from other English dramatic representations of the city, like The Merchant of Venice or Volpone.⁷⁶ Yet throughout the text, mentions of money and property form a leitmotif, locating the play’s action in a society structured by the movement of cash, gifts, land, and other bearers of material value.⁷⁷ Examples include Brabantio’s “bags” (1.1.80); ⁷⁶ On representations of Venice on the English stage, see Holderness, Shakespeare and Venice; David C. McPherson, Shakespeare, Jonson, and the Myth of Venice (Newark: University of Delaware Press, 1990); and Laura Tosi and Shaul Bassi, eds., Visions of Venice in Shakespeare (Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2011). ⁷⁷ Besides Parker, few critics have examined Othello’s commercial language. See, however, Kenneth Burke, “Othello: An Essay to Illustrate a Method,” The Hudson Review 4, no. 2 (Summer 1951): pp. 165–203; Robert B. Heilman, “The Economics of Iago and Others,” PMLA 68, no. 3 (June 1953): pp. 555–71; Lawrence J. Ross, “World and Chrysolite in Othello,” Modern Language Notes 76, no. 8 (Dec. 1961): pp. 683–92.

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Roderigo’s “purse” (2), the “land” (1.3.370) he incontinently sells; the “gold, and jewels” (5.1.16) he gives Iago to give Desdemona; Desdemona’s own “purse / Full of crusadoes” (3.4.23–4); the metaphorical “purchase” (2.3.9) and “profit” (10) between Othello and his bride and his actual “house” (5.2.364) and “fortunes” (365), which Gratiano inherits. If invocations of possessions and currency inflect the play with a sense of the commercial Mediterranean in which it is set, metaphors of value, exchange, and theft supply a symbolic vocabulary for its concern with human value.⁷⁸ Two examples begin to illustrate the point: Desdemona is repeatedly compared to rich objects. In a bitter farewell, Brabantio addresses her as “jewel” (1.3.194). Othello, in his final speech, likens his murdered wife to a discarded “pearl” (5.2.346); earlier, in an elaborate counterfactual, he compares her to a “world / Of one entire and perfect chrysolite” (142–3). When Desdemona’s father and husband express her value in these metaphors, they also describe her as a possession.⁷⁹ Metaphors of jewels and pearls express a dynamic in which Desdemona “belongs” to these male figures and can be stolen by others, through elopement or adultery. Both men reckon her value most urgently when they believe it is about to be lost, or already lost. Other figures, at other moments, use metaphors of wealth both to express Desdemona’s moneyed status—Iago terms her a “land-carrack” (1.2.50), comparing her marriage portion to the profits of a maritime voyage—and to praise her virtues: when she embarks at Cyprus, Cassio exclaims that “the riches of the ship is come on shore!” (2.1.83). Desdemona thus bears worth of various kinds: as a prized “possession,” as the daughter of a wealthy man, and as a virtuous woman. On the other end of the play’s scale of value, the play’s economic language conflates Roderigo with his own money: “Thus do I ever make my fool my purse” (1.3.372), Iago comments. Later, Iago suggests that his patron-gull has no value at all, demoting him from “my purse” to “this poor trash of Venice” (2.1.294).⁸⁰ Various characters, then, employ the language of material value to express human value, or its absence. This shared verbal resource offers Iago a tool for prying inherent value, or virtue, apart from “price,” or publicly circulating reputation—two types of social worth that, as discussed above, tend to skim close together in the play’s world in general, and for Othello in particular. One of the affordances of a symbolic vocabulary of material value is that it makes available a sharp binary between what’s “really” or intrinsically valuable, and what’s valuable only because of exchange. Indeed, the metaphors laid out above ⁷⁸ On social evaluation in Othello, see Altman, Improbability; Madeleine Doran, “Good Name in Othello,” SEL 7, no. 2 (Spring 1967): pp. 195–217; and Gross, “Slander and Skepticism.” ⁷⁹ See Emma Whipday, Shakespeare’s Domestic Tragedies: Violence in the Early Modern Home (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2019), pp. 119–50. ⁸⁰ In early modern usage, “trash” denoted “anything of little or no worth or value; worthless stuff; rubbish; dross.” OED Online, “trash, n.,” definition 3a.

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might seem to imply a symbolic logic that works in precisely this way: pearls and jewels symbolize inherent human value, while purses symbolize more unstable, instrumental value, of the kind Roderigo has for Iago. A purse derives its value from the circulating money that fills it and so can be seen as worthless—or rather worth less—when compared to a jewel.⁸¹ Like coins, jewels also had “extrinsical” market value, but, being rare and precious, they often did symbolic duty as bearers of purely inherent worth.⁸² By this logic, we might say that Roderigo is worth less than Desdemona—or even worthless, when compared to her—a judgment that the play at least to some extent endorses. Yet this way of thinking elides the multiple ways early modern people might reckon the value of a coin or a jewel, and the multiple ways that characters in Shakespeare’s Venice reckon each other. Iago takes the circulating language of human value, and uses it first to reveal the various systems of reckoning that underpin its available symbolic logic and then to show these systems to be in conflict with each other. Crucially, he does not always promote the idea that all human worth is externally conferred, and that reputation is therefore merely a slippery signifier (though he pretty consistently works from this idea in his own life, cultivating a false persona and tinkering with others’ reputations, through slanderous hints and inferences). Rather, he teaches Othello that what he and others have been doing all along—seeing two ways at once; reckoning up human value as something both inwardly rooted and outwardly conferred—depends on a contradiction. Just as the storm in the puzzle forces a stark us/them binary on the merchants whose initial partnership depended on the suppression of such logic, Iago’s insinuations produce an opposition between two models of self-evaluation and reckoning others hitherto not brought into conflict. Nowhere is Iago’s binarizing logic so apparent or so saturated in the language of material worth as in his speech on good name in Act Three: Good name in man—and woman—dear my lord, Is the immediate jewel of their souls; Who steals my purse, steals trash: ’tis something nothing; ’Twas mine, ’tis his, and has been slave to thousands. But he that filches from me my good name Robs me of that which not enriches him, And makes me poor indeed. (3.3.159–65) ⁸¹ For the factors effecting coins’ intrinsic and extrinsic value, see Stephen Deng, Coinage and State Formation in Early Modern English Literature (New York: Palgrave, 2011), pp. 9–17; and Deborah Valenze, The Social Life of Money in the English Past (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006), pp. 31–50. Germano Maifreda offers an account of how early modern theories of material value (including coins’ value) changed in response to expanding trade networks and New World exploration in From Oikonomia to Political Economy: Constructing Economic Knowledge from the Renaissance to the Scientific Revolution (Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2012). ⁸² The term “extrinsical” is from Rice Vaughan, A discourse of coin and coinage (London, 1675), p. 8.

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In context, Cassio’s is the good name in danger of being filched. Iago has feigned reluctance to slander the Lieutenant, claiming a curious kind of self-knowledge: “oft my jealousy / Shapes faults that are not” (151–2). Yet he speaks in such general terms, deploying a commonplace that might just as easily be applied to any number of good names: Desdemona’s, for instance, whose reputation he has already begun to ruin with the first hints of sexual slander; or Othello’s, whose honor as a husband is predicated on his wife’s virtue. The speech both justifies Iago’s reticence to slander Cassio, and works to instill anxiety about reputation in Othello. The speech’s applicability to multiple characters and situations allows Iago to accomplish competing tasks. On the one hand, in its first two lines, it assigns absolute value to reputation. On the other, as it unfolds, it calls attention to the constructed, fragile nature of good name. In effect, it makes two contradictory claims at once: first, that good name is above the marketplace where value derives from exchange; second, that good name is constructed in that very marketplace by processes of social circulation. Iago first asserts reputation’s essential reality, then points to its fragile externality. Good name, here, is both grounded in the self and an outward-facing possession that others may easily “filch.” Iago’s topic is the proverbial notion that a good name is more precious than money. His controlling metaphor, of good name as jewel, depends on a symbolic contrast between the relatively stable, high value of a jewel and the comparatively variable, low value held by a purse.⁸³ We might think, here, of Marlowe’s Barabas, tired of counting up “paltry silverlings” (1.1.6) and longing instead for “Bags of fiery opals, sapphires, amethysts / Jacinths, hard topaz, grass-green emeralds” and “Beauteous rubies” (25–7).⁸⁴ Indeed, in Iago’s speech, the terms “jewel” and “purse” are opposed most obviously on the worldly plane that Barabas, in his counting-house, inhabits. Though both had both exchange and intrinsic value, jewels, as we have seen, could operate as a shorthand for intrinsic value, in contrast to purses (and the coins in them), which derive their value primarily from exchange. Iago’s sneer, “’Twas mine, ’tis his, and has been slave to thousands” (3.3.162), echoes Bassanio’s characterization of silver, the “pale and common drudge / ’Tween man and man” (3.2.103–4).⁸⁵ In these formulations, circulating money derives value from exchange and, because of this, lacks “real” value. In Iago’s extreme version of this paradox, true money resembles counterfeit. Seeming to be “something,” it is, in essence, “nothing.”

⁸³ As Patricia Sims argues, the words “purse” and “jewel” also had sexual resonances in the period. The Sex of Men in Premodern Europe: A Cultural History (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011), p. 158. ⁸⁴ Christopher Marlowe, The Jew of Malta, ed. Stephen J. Lynch (Indianapolis: Hackett, 2009). References are to act, scene, and line. ⁸⁵ William Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice, ed. John Drakakis (London: Bloomsbury, 2010). References are to act, scene, and line.

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Iago’s chosen terms—jewel, purse, trash—also invoke a second opposition: between things of the world and things of the soul. In the sixteenth century, the word “trash” often designated specifically temporal worthlessness; it was synonymous with “dross.” Countless warnings to worldlings figure money as trash, the epitome of the “frail and transitory things of this world” that tempt the soul from “constant and immortal treasures.”⁸⁶ The term “jewel,” by contrast, often expressed the quality of being invaluable, beyond price. A jewel might represent a beloved child, health, chastity, or learning.⁸⁷ Following this logic, Iago’s speech posits a jewel-like “good name” as not only more valuable than a drossy “purse,” but as belonging to a completely different order of value: spiritual rather than material, “of the soul” rather than of the world.⁸⁸ Moreover, the good name “jewel” is not just a precious possession but one that is constitutive of its possessor’s very self: the jewel that is a good name makes a person who he is. A purse’s contents can belong to anyone—“’twas mine, ’tis his”—but a jewel is immediate, unmediated, and “of the soul.” On the surface, then, Iago says the opposite of what he has just recently said to Cassio. In that exchange, he openly challenged the idea of meaningful correspondence between inner self and “reputation.” Here, he promotes it. Reputation is self, is soul. The model of reputation most apparent from the speech’s surface, then, is fairly clear: good name is the outwardly recognized reflection of the inward qualities that make a person fundamentally himself or herself. Yet the very materiality of Iago’s language works against such a reading. As the speech unfolds, it draws together a set of symbolically freighted object-nouns—adding “purse” and “trash” to “jewel”—and verbs that speak to the relationships of people to property: steals, filches, robs, enriches. In this discursive context, “good name” itself almost seems to materialize. It becomes yet another thing: of great worth to its possessor, but frighteningly alienable for a property “of the soul.” The simple fact that it can be “filched” brings good name’s value into question. After all, reputations do enter into circulation, as Othello himself knows. They can be devalued or inflated by external factors like slander or praise. The surface logic of the speech is that ⁸⁶ Ross, “World and Chrysolite,” p. 687. ⁸⁷ The examples are from Plutarch, The table of Cebes, trans. Thomas Elyot (London, 1545), sig. K7v; Plutarch, The preceptes of the excellent clerke [and] graue philosopher Plutarche for the preseruacion of good healthe, trans. John Hales (London, 1543), sig. d1r; Erasmus, The first tome or volume of the Paraphrase of Erasmus vpon the newe testamente (London, 1548), sig. ²A1r; and Thomas Nashe, An almond for a parrat (London, 1589), sig. D1r. Pearls in particular symbolized transcendent spiritual value, following the biblical comparison of the kingdom of heaven to “one pearl of great price” (Matthew 13:45–6) for which a merchant sold all of his worldly possessions (which, beside the transcendent value of this spiritual “pearl,” are mere dross). Matthew 13:45–6. See Samuel Gardiner, A pearle of price: or, The best purchase (London, 1600). ⁸⁸ On spiritual accounting in Shakespeare, see Natasha Korda, Labors Lost: Women’s Work and the Early Modern English Stage (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2011), pp. 71–92. I borrow the term and concept of “order of value” from Jonathan Parry and Maurice Bloch, “Introduction: Money and the Morality of Exchange,” in Money and the Morality of Exchange, eds. Parry and Bloch (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989), pp. 1–32.

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currency bears a constructed kind of value, which is “nothing” in comparison to “real” or essential value. The problem is that good name—supposedly possessed of such real, essential value—is also closely akin to currency. Good name always in some sense belongs to others. “’Tis his,” as Iago says of the purse. Each strand of the double argument of Iago’s speech depends on a separation between extrinsic and intrinsic forms of value. The validity of such a separation, in the period, was under pressure. As a modern, commercialized understanding of money began to take shape, a traditional understanding of coins’ value as tied to their metal content remained in place—but not unchallenged.⁸⁹ The worth of coins was understood to be linked both to their instrumental role in exchange and to myriad material factors, including weight, purity, wear, and the stamps that made them current. A purse is only “trash” if it is called trash. It may have contingent and unstable value, but it only lacks value if described in a very specific, limited way. Later in Othello, Desdemona says that she would rather have lost her “purse / Full of crusadoes” (3.4.23) than her handkerchief. Crucially, this moment does not illustrate how little she esteems money. Rather, it shows how highly she values the handkerchief. Her purse has real worth in the world, and this fact allows her to express the even greater worth she places on Othello’s gift. Similarly, jewels’ value emerged as a matter not simply of their rareness and beauty, but of exchange. Germano Maifreda documents a rising awareness in the Renaissance that precious metals and gemstones had extrinsic value that fluctuated according to market forces.⁹⁰ Even outside of economic thought, jewels’ values could be understood as imputed rather than essential, contingent rather than stable. In common usage, a jewel was a wearable ornament, and the jewel-as-jewelry invited the gaze of others, drawing to itself the surplus value of admiration. Jewels were symbols of status and actual wealth, both cultural and actual capital. At the same time, as small, precious possessions frequently exchanged as gifts, they could be invested with idiosyncratic private value (not unlike Desdemona’s handkerchief, in fact). Think of Shylock’s turquoise. It is worth about as much as a pet monkey, but Shylock would not have traded it for “a wilderness of monkeys” (or, presumably, their cash value) because “I had it of Leah when I was a bachelor” (3.1.111). If the value-laden terms Iago uses are less straightforward than they may at first appear, so, too, is the commonplace he dresses in them. Variants of the biblical proverb, “A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches,” occur frequently in early modern texts, but the proverb does not always mean the same thing; like most proverbs, it could be deployed to different effect in different situations.⁹¹ New contexts imbue it with new energies and emphases. In Thomas Wilson’s The

⁸⁹ Deng, Coinage, pp. 9–17; Valenze, Social Life, pp. 39–40. ⁹⁰ Maifreda, Oikonomia, pp. 20–2. ⁹¹ Morris Palmer Tilley, A Dictionary of the Proverbs in England in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1950), p. 489.

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arte of rhetorique, a possible source for Iago’s speech, we find an absolute opposition between name and riches.⁹² Demonstrating the rhetorical figure of amplificatio through myriad variations on the proverb, Wilson writes: “When oure pursse is piked, we make strieght searche for it agayne, and emprisone the offendoure, and shall we not seke recouerye of our good name, when euyll tongues haue stayned it?”⁹³ Later, he asserts, “a slaunderer is worse then anye thiefe, because a good name is better then all the goodes in the worlde: and that the losse of money maye be recouered, but the losse of a mannes good name, can not be called backe againe.”⁹⁴ Readers may note that Wilson’s “slaunderer” is someone very like Iago: a thief whose object is good names.⁹⁵ The point I want to make here, though, is that Wilson’s account depends on a categorical separation of wealth from name: goods participate in a different order of value from reputation, and the loss of good name can never be made up materially. By the end of the seventeenth century, Daniel Defoe would revisit the same commonplace, but with a difference. For Defoe, good name is both commensurate with and convertible into goods. He writes that credit is a tradesman’s “choicest ware” and “current money in his cash chest.”⁹⁶ Like Wilson, Defoe claims that a damaged reputation is far worse than financial disaster: loss of “money or goods is easily made up, and may be sometimes repaired with advantage; but the loss of credit is never repair’d.”⁹⁷ But though the echo of Wilson here may be “nearly verbatim,” the two say very different things.⁹⁸ For Defoe, reputation and money are not opposed, but allied. Both are treasure, neither trash. In the decades between Wilson’s writing and Defoe’s, broadly speaking, one understanding of good name’s relationship to material wealth (continuous) has gradually replaced the other (oppositional). In Shakespeare’s day, however, the two configurations coexisted, sometimes in the same text. This is the case in the Lex mercatoria, where Malynes gives a version of the proverb: “Goods lost, nothing lost; Credit lost, much lost; Soule lost, all lost.”⁹⁹ Here, credit occupies a middle position between temporal goods (“nothing”) and the immortal part (“all”). Malynes’s aphorism captures, in compressed form, the way in which economic necessity begets ideological change.

⁹² Altman, Improbability, pp. 74–5, pp. 119–28; and Heinrich F. Plett, Rhetoric and Renaissance Culture (Berlin: de Gruyter, 2004), pp. 421–8 and p. 433, esp. n. 45. For an opposing view, see Hardin Craig, “Shakespeare and Wilson’s Arte of Rhetorique: An Inquiry into the Criteria for Determining Sources,” Studies in Philology 28, no. 4 (Oct. 1931): pp. 618–30. ⁹³ Thomas Wilson, The arte of rhetorique (London, 1553), sig. Q4v. ⁹⁴ Wilson, Arte, sig. R4v. ⁹⁵ Wilson’s comparison of a purse to a good name appears in a passage on amplificatio, a rhetorical strategy for developing argumentative points by heaping up sententiae, phrases, and figures. In the passage on purses and good names, Wilson is demonstrating how one might use amplificatio to condemn backbiters and slanderers in a forceful way. But he’s also pointing out, consciously or not, that amplificatio is one of the verbal slanderer’s best rhetorical tricks. ⁹⁶ Daniel Defoe, The complete English tradesman (London, 1726), p. 225. ⁹⁷ Defoe, Complete, p. 235. ⁹⁸ Muldrew, Economy, p. 155. ⁹⁹ Malynes, Lex mercatoria, p. 221.

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In early modern England, the near-universality of credit as currency was working to undermine the symbolic contrast between good name and goods. If we pay attention to the vehicles of the metaphors through which Iago describes “good name”—that is, if we think about jewels and purses in themselves as material objects, circulating and owned, rather than as purely symbolic placeholders—the stark opposition between value and valuelessness falls apart. And if we pay attention to the abstract category which these metaphors seek to express, good name, we become aware of another kind of instability, as “credit” pulls a person simultaneously towards the soul and towards the world. Iago’s central comparison (a good name is like a jewel, unlike a purse) dissolves, since good name actually resembles both. Yet because of the powerful, essentializing surface claim and its value-laden terms, it is difficult to imagine good name as a composite, made up of external opinion that simultaneously has reference to inward qualities. We are left with a seemingly impossible choice: either to believe that human worth is innate and reputation bound to virtue or to believe that human worth is socially conferred and unrelated to the inmost self. Both positions are “thinkable”; Iago forces us to think them both together, and so reveals the very concept of good name to be shot through with contradiction. After he grows jealous, Othello’s view of himself changes along with his view of his wife. For what is apparently the first time, he sees himself from a hostile outside perspective, as “The fixèd figure for the scorn of time, / To point his slow and moving finger at!” (4.2.54–5). The social gaze that he hitherto felt to recognize his innermost qualities now seems mocking rather than approving and destructive of his selfhood, rather than seamlessly enmeshed with it. Iago’s manipulation of the language of value is central to this erosion of Othello’s sense of self. It lays the groundwork for a “re-reckoning,” in which Othello evaluates himself in new terms. After his speech on good name, Iago echoes two ideas that Brabantio expressed, and Othello tacitly rejected, in Act One: that, having deceived her father, Desdemona may well deceive her husband (see 1.3.290–1; 3.3.209), and that her choice of a black man instead of one of Venice’s “curlèd darlings” (1.2.68) violates nature (see 1.3.95–104; 3.3.233–42). When Othello protests, “I do not think but Desdemona’s honest” (3.3.229) but then adds, “And yet how nature, erring from itself—” (231) Iago interrupts, diverting Othello’s thought-in-progress into a condemnation of miscegenation: Ay there’s the point! As—to be bold with you— Not to affect many proposed matches Of her own clime, complexion, and degree, Whereto we see in all things nature tends— Foh! One may smell in such a will most rank, Foul disproportions, thoughts unnatural— (3.3.231–7)

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Iago reiterates and amplifies Brabantio’s claim that a white woman’s love for a black man goes against nature. At the same time, he performs disgust: exclaiming “Foh” at the rank, foul smell of a “will” that could choose Othello. Both in what he says and with the affect he performs, Iago raises the question of how Othello himself is reckoned, or marked, by others’ evaluations: it is only a brief step from the claim that Desdemona’s desires are unnatural (and that they are universally recognizable as such) to the claim that their object is himself foul, rank, disproportionate. Further, he recruits Othello himself to participate in the act of racialized reckoning. Interrupting the general with assertive agreement (“Ay there’s the point!”), he acts as if he had anticipated Othello’s own thoughts. He attributes to Othello the idea that love across races is unnatural. In Act One, Othello never addresses Brabantio’s racist claim that his daughter could not love “such a thing as thou” (1.2.71). He undoubtedly hears it, but he does not respond, and there is no evidence that Brabantio’s attempted public devaluation of the general alters either his sense of self or his sense of how others in the scene esteem him. Only after Iago has rendered the relationship of inner qualities to external evaluation terrifically unstable does Othello begin to reckon in terms of racial difference, finally adopting Brabantio’s logic himself (logic that, again, he was not alone in rejecting in Act One). As Iago works on him, he first protests “she had eyes and chose me” (3.3.192) and then conjectures that “Haply, for I am black” (267) Desdemona has turned from him to Cassio. Here, Othello casts his blackness as a negative quality, one that needs to be overlooked (and then that proves too damning to overlook) for Desdemona to love and desire him. His blackness becomes a contradiction of his other qualities; it renders them invisible, moot. Othello’s new self-evaluation here prefigures the internal division between Venetian self and Turkish other in his final speech, but in terms of marital rather than civic belonging. He once claimed that “my parts, my title, and my perfect soul / Shall manifest me rightly” (1.2.31–2), and believed Desdemona when she claimed to see no contrast between his “visage” and “mind” (1.3.250). In Act Three, however, he comes to question whether he can be both black and beloved. Iago lays the groundwork for this agonizingly personal line of questioning with his deceptively generalized, commonplace speech on competing forms of value: by claiming that a person’s public self resembles a precious possession, simultaneously integral to its possessor, and fragile, alienable, indeterminate. Using a rhetoric of value that exposes the contradictions that go into the very act of evaluation, Iago turns jewels into purses, and purses into trash.

1.4. Credit versus Honor As Iago uses it, the language of value promotes a destructive logic, organizing a variety of evaluative habits of mind into an opposition between essentializing

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reckoning, on the one hand, and skeptical reckoning, on the other. In itself, however, each object he names invites multiple modes of evaluation, reflecting in miniature the multifaceted kind of reckoning fostered by commercial cosmopolitanism. Good name, the subject of his speech, also invites competing evaluative strategies, which is what makes it subject to his binarizing logic. In Shakespeare’s day, economic conditions put new pressures on the fit between outward-facing and inward-rooted models of good name. Reputation simultaneously represented “society’s judgment of an individual’s worth” and referred to “internalized, personal, integrity.”¹⁰⁰ In what follows, I link the play’s concern with reputation, particularly military and sexual honor, with economic credit, the dominant form of currency in early modern England.¹⁰¹ Reputation is Iago’s medium, the stuff of which he spins his plots. Over the course of the action, in addition to destroying Desdemona’s “credit with the Moor” (2.3.344), he gives Cassio a reputation for drunkenness, Othello a reputation for violence, and Emilia a reputation for shrewishness, while cultivating his own reputation for honesty. What I want to show here is how much this process, too, is inflected with habits of commercial reckoning—and how those habits operate destructively in noncommercial contexts where reckoning human value is nevertheless an important activity. For early modern people, to “credit” someone was to reckon up his or her worth, and this worth was moral as well as monetary. In economic matters, “reputation,” “credit,” and “name” referred to what other people thought about someone’s honesty and trustworthiness and about his or her access to resources.¹⁰² Despite its relation to character, though, credit did not always map cleanly onto other forms of social value. Craig Muldrew’s work, which remains the most comprehensive account of early modern credit as an economic and social phenomenon, at times seems to suggest that all forms of reputation—honor, name, public opinion—quietly became indistinguishable from commercial credit sometime in the mid-sixteenth century. Aaron Kitch offers a succinct summation of this view: “As credit and debt relations expanded in sixteenth-century England, traditional concepts of ‘honor’ were translated to the domain of everyday transactions.”¹⁰³ Yet the merging of various types of “name” was not seamless or straightforward, especially when it came to the forms of reputation associated with honor. As studies of aristocratic, military, and gendered forms of social value ¹⁰⁰ The quoted phrases are from Linda Pollock, “Honor, Gender, and Reconciliation in Elite Culture, 1570–1700,” Journal of British Studies 46, no. 1 (Jan. 2007): pp. 3–29, p. 5; and Barbara Donagan, “The Web of Honour: Soldiers, Christians, and Gentlemen in the English Civil War,” The Historical Journal 44, no. 2 (June 2001): pp. 365–89, p. 366. ¹⁰¹ Craig Muldrew, The Economy of Obligation: The Culture of Credit and Social Relations in Early Modern England (New York: St. Martin’s, 1998), p. 151. ¹⁰² Muldrew, Economy, pp. 148–51. ¹⁰³ Aaron Kitch, Political Economy and the States of Literature in Early Modern England (Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2009), p. 130.

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demonstrate, the metamorphosis of honor into credit was an uneven and complex process.¹⁰⁴ Throughout the period, honor seems to have remained associated with elite values of birth, merit, public office, martial prowess, civility, and, for women, sexual chastity. Honor could also refer to the ability to keep faith in economic matters, but this does not seem to have been its dominant meaning.¹⁰⁵ Credit, by contrast, referred most frequently to economized or economizeable forms of reputation. Yet it also denoted communal belief in a person’s worth and word, and so bore a real relationship to perceived inward qualities—to self and soul. Thus, commercial and non-commercial forms of reputation co-existed and could be conceived of separately. At the same time, they were described with overlapping vocabularies, signaling structural and ideological overlap, as well. Othello takes place in the long composite moment when credit was both outward-facing and inwardly rooted, both a matter of assets and of character, and both distinct from honor and closely related to it. Iago exploits the slipperiness of these terms, just as he exploits the instability of value-terms like “jewel” and “purse.” When he and Cassio discuss reputation, the two operate from different understandings of the same word. Their exchange captures two positions—one essentially chivalric, the other commercial—in which reputation is an equally central category, but has different ideological content. The same thing happens in a later exchange with Othello, when Iago calls Desdemona’s sexual honor, “an essence that’s not seen” (4.1.15), adding, “They have it very oft that have it not” (16). He derides women’s honor as a matter of words and opinions, a viewpoint at odds with Othello’s apparent sense of it as a property of the soul, materially realized in the body’s actions. Iago’s sense of honor-as-construct aligns with an economic viewpoint which understood “reputation, in the form of language,” to be “produced and communicated for profit.”¹⁰⁶ When Iago names Desdemona’s “credit with the Moor” (2.3.344) as the object of his attack, the word credit obviously does not mean “purchasing power” but rather Othello’s faith in her fidelity. Yet the term hints at fungibility and instrumentality, qualities adhering to commercial reputation and antithetical to sexual honor. Throughout Othello, “honor” and “credit” are shown to be separable but hard to keep apart. Iago’s plot depends on this dynamic. For Iago to succeed, Othello has to continue to believe that honor matters to identity (in a way that Iago himself

¹⁰⁴ See Pollock, “Honor”; Donagan, “Web”; Garthine Walker, “Expanding the Boundaries of Female Honour in Early Modern England,” Transactions of the Royal Historical Society 6 (1996): pp. 235–45; Alexandra Shepard, “Manhood, Credit and Patriarchy in Early Modern England c. 1580–1640,” Past and Present, no. 167 (May 2000): pp. 75–106. David Scott Kastan’s “Introduction” to Shakespeare’s 1 Henry IV (London: Thompson Learning, 2002) offers an analysis of that play’s complex treatment of martial honor, financial credit, and political power with wider implications for study of the period (pp. 62–73). ¹⁰⁵ Muldrew, Economy, pp. 148–57; and Pollock, “Honor,” pp. 17–18. ¹⁰⁶ Doran, “Good Name,” p. 199.

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does not believe), while at the same time accepting that it is constructed through language and social interpretation (in a way that Iago does believe). If in commercial settings honor and credit aligned relatively closely, in other spheres they remained at odds. In what follows, I want to pay particular attention to honor and credit within the military company, which makes up the ruling body in Cyprus, and within marriage, the arena within which the play’s central tragedy unfolds. Both are non-commercial contexts nevertheless affected by commercial modes of reckoning. Traditional, non-monetary concepts of honor seem to have been particularly durable in the spheres of sexual propriety and military life. Even as credit for men became increasingly tied to financial responsibility, women’s honor remained linked to sexual purity, and “the association of female honour and reputation with chastity was perhaps the least contested principle of social evaluation in early modern England.”¹⁰⁷ Similarly, martial honor became more rather than less important to soldiers as England’s military structures developed in the seventeenth century.¹⁰⁸ As a setting for Othello, Venice offered Shakespeare a site for exploring the ways in which commercial rhetoric, attitudes, and ideological structures put pressure on traditional models of soldierly valor and marital virtue. In addition to its reputation for commercial cosmopolitanism, Venice was known for well-developed codes of courtship and marriage, on one hand, and military prowess, on the other.¹⁰⁹ To take the military first.¹¹⁰ In early modern Europe, an expanding economy gave rise to larger, better organized, and more technologically advanced armies. At the same time, the internal organization of military bodies resembled vertical feudal structures more than horizontal market relations. As William H. McNeill writes, military units replicated the hierarchical arrangements of “traditional social groupings—the very groupings that were everywhere dissolving or were at least called into question by the spread of impersonal market relations.”¹¹¹ Within these units, a tiered system of offices replaced “customary hierarchies of prowess and status.”¹¹² These hierarchies were not inflexible, however, and a certain degree of upward mobility operated as a stabilizing force. In his Theorike and practike of moderne warres (1598) Robert Barret describes how service is rewarded with rank, in a process “whereby many men of low degree and base linage” may rise “vnto great dignitie, credit, and fame.”¹¹³ In its ideal form, the military unit assigns the ¹⁰⁷ Shepard, “Manhood,” p. 76. ¹⁰⁸ Donagan, “Web,” pp. 365–89. ¹⁰⁹ See McPherson, Myth of Venice, pp. 38–45. ¹¹⁰ On military matters in Othello, see Jorgensen, Military, pp. 100–18; Virginia Mason Vaughan, Othello: A Contextual History (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997), pp. 35–50; Julia Genster, “Lieutenancy, Standing in, and Othello,” ELH 57, no. 4 (Winter 1990): pp. 785–809; and Tom McBride, “Othello’s Orotund Occupation,” Texas Studies in Literature and Language 30, no. 3 (Fall 1988): pp. 412–30. ¹¹¹ William H. McNeill, The Pursuit of Power: Technology, Armed Force, and Society since . 1000 (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press 1982), p. 132. ¹¹² McNeill, Pursuit, p. 132. ¹¹³ Robert Barret, Theorike and practike of moderne warres (London, 1598), sig. A5r.

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office of captain to one whose “vertue, valour, magnanimitie, resolution, and . . . aboue all, loyalty” have been “well proued, shewed, and made manifest to the world.”¹¹⁴ The dominant discourse of soldiership insisted on honor rather than profit as the true reward for military service.¹¹⁵ In practice, however, service could and did lead to material gain, from ordinary soldiers’ pay to the land, houses, and monuments granted to the great Venetian condottieri.¹¹⁶ Thus, though martial honor and monetary rewards were frequently thought of in oppositional terms— in a way that commercial credit and monetary profit were not—in fact, the structuring tensions between good name and goods, and between outward estimation and inward worth, existed in the military context as well. This complex situation is apparent in An arithmeticall warlike treatise named Stratioticos (1579; 1590), Shakespeare’s likely source for some of Othello’s military material.¹¹⁷ Begun by Tudor mathematician Leonard Digges and completed by his son, Thomas, Stratioticos is half arithmetic and half conduct book. Books I and II provide lessons in military mathematics, many of which are recognizable descendants of those offered in the mercantile arithmetics of a generation before. Book III lays out the personal qualities and duties of soldiers and officers. Especially in this latter portion, Stratioticos stresses that the desire for money ought to be subordinate to the quest for honor. Under “The Office and duetie of a Captaine,” we find: He ought not to be couetous or niggardly: never to keep backe his souldiers paye, but by al meanes to seeke to get them their pay, & to his abilitie rewarding them over and aboue, for by that meanes he gaineth honor, and maketh them assured to him in any perilous service. And contrariwise if he be a scraper and a spoiler of his souldiers, & bend his wits rather to pray on them & their pay, then to traine and teach them their dutie: Such a one ought to be disarmed and reiected as a baseminded mercenarie marchant, that shameth and soileth his profession.¹¹⁸

The passage implies a complex internal economy: paying soldiers fairly leads to a captain’s increased honor among them and their increased loyalty towards him. Narrow self-interest, associated here with merchants, ill befits a high-ranking officer. Even for common soldiers, honor should matter more than money. Digges writes approvingly of the Spanish bands, within which, if a new soldier “be bare in apparel,” old soldiers “furnish him of their owne purses, because he

¹¹⁴ Barret, Theorike, sig. X5v. ¹¹⁵ Donagan, “Web,” p. 366. ¹¹⁶ Mallett and Hale, Military, p. 186. ¹¹⁷ See Jorgensen, Military, pp. 113–15; and Genster, “Lieutenancy,” pp. 789–97. ¹¹⁸ Leonard Digges and Thomas Digges, An arithmeticall warlike treatise named Stratioticos (1579; repr. London, 1590), sig. P2v. All quotations are from the 1590 text.

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should not be a dishonor to their Nation.”¹¹⁹ The message is clear: the troop’s collective honor matters more than the weight of its individual member’s purses. One of the arithmetic problems from Stratioticos’s first half, however, suggests a more direct relationship of honor to cash: Admit there be a Praye or Bootie taken 300 Pounds sterling to be distributed to a Bande of 150. footemen, wherein there is 20 Souldiers wanting of a Bande complet: I demaunde how much the Captaine and euery seuerall Officer and Souldier of the Bande should haue for their part or share ratably made according to true auncient Discipline Militare?¹²⁰

This is a variation on one type of traditional partnership problem, in which the student was asked to figure what merchants, their factors, and their “seruantes or varlettes” should earn on a venture, with each group within the hierarchy receiving a different proportion of the gains.¹²¹ Here, soldiers of varying ranks replace merchants, factors, and servants, and “a Praye or Bootie” replaces mercantile profit. Solving the problem requires knowing the rate of pay for persons of each degree in a complete band, and then calculating the distribution of the money, taking into account twenty missing soldiers. It also requires tacit acknowledgement that the highest offices, which bear the most honor, also deserve the most cash. The problem illustrates a larger cultural dynamic in miniature: martial and monetary values cannot be kept neatly separate, any more than military and commercial enterprise could have been. Iago’s methods (and to an extent, his motives) become clearer when viewed against the backdrop of the early modern discourses of military honor versus mercantile profit. In the play’s opening scene, as we have seen, he explains his hatred of Othello in terms of professional displacement, and he casts his displacement in commercial terms: “I know my price, I am worth no worse a place” (1.1.10). What he will later state to Cassio and insinuate to Othello as a basic fact about the world, he here expresses as a bitter realization: earned or innate merit and social estimation do not necessarily align. He feels himself dishonored, held at a lower rate by others than the rate he sets on himself. Like the purse, his price comes from outside. It is “something nothing,” and so is he. As he later puts it: “I am not what I am” (65). It is difficult not to paraphrase this statement as “I am not what I seem,” but the statement bears another meaning, as well: “I am not (intrinsically) what I am (as an externally constructed reputation, a price, a quantity of honor).”¹²² Iago’s virtuosic ability to manipulate others’ perceptions through social performance emerges from a sense of a system having failed him—

¹¹⁹ Digges, Stratioticos, sig. N1v. ¹²⁰ Digges, Stratioticos, sig. M1v. ¹²¹ An introduction (1539), sig. H3r. ¹²² See Greenblatt, “The Improvisation of Power,” p. 238.

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a system he now perceives as a false construct, whose unreality only he can perceive.¹²³ His complaint that “Preferment goes by letter and affection / And not by old gradation, where each second / Stood heir to th’ first” (1.1.35–7) speaks to a sense of order violated. Feeling himself caught in a social structure where service, valor, and experience go unrewarded, Iago becomes that structure’s critic and manipulator. I suggest that Iago’s sense of violated worth is a new mode, roughly coincident with the start of the play, less to pinpoint his malignity’s elusive motive than to excavate remnants of another way of thinking that lodge in his speech: a mode of reckoning worth that resembles Othello’s, or Venice’s more generally, in its assumption of a reasonable “fit” between inner worth and social estimation. Viewed in this light, Iago’s denigration of Cassio appears to be an attack on “new” mercantile values which threaten to unsettle traditional identities. He describes the Florentine as “a great arithmetician” (1.1.18), who “never set a squadron in the field / Nor the division of a battle knows / More than a spinster” (21–3). The “bookish theoric” Iago associates with Cassio is probably not actual arithmetic or account-keeping—though it is not an entirely unrelated field. As Paul Jorgensen argues, Cassio “was probably an ‘arithmetician’ in that he was studying gunnery, fortification, and the scientific marshalling of troops as presented in Digges’s . . . Stratioticos and Thomas Smith’s The Art of Gunnery.”¹²⁴ As we have seen, these works partly descended from and bore a resemblance to commercial arithmetics like An introduction for to lerne to recken. At the same time, they articulated soldierly rather than mercantile values and bore little resemblance to contemporary works on bookkeeping, the activity to which Iago directly alludes when he calls Cassio “debitor and creditor”: the English name for double-entry accounting. Iago simultaneously conflates all mathematical study with “theoric” (“prattle without practice”) and with the grubby “practick” of money matters.¹²⁵ His epithets link the lieutenant to the ledger, and the ledger itself to petty worldliness: getting and spending, borrowing and lending, tracking the ebb and flow of money and debt. A soldier with a trader’s eye (and, at the same time, a disdain for trade), Iago straddles martial and commercial understandings of value. He maintains that he is above commerce, even as he draws on its vocabulary and that vocabulary’s rich metaphorical affordances to hollow out the martial order, rendering it useless as a meaning-making system for others.¹²⁶ Iago’s own office in fact affords him a ¹²³ I draw here on Katharine Eisaman Maus’s accounts of revengers’ consciousness of the fictive nature of social hierarchy in Inwardness and Theater in the English Renaissance (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995), pp. 35–72. ¹²⁴ Jorgensen, Military, p. 113. ¹²⁵ Digges and other military theorists complained of exactly this line of attack from “old soldiers,” who regarded theoretical approaches with suspicion. See Jorgensen, Military, pp. 114–15. ¹²⁶ As Neill points out, Iago’s dismissal of courtly Cassio as an accountant is ironic. It is Iago, not Cassio, who inhabits “the shadowy borderlands that marked the all-important boundary between the

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uniquely advantageous position from which to attack military ideology: he is the ancient, or ensign, the flag-bearer: collective honor embodied. Digges tells us that “The losse of the Ensigne is not only to the Ensigne bearer, but also to the whole bande a perpetuall shame.”¹²⁷ The symbolic function of the flag created an aura of equal importance around its bearer. “The value and vertue of the Ensigne,” Digges writes, “setteth forthe the vertue and valour of the Captaine and whole band.”¹²⁸ Soldiers should fearlessly protect both the ensign and the flag he bears on the battlefield; the loss of either would court collective dishonor. As Barret puts it, “the Ensigne is the verie foundation of the Companie, and therein consisteth the honour, & his, & his souldiers reputation.”¹²⁹ Military ideology saw the ensign’s banner as the “verie foundation” of the company: not just the badge of its honor but that honor itself. Yet the flag might just as easily be seen as a purely superficial external, an empty referent. So, too, the ensign himself. To borrow Iago’s own terms, the ensign should be the “jewel” of the company: the embodiment of collective, intrinsic worth. But Iago is more like a purse, or the coins it holds. He has face value—a reputation for honesty—but it bears no reference to his mettle. Having no honor, he nevertheless generates credit. The structures of martial honor are, in Othello, displaced onto marriage, as Julia Genster and Tom McBride argue.¹³⁰ Within the context of Othello and Desdemona’s marriage, we again find the notion that inwardly rooted virtue could be externalized, embodied in symbolic objects and persons. Desdemona’s handkerchief, for instance, functions as the external emblem of her honor. In a very real sense it is her honor: a domestic, miniature version of the ensign’s flag. Digges and Barret wrote that the loss of the standard brought dishonor not only on the ensign but the whole company. Similarly, the loss of the handkerchief dishonors both Desdemona and her husband. Her virtue stands for his, just as the “The value and vertue of the Ensigne setteth forth the vertue and valour of the Captaine.” This is why, when he believes his wife has been unfaithful, Othello feels he has lost his office as well, declaring, “Othello’s occupation’s gone” (3.3.359). Desdemona resembles the jewel-like form of Othello’s reputation: an external badge of honor, an adornment, a prize; but also a property of his deepest self, his soul. In discrediting her, Iago does two things at once. He both calls women’s sexual honor into question, suggesting it is a matter of signs and interpretation, a something-nothing. At the same time, he relies on Othello’s sense of the entanglement of male honor with women’s sexual reputations remaining intact, so that

gentry and the great mass of people without ‘name or note’ ” (“Introduction,” p. 150), and it is Iago, not Cassio, who typically employs the language and calculus of accounting. ¹²⁷ Digges, Stratioticos, sig. N2v. ¹²⁹ Barret, Theorike, sig. B4r.

¹²⁸ Digges, Stratioticos, sig. O4v. ¹³⁰ McBride, “Orotund”; Genster, “Lieutenancy.”

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Othello’s sense of his own (innate and publicly recognizable) worth crumbles when he no longer believes his wife to be virtuous. In his sustained dismantling of Desdemona’s reputation, Iago simultaneously puts forward the claim that sexual honor is like commercial credit—externally constructed, false because falsifiable—while also relying on the resilience of conceptions of honor as integral to the self: the outward badge of inward truth. The reality, in the play’s setting as in the England in which Shakespeare lived and wrote, is that both honor and credit were multifaceted forms of value, where external and inward-rooted elements combined to generate an unresolvable but also everyday, generally livable tension. To claim a total distinction between social value and inherent worth is to risk either a nihilistic skepticism, like Iago’s, or an equally destructive idealism—which is, in the end, what Iago nurtures in Othello. Instead of turning Othello into a like-minded skeptic, he transforms him into a rigid idealist, one who conceives of human value and valuelessness in absolute terms. Once again, metaphors of material value illustrate the point. Jewels are not only symbols of precious and precarious reputations in the play. In a competing strain of rhetoric, they are part of a complex of symbols for that-which-lies-beyondexchange. While Iago uses the language of precious objects to render valuing itself impossible, both Desdemona and Othello employ metaphors of wealth and precious objects to express subjective perceptions of inestimable worth. Early in the play, Othello declares: But that I love the gentle Desdemona, I would not my unhousèd free condition Put into circumscription and confine For the seas’ worth. (1.2.25–8)

He figures his marriage as an exchange and freedom as the price for Desdemona. What he has lost is greater, to him, than all the treasures in the sea; his wife is worth more even than that. Similarly, Desdemona insists that she would not commit adultery for “the world’s mass of vanity” (4.2.164) or “for all the world” (4.3.63), remaining firm in the face of Emilia’s very different reckoning: “The world’s a huge thing: it is a great price / For a small vice” (4.3.64–5). In the most elaborate of these hypothetical, hyperbolic exchanges, Othello declares: Nay, had she been true, If heaven would make me such another world Of one entire and perfect chrysolite, I’d not have sold her for it. (5.2.141–4)

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A green gemstone, chrysolite bore specific associations with female chastity, according to early modern lapidaries.¹³¹ In his printed commonplace book, Palladis Tamia (1598), Francis Meres notes that, “the Chrysolite being worne on the finger of an Adulteresse, so detesteth the crime, as it cracketh in peeces by meere instinct of nature.”¹³² By the speech’s logic, since she is in fact chaste, Desdemona’s worth exceeds the value of a jewel the size of a world, and her chastity surpasses that of a world as pure as the purest gem. Believing his wife false, Othello in fact offers a clear articulation of her true worth. Desdemona was so valuable that she lay beyond the realm of exchange. In this conceit, as in Othello’s later image of the discarded pearl, Iago’s rhetoric of value asserts itself. To imagine a man or woman entirely outside of exchange is to imagine someone who cannot live in the world, structured as it is by shifting and composite partnerships, which are subject to internal and external pressures, accidents, and shifts. “Mutabilitie and inconstancie” shape “all worldly affaires” and create the need for varying forms of calculation—of things, of persons, of situations—that early modern partnership problems register even as they aim to teach more purely “arithmetical” skills.¹³³ To imagine that reckoning and exchange devalue persons is to find worldly life itself sullying, compromised— and this is precisely where Shakespeare’s play locates tragedy. Practical literature suggests that evaluating persons and calculating mercantile gains and losses numerically are related, rather than opposed activities. Othello distances honor from calculation, while at the same time pinning honor to (calculably) valuable things. As the engine for tragedy, Iago’s rhetoric of value works according to a polarizing logic, which associates persons either with the purest gems or the drossiest trash. This rhetoric of value evacuates the middle ground, especially for Othello. Either Desdemona is a whore or she is too good to live. Either he himself is a noble Venetian who deserves to live immortally—“speak of me as I am” (5.2.341) he tells the assembled company in his last speech, mindful of his reputation after death—or he is a “dog” who deserves to die nameless.

1.5. “For the Seas’ Worth” I have been arguing that Othello dramatizes the problems of social and commercial evaluation raised in “The rule and question of zaracins.” But the puzzle has another set of resonances, which, in closing, I would like to note as an important ¹³¹ See Lynda E. Boose, “Othello’s ‘Chrysolite’ and the Song of Songs Tradition,” Philological Quarterly 60, no. 4 (Fall 1981): pp. 427–37; Jessica Cooke, “Othello’s ‘Entire and Perfect Chrysolite,’ ” Notes and Queries 44, no. 4 (Dec. 1997): pp. 505–6; and Catherine Loomis, “Othello’s ‘Entire and Perfect Chrysolite’: A Reply,” Notes and Queries 46, no. 2 (June 1999): pp. 238–9. ¹³² Francis Meres, Palladis Tamia (London, 1598), sig. 2R5v. ¹³³ Malynes, Lex mercatoria, p. 221.

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countercurrent, both to its own us/them logic, and to Iago’s binarizing. “The rule and question of zaracins” is about one group of merchants tricking another, but it is also a story of a voyage diverted, and of a tempest-driven vessel whose journeying passengers have lost their way. Their feeble galley is a distant but recognizable relative of what David Quint identifies as “the boat of Romance,” the narrative trope of an errant vessel that “embodies an adventure principle that counterbalances an equally constitutive quest principle.”¹³⁴ (Other problems in early arithmetics invoke other elements of Romance, including magical beasts and chivalric love: Filippo Calandri’s late fifteenth-century Aritmetica features dragons climbing towers at varying rates, and the 1537 edition of An introduccion contains several problems involving a questing lover, at times a knight, who must gather apples in a gated garden to win the love of a “damsell.”)¹³⁵ Romance is the literary form in which commercial venturing and chivalric adventure meet. Typically, Romance suspends contradictions because it enfolds variety; as Robinson puts it, the genre “evokes the space of contact and encounter.”¹³⁶ Romance thus resists the kind of binarizing thought—us/them, jewel/ trash, white/black—that Iago promotes. The merchants in the boat of commerce are not driven by an adventure principle, but their journey becomes an adventure nonetheless. Othello does not buy and sell, but he traverses the trade routes of the early modern Mediterranean world. As he tells it to us, and hints at having told it to Desdemona, his own past is more meandering Romance than teleological epic: his experiences prior to the play’s start were those of a storm-tossed wanderer more than those of a self-determining warrior. His course was shaped by “disastrous chances” (1.3.134), “moving accidents by flood and field” (135), “hairbreadth scapes” (136), and being “sold to slavery” (138) and then redeemed. Moreover, his story seems to have been recounted to Brabantio and Desdemona in episodic flashes, a hallmark of the Romance form: he told “the story of my life / From year to year: the battles, sieges, fortunes / That I have passed” (129–31). In a way, the episodes in Venice and Cyprus—where Othello ends up by virtue of his resourcefulness and valor, but also by chance—are simply the last of these narrative “islands.”¹³⁷ Soon after Desdemona and Othello arrive in Cyprus in separate storm-tossed ships, the possibility of continued Romance quietly enters and then swiftly leaves the central story of their marriage. Having given order for the watch, Othello addresses his new wife, figuring the pair of them as merchants who ventured and succeeded jointly: “The purchase made, the fruits are to ensue: / That profit’s yet to ¹³⁴ David Quint, Epic and Empire: Politics and Generic Form from Virgil to Milton (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1993), p. 249. See also Michael Nerlich, Ideology of Adventure: Studies in Modern Consciousness, 1100–1750, vol. 1, trans. Ruth Crowley (1977; Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1987), pp. 51–75. ¹³⁵ Filipo Calandri, Aritmetica (Florence, 1491), sig. l4r; An introduccion (1537), sigs. E6r–E7r. ¹³⁶ Robinson, Islam, p. 5. ¹³⁷ Quint, Epic, p. 249.

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come ’tween me and you” (2.3.9–10). In this momentary scenario, Desdemona is not a pearl, or a jewel, or even “the riches of the ship.” She is not “the purchase made.” Nor is she relegated to a realm of transcendent value beyond exchange. Othello’s conceit is that of a mercantile partnership. Both parties have invested, and both will reap the rewards. Venice’s martial, gendered, and commercial systems for reckoning human worth reassert themselves soon afterwards and are made destructive by Iago’s stark reorganization of their complexity. But for a moment, Othello envisions an alternate story, one that brings a new note to the play’s echo of early commercial arithmetics. Two lovers embark on a voyage. I demand of you how they shall share the profits. * Othello dramatizes the kinds of multimodal social reckoning fostered in early modern commercial contexts. It spins plot out of the unstable interplay of externally conferred and inwardly rooted qualities that structure such reckoning’s products: reputation, credit, honor. In the play, social reckoning takes place in private as well as in public. It affects self-estimation as well as the most public forms of recognition. And it structures a number of interlocking relationships and social contexts: Othello’s relationship to his race and his past; his marriage to Desdemona; the military troop in which Othello, Cassio, and Iago are prominent officers; the commercial city that brought all these figures together. Each of these structures partially reflects the others: each incorporates difference and, in each, difference becomes a dividing line. Iago precipitates this division, using metaphors of human value that make available two equally destructive positions: either all value is externally constructed and therefore unreal, or human value is real, but so terrifically fragile that even ordinary social life compromises it. In the next chapter, I will turn from Othello’s interlocking social structures to look at intimate groupings: friendships bound by economic as well as affective ties. In the context of early modern friendship, credit is not only a personal attribute or a public measure of value. It is a potentially collective resource, if one that often proved risky to share.

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2 Friendly Credit and its Dangers 2.1. Commonplaces, Common Goods “Enter not into bandes, noe, not for thie best friends [for] he that Payeth A nother mans dett seketh his owne decay.”¹ Sometime in the mid-1590s, the Gloucester mercer Richard Portman recorded this sentence in his commonplace book, a miscellaneous collection of mathematical, military, and poetic material. Near the book’s end, Portman fills several pages with financial documents copied out alongside sententiae in prose and verse, sometimes combining two divergent perspectives on a single page: an up-close record of specific transactions, and a zoomed-out perspective warning against over-attachment to worldly things. The injunction against entering into “bandes” even for “thie best friends” appears on one such page, below a letter about a legal dispute and a record of money received. It is the first of a string of adages encouraging self-protective caution in lending, marrying, and alms-giving. Despite its setting on an eclectic page in Portman’s even more eclectic book, the injunction itself is utterly standard, appearing in countless works of economic counsel. It closely echoes a sentence in a letter from Lord Burghley to his son: “Beware of Suretishippe for thy best Frend, for he wch payeth another man’s debtes seekes his owne decay.”² A similar warning appears in print in John Browne’s The marchants avizo (1589): “Beware in any case of suertiship: for it maketh thy friend thine enemy; it indangereth thy estate; and impaireth thy owne credit.”³ Thomas Tusser urges his readers, “To make thy bandes aduisedly, / and come not bond through suerty” and Nicholas Breton notes that “he that comes into suretiship is in the way of vndooing.”⁴ In fact, cautions against suretyship are among the most common—if not the most common—pieces of economic advice in the period, appearing in manuscript and print, in secular and religious texts, in private documents and how-to manuals for farmers, traders, courtiers, and householders. The warning has classical roots: in the Adages, Erasmus cites Plato, Pliny, Homer, and Plutarch in his gloss to Sponde, noxa praesto est ¹ British Library Sloane MS 2497, fol. 48v. ² William Cecil, Lord Burghley, Letter 83, in A Seventeenth-Century Letter-Book: A Facsimile Edition of Folger MS. V.a. 321, ed. A.R. Braunmuller (Newark: University of Delaware Press, 1983), p. 282. ³ John Browne, The marchants avizo (London, 1589), sig. I3v. ⁴ Thomas Tusser, Fiue hundreth points of good husbandry (London, 1573), sig. C1r; Nicholas Breton, Wits private wealth (London, 1607), sig. B1v.

Fictions of Credit in the Age of Shakespeare. Laura Kolb, Oxford University Press (2021). © Laura Kolb. DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198859697.003.0003

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(“Stand surety, and ruin is at hand”).⁵ It can also be traced to the Bible, where we find in Proverbs: “My son, if thou be surety for thy friend, if thou hast stricken thy hand with a stranger, Thou art snared with the words of thy mouth, thou art taken with the words of thy mouth” (6.1–2).⁶ Portman’s inclusion of the precept on a page recording real-world financial transactions serves as a reminder that the events of a particular life, and the energies of a particular historical moment, can imbue a time-worn saying with fresh urgency. While we do not know whether Portman ever stood surety for a friend, the documents and letters recorded in his book suggest that for him, as for many early modern English people, friendship and finance skimmed close together. Within credit culture, friends, allies, and kindred were often those with whom one was most economically entangled.⁷ At times, versions of “don’t stand surety, even for a friend,” grudgingly acknowledged this reality. In his 1539 English translation of Erasmus’ Adages, for example, Richard Taverner addresses the ethical questions this injunction raises in daily life. In his entry for Sponde, noxa praesto est, he writes: “What losse, what vtter vndoynge, commeth by suretyshyp who knoweth not?” but then adds, “Albeit, I graunt, a man must beare with hys frende.”⁸ No such qualification appears in the original Latin. Taverner takes it upon himself to consider the adage in light of the tension between self-protective thrift (which it advocates) and the demands of friendship (which it downplays). In so doing, the English translator puts his finger on a difficulty that almost all versions of the warning against surety, with their tone of absolute authority, obscure: the decision to extend credit had to be made with a variety of costs, risks, and benefits in mind—not only financial, but also moral, social, and affective. For him, the demands of friendship ultimately outweigh those of thrift (“a man must beare with hys friende”), but his assessment of the risks involved in suretyship (“loss” and “vtter vndoynge”) is far from hyperbolic. Any interpersonal credit arrangement, however friendly, puts the individuals involved in contact with others beyond their immediate circle of community and kin, enmeshing them in “chains of literally hundreds of thousands of intertwined and interconnected credit relationships.”⁹ Within such chains of economically interconnected persons, as one seventeenth-century writer put it, “if any of ⁵ Number 597 in the Adagiorum chiliades (Venice, 1508). The translation is from The Collected Works of Erasmus, vol. 32, Adages Ivi1 to Ix100, ed. R.A.B. Mynors (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1989), pp. 64–5. ⁶ On surety’s religious implications, see Walter S.H. Lim, “Surety and Spiritual Commercialism in The Merchant of Venice,” SEL 50, no. 2 (Spring 2010): pp. 355–81. Though early modern religious texts often figured Christ as “fallen humanity’s divine surety” (p. 369) they frequently warned against “surety as economic practice” (p. 370). ⁷ Craig Muldrew, The Economy of Obligation: The Culture of Credit and Social Relations in Early Modern England (New York: St. Martin’s, 1998), p. 152. ⁸ Erasmus, Prouerbes or adagies with newe addicions gathered out of the Chiliades of Erasmus, trans. Richard Taverner (London, 1539), sigs. C4v–C5r. ⁹ Muldrew, Economy, p. 3.

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these were dishonest, or disable, what a trouble they bring upon all the rest.”¹⁰ All credit relations with friends always also included others. Suretyship posed specific dangers, since it placed one in formal, legal relation to two separate parties: friend and “stranger.” As the biblical proverb put it: “If thou be surety for thy friend . . . thou hast stricken thy hand with a stranger.” The injunction against surety forms part of a larger period discourse about the danger of mixing friendship with matters of debt and credit. Polonius’s caution that “loan oft loses both itself and friend” (1.3.76) anticipates the advice of Henry Wilkinson, who writes in The debt book (1625): “Owe nothing to a friend, lest you be burdenous where you should be helpfull, or lest failing of payment proue a ship-wracke of friendship.”¹¹ In these warnings, credit relations do harm to friendship. In countless others, friendship harms finances. Cautions against false friends, who take in time of plenty and retreat in time of need, abound.¹² In this vein, Portman writes: “Be friendlie unto every man / But unto fewe familiar be / . . . For many promise much in deede / But thene forsake thee in thy neede.” Later, in a series of rhymed adages, he repeats the same idea in different terms: “When I lent I was affrinde, but when I askte I was unkinde, and of my frinde I mad my foe, wherefore I will no more do soe.” Friends might also take advantage of generosity, perhaps the experience of Robert Savyle, who laments in a letter that he has “had losses by myne owne ffolly” and “by my pretended friends.”¹³ Though friends lending to and borrowing from one another was common economic practice, these passages attest to a degree of cultural and personal anxiety surrounding the overlap of affective and material bonds. Examples of the most pessimistic strain within this discourse eschew friendship altogether. Barnabe Googe’s poem “Of Money” is a good example: “Gyue Money me, take Frendshyp who so lyst, / For Frends are gon come once Aduersytie.”¹⁴ As Richard Portman records it in his commonplace book, the injunction against surety explicitly warns against a particular economic arrangement. But his wording in the initial imperative—“Enter not into bandes”—deviates from standard formulations, which almost always name surety in particular up front. Until Portman’s sentence fully unfolds, it seems to warn against entering into “bandes” in general or even, like Googe’s poem, against friendship itself. There’s a kind of grim wisdom to this pessimistic caution: within credit culture, to have friends was to be bound not only to them but also for them, at least potentially. Financially speaking, friendship was often beneficial but also often costly. In catastrophic cases, it was ruinous. ¹⁰ Hugh Chamberlen, A Description of the Office of Credit (London, 1665), p. 19. ¹¹ William Shakespeare, Hamlet, ed. Harold Jenkins (London: Methuen, 1982); Henry Wilkinson, The debt book: or, A treatise vpon Romans 13. ver. 8 (London, 1625), sig. B4v. ¹² See for example Thomas Breme, The mirrour of friendship (London, 1584). ¹³ British Library Egerton MS 2429 B (1577). ¹⁴ Barnabe Googe, “Of Money,” Eglogs epytaphes, and sonettes (London, 1563), sigs. G7v–G8r.

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And yet, of course, “Among Friends, all things should be common.”¹⁵ The exact phrasing here is from a list of “Articles, precepts, or statutes of the lawe of Amitie” in Walter Dorke’s A tipe or figure of friendship (1589), but the notion that friends share everything is as ancient and familiar as the caution against surety. Aristotle cites “What friends have they have in common” as an already well-known saying in his Ethics, and Cicero attributes it to Pythagoras. It is the first entry in Erasmus’ Adages, and it appears in many Renaissance additions to the “small, tightly-knit friendship canon.”¹⁶ The adage is often taken to refer specifically to the sharing of money and goods. The “all things” held in common operates as a kind of a shorthand for the concrete material practices of friendship: the exchange of gifts, hospitality, and aid in times of need.¹⁷ For some writers, the communality of friends’ goods not only describes amicable exchanges, but also stands as a kind of worldly emblem for the invisible unity of their souls. In “Of Friendship,” Montaigne says both that friends’ “souls mingle and blend with each other so completely that they efface the seam that joined them” and that friends hold so much in common materially that “they can neither lend nor give anything to each other.”¹⁸ In England, the author of The triall of true friendship (1596) claims both that “my friend . . . is another my selfe” and that we “owe to our friends . . . all that we haue.”¹⁹ Whereas the injunction against surety cautions against material entanglement even where social and affective entanglement exists, this saying implicitly claims that such a separation of money and feeling should not, indeed cannot, be made. Like the injunction against surety, “among friends, all things should be common” spoke to real conditions within England’s credit culture and at the same time elided the complexity of those conditions. Credit in early modern England was multiply grounded: in the performance of solvency and trustworthiness, in public opinion, in movable property, in land.²⁰ It was also grounded in one’s friends. Lorna Hutson defines friendship in the period as “economic dependency

¹⁵ Walter Dorke, A tipe or figure of friendship (London, 1589), sig. A4v. ¹⁶ Laurie Shannon, Sovereign Amity: Figures of Friendship in Shakespearean Contexts (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2002), p. 1. For this adage’s place in Erasmus’ work and Renaissance literary culture, see Kathy Eden, Friends Hold All Things in Common: Tradition, Intellectual Property, and the Adages of Erasmus (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2001). ¹⁷ On the material practices of classical and early modern friendship, see Wendy Trevor, “ ‘Receyving of Freendshipe’: Seneca’s De Benificiis and Early Modern Amicable Relations,” Literature and History 20, no. 1 (Spring 2011): pp. 59–74. ¹⁸ Michel de Montaigne, “Of Friendship,” The Complete Essays of Montaigne, trans. Donald M. Frame (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1976), pp. 135–44. The quoted passages appear on p. 139 and p. 141. ¹⁹ M.B., The triall of true friendship (1596), sigs. B1v and B2r. ²⁰ For public opinion, see Muldrew, Economy; for movable property, see Alexandra Shepard, Accounting for Oneself: Worth, Status, and the Social Order in Early Modern England (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015); for land, see Braunmuller, ed., A Seventeenth-Century Letter-Book, p. 281.

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as well as an affective bond.”²¹ To be “friendless” was not only an unfortunate social position; it was also a precarious economic one.²² To “have friends” by contrast was at least in theory to have access to others’ money, goods, and reputations. As John Wilkinson’s 1547 translation of Aristotle’s Ethics puts it: “A gret suretie it is to a man to haue frendes.”²³ Here, “suretie” means security or safety, but the word also points to one of the sources of that safety: friends’ willingness to be bound for one another. In many ways, credit was easier to share with friends than money or goods, because it was immaterial, grounded in reputation and in language as well as assets. At the same time, it was an especially risky thing to share. Lost credit could be terrifically hard to repair, and as we have seen even credit extended from one friend to another invariably rippled out into a broader field of economic relations, with all the instability and uncertainty that entailed. Despite the risks created by its amorphous, hard-to-control boundaries, credit in the period became part of the “all things” that friends were said to hold “in common.”²⁴ It also extended along broader networks of association, inflecting relationships among kin, benefactors, neighbors, and other associates— relationships that included multiple people rather than a single well-matched partner, and that could cross lines of age, class, and gender.²⁵ As recent scholarship has demonstrated, lived friendship in the period was various, multimodal, and often networked, extending beyond the idealized, same-sex pair of classical friendship theory.²⁶ For many, friendship was both tested and ultimately defined by “the obligation to reciprocate in times of need.”²⁷ The same obligation was of course a key feature of classical and humanist theories of what The triall of true friendship terms “true friendship . . . in the duall number.”²⁸ In practice, though, the implicit or

²¹ Lorna Hutson, The Usurer’s Daughter: Male Friendship and Fictions of Women in SixteenthCentury England (New York: Routledge, 1994), p. 3. ²² While according to the OED the word “friendless” in the period meant generally either “That has no friends, supporters, or allies; alone; lonely” or “Of a person (esp. a child): orphaned, without kin,” the association of friendlessness with poverty is common. The words “moneyless” and “friendless” appear in close proximity in a number of early modern texts. Thomas Lupton’s interlude All for Money (London, 1578), for example, contains a character called “Moneyles and Friendles.” His name compactly describes the Catch-22 of his situation: a lack of friends means he has no access to money or goods, so he steals; a lack of money means he cannot attract powerful friends who might support him, so he hangs. ²³ Aristotle, The ethiques of Aristotle, trans. John Wilkinson (London, 1547), sig. H3r. ²⁴ As Hutson has argued, the extension of credit functioned as a kind of amicable “gift,” expressing and solidifying emotional bonds between well-born individuals. Usurer’s, p. 138. ²⁵ Trevor, “ ‘Receyving of Freendshipe,’ ” p. 59 and throughout. Katharine Eisaman Maus notes that “In early modern English, friends and kin are overlapping categories.” Being and Having in Shakespeare (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013), p. 76. For “neighborliness” and “friendship” as similarly overlapping, see Lynne Magnusson, Shakespeare and Social Dialogue: Dramatic Language and Elizabethan Letters (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999), p. 84. ²⁶ Trevor, “ ‘Receyving of Freendshipe’ ” John Garrison, Friendship and Queer Theory in the Renaissance: Gender and Sexuality in Early Modern England (New York: Routledge, 2014). ²⁷ Hutson, Usurer’s, p. 5. ²⁸ M.B., The triall of true Friendship, sig. B2r.

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explicit promise of aid in times of need inflected a variety of amicable relationships, including bonds involving complex mixtures of parity and disparity.²⁹ Both sayings—“among friends, all things should be common” and versions of “don’t stand surety, even for a friend”—were utter commonplaces in Shakespeare’s day. Except in big compendia like Erasmus’ Adages, they generally circulated separately. The first appears primarily in accounts of idealized friendship. The second shows up in advice letters, housekeeping manuals, and verses on husbandry: texts that tend to express a prudential program of thrift based on caution, withholding, and the systematic avoidance of risk. The first limns an ideal, a golden age writ small. The second offers practical advice for living in the brazen world. Yet these sayings are worth considering together because they both speak, albeit from opposite angles, to the same set of material and social conditions, where affective and economic considerations were mingled yet in tension. Moreover, though they circulate separately as commonplaces, they come together meaningfully in a variety of texts representing and responding to problems of credit. In particular, they animate letters and plays: genres enacting what Lynne Magnusson terms “social dialogue,” which she defines as the “verbal exchanges” and “relational scripts” through which individuals enact “their personal relationships.”³⁰ As Magnusson demonstrates, letters and plays model the flexible verbal decorum required by shifting social relations of “friendship, subjection, authority, intimacy, alienation, [and] enmity.”³¹ Commonplaces were crucial to the letterwriter’s arsenal, frequently deployed to manage, maintain, and rework relationships. Letters and plays dealing with debt and credit relations, in particular, frequently invoke “among friends all things should be common” and “don’t stand surety, even for a friend,” to various ends: as justification for a future action or explanation for a past one; as (verbal) comfort in time of (economic) adversity; as glosses making sense of the vicissitudes of human life. Each one is a simplifying lens through which to view the complexity of sociable credit relations. Yet far from simply making use of adages and commonplaces, letters and plays expose the limits of these short, definitive, totalizing statements. The complicated financial, social, and emotional situations to which these adages are applied turn out to be in excess of one sentence’s ability to explain, describe, or control. Moreover, as we shall see, letters and plays tend to differ in their uses of commonplaces, with letters employing them instrumentally, and plays revealing the contradictions and complexities that brief, pithy statements aggressively elide. In what follows, I will consider how the two sayings discussed above animate letters on debt and friendship in seventeenth-century epistolary manuals and in ²⁹ While the classical claim that “true friendship can bee onely in the duall number” (M.B., The triall of true Friendship, sig. B2r) is reiterated in most of the period’s friendship literature, some writers explicitly argue for a broader conception of friendship. See for example Jeremy Taylor, The measures and offices of friendship (London, 1657). ³⁰ Magnusson, Shakespeare, p. 1. ³¹ Magnusson, Shakespeare, p. 1.

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two plays, William Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice and Thomas Heywood’s A Woman Killed with Kindness. The section on letters will first sketch the development of letters that consider debt and friendship together—a specifically early seventeenth-century phenomenon—and then turn to one particular letterwriting manual, Thomas Gainsford’s The secretaries studie (1616). Gainsford’s work draws on earlier models by Nicholas Breton and Gervase Markham, whose manuals were published around when Merchant and A Woman Killed were first performed. His book represents the culmination of a developing letter form and demonstrates, even more fully than its predecessors, how verbal commonplaces form part of a “repertoire” of methods for managing amicable relationships within credit culture.³² At the same time, however, Gainsford’s letters reveal the enormous social and emotional difficulties involved in matters of friendship and credit. Plays amplify such difficulties, finding in them intractable contradictions that generate dramatic plots. Both plays considered in this chapter examine the desire to fully enact “among friends all things should be common” in a social setting that positively demands the self-protective caution expressed in “don’t stand surety, even for a friend.” In different ways, both expose the limits of using individual proverbs as “equipment for living.” In using letters to frame a discussion of plays, and sayings to frame discussion of both, this chapter mounts an argument about literary form—or rather, about what different forms accomplish within and with respect to economized social life. Letter-writing manuals show commonplaces doing what Magnusson calls “the housework of language, its rituals of maintenance and repair.”³³ Plays engage with commonplaces in even more complex ways. They are not only exchanged in dialogue; they also structure the broad levels of plot and character. The tension between sharing all and withholding surety forms the “imaginatiue groundplot” of both dramatic inventions discussed below.³⁴ Before turning to Gainsford, Shakespeare, and Heywood, it is important to consider the two sayings as sayings, and to sketch a brief account of the kinds of work they might do for their users within credit culture. It is easy enough to spot the proverbs in a letter or in dramatic dialogue and almost as easy to determine the handful of sententiae from which a play’s action might have been teased out, or to which that action can be boiled down.³⁵ But it is worthwhile to go beyond the ³² Frank Whigham, Ambition and Privilege: The Social Tropes of Elizabethan Courtesy Theory (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1984), p. xi, p. 5. ³³ Magnusson, Shakespeare, p. 13. ³⁴ Philip Sidney, An apologie for poetrie (London, 1595), sig. H1r. ³⁵ Literary scholarship has demonstrated just how attuned early modern readers and spectators were to commonplaces in plays: they boiled down plots to sententiae and mined texts for sayings to set down in commonplace books. Commonplaces could be seen as the moral truth a play’s action illustrates, and play-texts as generative mines of aphoristic wisdom and cultural capital, in the form of collectible sententiae. See John M. Wallace, “ ‘Examples Are Best Precepts’: Readers and Meanings in SeventeenthCentury Poetry,” Critical Inquiry 1, no. 2 (1974): pp. 273–90; Zachary Lesser and Peter Stallybrass, “The First Literary Hamlet and the Commonplacing of Professional Plays,” Shakespeare Quarterly 59, no. 4 (2008): pp. 371–420; and Laura Estill, Dramatic Extracts in Seventeenth-Century English Manuscripts:

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discovery of a letter’s or a play’s proverbs, expressed or enacted, in order to think about the tension between forms: between proverb and letter, and between proverb and play. This chapter thinks about how certain texts push back against the very commonplaces they use—how they invite us to think in terms of aphoristic glosses and tags, but also show us experiences of suffering, loss, and confusion that cannot be contained, explained, or managed by those commonplaces. As Kenneth Burke argues, proverbs are “equipment for living,” and I think they are—but not the same kind of equipment as a letter, or a play.³⁶

2.2. Proverbs and Contradiction “Among friends all things should be common” and “Do not stand surety, even for a friend” essentially point towards the same thing: the line between “mine” and “thine.” In early modern England, this line was constantly shifting, blurred by the branching, networked nature of credit, which extended along (but also beyond) the channels of emotion and alliance that made up friendship. Taken individually, both sayings are applicable to the structure of affiliation, affective as well as economic, that defines friends as those whose credit is intertwined, either actually or potentially. Taken together, they index a fundamental tension within that structure: between the demands of love and the demands of thrift. Yet this contextualizing, historicist reading has very little to do with what these two proverbs explicitly say, and what they say in turn has little to do with the specific complexities of economic life in early modern England. Adages resist change over time. Though they may be applied to a shifting array of historically specific and contingent situations, they remain remarkably stable as verbal forms. In general, they claim to speak to an “eternal present” and they give an “appearance of consensus.”³⁷ A proverb implicitly claims to be true in all times and in all places for all persons. Proverbs are almost always totalizing in their terms: share all things with a friend; do not stand surety even for a friend. Yet, as scholars of the form note, any given “proverb system” will be riddled with “contradictory proverbs,” which “cannot be true (or false) at the same time.”³⁸ Indeed, some early

Watching, Reading, Changing Plays (Newark: University of Delaware Press, 2015). Frances E. Dolan traces the aphoristic logic of tragic plots in “One Head Is Better than Two: The Aphoristic Afterlife of Renaissance Tragedy,” in Essays in Memory of Richard Helgerson: Laureations, ed. Roze Hentschell and Kathy Lavezzo (Newark: University of Delaware Press), pp. 91–110. ³⁶ Kenneth Burke, “Literature as Equipment for Living,” The Philosophy of Literary Form: Studies in Symbolic Action (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1973), pp. 293–304. ³⁷ T.A. Perry, Wisdom Literature and the Structure of Proverbs (University Park, PA: The Penn State Press, 1993), p. 56. See also James Geary, The World in a Phrase: A Brief History of the Aphorism (New York: Bloomsbury, 2005), pp. 11–13. ³⁸ Perry, Wisdom, 59; Burke, “Literature as Equipment for Living,” p. 297.

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modern English proverb collections make contradiction their organizing principle.³⁹ In part, contradictions among proverbs provide evidence that “a particular existential situation can provoke several reactions or interpretations.”⁴⁰ Such contradictions, however, also offer evidence of an external contradictoriness—a contradictoriness belonging to life itself, to the world. Varied and variable situations require a wide range of responses in attitude and behavior, and those responses may not always appear to emanate from the same ideological coordinates, the same way of being, the same set of principles. When neatly expressed in adage form and laid side-by-side, they appear to imply wildly divergent notions of friendship, money, feeling, selfhood. Share everything. Don’t share. Despite their apparent claims to definitiveness, each of the sayings under consideration here represents just one available attitude to the same set of social and economic pressures. Each articulates a single option from within a broad field of choices, and each dresses that option in hyperbolic terms, claiming to name the way to manage affective ties and economic bonds, together. Practically speaking, each can only be useful partially and situationally, not totally and programmatically. The same person might at times adhere more closely to one than the other—now sharing freely, now refusing to stand surety. The situational selecting of a particular adage from one’s storehouse of sententiae was one of the skills of Renaissance rhetorical training, and anyone who kept or perused a commonplace book would find conflicting apothegms under a single heading.⁴¹ Commonplaces were rhetorical tools, useful in dialogue “not for their intrinsic truth or falsehood, but for their persuasive force under particular circumstances.”⁴² Yet a commonplace in use, deployed in discourse rather than stored up in memory or commonplace books, shuts out its antitheses. Presenting itself as definitive, a commonplace in use exerts a very particular kind of persuasive force. As Heinrich F. Plett writes: “It confirms the familiar, offers release from the unexpected. It creates a sense of identification and suppresses any idea of opposition . . . . The result is at best intellectual stagnation, at worst a total surrender to the dictatorship of commonplaces.”⁴³

³⁹ Nicholas Breton’s Crossing of proverbs (London, 1616) is a good example. Here, each proverb is followed by an explicit contradiction, or “cross.” So, for instance, the second pairing in the book runs: “P[roverb]. Euery man loues himselfe best. Cros[s]. Not so, when man is vndone by Surety-ship” (sig. A4r). ⁴⁰ Perry, Wisdom, p. 59. ⁴¹ On the practice of gathering commonplaces, see Richard Halpern, The Poetics of Primitive Accumulation: English Renaissance Culture and the Genealogy of Capital (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1991); Mary Thomas Crane, Framing Authority: Sayings, Self, and Society in Sixteenth-Century England (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1993); Ann Moss, Printed Commonplace-Books and the Structuring of Renaissance Thought (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996). ⁴² Lisa Jardine, Francis Bacon: Discovery and the Art of Discourse (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1974), p. 224. ⁴³ Heinrich F. Plett, Rhetoric and Renaissance Culture (New York: de Gruyter, 2004), pp. 145–6.

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An individual adage is a kind of fiction: a tidy nugget implying a radically simplified version of the world that can be approached with total clarity and certainty. In pairs or clusters or large groupings, however, adages imply a highly variable world, a world in flux. Life described by individual sayings is starkly straightforward; by grouped sayings, though, it is contingent, mutable, shifting along multiple axes. André Jolles compares this double structure to the stones in a mosaic. A viewer can either attend to the individual pieces, or she can overlook their particularity and separation to view the complex whole.⁴⁴ That whole, however, remains irreducibly multiple. Jolles writes: If we comprehend the world as a multiplicity of discrete perceptions and discrete experiences (Einzelerlebnisse), we can say that these perceptions and experiences, taken in series and altogether, constitute what we call experience (Erfahrung), but also that the sum of these experiences remains a multiplicity of particulars. Each experience is understood each time on its own terms; in this respect, and in this world, a conclusion drawn from experience is binding and valuable only with regard to itself. This is a timeless world, not because in it—as in a world in which there is no more experience—the moments merge together into an eternity, but because in their scattered idiosyncrasy the moments cannot flow together as time . . . . In this morphology, then, saying is the literary form that encloses an experience, without preventing it from continuing to be an individual detail in a world characterized by dispersion.⁴⁵

This is the paradox of the saying form: though they claim universality, aphorisms, adages, and proverbs address a world made up of a “multiplicity of particulars” and “characterized by dispersion.” Individual sayings address an experience, momentary and intense; grouped sayings address experience itself: variegated, in flux, shot through with contradiction. In other words, proverbs only ever seem to speak from and to an “eternal present.” When we look at more than one or two, we see that each one offers not a timeless truth or a rule to live by, but an admonition to conform to the temporary demands of a fleeting moment. As I argue above, our two proverbs index the complexities of credit culture: both “among friends, all things should be common” and “don’t stand surety, even for a friend” point to complex, competing social and financial demands. But they do not name the complexity to which they point. Crucially, each advocates for only one possible course of action, and allows for only one possible interpretation of events. Each reduces “a multiplicity of particulars” to a single experience and a single way of proceeding within that experience. Such sayings are “equipment for ⁴⁴ André Jolles, “Saying,” in Simple Forms, trans. Peter J. Schwartz (New York: Verso, 2017), pp. 119–35, p. 135. ⁴⁵ Jolles, “Saying,” pp. 123–4.

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living,” in Burke’s phrase, because they ignore contradiction. Rhetorically, they simplify complexity and stabilize the flux of experience. In so doing, they authorize an attitude or action. But such attitudes and actions are only temporarily, situationally appropriate in “this our variable life.”⁴⁶ This is why, I think, economic advice texts of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries so often seem crazed with contradiction. Aphoristic advice from Thomas Tusser in the mid-sixteenth century to the draper William Scott in the mid-seventeenth presents the indeterminacy born of credit culture as navigable precisely by offering simplified, aphoristic nuggets of counsel—which is to say, contradictory counsel. Ultimately, their texts advocate a kind of situational flexibility akin to the courtier’s situationally variable decorum of conduct, repurposed for the broad arena of economic life. But what they explicitly present is a set of flatly definitive statements, often with little connective tissue leading from one to the other, each of which claims to speak with absolute authority, and each of which shuts out other ways of thinking, acting, speaking, feeling. Plays, proverbs, and letter books all take up life’s variability as their subject matter: the “multiplicity of particulars” that cannot be integrated into, or experienced as, a unity. But collections of proverbs function differently from plays as “equipment for living.” Like the books on courtly conduct Frank Whigham surveys in his classic study of court culture and rhetoric, proverbs are intended for “particulate consumption,” and their lessons were “adapted for the needs of the moment.”⁴⁷ This “piecemeal” approach to life requires a flexibility of attitude and even ideology as well as of verbal formulae.⁴⁸ Plays do a different kind of work. In “Literature as Equipment for Living,” Burke suggests that literary texts function like “proverbs writ large.”⁴⁹ For Burke, stories and novels and plays resemble proverbs because they offer “strategies for dealing with situations.”⁵⁰ I would suggest, though, that proverbs optimistically (and often simplistically) claim a tight fit between strategy and situation. “Neither a borrower or a lender be” gives an order, and to do that it posits a world in which borrowing and lending are optional activities and quietly shuts out the fact that credit relations were often unavoidable. “Among friends all things should be common” describes an ideal state of affairs, but at the same time posits a world in which amicable concerns outweigh self-interested financial ones, and in which emotion and money flow untroubled along the same channels. By contrast, dramatic texts frequently present a mismatch between strategy and situation. If the aphoristic handbooks produced in great numbers in early modern England seek to render contradiction ⁴⁶ Abel Jeffes, “To the worshipfull Maister Thomas Kyrton esquire,” the printer’s dedicatory letter to Thomas Breme, The mirrour of friendship (London, 1584), sig. A3r. ⁴⁷ Frank Whigham, Ambition and Privilege: The Social Tropes of Elizabethan Courtesy Theory (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1984), p. 28, p. 29. ⁴⁸ Whigham, Ambition, p. 27. ⁴⁹ Burke, “Literature as Equipment for Living,” p. 296. ⁵⁰ Burke, “Literature as Equipment for Living,” p. 296.

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livable by presenting it in a plain style and flat, matter-of-fact-terms, plays zoom in on contradiction—teasing it out, exploring its poles, exaggerating it for tragic and comic effect. If they are “equipment for living,” the work they do is descriptive, rather than prescriptive. What they describe, often, is the experience of living in contradiction with oneself: one of the fundamental experiences of living within credit culture, where inward self and circulating social identity did not necessarily align, and where love and money perpetually collapsed into one another, and pulled apart.

2.3. Managing Contradiction in Letter-Writing Manuals Letters stand, in a way, between these two forms. Letters use proverbs actively, in order to manage complex social interactions; they are examples of “the housework of language” performing “rituals of maintenance and repair.”⁵¹ For the most part, Burke imagines proverbs as equipment for the individual, primarily if not exclusively as a kind of inward fortification against the blows and buffets of the external world: internal strategies for dealing with external situations. But proverbs circulate in myriad ways, performing multiple functions in various discursive contexts, social as well as solitary. They lodge in literary texts and in ordinary speech; in the early modern period, they were hoarded-up in commonplace books but also deployed in public courtrooms, in private conversation, and in letters. Letterwriting manuals of the period demonstrate how proverbs, adages, and commonplaces are part of the letter-writer’s rhetorical arsenal, one tool among many for building and managing relationships. Angel Day explicitly includes two types of sayings in the treatise on rhetorical figures and tropes that appears in many editions of his The English secretorie (1586; with the list of figures and tropes appearing in 1592 and subsequent editions). These are paroemia, which he defines as “an Adage or common saying,” and sententia, or “a notable saying or sentence, either by common custome admitted or by some author deliuered.”⁵² Examples of this latter, in particular, are “plentifulle to be seene in my Epistles.”⁵³ Day marks these and other rhetorical figures in the margins of his model letters. Other manuals deploy sayings as amply if more subtly, weaving them into letters lamenting and consoling, begging and thanking, accusing and placating, complimenting and disparaging.

⁵¹ Magnusson, Shakespeare, p. 13. ⁵² Angel Day, The English secretary (1586; repr. London, 1599), sigs. 2K2v and 2M4r. All citations are from the 1599 edition. ⁵³ Day, English, 2M4r.

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Aimed at a courtly audience, Day’s letters rarely discuss financial dealings in detail.⁵⁴ Other sixteenth-century vernacular manuals by William Fulwood (The enimie of idlenesse, 1568) and John Browne (The marchants avizo, 1589), both dedicated to mercantile communities, offer numerous letters about money matters. Fulwood includes letters from merchants to their factors and sons conducting business abroad. Browne’s Avizo, a general guide for merchants’ servants traveling to Iberia, includes eight letters, six of which are from a traveling servant to his master at home in Bristol. In the final two letters, the servant asks for favors from far-flung friends also engaged in long-distance trade.⁵⁵ As Magnusson has shown, what these books share with Day’s is a nuanced attention to the “flexible decorum” required of letter-writers, who needed to adapt their style according to their own social position relative to that of their addressee.⁵⁶ Day advises his courtly audience that how and what we write must be “tied unto . . . the reputation of the partie to whome wee write, his condition, age, honour, and disposition, and to the fitness of the matter whereof we take upon us to write.”⁵⁷ Fulwood and Browne apply this lesson to the arena of trade. Fulwood writes, “Yf we speake or write of or to our superiors, we must do it with all honour, humilitie & reuerence.”⁵⁸ Yet “Yf we speake to our inferiour, we must vse a certayne kynde of modest and ciuill authoritie, in giuing them playnely to vnderstand our intent and purpose. A Marchaunt hauing many seruantes, to his chiefest may speake or wryte by thys terme, you: but to them whome he lesse estemeth, and are more subiect to correction, hee maye vse this terme, thou, or otherwise at his discretion.”⁵⁹ Fulwood advocates more freedom of style “if we write to our frend” since “a frende taketh all things agreably and in good part, and excuseth euery thing that he may reasonably excuse.”⁶⁰ In business relations, as in courtly ones, knowing when to use deferential, authoritative, and friendly styles was crucial. Almost all of Fulwood’s and Browne’s letters dealing with money are imagined circulating within relationships structured along strongly vertical lines: merchants write to factors, servants to masters, fathers to sons. While historical scholarship has begun to recognize that early modern friendship could include hierarchized, cross-class, and cross-generational bonds, a model of friendship based on parity remained important.⁶¹ The financial dimension of friendship among social equals or near-equals only becomes a central concern in England’s next generation of

⁵⁴ In Day, examples of “Letters petitorie” and “letters remunerative” offer models that could easily be adapted for asking for monetary help, and offering thanks for it, respectively. Day notes that “borrowing” calls for a careful attention to “stile, order, and delivery” (sig. N2r). ⁵⁵ Fulwood’s book is a translation of an earlier French manual, Le stile et maniere de composer, dicter et escrire toutes sortes d’epistres (Paris, 1560). Many of the letters it contains are between family members on money matters. ⁵⁶ Magnusson, Shakespeare, p. 72, p. 78. ⁵⁷ Day, English, sig. B2v. ⁵⁸ William Fulwood, The enimie of idlenesse (London, 1568), sig. A7r. ⁵⁹ Fulwood, Enimie, sig. B2r. ⁶⁰ Fulwood, Enimie, sig. B3v. ⁶¹ Wendy Trevor, “ ‘Receyving of Freendshipe,’ ” p. 61.

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letter-writing manuals. These appeared in the first decades of the seventeenth century and include the two separately published parts of Nicholas Breton’s A poste with a madde packet of letters (1602; the “second part” was published in 1606 with the slightly altered title, A poste with a packet of madde letters), Gervase Markham’s Hobsons horse-load of letters (1613, reissued with significant additions in 1617), Thomas Gainsford’s The secretaries studie (1616), and Breton’s Conceyted letters, newly layde open (1618).⁶² These collections contain numerous letters combining the concerns of credit with those of intimate friendship. These letters “circulate” between parties of roughly equal social footing, whose economic disparity is situational and temporary rather than structural and permanent, and whose bonds are (in theory at least) affective first, financial second. They variously ask for money, express thanks for aid rendered, offer funds, and excuse the inability (or unwillingness) to make or repay loans. Conceyted letters affords this mini-genre pride of place, opening with “A letter to a friend, to Borowe Money” (Figure 2.1). It begins: “If borowing of Money be not a breach of Friend-ship, let me intreat your patience to open your Purse . . . .”⁶³ The response, printed immediately following, strikes a cautious note before acquiescing: “the contents of your Letter hath put mee to a strict account with my estate, how I may helpe you, and not hurt myselfe. I could make sufficient Excuses, but that they taste of small comfort: and therefore knowing Time to be precious, and to voyde delayes, let this suffise you, your Request I haue satisfied, and the Money I haue sent you.”⁶⁴ Angel Day’s seventeenth-century followers engage in the social decorum for which he advocates, but with some crucial differences. Manuals by Breton, Markham, and Gainsford lack the long instructive prefaces and guiding paratextual apparatus characteristic of their sixteenth-century predecessors. Instead of theorizing decorum, they model it. A flexibility not only of style but of self is on display across their varied and abundant epistles. In addition to letters between friends about debt, they feature letters from fathers to sons, from sons to fathers, from husbands to wives; between brothers, between lovers, between female friends. They are written in the voices of city dwellers and country folk; kings and merchants; gentlewomen and servants. These volumes’ jumbled variety and proto-novelistic polyvocality are clearly designed to entertain. They offer readers the literary pleasures of abundance and variety.⁶⁵ Yet the very eclecticism that makes them delightful also makes them instructive. These books are useful both as formularies—models of the kinds of letters a person might write and the kinds of ⁶² On the possibility that Markham authored Conceyted Letters, see Gary R. Grund, “From Formulary to Fiction: The Epistle and the English Anti-Ciceronian Movement,” Texas Studies in Literature and Language 17, no. 2 (Summer 1975): pp. 379–95, esp. p. 39. ⁶³ Nicholas Breton, Conceyted letters, newly layde open (London, 1618), sig. A4r. ⁶⁴ Breton, Conceyted, sig. A4r–v. ⁶⁵ Alan Stewart and Heather Wolfe, Letterwriting in Renaissance England (Seattle: distributed by the University of Washington Press for the Folger Shakespeare Library, 2004), p. 56, p. 79. For these letterbooks’ influence on later epistolary fiction, see Grund, “From Formulary to Fiction.”

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Figure 2.1. Nicholas Breton, “A letter to a friend, to Borowe Money,” the first model epistle in Conceyted letters, newly layde open (London, 1618), sig. A4r. RB 82001, The Huntington Library, San Marino, CA.

styles in which he or she should write them—and as strategic guides addressing a particular conception of the social: unstable and in flux, requiring adaptability, improvisation, and a protean or serial selfhood. Nowhere do these manuals display more flexibility—of style, of self—than in letters relating to credit and friendship. On the one hand, almost every example of

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this letter “type” draws on the logic of reciprocity, either implicitly or explicitly invoking the ideal of friends sharing all. Typical subscriptions read “Yours indissoluble,” “Not liuing without you,” or “Yours, or not my owne.”⁶⁶ On the other hand, these letters vary widely in style and tone. Some are surprisingly blunt. “I knowe you haue it, and you know I will paie it,” writes a would-be borrower to his friend.⁶⁷ Others display elaborate courtesy. A creditor recalling an overdue loan writes, deferentially: “as I was readie to lend, I would be glad to receiue, with that fulnesse of good will, that may continue our kindnesse. I write not this, as doubting your discretion, but to intreat your patience, if your purse be not in tune.”⁶⁸ Plenty draw on aphorisms, glossing their immediate requests for aid and repayment in “timeless” general terms: “Debters that will not paie, make Creditors they cannot lend”; “None paiment of debts, is not onely a crack in credit, but a losse of friends.”⁶⁹ In general, these letters posit friendship itself as emotionally stable and constant, but materially subject to unstable external factors. The instability of the world requires letter-writers to employ varying discursive modes, even within the context of “indissoluble” friendship. Like the pair of proverbs examined above, these letters address the tension between affective and economic demands. They are “equipment for living” in a different way from those proverbs, however. They demonstrate how skilled language can help knit up the tension between overlapping financial and friendly concerns, even when those concerns come into conflict. They model how rhetorical style—variously blunt, deferential, courteous, or aphoristic—might be used to manage the potentially unfriendly tasks of asking for or denying aid. The credit-and-friendship letters in Thomas Gainsford’s 1616 The secretaries studie (Figure 2.2) stand out in two crucial ways. First, they take the tension between friendly and financial concerns to a particularly anxious extreme. More than once, Gainsford implies that the cost of self-protective thrift is damage done to the trust and affection within a friendship—a cost that no amount of rhetorical excellence can quite make up. Second, these letters use sayings in striking, sometimes seemingly counterproductive ways. Instead of deploying adages and proverbs to gloss a situation, or to justify an action or attitude, Gainsford uses them in ways that actually epitomize the imperfect fit between simple aphoristic language and complex affective, social, and monetary concerns. Gainsford’s letters have a tendency, if not to fully expose the contradictions latent in friendship’s material practices, at least not to ease them. They leave tensions unresolved. Potential loss—of love, as well as of money—lurks at their narrative edges. ⁶⁶ These subscriptions appear in Thomas Gainsford, The secretaries studie (London, 1616), sigs. B4r and B4v; and Breton, Conceyted, sig. A4v. ⁶⁷ Breton, A poste with a packet of madde letters. The second part (London, 1606), sig. D1r. ⁶⁸ Breton, A poste with a madde packet of letters (London, 1602), sig. E3r. Breton’s similarly titled 1602 and 1606 letter-books will hereafter be distinguished by date in these notes. ⁶⁹ Breton, Poste (1602), sig. E3v; Breton, Poste (1606), sig. D1v.

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Figure 2.2. Title page of Thomas Gainsford, The secretaries studie (London, 1616). RB 59902, The Huntington Library, San Marino, CA.

One early letter in The secretaries studie describes friendship as “a pleasant communitie” of the “fortunes, goods, persons, and estate of friends,” and claims that friends eschew “talke of mine and thine,” especially in times of need: “doth [your friend] demaund? thou must not denie: doth hee want? thou must not murmure.”⁷⁰ This letter offers an image of friendship that is essentially an ⁷⁰ Gainsford, Secretaries, sig. B2v.

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elaboration of “among friends all things should be common.” As such, it refuses to imagine a world in which denying a friend material help might be necessary or expedient. In later letters, though, Gainsford moves from the general and theoretical to the particular and dramatic, inserting his letter-writer into specific imaginative scenarios. Here, he writes in the voice of a friend who has been denied help: To his assured Friend, G.M. SIR, I would not willingly haue our friendship receiue any maime, lest my wounds grow festred for want of a skilfull Chirurgion; considering I haue loued you aboue all men, and found you many waies true and free-hearted: yet I am afraide we doe both faile in iudgement and true vse of conuersation. For you see, that that hand which hath, or should couer my nakednes, hath not only left me bare, and subiect to cold: but euer turned the worst side to the view and derision of passengers; insomuch that your last deniall of trifles, and glorious liberty of deceiueable speeches to please your selfe, hath made me contemptible to seruile creatures, and debarred my desires, when I determined but a small satisfaction, which with a little suppliment had had a free passage . . . . and if you thinke me woorth the keeping, I pray you hereafter forbeare those disloyall and palpable discoueries, vndecent contradictions, vnkinde denials, and triuiall excuses. For a small helpe will stay a fainting man, when a strong arme cannot lift him vp, that is falne flat on the ground. I vrge not this, to draw you to any inconueniences concerning your purse, but to keepe vs both vpright touching our credits.⁷¹

There are a number of things to note in this letter, not least of which is the letterwriter’s tone of grievance: at the violation of friendship, at his own material suffering, and at the loss of face his friend’s “deniall” has caused him to suffer within a broader community. The consequences of his friend’s refusal to help him have been not only financial but social, leaving the letter-writer open to “vnsauory iests.”⁷² The apparently quite public nature of the friend’s denial publicizes both the letter writer’s financial straits and his inability to draw on the resources of even those closest to him—thus damaging his credit more widely. As it draws to a close, the letter shifts focus from the writer’s own credit, to include also that of his denying friend: “I vrge not this, to draw you to any inconueniences concerning your purse, but to keepe vs both vpright touching our credits” (my emphasis). The writer here invokes a system whereby both giving and receiving affect public perception. Being in need hurts one’s credit; so does a failure of generosity.

⁷¹ Gainsford, Secretaries, sigs. B4v–C1r.

⁷² Gainsford, Secretaries, sig. C1r.

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The writer evinces little certainty that his letter will elicit funds or repair the friendship; he signs it, equivocally, “Yours, as I haue cause.”⁷³ Gainsford includes letters not only in the voice of the friend denied, but also in that of the friend denying, implying that shifting fortune might put his readers in either position at one time or another. In “Excuse for not lending money,” the writer enumerates the financial hardships that force him to refuse his “best Friend, G.L.”⁷⁴ These include pawning goods to help a brother and abruptly losing the favor of a rich neighbor, with whom, previously, “my credit caried an ouerswaying command.”⁷⁵ This letter appears many pages after the letter of grievance discussed above, yet it could well be by the same writer, or a writer in a similar position: the one addressed to the powerful erstwhile friend, the other explaining the consequences of that relationship’s deterioration to another (perhaps closer and more socially equal) friend. Read together, the letters show a kind of self-contradiction across time: the one arguing for the rightness and necessity of friends’ sharing, the other excusing an inability to share. In a third letter, “Excuse for not beeing Surety for a Friend,” Gainsford explores the limit case for friendship: guaranteeing another’s loan. Addressed “To his suddenly displeased Friend,” the “Excuse” speculates that their friendship has been the unlucky subject of diabolical intervention, “else could not you haue demanded the onely thing I haue forsworne”—which turns out to be standing surety.⁷⁶ The letter continues: I request you, with tears (if a man can shed them without ridiculousnes) make triall of mee, if it stood with the secrets of our loue, in any thing (Surety-ship excepted,) commaund my person, rifle my goods, pawne my Leases, open my purse, and take whatsoeuer I call mine: but to drawe mee and my posteritie into the terrour of bondage: Nay, to fasten, and (as it were) to sigillate, and affixe vs to the vnmercifulnesse of men, and crueltie of Cut-throats, is so terrible to a poore estate, that I start at the naming of a Statute, and am afraide of mine owne shadowe, least my hand should bee counterfeit. For, I haue knowne the debt discharged, and for want of honesty in some, & cunning in others, to cancell the Recognysance, a new enformation hath made a hurliburly in the family: . . . because the record was a liuing voyce: and ecchoed out, you must discharge the debt againe: Therfore I request you, let not this denyall make any breach against the fortification of our loue . . . .⁷⁷

The letter invokes both of our sayings almost in the same breath. As a friend, the writer desires his friend to partake of “whatsoeuer I call mine.” But he excepts ⁷³ Gainsford, Secretaries, sig. C1r. ⁷⁵ Gainsford, Secretaries, sig. I3r. ⁷⁷ Gainsford, Secretaries, sig. K4r–v.

⁷⁴ Gainsford, Secretaries, sig. I2v. ⁷⁶ Gainsford, Secretaries, sig. K4r.

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“Surety-ship” from what he can offer, even to “his suddenly displeased Friend.” Gainsford’s letter-writer articulates a contradictory position: I want to share everything; I cannot share my credit. This letter gets at the heart of the problem of suretyship. On the one hand, friends desire to help one another. On the other, to enter into debt relations even with a loved and trusted friend always involves entering into relations with others, and these others may be indifferent, insolvent, or unscrupulous. Gainsford lays out a worst-case scenario for suretyship: the debt discharged by the debtor, the creditor might seek to collect it a second time from the guarantor, through dishonest means. This possibility makes surety “the stuff of nightmare.”⁷⁸ The “fit” between adage and letter—or rather, between the adage and the social situation implied by the letter: the (fictional) story of which it is a (fictional) artifact—is always imperfect, uneasy. A proverb applied to a social situation sounds like the rhetorical equivalent of “case closed.” Behind the adages that Gainsford’s surety letter invokes—one of which expresses the writer’s love for his friend in elaborated stock terms, the other of which appeals to a kind of external authority justifying his refusal—the letter hints at emotional and financial problems that may not be simplified and stabilized with the application of a precept. It must be small consolation to the writer’s “suddenly displeased Friend” that the writer would in any other matter share “goods” and “purse.” And, for the writer, the friend’s displeasure appears to be a source of pain and anxiety, which sits uneasily with his own prudent refusal to stand surety. Neither the injunction against surety nor the invocation of the commonness of friend’s goods addresses the two friends’ situation fully. Deployed together, the sayings point to its messy complexity, structured by the crisscrossing of irreconcilable obligations. To sum up: if the sixteenth-century manuals taught that decorum was essential to navigating hierarchized social relations, in the court and in merchant communities, the letter-books by Breton, Markham, and Gainsford teach that rhetorical skill is a part of everyday thrift. The range of styles displayed in their credit letters offer readers various models for how to approach various friends, kin, and associates. Yet in their vivid theatricality, they sometimes hint at how imperfect and unwieldly scripted, codified, even elegant language can be as a tool for managing relationships. They demonstrate the equivocations of high style (behind courtesy there is always the possibility of hypocrisy) and come up against the limits of plainness (aphorisms fail to address complexity). Gainsford’s book—perhaps the most skillfully variegated of them all—closes with a renunciation of the various styles, voices, and positions its letters have modelled.⁷⁹ Though the last item in the table of contents is a letter of “Newes from ⁷⁸ John Kerrigan, Shakespeare’s Binding Language (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016), p. 147. ⁷⁹ The book’s movement from worldly affairs to a renunciation of worldliness is itself a convention, found not only in literary works like Lyly’s Euphues but also in private writings like Portman’s

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Ciprus,” the book continues past this. Its final pages are taken up with “A Dumpe or Passion,” a forty-nine-stanza poem in rhyme royal that cycles through a number of highly conventional negative claims about worldly life: that the “wicked world” is full of false and deceptive surfaces (false friends, bad children, great officers, and strumpets all come under fire); that all is vanity (“So all alike the Noble and the Clowne / Dye”); that riches, not virtue, determine value in the marketplace of public opinion.⁸⁰ Over and over, the “Dumpe” identifies social indeterminacy as a function of self-serving hypocrisy: the world is hard to read, because people are deceptive liars and hypocrites. These claims, though conventional, are startling in the context of a letter-book that has amply and dexterously demonstrated both social flexibility and rhetorical agility. The “Dumpe” contains several stanzas on the overlap of friendly and financial relations, and these stanzas posit a far more pessimistic view than the letters themselves: Friends yet vntryde, like golden hanging fruite With wordes of fauour, and as smooth as oyle, Smoake promises to helpe thee in thy sute, But all to countnance pride, and to beguile Simplicitie with many a fained smile: For touch them once, they crumble vnto dust like burnt cole-fruit, which Tantalus did trust. Acquaintance onely bubbles in the ayre, Made out of sope and water by young boyes: Swelling a while with pleasant shape and faire, As long as our owne breath augments the ioyes, but blown on burst prouing themselues slight toyes For if that our misfortunes are espide, They quickly shrink, & hang their heads aside.⁸¹

In these stanzas, affective and associative ties are falsified, or rather revealed to have always been false, by need. Friends are only friends when times are good, and even that friendship is feigned. Smooth words turn out to be promises made of smoke, and “acquaintance” is a bubble that bursts, like credit itself, in adversity. Even kindred “will flye away with Stormy winde, / In whom nor loue, nor truth at all we finde.”⁸² Of all these—friends, acquaintance, and kindred who disappear in manuscript miscellany, several of whose pages each follow a pattern of copied-out documents about money matters followed by precepts against worldliness. For instance, fol. 33r contains a bond, a condition, and a valedictory address to the world. Fol. 48v contains a letter about money, a record of money received, and a string of sententiae, including the injunction against surety. ⁸⁰ Gainsford, Secretaries, sigs. Q3r and Q4v. ⁸² Gainsford, Secretaries, sig. Q4r.

⁸¹ Gainsford, Secretaries, sigs. Q3v–Q4r.

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the face of misfortune—Gainsford writes: “These shapefull monsters daily alter so, / as wee can hardly credite, what we know.”⁸³ The kind of protean suppleness of style and of self that Gainsford models amply and variously through the letters in The secretaries studie here comes under fire. The letters imply that flexibility is necessitated by credit culture, where asking for, extending, and denying aid were common practices. The “Dumpe” offers a different message, claiming that these activities render the social world illegible: “wee can hardly credite, what we know.” The next chapter will look further into the kind of profound social skepticism evident in the “Dumpe,” exploring Timon of Athens’s presentation of the “shapefull monsters” produced by early modern credit culture. Here, though, I want to turn to two plays that present social indeterminacy as a complicated site both of connectedness and of division, and that take up the overlap of affective and material ties within credit culture as grounds for both tragic and comic plots.

2.4. All That Glisters in The Merchant of Venice As we have seen, debt relations put particular pressures on the perennial tension between thrift and love. One common response to that tension is to recognize the practical necessity of the kind of protean performance Gainsford’s letters model: a balancing of affection and self-interest, whose exact configuration with respect to one another shifts constantly. Gainsford’s “Dumpe” abruptly rejects this balancing act, redescribing self-protection as self-interest, thrift as greed, rhetoric as lies. Gainsford’s complicated attitude towards the verbal and social manipulations required by credit relations is unusual, but the two positions he most clearly inhabits are themselves both fairly typical. On the one hand, rhetorical persuasiveness is a necessary, ordinary, and eminently practical aspect of thrift, as the letters demonstrate (and as period writers from ranging from Thomas Tusser to Francis Bacon acknowledge).⁸⁴ On the other, as the “Dumpe” holds, the rhetorical practices essential for managing interpersonal credit relations could be seen as not only false but falsifying, making persons hypocritical, hollowing out relationships, and turning society itself into an out-of-control theatrical illusion.⁸⁵ The Merchant of Venice flirts with both positions, but it does not make its characters into clear mouthpieces for or examples of either. In the play, rhetorical facility is strongly associated with a kind of thrift—but a kind of thrift that is at ⁸³ Gainsford, Secretaries, sig. Q4r. ⁸⁴ See “Introduction,” pp. 20–31. For early modern examples, see among others Thomas Tusser, Fiue hundreth points, especially “The Ladder to Thrift” (sigs. B4r–C1v); Francis Bacon, “Of Negociating,” in Essayes. Religious meditations. Places of perswasion and disswasion. Seene and allowed (London, 1597), sigs. C4r–C5r and William Scott, An essay of drapery: or, The compleate citizen (London, 1635), throughout but esp. sigs. B7r–B9v. ⁸⁵ J.C. Agnew, Worlds Apart: The Market and the Theater in Anglo-American Thought, 1550–1750 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986), pp. 73–100.

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times indistinguishable from prodigality. Moreover, the slipperiness that persuasive speech introduces into social relations appears, in the play, to be generally benign or even salutary. Yet such slipperiness is also the enabling condition for dishonest and exploitative relations. Rather than settling on an idealizing or a pessimistic position, the play presents the necessity of rhetorical facility (and of its corresponding effects on the self and on social bonds) in a milieu structured by the competing demands of love and thrift: an elite community of white, Christian, wealthy or wealth-adjacent characters. The play explores the restorative and comic possibilities of credit-driven rhetoricity within this milieu. At this level, Merchant takes the social and verbal slipperiness necessitated by credit relations and turns that slipperiness not into an intractable problem (as Othello later would) but into a kind of magical solution for one of credit culture’s worst dead ends: the conflict between sharing all and not standing surety. On another level, however, rhetorical and social flexibility work as tools of exclusion: instruments for gaining the upper hand over those who, like Morocco or Shylock, are not practiced in the same credit-generating social codes as Bassanio and his associates. The opening scenes show a man who has already shared much, and is willing to share more, with a friend. When Bassanio hints at past debts and present need, Antonio tells him to “be assured / My purse, my person, my extremest means / Lie all unlocked to your occasions” (1.1.137–9)—a version of “among friends, all things should be common,” elaborated and made personal.⁸⁶ When Bassanio hints further, Antonio chastises him: “you do me now more wrong / In making question of my uttermost / Than if you had made waste of all I have” (155–7). Antonio lays out the terms of their friendship as he conceives it: he would rather have his “uttermost” squandered by his impecunious beloved than have doubt cast on his willingness to share all. For Gainsford’s cautious letter-writer, surety lies beyond the limit of what friends share. Antonio, by contrast, is more than willing to stand surety for Bassanio, and his willingness leads him into a far more dangerous bond than the letter-writer feared. Though the word “surety” does not appear in the early acts of the play, it is evidently the arrangement both characters assume Antonio will enter into with Bassanio and the moneylender, Shylock. It is after all Bassanio who, initially alone, approaches Shylock to borrow three thousand ducats for three months. “Antonio bound” (1.3.9) appears to be one of the terms of the proposed contract, not its main substance. Antonio’s entrance corroborates this reading: he asks Bassanio if Shylock is “yet possessed / How much ye would” (60–1; my emphasis) and, later, demands: “Well, Shylock, shall we be beholding to you?” (101; my emphasis). While Shakespeare leaves the precise terms of the proposed bond unspecified, seventeenth-century audiences would likely have assumed it to ⁸⁶ William Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice, ed. John Drakakis (London: Bloomsbury, 2010). Subsequent references are from this edition and are by act, scene and line.

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be an arrangement involving surety, with Bassanio as principle debtor and Antonio as guarantor. Such audiences would have been alert to the first oddity of Shylock’s counter-proposal, which cuts Bassanio out of the deal altogether: “Go with me to a notary, seal me there / Your single bond . . . ” (140–1).⁸⁷ Even before Shylock introduces the pound of flesh penalty, the arrangement he proposes is unusual. The obligation belongs solely to the merchant, underwritten by or for no one else. It bears no interest but is rather “a free loan with forfeiture.”⁸⁸ In agreeing to this arrangement, Antonio goes beyond standing surety. He takes on Bassanio’s debt as his own, leaving his friend free of any obligation to Shylock, and only informally bound to himself. In the figure of Antonio, Shakespeare dramatizes an extreme position with respect to the interwoven concerns of credit and friendship: an enactment of “among friends, all things should be common” that comes as close to literalizing the proverb as possible, along with a logical (if not practical) corollary: a rejection of the self-preserving caution encouraged in “Enter not into bandes, noe, not for thie best friends [for] he that Payeth A nother mans dett seketh his owne decay.” Elsewhere, the play comments on the bad fit between aphoristic tags and the complex persons and situations to which they are applied. Portia dismisses Nerissa’s “good sentences, and well-pronounced” (1.2.10) as inadequate answers to her own complicated feelings of world-weariness. Shylock’s “Fast bind, fast find” (2.5.52)—“a proverb never stale in thrifty mind” (53)—is almost immediately ironized by the escape of his daughter and theft of his wealth.⁸⁹ In the figure of Antonio, however, Shakespeare dramatizes not a bad fit between proverb and person, but an absolute one. The merchant lives by one proverb and rejects the principle behind the other, and in so doing he embodies a radical kind of selfconsistency. Antonio is unable to perform the attitudinal flexibility and delicate

⁸⁷ “Single bond” in context seems to mean the opposite of a “joint bond” in which multiple parties are involved. The OED identifies “single” with “simple” bond (simplex obligatio), by which a person “may bind himself to this payment absolutely and unconditionally.” OED Online, “bond, n.1,” definition III.9a. Drakakis glosses “single bond” with this definition. Yet Shylock’s bond is by definition not simplex obligatio, since it bears a “condition” (1.4.144). It is in fact a penal bond, “one of the most common legal forms used for agreements of all sorts,” defined by having “a condition that the obligation would be void if some act were performed.” James Steven Rogers, The Early History of the Law of Bills and Notes: A Study of the Origins of Anglo-American Commercial Law (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995), p. 14. The obligation was usually a large sum, though here it is a pound of flesh. The condition rendering the obligation void involved “the payment, by a certain date, of money, rent, etc. due from A to B, or by some other performance or observance, the sum named being only a penalty to enforce the performance of the condition.” In this case, the condition is the repayment of three thousand ducats, after three months. For an excellent reading of the play through the terms of the bond, see Tim Stretton, “Conditional Promises and Legal Instruments in The Merchant of Venice,” in Taking Exception to the Law: Materializing Injustice in Early Modern English Literature, ed. Donald Beecher et al. (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2015), pp. 71–99. ⁸⁸ Kerrigan, Shakespeare’s, p. 155. ⁸⁹ On “bad fits” between saying and play in Shakespeare, see Quentin Skinner, “The Peroration and Appeal to Commonplaces,” in Forensic Shakespeare (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014), pp. 291–314.

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shifting of position that Gainsford’s letters model (and that his “Dumpe” condemns). He is unable, in other words, to exercise the capacity for selfcontradiction across time necessary for living in a world where social relations and economic bonds intertwine. As a merchant, of course, he must be able to negotiate, an activity that involves both performative and hermeneutic skill. Yet the play does not show us his mercantile activity. Instead, it focuses on his private life, where he is unable to dissemble—a fact underscored by Gratiano’s teasing, inaccurate accusation that he dons a “wilful stillness” (1.1.90) in order to cultivate a reputation for gravity. Antonio’s sadness is not an act, but rather a state that cannot be concealed, despite its socially disruptive consequences: “you say it wearies you” (2), he says to his friends. Antonio’s consistency and its nearly catastrophic consequences are revealed most fully in his own reinterpretation of the terms of Shylock’s bond, during the trial. In drafting the terms of the bond, Shylock substitutes flesh for money: the pound of flesh bears the penal function normally fulfilled by a large sum: generally, twice the principal of a debt.⁹⁰ As has been noted, Shylock co-opts the tools of a monetary economy in service of a private economy of revenge: for a lifetime of insult and humiliation, pain; for recent irreparable losses, death; for three thousand ducats, one pound of flesh. In so doing, however, he inadvertently feeds a very different private economy: Antonio’s economy of gifts and benefits, in which money and goods make up the outward expressions of love. If, as David Nirenberg suggests, Shylock’s habits of mind and speech perpetually turn flesh into money, it is also true that Antonio just as insistently turns money into love.⁹¹ When “the pound of flesh nearest . . . his heart” becomes a sum, Antonio can finally share his body, as he has shared his “all,” his “uttermost,” his “estate,” with Bassanio. At the knife’s point, the merchant tells his friend: Repent but you that you shall lose your friend And he repents not that he pays your debt. For if the Jew do cut but deep enough I’ll pay it instantly with all my heart. (4.274–7)

⁹⁰ The bond is like a penal debt bond in another way, as well: Antonio’s likely death upon paying the “penalty” resembles a sped-up version of the sometimes-deadly wasting-away of those who wound up in debtors’ prison, unable to pay for food, let alone their debts and penalties. Symbolically and to an extent physically, the bond allows Shylock to use an instrument of credit as an instrument of revenge. The bond thus exposes the vengeful logic inherent in penal debt bonds, which often resulted in creditors receiving no recompense for unpaid debts beyond the “satisfaction” of their debtors’ suffering. See Amanda Bailey, Of Bondage: Debt, Property, and Personhood in Early Modern England (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2013). ⁹¹ David Nirenberg, Anti-Judaism: The Western Tradition (New York: W.W. Norton, 2013), pp. 283–4.

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“All my heart” designates both Antonio’s deep feeling for his friend and the flesh with which he can now express that feeling. He will pay eagerly (“with all my heart” in the colloquial, adverbial sense), and he will pay using his own body (by means of “all my heart,” which stands in for the heart-adjacent flesh Shylock plans to cut).⁹² Critics tend to be suspicious of Antonio’s self-sacrifice, citing it as evidence of possessiveness towards Bassanio and competitiveness with Portia.⁹³ Without denying the validity of such readings—to give a massive and self-annihilating gift is to create a perpetual and unrepayable debt—I want to draw attention away from Antonio’s status as a suffering and calculating person, and towards his status as a kind of monstrously unbudging position. What the play critiques in this scene is, I think, his dedicated self-sameness, which is prior to any strategic competition with his friend’s new wife. The near-tragic extreme to which his self-sameness leads exposes not only the self-annihilating logic of truly sharing all (and the possessiveness underlying that logic) but also—and more simply—the destructive potential of navigating the shifting multiplicity of life without a correspondingly shifting set of strategies and attitudes. Antonio seeks to live beyond contradiction.⁹⁴ He programmatically shares with Bassanio; this single rule trumps the other rules he lives by, including borrowing at interest, which he “never” (1.3.66) does—except, it turns out, “to supply the ripe wants of my friend” (59). His selfsacrifice involves the insistent literalization, the embodiment, of a saying that is normally a hyperbolic shorthand for a complex set of relations, not the articulation of an all-determining position. Antonio refuses to participate in the contradictory attitudes demanded of overlapping financial and friendly bonds, and by the forms of sociability required of life in a city shaped by credit-driven commerce. He ignores the restorative and self-protective possibilities opened up by participating in contradictory positions—by suspending, selecting, and mingling various attitudes and actions, rather than forcing them apart. If a degree of contradiction is what the flux of life demands, then two opposing proverbs—share all, don’t stand surety—might both apply to the same person, the same life. That accepting both at once can cause distress and pain we see in Gainsford’s “Excuse for not beeing Surety for a Friend.” Shakespeare’s play demonstrates that the alternative, adamant consistency, leads to other forms of distress, and other kinds of pain. ⁹² Curiously, he claims his heart will pay Bassanio’s “debt.” This is not a debt to Shylock, because Bassanio owes nothing to the moneylender. The only person to whom Bassanio owes money is Antonio himself (and even that debt is informal). In other words, Antonio doesn’t stop at giving gifts, or at giving credit, or at standing surety, or even at refusing recompense for these great benefits. In the final instance, he takes on his friend’s debts to himself, and in a sense becomes those debts, in order to cancel them, by dying. ⁹³ Lawrence Hyman, “The Rival Lovers in The Merchant of Venice,” Shakespeare Quarterly 21, no. 2 (Spring 1970): pp. 109–16; Harry Berger Jr., “Marriage and Mercifixion in The Merchant of Venice,” Shakespeare Quarterly 32, no. 2 (Summer 1981): pp. 155–62. ⁹⁴ “Insisting that there is no way between two extremes, and no way outside of them, is part of tragic form’s narrowing of possibilities.” Dolan, “One Head,” p. 98.

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The rhetorical, behavioral, and attitudinal non-self-sameness that Antonio eschews turns out to be the only way to settle accounts in Merchant—and the only way to continue friendship after it, too, has been stretched to the breaking point. As the engine of the play’s plot, formalized credit leads towards tragedy, as the bond replaces the (already dangerous) relationship of surety. But in Bassanio’s endless, near-effortless production of informal credit, credit and its attendant uncertainties become a mechanism for comedy, making the thorny contradictions of mingled social and economic life not only livable, but stabilizing and generative. If Gratiano aims wide of the mark in accusing Antonio of fishing with “this melancholy bait / For this fool gudgeon, this opinion” (1.1.102), the general contours of his accusation might well describe Antonio’s friend, who fishes for opinion in several pools, using various baits. Throughout the play, Bassanio turns artful language and conduct into purchasing power and social currency. When we first meet him, he is in a significant amount of debt, a state of affairs to which he admits freely: Tis not unknown to you, Antonio, How much I have disabled my estate By something showing a more swelling port Than my faint means would grant continuance. (1.1.122–5)

The gap between Bassanio’s “means” and “port” has been both masked and widened by the “great debts” (128) with which he has funded the lifestyle of a fashionable young Venetian gentleman. His youth has been, he admits, “something too prodigal” (129). His solution to the problem of severe indebtedness is to continue in the same vein: to renew the “swelling port” that obscures his “faint means.” To get out of debt, Bassanio draws on the very strategies that drove him into debt. This is prodigality, but it is also a kind of “thrift” (1.1.175), in the sense of thriving or profiting. Bassanio’s debts generate credit. They allow him to craft a surface that invites a certain kind of belief from an audience, which in turn affords him certain benefits, some social, some monetary. This was, in early modern England, a recognizable practice, particularly associated with young gentlemen coming into London from the countryside. As Hutson writes, “During the 1570s and 1580s, more and more young gentlemen from outlying counties were converging upon London, and demanding credit from strangers not as a sign of friendship, but rather as the prerequisite for acquiring powerful ‘friends.’ ”⁹⁵ Separated from the web of associations that afforded them credit at home, these gentlemen needed to borrow in order to craft surfaces deemed creditworthy in their new urban milieu. Period literature often presents such young men either as ⁹⁵ Hutson, Usurer’s, p. 143.

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gulls duped by crafty merchants and tradesmen (whose offers of “friendly” credit turn out to be a trap) or as wily deceivers themselves.⁹⁶ Bassanio is no dupe, but he is no straightforward villain either. He is an attractive figure, one whom Shakespeare endows with a great capacity to be both loved and liked. Portia is attracted on the basis of their first encounter; Antonio loves him dearly; he has many friends of his own class; Lancelet wishes to serve him; even Shylock appears not to dislike him. In the figure of Bassanio, Merchant presents a happy version of what is often, in pamphlet literature and city comedies, a dangerous practice associated with fools and knaves: investing money in appearance, in order to gain social currency. Bassanio has credit with Antonio because of their particular relationship. Credit extended from the merchant to the young gentleman functions as a kind of benefit, a gift within the context of friendship.⁹⁷ Elsewhere, however, he has or lacks credit according to others’ readings of external signs. Shylock knows Bassanio, and he will not extend him credit. Indeed Bassanio makes no attempt to borrow from Shylock sans guarantor. Unlike his master, though, Lancelet believes in the surface Bassanio presents to the world, admiring the “rare new liveries” (2.2.102–3) in which he dresses his servants.⁹⁸ Evidently such showy expenditures give him a certain prominence: Lancelet wants to serve Bassanio in particular, not any of the other members of the play’s cohort of fashionable young Venetians. Presented with the same evidence, Shylock reads according to one hermeneutic, Lancelet according to another. It may be tempting to dismiss Lancelet as a naïve reader, but Portia sees Bassanio in a similar way. She accepts the appearance her suitor presents: an educated, courtly gentleman of means, who arrives in Belmont with “gifts of rich value” (2.9.90). She credits the surface he presents—over and above what he says about himself, in fact. Bassanio makes no secret of his financial state, but even his declarations of poverty seem to contribute to his credit, at least in the eyes of those who do credit him. He calls himself a “poor . . . gentleman” (2.2.139) to Lancelet and reminds Portia that, when they met: “I freely told you all the wealth I had / Ran in my veins” (3.2.253–4). Though he states that he is poor, his words are tempered and undercut by his appearance, his reputation, and the company he keeps: all the things that make up the “swelling port” that both impoverishes him and grants him access to Belmont. Once there, Bassanio’s particular form of empty or ungrounded credit can finally be exchanged for real material wealth, and the “thrift” of studied prodigality for that of managing a rich estate. Crucially, his final admission that he in fact has less than no money—“When I told you / My ⁹⁶ Kate McLuskie, “ ‘Tis but a Woman’s Jar’: Family and Kinship in Elizabethan Domestic Drama,” Literature and History 9, no. 2 (Fall 1983): pp. 228–39, pp. 230–1. ⁹⁷ Hutson, Usurer’s, 138. ⁹⁸ According to Carlo Buffone in Ben Jonson’s Every Man Out of His Humour, clothing one’s servants in fine liveries is one of several ways to generate city credit. See “Introduction,” p. 15.

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state was nothing, I should then have told you / That I was worse than nothing” (3.2.257–9)—comes after he has “won the fleece” (240). Thus, when he finally convincingly reveals his debts, they have already in a sense been made good. Portia’s fortune can fill Bassanio’s “worse than nothing” as easily as it might supply a debt like Antonio’s “twenty times over” (306). In Merchant, generating credit through profitable non-self-sameness is a classspecific activity. It is overwhelmingly the province of young unmarried gentlemen who seek wealth, status, and wives: the non-mercantile, non-moneylending, elite whose representatives include Bassanio, Lorenzo, Gratiano, and the Greekchorus-like Salanio and Salarino. While Bassanio’s economic plight receives the most attention, Shakespeare makes clear that neither Lorenzo nor Gratiano has much in the way of wealth. It is often noted that Shylock’s kind of economic enterprise is necessary to Venetian merchandizing: trade on a large scale depends on interest-bearing loans.⁹⁹ What is less often noted is this gentlemanly mode of generating credit, which the play in fact upholds as its most successful type of thrift and even of venturing: young Christian men of birth and education but limited means move through the city on borrowed funds and artificial appearances. Their profitable performances are as a class-specific alternative to merchandizing, and a class- and race-specific alternative to moneylending. They feed off both activities, while avoiding the risk and stigma of either. Bassanio embodies a particularly unstable form of this proliferative, informal credit: a surface that invites significant social, affective, and monetary investment, underneath which there is no substance, only a great deal of (informal, unquantified) debt. In this respect, he resembles the golden and silver caskets: rich outsides with nothing of value within. Bassanio glisters—those liveries!—but he is not gold. Falsifying appearances for economic gain is a much-condemned sin of the marketplace in the moralizing literature of the period, and, early in the play itself, the split between inward being and outward seeming is associated with exploitation: “I like not fair terms and a villain’s mind” (1.3.175), Bassanio warns of Shylock’s bargain. Yet in general, not only does the plot of The Merchant of Venice not condemn Bassanio’s manipulation of surfaces and exploitation of others’ straightforward reading practices, it in fact endorses such manipulation and exploitation as activities necessary to a successful economic and social life. The play holds up the crafting of false surfaces and the resulting errors and misreadings both as a means to “thrift” and as the mechanism that allows for the simultaneity of love and wealth, in suspension rather than tragic contradiction. It is after all through crafting false surfaces that Bassanio’s debt is finally repaid— neither with Antonio’s flesh or with Portia’s money, but with a profitable

⁹⁹ See Lim, “Surety,” pp. 356–7.

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misreading. Whatever the validity of Portia’s intricate and strict interpretations of the bond and of Venetian law, the fact remains that she makes them in disguise. In other words, one of the values that The Merchant of Venice apparently promotes is a version of the flexible and worldly way of being that Shakespeare would later associate primarily with Iago in writing Othello. In that play, the clash between an idealizing, essentializing worldview and one that exploits the instability of economic and sexual signs produces tragedy. Here, such instability is part of the fabric of life. Its active manipulation is more or less localized to a specific sector of Venetian society (young, impecunious Christian gentlemen), but it is no secret from the rest of the city’s inhabitants who are also, at times, called upon to contradict themselves. Those who succeed benefit; those who cannot or will not are punished and excluded. A pair of scenes from the middle of the play begins to illustrate the point. As Lorenzo and his companions wait on the street outside Shylock’s house, Jessica appears above, “transformed to a boy” (2.6.40). She expresses apprehension, shame, and a desire not to be seen, before offering to “gild” (50) herself “with some moe ducats” (51). Gratiano immediately praises her as “a gentle, and no Jew” (52); he sees her as most Christian when she steals from her Jewish father. Lorenzo praises her as well, and the terms of his praise are worth dwelling on. He declares that “she is wise, if I can judge of her” (54) and also that “fair she is, if that mine eyes be true” (55). Yet she is in the dark, and in disguise; how can he see her fairness? He adds: “And true she is, as she hath proved herself” (56). True to what, to whom? The moment at which Jessica is in two senses “false”—betraying her father and disguising herself—is the moment at which she appears to Lorenzo “like herself, wise, fair and true” (57; my emphasis). According to the values of the young Christian gentlemen, to be most oneself is to be flexible, protean, other. The scene immediately following presents us with a figure who not only exhibits staunch self-sameness but assumes self-sameness in others. Approaching the casket test, Morocco’s deliberations reveal a point of view that roughly anticipates Othello’s. He holds that insides match outsides, and in his lengthy speech leading up to his choice, he reasons that the golden casket appropriately represents both his own worth (2.7.20–35) and Portia’s (36–59). The scolding scroll inside the casket begins with an adage, elaborated into rhyme: “All that glisters is not gold / Often have you heard that told. / Many a man his life hath sold / But my outside to behold” (65). The message seems straightforward enough: the scroll assumes that anyone choosing gold is greedily or foolishly drawn in by glittering surfaces. And yet this is not the logic motivating Morocco’s choice. Morocco picks gold because it closely matches his estimation of Portia, which is neither greedy nor mistaken: she is a wealthy, attractive character whose value other characters consistently recognize and articulate. Even if Morocco errs in equating her wealth with her beauty and virtue, it has to be said that Bassanio does the same thing. And if he is naïve in being drawn to a fair “outside,” then so is

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Portia herself, whose attraction to Bassanio is based at least in part on the “glister” of false signs. Morocco is punished, it seems, for his faith that surface will match substance, and that the correct casket will be symbolically appropriate to both suitor and lady. When it comes to distributing love and money, the play prefers Lorenzo and Jessica’s trickery and Bassanio’s insouciant falseness to Morocco’s measured frankness. Faced with the same caskets, Bassanio later reflects: “So may the outward shows be least themselves / The world is still deceived with ornament” (3.2.73–4). The twenty-five-line condemnation of false words, actions, and appearances that follows, leading up to his rejection of the golden casket, directly contradicts the very strategies that brought him to Belmont: displays of outward “ornament,” which he here calls “The seeming truth, which cunning times put on / To entrap the wisest” (100–1). Evidently, Bassanio can adopt any position that suits the needs of the moment—even a condemnation of time-pleasing—and he can do so in earnest. Indeed, the play models various fixed positions, and suggests that the flexible characters can inhabit these positions temporarily and strategically, but also committedly. In addition to Antonio’s adherence to a single rule and Morocco’s assumption that inner and outer forms of worth align—positions that at various points Bassanio and Portia take up—Shylock’s attachment to the exact language of his “bond” becomes the strategy whereby Portia bests him in court. Like Antonio, Shylock tends to live by rules and precepts. Unlike Antonio, though, Shylock changes. Shakespeare portrays him as shifting towards first a more, then a less flexible way of being.¹⁰⁰ After drawing up the bond, he breaks from what at first appears to be a fixed position, hatred towards Christians (1.3.37), to something more amicable, exhibiting an incipient friendliness born of business relations.¹⁰¹ Offstage, he recommends his servant to Bassanio, despite his almost theatrical expressions of contempt for the laziness of the one and the unthriftiness of the other (2.5.1–5). Later, he goes to dine with “the prodigal Christian” (2.5.15, 44–7), despite his earlier declaration: “I will not eat with you, drink with you nor pray with you” (1.3.33–4). It is as though the feigned friendship with which he extended his “merry bond” begins for a time to take on reality, allowing him to break his own rules, and (not without hesitation and verbal protest) to enter into a more sociable relation with Venice’s Christian community. His “ancient grudge” (1.3.43) reasserts itself after Jessica’s departure, however, and by the courtroom

¹⁰⁰ Of all the insults heaped on him in the course of the play, perhaps the oddest is that he is a villain in the mold of Marlowe’s Barabas, proposing “fair terms” and concealing a “villain’s mind” (1.3.175). Unlike Barabas, Shylock is not consistently invested in exploiting the gap between being and seeming. He actively conceals his hostility to Antonio in only one scene (1.3), and this concealment is neither consistent nor clearly strategic. ¹⁰¹ Unhae Langis, “Usury and Political Friendship in The Merchant of Venice,” Upstart Crow 30 (2011): pp. 18–41.

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scene, he is immovable. No rhetorical skill can reach him. As Antonio says, “You may as well go stand upon the beach / And bid the main flood bate his usual height” (4.1.70–1). He refuses even to talk to the Christians on their own terms. Asked for a “gentle answer” (33) he responds with an account of the “lodged hate” (59) he bears Antonio. Told that “this is no answer” (62) he responds: “I am not bound to please thee with my answers” (64). Commanded to have a surgeon by to save Antonio’s life he asks, “Is it so nominated in the bond?” (255). The bond has become the rule he lives by, his contract not only with Antonio but with the world. It comes as a terrible shock that the bond is itself a slippery verbal artifact, subject to competing interpretations. It is sometimes said that Portia outdoes Shylock at “Jewish” legalism, reading the bond even more literally than he does: awarding flesh, but no blood, allowing cutting, but not killing. It is worth noting, though, that Shylock’s literalmindedness about the document is bound up in his way of being, his sense of self. Hers, by contrast, is an expedient pose. She adopts it strategically, just as Bassanio takes up a conventional position against ornament during his own test, his own trial.¹⁰² Moreover, her flexibility involves choice, in a way that Shylock’s rigidity does not. Only elite, Christian characters, in this play, have the power to rescript shared social reality through their performances. Like Bassanio’s success in manipulating social evaluations and his ability to generate profit quasi-magically, Portia’s courtroom performance succeeds because of her birth, race, education, and religion (all underwritten by the gender of character she plays). She wins the trial, just as Bassanio wins the “fleece” (3.2.240), but the game is rigged. Social flexibility triumphs, but it is not a skill afforded to everyone in the play’s Venice. The final scene revisits the paired problems of surety and sharing. As Portia scolds her husband for giving away her ring, Antonio steps in: I once did lend my body for his wealth Which, but for him that had your husband’s ring, Had quite miscarried. I dare be bound again: My soul upon the forfeit, that your lord Will never more break faith advisedly. (5.1.249–53)

Portia responds, “Then you shall be his surety” (254). This new contract echoes the arrangement with Shylock, but with key differences. Bassanio is not cut out of ¹⁰² Richard Strier’s reading of the Venetian laws cited in this scene is illuminating. He concludes, “the picture of a legal system that we are given is that it either acts truly impartially and allows monstrosities as legal, or acts partially to protect a ruling elite.” “Shakespeare and Legal Systems: The Better the Worse (but Not Vice Versa),” in Shakespeare and the Law: A Conversation among Disciplines and Professions, ed. Bradin Cormack, Martha Nussbaum, and Richard Strier (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2013), pp. 174–200, p. 192.

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this deal. He is beholden to Portia, as her husband, while Antonio acts as the guarantor of his marital faith. Shylock’s bond lasted for three months, at which time the pound of flesh came forfeit. This bond has no time limit: the penalty— Antonio’s soul—will fall due if and when Bassanio breaks faith with his wife. In the world of financial relations, standing surety is dangerous because it binds the guarantor not only to a friend, but to an unpredictable, perhaps predatory other. This symbolic bond also creates a triangular relationship, but it has a stabilizing rather than an unsettling effect on all three bonds. It establishes a link between Portia and Antonio, renews the old relation between Antonio and Bassanio, and makes the ongoing success of Portia’s and Bassanio’s marriage the condition for both other bonds. This version of “surety” opens a space in the friendship for the marriage, and a space within the marriage for the friendship. Both relationships can continue in time, because each is now staked on the other. What about sharing all? In “Of Friendship,” Montaigne offers an extensive list of what friends share with one another, including not only “thoughts” and “goods” but also “wives, children, honor, and life.”¹⁰³ This list reveals the limits of the “all” friends are supposed to share, by blasting past them. To think of women as on par with “goods” is not entirely surprising. Marriage was an occasion for the transfer of wealth between households, and daughters passing from fathers to husbands were, as Gayle Rubin puts it, “the most precious of gifts,” solidifying male friendships and cementing alliances.¹⁰⁴ But a wife cannot circulate between men. Within a patriarchal society, women can be given, but not shared; they can be “pledges” between men, but only once, not serially.¹⁰⁵ This is one of the lessons of the ring trick. In a homosocial economy that has room to include Antonio, Bassanio, Gratiano, Balthazar, and Balthazar’s clerk, a ring may pass from hand to hand to hand. It is a sign of gratitude, affiliation, and willingness to perform future favors. It expresses an affective and (at least potentially) economic bond that does not exclude other, similar bonds. As a “pledge” within the economy of heterosexual marriage, however, the ring is—or should be—a non-circulating symbol of a singular bond. Giving their rings away, Bassanio and Gratiano in part seem to confuse marriage and friendship: all rings can circulate, and all bonds run on a similar logic of reciprocal favors. Gratiano in particular seems to believe that “a paltry ring” (5.1.147) can seal lovers’ oaths and then go on to express thankfulness for a benefit performed. In part, though, the new husbands exhibit a troubling tendency to privilege the one bond over the other—to let the demands of a friend trump those of a wife, a position both articulate in the courtroom scene. In ¹⁰³ Montaigne, “Of Friendship,” p. 141. ¹⁰⁴ Gayle Rubin, “The Traffic in Women: Notes on the ‘Political Economy’ of Sex,” in Toward an Anthropology of Women, ed. Rayna R. Reiter (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1975), pp. 157–210, p. 173. ¹⁰⁵ See Luce Irigaray, “Women on the Market,” in The Sex Which Is Not One, trans. Catherine Porter (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1985), pp. 170–91, pp. 185–6.

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the ring trick’s last phase, Portia draws a distinction between marriage and friendship and demonstrates that each bond has its own domain, its own property. She does so by revealing logical extension of Bassanio’s continuing to “share all” after marriage, threatening to “become as liberal” (226) to the doctor as her husband has been: “I’ll not deny him anything I have, / No, not my body, nor my husband’s bed” (227–8). Later, revealing the ring, she claims: “by this ring the doctor lay with me” (259). The ruse exposes the logic implied by Bassanio’s gift: if Balthazar is now bound to you as a friend, as your gift of a ring to him signifies, and if you share all with your friends, as apparently you do—then you won’t mind sharing me. The revelation of the trick, in turn, redraws the line: between what can be shared with friends (goods and thoughts) and what cannot (wives and rings). The play’s ending turns our adages on their heads: by all means, stand surety, but don’t share all.

2.5. Pairs and Networks in A Woman Killed with Kindness The question of how much friends can and should share is central to Thomas Heywood’s A Woman Killed with Kindness, probably written six or seven years after Merchant and set in rural Yorkshire.¹⁰⁶ The play’s main plot, about a wife who commits adultery with her husband’s friend, dramatizes the problem of friends sharing all in a way that recalls the logic exposed by Portia’s ring trick. When Wendoll seduces Anne Frankford, he violates the play’s marital economy, within which a wife is a precious, non-circulating possession. He does so, however, by fully enacting the logic of its homosocial friendship economy, within which he and John Frankford share, or claim to share, “all.” The play’s subplot dramatizes the opposite extreme: instead of too much sharing, too little. Imprisoned and impoverished, Sir Charles Mountford finds that his friends not only deny him aid, but also renounce their familial and affective ties to him entirely. The one “friend” who offers what looks like help in fact draws Mountford into a ruinous penal bond. Unexpectedly freed from this debt by his worst enemy, Mountford calls upon his sister as a retroactive surety, claiming that she was “in joint bond bound” (14.75) with him and asking her to “satisfy the debt” (75) with her body.¹⁰⁷ The main plot shows sharing all leading to a catastrophic confusion of persons with property. The subplot suggests that to have any stake in another’s well-being is to

¹⁰⁶ Entries in Henslowe’s diary support a first performance date of 1603 for A Woman Killed with Kindness; the first known printed edition appeared in 1607. See Margaret Jane Kidnie, “Introduction” to Thomas Heywood, A Woman Killed with Kindness (London: Bloomsbury, 2017), pp. 70–2. The Stationer’s Register mentions The Merchant of Venice in July of 1598, suggesting a first performance sometime between mid-1596 and mid-1598. Drakakis, “Introduction,” p. 31. ¹⁰⁷ Thomas Heywood, A Woman Killed with Kindness, ed. Margaret Jane Kidnie (London: Bloomsbury, 2017). Subsequent references are from this edition and are by scene and line.

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risk ruin. To love is to be “in joint bond bound”; safety lies only in renouncing relationality altogether. Like Merchant, A Woman Killed dramatizes the dangers of applying a single precept to the messy overlap of economic and affective ties. Yet the play’s relationship to its motivating proverbs—and to the proverbial register more generally—differs from Merchant’s. Shakespeare fairly consistently shows the inadequacy of commonplaces, either as responses to fortune’s vicissitudes or as tools for navigating relationships. By contrast, Heywood’s play confirms the usefulness of proverbs, not only for motivating or excusing conduct, but also for describing the world: for giving a local habitation and a name to otherwise baffling or disturbing situations.¹⁰⁸ Instead of hyperbolic or over-simplified glosses on complex dramatic situations, proverbs in A Woman Killed are often more or less literal summaries of events. Most obviously, the main plot’s action literalizes the proverb invoked in its title. Anne Frankford really is killed with kindness, if her husband’s sparing her life but banishing her from home and children can be called that.¹⁰⁹ Elsewhere, too, the play confirms rather than ironizing its adages. The ninth scene, in which Susan Mountford seeks aid for her imprisoned brother from kin and friends, is a good example. Each person she approaches justifies refusal with a definitive-sounding saying—“This is no world in which to pity men” (9.5)—or a sententious couplet: “Some men are born to mirth and some to sorrow. / I am no cousin unto them that borrow” (35–6); “Money I cannot spare. Men should take heed; / He lost my kindred when he fell to need” (16–17). Like the hypothetical letter-writers in epistolary manuals, the Mountfords’ kin and friends draw on the generalizing language of proverbs to justify particular actions. In addition to using sayings, these figures embody commonplaces. Refusing to help a man to whom they were formerly glad to be allied, they confirm an unspoken but heavily implied set of common sayings about money and friends: “The frendes of an infortunate person be farre of[f]”; “many promise much in deede / But thene forsake thee in thy neede”; “Fayre face showe frendes, when ryches do habounde, / Come tyme of proofe, farewell they must awaye.”¹¹⁰ All of this is not to say that Shakespeare gives us sophistication, Heywood homespun simplicity; or that Shakespeare challenges proverbs, and Heywood ¹⁰⁸ See Burke, “Literature as Equipment for Living,” p. 293. ¹⁰⁹ On the proverb in the title and Heywood’s literal treatment of it, see Richard Hillman, “Killing (A Woman) with Kindness: Duplicitous Intertextuality and the Domestication of Romance,” in Intertextuality and Romance in Renaissance Drama: The Staging of Nostalgia (Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1992), pp. 82–105. On the moral value of her husband’s actions, particularly in the context of Renaissance literature on marriage, see Jennifer Panek, “Punishing Adultery in A Woman Killed with Kindness,” SEL 34, no. 2 (Spring 1994): pp. 357–78; and Erin Miller and James H. Forse, “The Failure to Be a ‘Goode Husbande’ in Thomas Heywood’s Edward IV (Parts I/II) and A Woman Killed with Kindness,” The Ben Jonson Journal 18, no. 2 (Nov. 2011): pp. 254–73. ¹¹⁰ The first quotation is Taverner’s translation of Erasmus’ Viri infortunati procul amici in Prouerbes or adagies (London, 1539), sig. F7r–v; the second is recorded in Portman’s commonplace book; the third is from Googe’s, “Of Money.”

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traffics in them. In A Woman Killed with Kindness, Heywood is interested in the kind of complexity foregrounded in Merchant’s resolution, rather than the kind that drives its plot: not the variability of the world and answering variability of persons, but the structure of a community created out of multiple, overlapping relationships and bonds. Here, tragedy emerges from an imbalance between a constellated social world and one reduced to a single, primary bond—a bond that is, or that looks like, “true friendship . . . in the duall number.”¹¹¹ The play offers strong portraits of three intensely, if unevenly, bonded pairs: Anne and John Frankford (a married couple), John Frankford and Wendoll (friends), and Susan and Charles Mountford (siblings). In all three relationships, one partner shares (or seeks to share, or demands the sharing of) “all.” In all three cases, the intensity of the primary bond weakens ties to broader networks of kin and community. It is here, at the seam between pair and network, that Heywood explores both the limits of friendship, as a set of affective and material practices, and the destructive potential of both of the proverbs with which this chapter began. “Among friends all things should be common” ignores external obligations, positing a social world of only two. “Don’t stand surety, even for a friend,” by contrast, expresses a quiet hostility to exceptional bonds: it is a shorthand reminder that, within the networked structure of credit culture, you cannot bind yourself to a friend without also becoming linked to countless others. What middle ground the play finds lies in friendships involving multiple persons, expanded by marriage and stabilized by community surveillance. Two of the three bonds at the play’s center—Anne’s marriage and Susan’s bond with her brother—trouble the seam between pair and network further, because they explore women’s experience of friendship. In the stark and simplified world of the play, women may enter into deep affective bonds, but they may not express these bonds as men do: by sharing credit and property.¹¹² In other words, they both can and cannot be friends. They have the intellectual and affective capability—no one here would argue along with Montaigne that “the ordinary capacity of women is inadequate for that communion and fellowship which is the nurse of this sacred bond”—but not the economic.¹¹³ Anne and Susan cannot share property or extend credit because, as previous critics have noted, they themselves are credit and property.¹¹⁴ They are these things in multiple ways,

¹¹¹ M.B. The triall of true Friendship, sig. B2r. ¹¹² For recent challenges to the notion that early modern women lacked economic agency, see Natasha Korda, Labors Lost: Women’s Work and the Early Modern English Stage (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2011); and Shepard, Accounting, especially ch. 2, “Calculating Credit,” pp. 35–82. ¹¹³ Montaigne, “Of Friendship,” p. 138. ¹¹⁴ Lyn Bennett, “The Homosocial Economics of A Woman Killed with Kindness,” Renaissance and Reformation 24, no. 2 (Spring 2000): pp. 35–61; Hutson, Usurer’s, pp. 132–4; Barbara Sebek, “ ‘By Gift of My Chaste Body’: Female Chastity and Exchange Value in Measure for Measure and A Woman Killed with Kindness,” Journal x 5, no. 1/2 (Autumn 2000–Spring 2001): pp. 51–85.

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operating within multiple economies. As unmarried virgins, they are tokens of exchange within a patriarchal marriage economy. As they exist in relation to men who are friends with other men, they—like material assets—function as precious gifts, cementing men’s affection and trust. And as wives (Anne’s status at the play’s start, Susan’s at its end), they are embodied versions of their husbands’ credit, open to appraisal by the broader community. As Lyn Bennett notes, these economic systems of male sociability “not only exclude female participation but also use women as their most valuable form of capital.”¹¹⁵ Or as Luce Irigaray puts it, “Men make commerce of [women], but they do not enter into any exchanges with them.”¹¹⁶ Crucially, however, women are not excluded from sociability’s affective dimension. While Heywood places Anne and Susan squarely within male economies that elide their personhood, he simultaneously takes pains to grant them psychological depth, using the dramatic techniques at his disposal to create the effects of complex interiority and profound connectedness to others.¹¹⁷ These techniques vary. Susan tends to declare her thoughts and feelings, externalizing the inward. Anne leaves much unsaid, inviting inference and conjecture on the part of audiences and readers. In granting Anne and Susan abundant “inwardness,” Heywood reveals the excessive burden that the demands of friendship place on these women. As partners and friends, they are tasked with sharing all. As bearers of value within masculine economies, they cannot share, only be shared. Caught between their positions within competing structures of pair and network, and between their own status as thinking, feeling persons and their role as depersonalized bearers of value, Anne and Susan are subject to a misogynist logic that construes women as property, but punishes them for trying to take control of that property—themselves, their bodies—either by withholding or distributing it. The result for both women is confusion and pain. Though Anne’s plot ends in death and Susan’s in marriage, both suffer from the mismatch between their intense emotional experiences and their lack of agency. In order to more clearly demonstrate the complex interaction of the affective and the economic in Heywood’s play, it is worthwhile to look at each of the three central paired relationships in turn, with an eye to the play’s two driving sources of dramatic tension: the interplay of pair and network, and the double status of women as people and as currency. The play’s opening scene shows the newly married John and Anne Frankford surrounded by friends and kin who congratulate John and praise Anne while “mad lads / And country lasses” (1.81–2) dance in the nearby hall. The scene emphasizes the roles of property and credit in their

¹¹⁵ Bennett, “Homosocial,” p. 36. ¹¹⁶ Irigaray, “Women,” p. 172. ¹¹⁷ See Curtis Perry, “Inwardness as Sedition in Heywood and Marlowe,” in The Future of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance: Problems, Trends, and Opportunities for Research, ed. Roger Dahood (Turnhout, Belgium: Brepols, 1998), pp. 109–28.

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union. Frankford says his wife “Hath to her dower her mother’s modesty” (54). By contrast, he tells Anne’s brother Sir Francis Acton, who peppers the scene with boisterous interjections and sexual innuendo: “All his wild blood your father spent on you; . . . All his mad tricks were to his land entailed, / And you are heir to all” (50–3). Frankford here comments on the difference between the siblings’ personalities—Sir Francis’s roughness, Anne’s meekness—but his metaphor invokes the kinds of property transfer that occur within and between families: a son inheriting land, a daughter bringing wealth out of her father’s household into her husband’s. This first scene is ostensibly one of celebration.¹¹⁸ Strikingly, however, Frankford speaks very little and Anne speaks only once. The groom at no point addresses his bride, directing his few comments at the otherwise all-male company. The passage quoted above is in fact his only explicit mention of Anne, and the sole verbal indication that he feels positively about her, or about their marriage. His invocation of her “dower,” however, is in keeping with the content of the gathered company’s conversation, if not with their more celebratory tone. The others’ praise of Anne unfolds in distinctly material terms. Sir Charles Mountford, one of the guests, asserts: This lady is no clog, as many are. She doth become you like a well-made suit In which the tailor hath used all his art, Not like a thick coat of unseasoned frieze, Forced on your back in summer; she’s no chain To tie your neck and curbs you to the yoke, But she’s a chain of gold to adorn your neck. (1.58–64)

In a speech that sounds like an attempt to sell Frankford on the marriage he has already made, Mountford compares Anne to objects both rich and light: she’s no clog but a well-made suit; no imprisoning chain but a golden necklace. His comparisons recall the symbolic logic at work in Othello’s descriptions of Desdemona as a jewel, a pearl, and “the riches of the ship.”¹¹⁹ Though Mountford’s metaphors figure Anne in less exotic terms, the underlying logic is the same. She is valuable both intrinsically (like gold) and as an outward-facing emblem of her husband’s ¹¹⁸ On undercurrents of hostility and disunity in the play’s first scene, see Richard Rowland, Thomas Heywood’s Theatre, 1599–1639: Locations, Translations, and Conflict (Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2010), pp. 109–15. ¹¹⁹ For this play’s resonances with Othello, see Peter L. Rudnytsky, “A Woman Killed with Kindness as Subtext of Othello,” Renaissance Drama 14 (1983): pp. 103–24; and Richard Strier and Richard H. McAdams, “Cold-Blooded and High-Minded Murder: The ‘Case’ of Othello,” in Fatal Fictions: Crime and Investigation in Law and Literature, ed. Alison L. LaCroix, Richard H. McAdams, and Martha Nussbaum (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017), pp. 111–38.

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worth (like a suit or a piece of jewelry). Anne is in some ways coextensive with her own dower: a rich possession of her husband’s. Anne is not just a bearer of material value or a symbol of tangible household wealth. She is also—or rather, she has just become—the embodiment of her husband’s credit. The cause of the celebration scene’s strangely subdued atmosphere can be traced to Frankford’s dawning awareness that his worth in the eyes of the broader community now depends on public perception of his wife as well as of himself. In her work on reluctant and regretful grooms in early modern drama, Jennifer Panek argues that bachelors balk at marriage because it extends their kin network and opens them to new forms of scrutiny and surveillance.¹²⁰ As the play opens, Frankford fits the type of the reluctant groom. The first words he speaks are words of regret. Encouraged to dance by the unmarried Sir Francis, he responds: “Ay, you may caper, you are light and free; / Marriage hath yoked my heels—pray, pardon me” (1.10–11). In their ensuing reassurances that Frankford has made a good match, his friends underscore the extent to which they have evaluated his choice of a wife: she is possessed of “ornaments / Both of the mind and body” (15–16); she is well-educated and musically gifted (17–21); “A perfect wife” (37). Frankford responds to this barrage of evaluative language with a sudden shift in attitude: “But that I know your virtues and chaste thoughts, / I should be jealous of your praise” (25–6). The new position he adopts—no longer reluctant groom but jealous husband—also relates to his credit in the community, which now depends on how others perceive his wife, and in particular how they perceive her chastity. The positive terms in which the wedding guests describe her, to Frankford’s anxious mind, are potentially indistinguishable from sexualized praise. The very qualities that make Anne a “chain of gold” render her subject to others’ desires. In her only speech in the scene, Anne addresses this point, imploring the gathered company: “I would your praise could find a fitter theme / Than my imperfect beauty to speak on” (1.29–30). She insists that neither their praise nor her own qualities, but only her husband’s approval, determines her worth: “His sweet content is like a flattering glass / To make my face seem fairer to mine eye,” she asserts, “But the least wrinkle from his stormy brow / Will blast the roses in my cheeks that grow” (33–6). Anne’s speech leads instantly to more praise from the guests, however, undermining her wish. Anne belongs to Frankford as a wife, as dower, as credit. At the same time, she belongs to the broader community: the object of scrutiny and the subject of talk. The next time Frankford appears on stage, his unease with his new role as husband has evidently abated. In a soliloquy, he twice declares himself “happy” (4.1, 4.13), naming the chief source of his happiness: “I have a fair, a chaste, and loving wife: / Perfection all, all truth, all ornament” (11). Strikingly, however, we ¹²⁰ Jennifer Panek, “Community, Credit, and the Prodigal Husband on the Early Modern Stage,” ELH 80, no. 1 (Spring 2013): pp. 61–92.

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hear nothing of the emotional bond between husband and wife—and we continue to hear nothing until after Anne commits adultery and Frankford discovers it. At that point, Frankford describes the violated marriage as a profound union. Watching his wife weep, he cries, “Spare thou thy tears, for I will weep for thee” (13.78). Thinking on her fault, he reflects, “Now I protest I think ’tis I am tainted, / For I am most ashamed” (80–1). Not only does he take on Anne’s sorrow and her guilt, but he figures their entire relationship in terms of total affective sharing: “Did I not lodge thee in my bosom? . . . I did indeed; witness my tears I did” (108–10). Even as he banishes her to his “manor seven mile off” (160), he describes what has been lost as an intermingling of selves: “It was thy hand cut two hearts out of one” (180). Their separation mocks the logic of friendship: he gives her a house and servants. Earlier in the play, of course, he offered these things—house, servants—to his friend, Wendoll. The difference is, though, that Anne’s are separate, Wendoll’s shared. Perhaps it is not surprising that Frankford feels his bond to his wife most intensely at the point of its dissolution. Yet the language of union, of merging of hearts and of assets, permeates Frankford’s speech in earlier portions of the play, but never, until the crisis of Anne’s infidelity, in relation to marriage. In the scene that opens with Frankford’s speech on marital felicity, Frankford receives word that one of the erstwhile wedding guests, Wendoll, has arrived with news. Alone, he reflects on Wendoll’s character—“He’s affable and seen in many things; / Discourses well; a good companion” (4.30–1)—and on his socio-economic status: “though of small means, yet a gentleman / Of a good house, somewhat pressed by want” (32–3). He concludes abruptly: “I have preferred him to a second place / In my opinion and my best regard” (34–5). Most editors interpret Wendoll’s “second place” as “presumably after Anne.”¹²¹ While this is undoubtedly the most plausible reading, there remains some ambiguity—registered in the editorial “presumably”—and it is possible that Frankford holds Wendoll second to himself. This reading is borne out in the subsequent dialogue, in which Frankford formally proposes to make Wendoll a second self, sharer in his affections and his fortunes. When Wendoll enters with urgent news of a conflict between Frankford’s brotherin-law and Sir Charles Mountford, but Frankford brushes this news aside, focused as he is on offering friendship to the messenger: “Please you to use my table and my purse, / They are yours” (65–6). Wendoll briefly protests his unworthiness, and Frankford adds to his offer a servant, a horse, and board “at my own charge” (72), asking only that Wendoll “be my companion” (72). Wendoll accepts, noting

¹²¹ This quote appears in the note to the line in Kathleen E. McLuskie and David Bevington, eds., Plays on Women (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1999), p. 363. See also R.W. van Fossen’s note in the Revels edition (London: Methuen, 1961), p. 21. In the Arden edition, however, Kidnie acknowledges the ambiguity.

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that he is now permanently and unrepayably in “debt” (78) to Frankford for his “favours” (74). The relationship Frankford proposes to Wendoll resembles the friendship between Antonio and Bassanio, in which the wealthier friend supplies the other’s wants. Frankford’s economic entanglement with Wendoll deepens—or rather, seems to create—the emotional bond between them. When Frankford leaves home on business, it falls to Wendoll to “Keep his table, use his servants, / And be a present Frankford in his absence” (79–80). When he is home, he cannot be apart from his friend. Wendoll notes, “He cannot eat without me, / Nor laugh without me; I am to his body / As necessary as his digestion, / And equally do make him whole or sick” (6.40–3). Anne observes that her husband “esteems” him “Even as his brain, his eyeball, or his heart” (115–16). Such metaphors of incorporation suggest a bond constitutive of Frankford’s very being. Late in the play, wishing his household goodnight, Frankford addresses Anne as “gentle wife” (8.204) and Wendoll as “my self” (203). By this point, he suspects adultery, based on his servant Nick’s warnings. Yet his choice of words is still telling, since he seeks to avoid communicating his suspicions and is therefore speaking “normally.” For his own part, Wendoll describes his “heart” as “joined and knit together” (6.50) with Frankford’s in a soliloquy weighing gratitude towards his host against attraction to Anne. Even when he sets out to seduce her, he insists, “I love your husband too, / And for his love I will engage my life” (143–4). In light of all this, it is possible to hear in Frankford’s final heartbroken accusation against his wife—“It was thy hand cut two hearts out of one” (8.185)—a submerged lament for the severed friendship, as well as for the broken marriage. What tempts Anne to commit adultery with Wendoll is one of the mysteries of the play.¹²² Heywood gives Frankford and Wendoll soliloquies and asides in which they reflect amply on their own motives and desires. He gives Anne no such speeches, severely limiting our access to her inner life and yet inviting inference and conjecture. There is no clear, identifiable moment at which Anne consents to Wendoll’s desires, and at no point does she express reciprocal desire for him. Though she admits his declaration of love moves her “to passion and to pity” (6.141), she expresses far more doubt and hesitation than interest or arousal: “My soul is wandering and hath lost her way” (152); “This maze I am in / I fear will prove the labyrinth of sin” (161–2). When Wendoll kisses her and then demands sex—“Your husband is from home, your bed’s no blab” (166)—she exits with him wordlessly. The scene suggests passive acquiescence, not love or desire. The next time we see Anne alone with Wendoll, the affair has been going on for some time, but even here she appears ambivalent. When the two are unexpectedly left alone together, she consents to retire with him: “Well, you ¹²² Perry, “Inwardness,” p. 114; Emma Whipday, Shakespeare’s Domestic Tragedies: Violence in the Early Modern Home (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2019), 92–3.

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plead custom— / That which for want of wit I granted erst, / I now must yield through fear” (11.112–13). If Anne is clearly able to name her emotional state—fear—at this juncture, her earlier feelings remain murky. What did Anne’s initial “want of wit” entail? We are left to infer and conjecture. In the most negative available reading, Anne is neglected by one man, then bullied and coerced by another. She is trapped between male indifference and male desire and has no self-determining power to separate herself from either. In the most positive, she loves and is loved by her husband, and (at least briefly) loves and is loved by his friend—she, like Wendoll, finds herself driven by conflicting passions. Both readings are to some extent available; neither, however, can be definitive. The lack of a speech or speeches granting access to Anne’s inner life forces our attention away from the psychological, and toward the relational and systemic. Heywood presents Anne’s adultery less as the result of an identifiable motive or desire—less a function of the character’s inward, psychological and emotional life, however strongly implied that inward life might be—and more the product of her position within two overlapping systems: the marital economy in which she is a kind of possession of and credit to her husband, and the economy of male friendship in which friends share all. Both of these systems deny Anne precisely the kind of inwardness and personhood that critical motive-hunting might impute to her. In the first, the economy of marriage, Anne is a form of wealth, both symbolically and practically. Symbolically, she is a valuable possession comparable to a “well-made suit” or a “chain of gold”; practically, she is first the bearer of a dower and then the outward reflection of her husband’s honor or credit in the community. In the second, the economy of friendship, she becomes part of the “all” shared between friends. When Frankford offers his purse and his table to Wendoll, of course he does not exactly mean to offer his wife. Yet the distinction between Anne as stuff and Anne as wife turns out to be difficult to keep straight, for both men. The elision of the two positions registers in metaphors of materiality, which describe Anne’s “value” as a woman and a wife by invoking the money and goods the two men now share. Contemplating sex with Anne, Wendoll declares “I’ll be profuse in Frankford’s greatest treasure” (11.117). He has already been “profuse” in the lesser treasures of Frankford’s purse and board. Similarly, reflecting on his wife’s alleged infidelity, Frankford wonders, “Is all this seeming gold plain copper?” (8.100). Anne’s goodness cannot be expressed without reference to Frankford’s goods—and goods are what he has vowed to share with his friend. In the next breath, Frankford calls Wendoll “that Judas that hath borne my purse” (101). If your wife is comparable to the stuff in your purse (gold, copper), and if your friend bears your purse, then what is your friend’s relation to your wife?

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Anne does not commit adultery because of desire, but because she occupies two incompatible positions, which she, Wendoll, and Frankford all at times confuse. Put differently: Anne commits adultery because she is her husband’s property, because her husband has a friend, and because friends share property. The cultural logic of heterosexual marriage as a form of property transfer, as laid out in the play’s first scene, becomes entangled with the equally powerful logic of male friendship; the one distorts and subsumes the other. Marriage treats one member of the pair as property, while friendship is founded on the sharing of property. Anne’s confusion arises because she is a primary participant in one bond, and an adjunct to the other. Having established the terms of his friendship with Wendoll, Frankford immediately turns to his wife, who has been standing silently by, exhorting her: “Prithee, Nan, / Use him with all thy lovingest courtesy” (4.79–80). She responds, “As far as modesty may well extend, / It is my duty to receive your friend” (81–2). Heywood here puts pressure on a problem that Shakespeare would later revisit in The Winter’s Tale: what is the limit of a wife’s duty to her husband’s friend? How far may modesty extend? For Shakespeare, courtesy shades into lechery only in the minds of jealous husbands. For Heywood, the shift takes place somewhere in the inscrutable recesses of Anne’s heart and mind—but it is a shift produced by the cultural and economic machinery in which she is caught. “I am husband now in Master Frankford’s place” (11.90), Wendoll freely declares to Frankford’s (now his own) household when the other man is called away. How can Anne argue with that? No one else does. The servant Jenkin’s situation provides an illuminating parallel. When Wendoll first becomes a member of the household, it falls to Jenkin to serve him, on Frankford’s orders. Jenkin is at first ambivalent towards his new role, taking it on only because another servant refuses, and because he fears his master’s ire. Yet he immediately identifies entirely as Wendoll’s (rather than Frankford’s) servant. Overhearing Wendoll refer to “my gelding, and my man” (6.30), Jenkin interjects, “That’s Sorrel and I” (31). When Wendoll asks him Anne’s whereabouts—“Where’s your mistress?” (57)—Jenkin responds, “Is your worship married? . . . you are my master, and if I have a mistress, I would be glad like a good servant to do my duty to her” (58–62). Jenkin’s mock-obtuseness makes a serious point. He insists on the singularity of the servant-master bond: he can only be Frankford’s or Wendoll’s, not held in common. The issue of to whom Jenkin “belongs” becomes a greater a source of confusion after Wendoll’s betrayal comes to light. During the climactic scene in which Frankford discovers the adulterous couple and Wendoll flees, Jenkin laments to Anne: “O Lord, mistress, how comes this to pass?” then adds, “My master is run away in his shirt” (13.142–3). Here, his mistress is once again Frankford’s wife, but his master is still Wendoll. Later, encountering Wendoll out-of-doors, he taunts him, “What, my young master that fled in his shirt! . . . What, shall I serve you still, or cleave to the old house?” (16.114–17). Anne’s plight is an intensified

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version of Jenkin’s. To whom should she cleave? To whom does she belong? Her husband, or her husband’s second self? In his expansive list of friends’ common property, Montaigne jumbles together: “wills, thoughts, judgments, goods, wives, children, honor, and life.”¹²³ Jenkin rejects the logic behind such a list, but Anne seems to have internalized it. It is a logic that acknowledges no real distinction between goods and persons, a logic that insists that, for friends holding things in common, all really does mean all. Where the play’s main plot shows friendship overspilling its bounds, its subplot illustrates the opposite: false friendships and friendships so limited and circumscribed they lose the name. Like overabundant friendship, false friendship in the play is defined by material practices, especially the withholding of the aid that friends are by definition supposed to offer one another in times of need. The subplot follows the misfortunes of Sir Charles Mountford, one of the wedding guests in the first scene, and his sister Susan. In the play’s third scene, Sir Charles kills two of Anne’s brother Sir Francis’s followers in a dispute over a wager. Sent to prison, he loses most of his estate to legal fees before he is eventually released. He is greeted at the prison door by one Shafton, a previously unintroduced character who addresses Sir Charles as a friend: “What want you? Wherein may I pleasure you?” (5.23). Sir Charles laments his losses; Shafton offers him three hundred pounds. Shafton’s offer hovers ambiguously between gift and loan. On the one hand, the scene ends with Shafton exhorting unnamed “gentlemen” (57) to come see the monies tendered to Sir Charles, possibly as witnesses to the signing of a bill of debt. On the other, he offers the money entirely unasked, with profuse declarations of concern for Sir Charles, and he names no terms of repayment. Sir Charles’s declaration that he will “remain indebted” (55) to the other man sounds more like Wendoll’s similar declaration of grateful indebtedness to Frankford than an acknowledgment of a legal arrangement. It is only later that the exact terms of Shafton’s aid—and the motive behind it—become clear. He comes upon the Mountford siblings “plying . . . husbandry” (7.10) on their remaining piece of property, a former summer house. He asks to buy the land, which “lies convenient” (5.49) to his own. When Sir Charles refuses, Shafton has him arrested for his unrepaid debt, threatening, “Actions and actions / Shall keep thee in perpetual bondage fast” (7.57–8). Shafton uses the guise of friendship for personal gain. Others in the Mountford circle simply withhold aid. It is while Sir Charles once again languishes in prison that Susan visits their circle of acquaintances: kin, friends, and erstwhile recipients of the Mountfords’ financial help. Each acquaintance not only denies economic help, but renounces his bond to Sir Charles and Susan entirely.

¹²³ Montaigne, “Of Friendship,” p. 141.

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The Mountford subplot explores extreme versions of the self-protective withholding that lies behind “Don’t stand surety, even for a friend.” At its crisis, however, this plot switches tack, showing us a character who, like Shakespeare’s Antonio, more than stands surety. Like Antonio, Susan offers her body to pay her brother’s debts. Unlike him, she does so under compulsion. From her first entrance, Susan is depicted as both Sir Charles’s sister and his dearest friend. Sir Charles refuses to flee Yorkshire to escape arrest, declaring, “You, sister, are my friend, / And flying you, I shall pursue my end” (3.74–5). He vows, “I’ll live with thee, / Or I’ll not live at all” (87–8). She in turn assures him, “Your company is as my eyeball dear” (76), an echo of Anne’s statement that her husband “esteems” Wendoll “even as . . . his eyeball.”¹²⁴ The siblings share all, fortune and misfortune alike, a point Sir Charles uses when he later asks his sister to give up her virginity to Sir Francis Acton. Acton has freed Sir Charles from prison and from all his debts, and Sir Charles cannot bear to be beholden to his enemy. He reasons with his sister: “You did partake / The joy of my release; will you not stand / In joint bond bound to satisfy the debt? / Shall only I be charged?” (14.73–6). As in the main plot, the logic of patriarchal family relations and the logic of paired friendship overlap. Susan’s brother appeals to her as a friend, but he uses her like property. Her virginity is a “rich jewel” (48), instrumental, in this case, to paying a debt. “Take her,” he says to Acton, “She’s worth your money, man” (108–9). Deeply moved, Acton accepts her not as payment from debtor to creditor but as a “gift” (141) from Sir Charles, a “jewel” he will “wear here in my heart” (143). As Sir Francis’s bride-to-be, Susan moves swiftly from one economy into another, but she remains a bearer of value—at first intended to satisfy the debt and so end the relationship between two enemies, then used to guarantee that relationship’s continuance through time, as friendship. “All’s mine is yours” (153), the wealthy Sir Francis assures the impoverished Sir Charles at the scene’s end. In the final scenes, Heywood paints Sir Francis Acton and Sir Charles Mountford as friends, but not as an exclusive pair. Rather, the two re-establish their ties to a broader community, together. Critical discussion of the play’s ending usually focuses on the tragic conclusion of the main plot: Anne’s selfinflicted starvation and deathbed reconciliation with her husband. Largely overlooked is the comic counter-movement that brings almost all of the play’s male characters, from both plots, together in the final scene. Even as Anne lies dying, these characters reaffirm the multiple, intertwined bonds that had been, for a time, superseded by intense personal relationships and the crises—economic, affective, sexual—these relationships produced. The play opens with Frankford’s marriage

¹²⁴ As noted, this exchange between Susan and Charles explicitly echoes language used elsewhere to describe male friendship. Yet their relationship at times strongly resembles a marriage, especially during the period when they keep house together, after Charles’s first imprisonment. Notably, they divide their household labor along traditionally gendered lines (see 7.3–4).

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to Anne, and ends with her death, but at both points his community surrounds him: all of the named wedding guests, save Wendoll, are present in the final scene. This marks a return to a state that, during the middle portions of the play, had fallen away. Frankford himself, partway through the action, remarks that he has been distracted by “weighty business of my own” (11.29) and neglected the wider world. In particular, he has failed to respond to news of his brother-in-law’s “hard dealing against poor Sir Charles” (26), and he rebukes himself for not having “laboured peace” (30) between them. Frankford’s comments in this vein are prompted by his friend Cranwell. Like Wendoll, Cranwell lodges in Frankford’s home, but he always voices the concerns of the broader, interconnected world, never those of the world-excluding pair. A very minor character in terms of plot function, Cranwell represents the principles that the end of the play upholds. All of the tight pairs dissolve—Susan marries, Anne dies, Wendoll flees—and the subsequent reshuffling of persons brings the Frankford, Acton, and Mountford households back into contact. Francis Acton returns to his brother-in-law’s broken home, bringing his second brother-in-law and wife. Anne’s death only strengthens these new and renewed bonds: Sir Francis assures Frankford: “O Master Frankford, all the near alliance / I lose by her shall be supplied in thee” (17.100–1), and Mountford urges the widower to share his grief with his gathered friends: “Your heavy sorrow / Part equally amongst us” (125–6). As for the widower’s credit, the “kindness” he showed to his wife in not killing her outright translates into praise from his community and an augmented reputation as a patient, virtuous man. “I am so far from blaming his revenge / That I commend it” (19–20), Sir Francis declares. In this play, women carry value, but men create it, sometimes out of less than nothing. Wendoll’s reputation within this community is permanently damaged. In the final scene, communal blame shifts from Anne towards Wendoll, who has fled: “’Twas his tongue / That did corrupt her” (17.12–13). Yet even for Wendoll, there is still a place in the world. Honor lost, Anne dies. Honor threatened, Susan must either die or marry. But Wendoll—who owns nothing, belongs nowhere, and has ties to no one—can still rebuild his credit. In his last appearance in the play, he reflects bitterly on the consequences of his broken faith with his friend, and broken credit within the community: “And I must now go wander like a Cain / In foreign countries and remoted climes / Where the report of my ingratitude / Cannot be heard” (16.128–31). His thoughts quickly shift to making a virtue of necessity, and turning exile to advantage: I’ll over, first to France, And so to Germany and Italy, Where when I have recovered, and by travel Gotten those perfect tongues, and that these rumours May in their height abate, I will return—

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And I divine, however now dejected, My worth and parts being by some great man praised At my return I may in court be raised. (16.131–8)

Well-traveled and skilled in French, German, and Italian, the Wendoll of the future will engineer an improved version of his previous situation. Instead of attracting the notice of a John Frankford—wealthy but not fabulously so, wellborn but not noble—he will earn the praise of “some great man” and find himself “in court . . . raised.” There is something of Bassanio, here: a reliance on others’ wealth coupled with the easy confidence of a young man who can turn linguistic ability into friendship, and friendship into credit. * This book has so far explored the fictions of credit across a number of local scales, limning the way credit relations redefine persons, relationships, and specific social contexts, including Shakespeare’s Venice and Heywood’s Yorkshire. In Othello, a problem inherent to everyday credit relations—that people may be more easily read than known, more easily interpreted than sounded—becomes grounds for tragedy. In The Merchant of Venice and A Woman Killed with Kindness, surety, the limit case for lending, becomes confused with sharing, the paradigmatic economic arrangement between friends. This confusion in turn facilitates others: money and love mingle and blur, destabilizing intimate groups and threatening to dissolve whole communities. The next chapter moves outward. It attends to the total set of social relations, as they are organized (or disordered) by credit. It traces the circuit between credit culture’s local acts of artifice and the large-scale social fictions they constitute in aggregate. To do so, it pairs Shakespeare and Middleton’s Timon of Athens with a number of handbooks in various genres, some of which focus on individual indebtedness, and some of which theorize the social as it is structured by debtdriven transactions. In its dramatic presentation of a figure who is simultaneously enormously wealthy and desperately indebted, Timon of Athens develops a tragic plot out of an economic point: riches can consist of false credit, credit constructed out of language and interpretation. Beyond Timon’s individual story, and beyond the bursting of his one-man credit bubble, the play considers what kind of society has to exist in order for such a situation to occur. This is a question that handbook literature also takes up, but from a very different angle: not as the structural machinery that both underpins and produces tragedy, but as a navigable, if contingent and ever-shifting, set of relations.

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3 Debt’s Poetry, Credit’s Fictions 3.1. Debt Plus Poetry Equals . . . ? What are we to make of Timon of Athens? All the traits that make him attractive—generosity, magnanimity, lavish housekeeping—are offset by qualities that make him exasperating: trust in bad friends, easily exploited idealism, baffling disregard for a mountain of debt. To some scholars, Timon is a prodigal and gull; to others, the dramatic embodiment of liberality. In the play’s first half, he uses generosity to maintain dominance over his elite Athenian peers—or he uses it to do away with power relations altogether.¹ His later misanthropy is a form of self-delusion—or it is a grand response to his terrible losses.² For many critics, the source of the problem lies in Timon’s character and, more specifically, in the tension between his admirable generosity towards friends and servants and his distressing naïveté about financial matters and social bonds. The first quality makes him a larger-than-life figure straining to transcend earthy limits and to create a new golden age at the top of Athenian society, where he and his well-born friends will be “brothers commanding one another’s fortunes” (2.100–1).³ The second undermines the nobility of this project, making him seem a “satirized gull” instead of a “much-wronged idealist.”⁴ Hugh Grady praises Timon of Athens for possessing indeterminacy, the textual “blank space” that stimulates critical interpretation.⁵ A survey of the play’s critical reception, however, suggests that it possesses a less exalted trait: self-contradiction. Timon of Athens seems to invite ¹ For the first view, see Coppélia Kahn, “ ‘Magic of Bounty’: Timon of Athens, Jacobean Patronage, and Maternal Power,” Shakespeare Quarterly 38, no. 1 (Spring 1987): pp. 34–57; and Michael Chorost, “Biological Finance in Shakespeare’s Timon of Athens,” ELR 21, no. 3 (Autumn 1991): pp. 349–70. For the second, see Ken Jackson, “ ‘One Wish’ or the Possibility of the Impossible: Derrida, the Gift, and God in Timon of Athens,” Shakespeare Quarterly 52, no. 1 (Spring 2001): pp. 34–66. ² For the first view, see Robert B. Heilman, “Timon in Context,” in Shakespeare: The Tragedies, New Perspectives, ed. Robert B. Heilman (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1984), pp. 218–31. For the second, see G. Wilson Knight, The Wheel of Fire: Interpretations of Shakespearean Tragedy (1930; repr. New York: Routledge, 2001), pp. 235–72. ³ William Shakespeare and Thomas Middleton, Timon of Athens, ed. John Jowett (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004). All subsequent references of the play are from this edition and are by scene and line. ⁴ Nicholas Grene, Shakespeare’s Tragic Imagination (New York: Macmillan, 1992), p. 132. ⁵ Hugh Grady, “Timon of Athens: The Dialectic of Usury, Nihilism, and Art,” in A Companion to Shakespeare’s Works, vol. 1, The Tragedies, ed. Richard Dutton and Jean E. Howard (Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2006), pp. 431–51, p. 432. Wolfgang Iser defines indeterminacy as a “blank space” in “Interaction between Text and Reader,” in The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism, ed. Vincent B. Leitch et al. (New York: Norton, 2001), pp. 1673–82.

Fictions of Credit in the Age of Shakespeare. Laura Kolb, Oxford University Press (2021). © Laura Kolb. DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198859697.003.0004

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interpretations that either accept one part of the textual evidence while turning a blind eye to another, or that take in the whole text only to find it an irredeemable mess—unfinished at worst, an early modern exquisite corpse at best, its “two Timons” the product of two authors’ divergent artistic practices and ideological commitments.⁶ This chapter considers what it might mean to approach Timon of Athens as a unified text: that is, to view the play’s structuring tensions as part of a consistent artistic program that requires us to do the difficult work of thinking contradictory things at once. Far from being an artifact of incompletion or of authorial differences, internal contradiction functions as a principle of the play’s construction, a formal reiteration of a corresponding structure in the offstage world: the contradictory attitudes, behaviors, and ways of being in the world that England’s culture of credit demanded. Timon’s apparent inconsistencies and paradoxes are functions of its pervading concern with doubleness: specifically, the doubleness of artful language and, even more specifically, the heightened, intensified doubleness of artful language used in credit relations. Timon’s engagement with seventeenth-century economic life has long been recognized. Coppélia Kahn, David Bevington, and David L. Smith link the play to royal patronage and indebtedness, and Theodore Leinwand and John Jowett to period debt relations more generally.⁷ Michael Chorost and Ken Jackson consider its treatment of gift economies, while Amanda Bailey has argued for the play’s engagement with a particularly punitive instrument of legal debt, the penal debt bond.⁸ This body of work has called attention to Timon of Athens’s various, entangled economies: downward-flowing patronage, amicable gifts, and formal debts. All these forms of exchange in theory involve reciprocity, but with important distinctions. Unlike legal debts, the obligations incurred by patronage and gifts are voluntary, hard to quantify, and ultimately impossible to enforce. As much of the aforementioned criticism notes, Timon himself only really acknowledges the binding power of gifts—he ignores or is ignorant of the fact of legal debt—while his friends and other beneficiaries narrowly acknowledge only written bonds of ⁶ For the phrase “two Timons,” see Peter F. Grav, “Reconciling the Two Timons: Shakespeare’s Philanthropist and Middleton’s Prodigal,” in Shakespeare and the Economic Imperative: “What’s aught but as ’tis valued?” (New York: Routledge, 2008), pp. 131–56. For the argument that the play is incomplete, see Una Ellis-Fermor, “Timon of Athens: An Unfinished Play,” The Review of English Studies 18, no. 71 (July 1942): pp. 270–83. For a view of the play as shaped by differences between its authors’ approaches, see Grav, “Reconciling”; and John Jowett, “Middleton and Debt in Timon of Athens,” in Money and the Age of Shakespeare: Essays in New Economic Criticism, ed. Linda Woodbridge (New York: Palgrave, 2003), pp. 219–35. ⁷ Kahn, “ ‘Magic’ ”; David Bevington and David L. Smith, “James I and Timon of Athens,” Comparative Drama 33, no. 1 (Spring 1999): pp. 56–87; Theodore Leinwand, Theatre, Finance and Society in Early Modern England (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999), pp. 31–40; Jowett, “Middleton and Debt.” ⁸ Chorost, “Biological”; Jackson, “One Wish”; Amanda Bailey, Of Bondage: Debt, Property, and Personhood in Early Modern England (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2013), pp. 27–50.

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debt, begging out of gift-incurred obligations. Building on work analyzing the play’s multiple economies, I focus here on their combined product: Timon’s contradictory status as both desperately indebted and apparently rich. Attending to his initially invisible indebtedness, this chapter argues that the play’s engagement with economic life is inseparable from its intense interest in the power of language to alter shared perceptions and social reality. This power, much discussed in Renaissance accounts of rhetoric and poetics, was a feature of early modern English economic life, as well, and it is this feature that Timon’s coauthors isolate and amplify in their economic tragedy. In order to argue that Timon’s contradictions (especially the protagonist’s contradictory character) and thematic interest in doubleness (especially the doubleness of language) are responses to the play’s economic context, and in order to make a claim for intention rather than accident in the play’s construction, it is worthwhile to examine what the collaborating playwrights added to their source materials. Sources include Plutarch’s Lives, Lucian’s Dialogues, Rabelais’s Gargantua, William Painter’s Palace of Pleasure, and two earlier Timon plays: Boiardo’s Timone (c.1487) and an anonymous English academic comedy.⁹ The playwrights’ main additions, strongly present in Timon of Athens but absent in its sources, are debt and poetry. These added elements are intimately connected, both to each other and to the pervasive problem of Timon’s (and Timon’s) doubleness. In every known version of the story, Timon is or becomes a man-hater; some versions assign him a fall-from-fortune narrative that explains his misanthropy. Shakespeare and Middleton draw heavily on Lucian’s Dialogues, in which Timon gives generously but imprudently to ungrateful friends, depleting his estate. The two Renaissance dramatic sources introduce borrowing and lending to the story, but only at its edges.¹⁰ Neither Boiardo nor the author of the English comedy assign debts to Timon himself, but their inclusion of moneylending at the story’s periphery signals a link between classical models of friendship structured by

⁹ Geoffrey Bullough, ed., Other “Classical” Plays: Titus Andronicus, Troilus and Cressida, Timon of Athens, Pericles, Prince of Tyre, vol. 6, Narrative and Dramatic Sources of Shakespeare (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1966), pp. 225–345; Rolf Soellner, Timon of Athens: Shakespeare’s Pessimistic Tragedy (Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 1979), pp. 201–18; John Jowett, “Introduction,” to William Shakespeare and Thomas Middleton, Timon of Athens, ed. John Jowett (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009), pp. 16–22. On Gargantua and Pantagruel as a source for specific passages, see Barry Weller, review of Imagining Rabelais in Renaissance England by Anne Lake Prescott, Modern Philology 98, no. 3 (February 2001): pp. 353–6. ¹⁰ Matteo Maria Boiardo’s Timone inherits riches from a usurious father (Il Timone, trans. Bullough, in Other “Classical” Plays, pp. 277–93, see esp. p. 277). The Timon of the anonymous English play helps a friend indebted to the usurer Abyssus in an early scene and later describes his own generosity in terms of moneylending: “I putte my talents to strange usury, / To gaine mee friends, that they may follow mee” (Dyce MS 52, Victoria and Albert Museum, partially reproduced in Other “Classical” Plays, pp. 297–339). In the end, however, this Timon’s wealth is lost at sea.

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“benefit and expectation” and newer forms of relationality fostered by a Renaissance credit economy.¹¹ Shakespeare and Middleton go further: essentially a one-man credit-bubble, their Timon falls from fortune because he has taken on loans far in excess of his assets’ worth, mortgaged his lands as security, and continued to live extravagantly on credit alone. By making debt the engine of Timon’s tragic plot, the playwrights graft contemporary forms of economic and affective entanglement onto an older yet still culturally relevant model of sociability based on reciprocal gift-giving and hospitality.¹² If debt makes an old story topical, unmistakably linking ancient Athens to seventeenth-century England, the play’s engagement with poetry represents a more puzzling addition to the source materials. Timon’s first line is spoken by a character identified only as a “Poet,” and its final speech hinges on Alcibiades’ praise for the “rich conceit” (17.78) of Timon’s verse epitaph. Between these moments, poetry recurs both as a theme and as a mode of discourse. Timon himself is profoundly interested in poetry and the arts, supporting writers and painters and displaying his own rhetorical facility in speeches that, I will suggest, constitute a particular kind of poetic making. In what follows, I argue that poetry offers the playwrights a vocabulary and a set of conceptual structures for dramatizing the rhetorical dimension of debt relations. As the play presents it, debt, like poetry, is structured along a fundamental split between surface and substance, word and meaning, being and seeming. Both debt and poetry, moreover, structure larger systems as well as local acts. Timon’s discovery of his own double status precipitates a dramatic reflection on the double nature of human society itself: as a sphere of mutual interdependence bound by language and commerce and as a zone of nightmarish unreality perpetually falsified by them. In what follows, I situate the play alongside two sets of handbooks that explore the fictional dimension both of individual debtors and of a society structured by debt. The first set includes Thomas Powell’s satirical pamphlets on lending and borrowing from the 1620s and Henry Wilkinson’s part practical, part religious treatise, The debt book (1625). Powell and Wilkinson both detail the symptoms of “desperate” debt, which are often misleading. The second set of texts—a larger group made up of commercial arithmetics by Robert Record and Humphrey Baker, printed assizes of bread, and Gerard de Malynes’s substantial guide to merchant practices, the Lex mercatoria (1622)—theorizes the relationship between verbal artifice, exchange, and civil society. They echo Timon in a surprising number of ways, while at the same time putting forward a ¹¹ Wendy Trevor, “ ‘Receyving of Freendshipe’: Seneca's De Benificiis and Early Modern Amicable Relations,” Literature & History 20, no. 1 (Spring 2011): pp. 59–74, p. 71. ¹² For the play’s engagement with classical models of sociability and liberality, especially Seneca’s De beneficiis, see John M. Wallace, “Timon of Athens and the Three Graces: Shakespeare’s Senecan Study,” Modern Philology 83, no. 4 (May 1986): pp. 349–63. See also Felicity Heal, The Power of Gifts: Gift Exchange in Early Modern England (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014).

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decidedly non-tragic, often highly positive account of the fictive qualities shared by commerce, “conuersation,” and civilization itself.

3.2. Timon of Athens: or, The Rich Beggar Strikingly, the critical model of “two Timons”—one liberal, one prodigal— reiterates a classic case of rhetorical doubleness. Aristotle points out the way epideictic speech can either elevate or denigrate a given trait; an orator might call a cautious person cold, a rash one brave, or (and this is the one that really counts, for our purposes) a prodigal generous.¹³ Later classical and Renaissance discussions apply the name paradiastole to the technique of redescribing vices as virtues and meiosis to the related technique of diminishing accomplishments or extenuating faults. Quentin Skinner tells us that “standard paradiastolic pairings in Renaissance handbooks” included “careful/niggardly, frugal/avaricious, stern/ spiteful, just/cruel.”¹⁴ Liberal/prodigal appears almost universally. In The arte of English poesie, George Puttenham Englishes and personifies paradiastole as “the Curry-fauell,” defining it as “when we make the best of a bad thing . . . to call an vnthrift, a liberall Gentleman: the foolish-hardy, valiant or couragious: the niggard, thriftie: a great riot, or outrage, an youthfull pranke.”¹⁵ Of meiosis, or “the disabler” he writes, “We vse it againe to excuse a fault,” saying “of an arrant ruffian that he is a tall fellow of his hands: of a prodigall foole, that he is a kind hearted man: of a notorious vnthrift, a lustie youth, and such like phrases of extenuation, which fall more aptly to the office of the figure Curry fauell before remembred.”¹⁶ Puttenham’s fellow rhetorical theorist, the elder Henry Peacham, disparaged paradiastole as a “faultie tearme of speech” that “opposeth the truth by false tearmes, and wrong names.”¹⁷ Puttenham exhibits less interest in the figure’s falseness than its efficacy. To him, the technique subtly alters reality, “moderating and abating the force of the matter by craft.”¹⁸ Crafted or crafty speech can alter shared perceptions and social reality, especially in the highly rhetoricized courtly

¹³ Aristotle, The Art of Rhetoric, 1.9, trans. C.D.C. Reeve (Indianapolis: Hackett, 2018), p. 31. ¹⁴ Quentin Skinner, “Paradiastole: Redescribing the Vices as Virtues,” in Renaissance Figures of Speech, ed. Sylvia Adamson, Gavin Alexander, and Katrin Ettenhuber (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007), pp. 149–66, p. 152. See also Skinner, Reason and Rhetoric in the Philosophy of Hobbes (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996), pp. 138–80. ¹⁵ George Puttenham, The arte of English poesie (London, 1589), sig. X3v. ¹⁶ Puttenham, Arte, sig. 2B2v. ¹⁷ Henry Peacham the Elder, The garden of eloquence (London, 1593), sig. Z4v. Peacham discussed paradiastole in slightly different terms in the first edition of The garden of eloquence (London, 1577). References to the two editions are distinguished by year in these notes. ¹⁸ Puttenham, Arte, sig. X3v.

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world his poetic treatise addresses.¹⁹ Where speech shapes reality, the difference between “a prodigall foole” and “a kind hearted man” might be very slight. It might, in fact, consist entirely of words.²⁰ Viewed in light of early modern rhetorical theory, the contradictions in Timon’s character emerge as functions of his susceptibility to paradiastolic redescription. Timon is two things at once: a liberal gentleman viewed one way, and a profligate wastrel viewed another. According to Cicero’s De officiis, the difference between admirable liberality and wasteful lavishness lies in the quality of that which is given: partly in the amount, and partly in the type of benefit proffered. We should give within our means, and our liberality should express itself not in rich displays but in useful generosity: paying off a friend’s debts or providing his daughter with a dowry.²¹ Timon presents a complicated case. Though all of his gifts are beyond his means, he at first does not know this. Moreover, many instances of his generosity (paying debts, giving dowries) match Cicero’s examples of liberality, while others (feasting, hiring performers, proffering jewels to all his guests) exhibit extravagance. Yet as the play presents it, what matters is less the mixed quality of his generosity than the mixed way in which it is read, socially, by others. On stage, as well as in the criticism surveyed above, the value of Timon’s actions and traits alters according to external interpretation. In the play’s first scenes, his guests praise him as “magic of bounty” (1.6) who “outgoes / The very heart of kindness” (277–8); he is possessed of “the noblest mind . . . that ever governed man” (283–4). Later, the very behaviors that earned this praise—giftgiving, hospitality, opening his house to all comers—elicit a different interpretation, becoming symptoms of “raging waste” that “cannot hold” (3.4). Alexandra Shephard has demonstrated that early modern credit resided, ultimately, in things: the movable possessions that underwrote many debts. As a consequence, “the brokerage of credit had a very hard material edge.”²² Timon’s story suggests that even such firm material grounding could be subject to the vicissitudes of language and interpretation. His stores of wealth are first conjured, then destroyed, by words. Redescriptive rhetoric features more generally in the world of the play. The most notable instance occurs when Alcibiades addresses the Senate on behalf of one of his officers, who has killed someone in a fight. In his oration, the General

¹⁹ Daniel Javitch compares the two passages in Poetry and Courtliness in Renaissance England (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1978), p. 63. Whigham calls paradiastole the “master-trope” of courtly settings. Ambition, p. 40. ²⁰ On Puttenham’s milieu, see the editors’ “Introduction” to George Puttenham, The Art of English Poesy, ed. Wayne Rebhorn and Frank Whigham (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2007), esp. pp. 1–5 and pp. 49–69. ²¹ Cicero, De officiis 2.15–16, in On Duties, trans. Walter Miller, Loeb Classical Library 30 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1913), pp. 224–7. ²² Alexandra Shepard, Accounting for Oneself: Worth, Status, and the Social Order in Early Modern England (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015), p. 36.

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describes his friend’s action as the result of “hot blood” (10.11), claiming that, “with a noble fury and fair spirit, / Seeing his reputation touched to death, / He did oppose his foe” (18–20). The First Senator chastises him for trying to “make an ugly deed look fair” (25). “Your words have took such pains as if they laboured / To bring manslaughter into form” (26–7). The Senator echoes Peacham, who cites calling murder “a manly deede” as an example of paradiastole used to excuse a fault.²³ Along with terming prodigality liberality, calling violence bravery was “one of the most frequently cited instances of paradiastole in the Renaissance.”²⁴ The play’s dramatization of rhetorical redescription is fundamental to its presentation of economic life. Underneath the liberal/prodigal aspect of Timon’s ethos lies a second contrasting pairing: rich/indebted. For most of the play’s first two scenes, Timon’s wealth appears limitless. His generous expenditures inspire expressions of wonder: “He pours it out. Plutus the god of gold / Is but his steward” (1.279–80), declares one of his banquet guests. Gradually, however, a new perspective emerges. Timon’s loyal steward Flavius laments, in an aside: “He commands us to provide, and give great gifts, / And all out of an empty coffer . . . his land’s put to their books” (2.192–200). Later, an unnamed Senator to whom Timon owes money tallies up his various other debts: “And late five thousand. To Varro and to Isidore / He owes nine thousand, besides my former sum, / Which makes it five-and-twenty” (3.1–3). It turns out that Timon’s debts outstrip his assets, severely. As Flavius finally informs him, “The greatest of your having lacks a half / To pay your present debts” (4.139–40). Even the supposedly solid foundation of Timon’s wealth, his land, has melted away. “To Lacedaemon did my land extend” (146), he protests, and Flavius replies: “O my good lord, the world is but a word. / Were it all yours to give it in a breath, / How quickly it were gone” (147–9). Timon’s economic status results from spending, giving, and refusing to look over his accounts. Yet it is also a matter of rhetoric, of redescription. The same man looks rich, viewed one way, and flat broke, viewed another. His hospitality is a sign of limitless bounty, until it becomes a sign of raging waste. His liberal board indicates prosperity, until it signals dangerously indiscriminate openness. Timon’s credit breaks not when he has spent more than he possesses, but when others start to see—and say—that he has. While never included in rhetorical handbooks as a pair of adjacent traits subject to redescription, “wealthy” and “bankrupt” were often surprisingly close states in early modern England. At times, they overlapped. In a letter of advice, Lord Burghley warns his son against becoming a “rich begger in continuall want” through poor estate management.²⁵ In his essay “Of Seeming wise,” Bacon

²³ Peacham, Garden (1577), sig. N4v. ²⁴ Skinner, “Paradiastole,” p. 153. ²⁵ William Cecil, Lord Burghley, Letter 83, in A Seventeenth-Century Letter-Book: A Facsimile Edition of Folger MS. V.a. 321, ed. A.R. Braunmuller (Newark: University of Delaware Press, 1983), pp. 277–86, p. 281.

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terms such a person an “Inward Beggar,” a phrase that emphasizes debt’s potential invisibility.²⁶ A “rich begger” or “Inward Beggar” was not a rarity in early modern England, and Timon would have been recognizable as an instance of this paradoxical type. Surveying probate records from several English towns and cities, Muldrew concludes, “The majority of households had more debts than credits, and . . . a large percentage of these households actually had more debts than credits and moveable goods combined.”²⁷ Members of the landed classes were particularly prone to high levels of debt, both because they relied on uncertain and irregular revenue streams and because maintaining elite status was, in general, extraordinarily expensive. Lawrence Stone observes, “The determination of many Tudor and one or two Early Stuart noblemen to maintain the open-handed semipublic way of life of the medieval prince was an important cause for their financial difficulties.”²⁸ Throughout Renaissance Europe, in Lisa Jardine’s formulation, debt was “the price of magnificence.”²⁹ Great households funded themselves with loans, with the result that “many families, including some of the richest in the kingdom, contrived at one time or another to run headlong into debt.”³⁰ Even inward beggary had outward signs. Thomas Powell sketches these signs in his pamphlet Wheresoeuer you see mee, trust vnto your selfe (1623), a satirical taxonomy of debtors, creditors, and their habits. The pamphet’s subtitle, The mysterie of lending and borrowing, grants interpersonal debt relations mockprofessional status. The joke, here, is that this is a guide to a “mysterie”: both a secret and a craft. In a later version of the tract, Powell alters the title (and expands the joke), renaming the work The mysterie and misery of lending and borrowing (1636).³¹ Here, borrowing and lending constitute secret, a craft, and a plight. In both cases, Powell gives his satirical representation of debtors and creditors the form of a mock-professional manual. Elsewhere, he mimics the authors of such manuals, describing himself as “an old Travailer in the sea of Experience, amongst the Inchanted islands of ill Fortune.”³² The claim to offer worldly wisdom from the point of view of long experience is a hallmark of practical literature. And in fact, beneath its humorous critique, Wheresoeuer you see mee, trust vnto your selfe

²⁶ Francis Bacon, The essayes or counsels, civill and morall (London, 1625), p. 148. ²⁷ Craig Muldrew, The Economy of Obligation: The Culture of Credit and Social Relations in Early Modern England (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 1998), p. 118. ²⁸ Lawrence Stone, The Crisis of the Aristocracy, 1558–1641 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1965), p. 555. ²⁹ Lisa Jardine, Worldly Goods: A New History of the Renaissance (New York: Norton, 1998), p. 91. See also Linda Levy Peck, Consuming Splendor: Society and Culture in Seventeenth-Century England (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005), pp. 27–8. ³⁰ Stone, Crisis, p. 548. ³¹ This second version, The mysterie and misery of lending and borrowing, appears after The art of thriving: or, The plaine path-way to preferment (London, 1636), also by Powell. Within the volume containing both texts, The mysterie and misery of lending and borrowing bears a divisional title page, though the register is continuous. ³² Thomas Powell, Tom of all trades (London, 1631), sig. A2r.

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offers genuinely practical tips for navigating debt relations, especially in London. Powell begins by differentiating his subject from that of merchant manuals: “Setting aside the contemplation of such Lending and Borrowing, as whereby the soule of Traffique is breathed into the bodie of a Common-wealth; I descend lower to that practice of mutuation, whereby we accommodate one another for our present necessities in monies and other requisites.”³³ Interpersonal debt relations—Powell’s “mutuation”—operated differently from mercantile ones, where lending and borrowing were recognized as the engine of trade, rather than accommodation for “present necessities.”³⁴ In his pamphlet, Powell makes the case that everyday borrowing requires a set of skills distinct from those taught in practical arithmetics and merchant manuals. Merchants must learn how to keep accounts and draw up bills of exchange; ordinary people primarily have to learn how to read one another. In the first portion of the text, Powell details typical behavior of several kinds of borrowers, including courtiers, law students, and gentlemen “come vp to London” from the country, then lists “Signes fore-running the wonderfull Cracke”—that is, the symptoms of credit about to break.³⁵ These signs include aggressively seeking office, giving up an established trade for entrepreneurial projecting, enlarging and improving a country estate, and taking on multiple loans from various sources. Lending money to someone exhibiting these symptoms would be, Powell implies, a poor decision, one that a person skilled in the “mysterie” of lending would not make. Confusingly, though, some of these signs could be read as indicators of financial health. Improving a country estate might signal overspending, but it could instead point to prosperity. It might indicate rich beggary, or riches. Powell teaches interpretation according to a hermeneutic of suspicion. And, as he acknowledges, suspicious reading can have material effects. The “wonderful Cracke” takes place when the desperately indebted borrower’s creditors finally confer with one another, and private interpretation becomes public “newes.”³⁶ The corollary to painstakingly reading others was artful self-presentation. Some people, Bacon notes, cultivated “Tricks, to vphold the Credit of their wealth.”³⁷ Strategic social performance was often aimed, quite simply, at not becoming “newes” of the kind Powell describes. A particular historical example is here illuminating because it demonstrates the extent to which solvency was a matter of outward-facing performance, even for the financially secure. Samuel Pepys records in his diary evading arrest on Navy business by hiding out with a neighbor, while a group of bailiffs and a constable “stood knocking and enquiring

³³ ³⁴ ³⁵ ³⁶

Thomas Powell, Wheresoeuer you see mee, trust vnto your selfe (London, 1623), sig. B1r. On this point, see Bacon, “Of Vsurie,” in Essayes (1625), pp. 239–46. Powell, Wheresoeuer you see mee, sigs. G3v–G4v. Powell, Wheresoeuer you see mee, sig. G4v. ³⁷ Bacon, Essayes (1625), p. 148.

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for me” at his office door.³⁸ The Navy matter was soon resolved, but the spectacle at his doorstep concerned him. As Muldrew writes, “Although Pepys was not being arrested for debt, he worried that the process of arrest would be interpreted by his neighbors as such.”³⁹ Pepys’s finances were not at issue when the officers arrived at his door, but they might have seemed to be so to an outside observer, who might spread the news. Like most people, he owed a number of debts, and having them all called in at once could have been ruinous. Accordingly, he made a serious effort to turn the spectacle of arrest into a display of unconcerned wellbeing. After the bailiffs departed, Pepys emerged from hiding: “I by advice took occasion to go abroad, and walked through the street to show myself among the neighbours, that they might not think worse than the business is.” As Powell and Pepys knew, credit does not crack at the moment debts outweigh wealth. Rather, credit cracks when many people simultaneously interpret a person or estate as desperately indebted, at which point old creditors seek speedy repayment, and new loans cannot be obtained. This is what happens to Timon. After the unnamed Senator sends a servant to collect his money, other creditors, seeing this, follow suit. In the play’s climactic ninth scene, Timon finds himself beset: “My lord, here is my bill!” (8.83) cries one servant. “Here’s mine,” “And mine,” “And ours” (84), declare the others. If reading others’ estates was a crucial economic activity, as Powell teaches, so was assessing one’s own financial condition. Yet as studies of wills and probate records suggest, early modern people sometimes lacked an exact awareness of how their credits, debts, and assets balanced out.⁴⁰ Bacon offers a psychological explanation for this phenomenon. Urging that “It is no Basenesse, for the Greatest, to descend and looke, into their owne Estate,” he remarks, “Some forbeare it, not vpon Negligence alone, But doubting to bring Themselues into Melancholy, in respect they shall finde it Broken.”⁴¹ Bacon’s account may remind us of Timon: whenever Flavius brings him his accounts, as he claims to have done “many times” (4.128), the nobleman “would throw them off” (129), though from overconfidence rather than anxiety. Imprecise or hazy knowledge of one’s own estate could result from multiple factors: poor account-keeping, rudimentary instruments of credit, or the use of informal, unwritten credit arrangements, especially among friends and neighbors. At least in part, however, an imperfect sense of one’s finances might have been derived from experiencing one’s own reputation reflected back by others. In his essay “Of Great Place,” Bacon remarks

³⁸ Samuel Pepys, diary entry for Saturday, February 21, 1662/3, The Diary of Samuel Pepys, accessed August 15, 2019, https://www.pepysdiary.com/diary/1663/02/21/. ³⁹ Muldrew, Economy, p. 277. ⁴⁰ Muldrew, Economy, pp. 115–19. See also Paul Seaver, Wallington’s World: A Puritan Artisan in Seventeenth-Century (Palo Alto: Stanford University Press, 1988), p. 118. For an alternate view, see Shepard, Accounting, pp. 82–113. ⁴¹ Bacon, Essayes (1625), p. 165.

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that “men in Great Fortunes, are strangers to them-selves”; they “had need to borrow other Mens Opinions; to thinke themselves happy.”⁴² Here we have a fairly precise image of Timon, who borrows others’ opinions not only of his social elevation but of his financial status, and so becomes a stranger to himself, and to his finances.⁴³ Public image informs self-conception. Timon hears himself called rich so often that it seems inconceivable to him that he might not actually be rich. As his debts worsen, however, his image becomes increasingly removed from the reality that his neglected accounts record. Timon’s reputation as a rich, generous man is constructed out of common judgment of his character and estate, amplified by his friends’ flattery. Taken in by the illusion of his own prosperity, he spends lavishly and gives generously. Spending and giving increase his credit, worsen his debt, and simultaneously blind him to the impending “Cracke.”⁴⁴ In The debt book (1625), a work that mingles financial advice with religious instruction, Henry Wilkinson offers an account of how even visible, tangible, material wealth could become a false sign within the complex semiotic field of debt relations. Wilkinson emphasizes the fact that outward displays of wealth did not necessarily point to steady revenues and packed coffers. Possessions of great material value could be inwardly blighted by debt, and surface abundance might conceal a negative balance in the account books. One reason for this involved debt’s temporality: the built-in lag between incurring a debt and repaying it meant that an estate could seem robust while in fact poised on the edge of ruin.⁴⁵ Another involved the “rolling over” of debts, as indebted householders took on new loans to pay off old ones. This practice would almost inevitably lead to “permanent and standing” debt, which Wilkinson terms “fundi calamitas”: the blight of an estate.⁴⁶ Wilkinson calls attention both to the ordinariness and the strangeness of the paradox of rich beggary: Men of great estate and means are often indebted, Vsque ad stuporem, euen vnto astonishment; for, where should there be water, if not in the riuers? will you seeke it in ditches, which haue no spring to feed them? Where should there bee plenty, if not among men of great possessions and reuennues? will you seeke it among those who haue no such standing helpes to yeeld them supply? Yet, sometimes these men of great possessions, are full of nothing else but debt.⁴⁷

⁴² Bacon, Essayes (1625), pp. 55–6. ⁴³ In Vertues common-wealth (London, 1603), in a warning reminiscent of Timon’s plot, Henry Crosse writes that a rich man susceptible to flattery “climeth a rotten ladder” (sig. D1r). ⁴⁴ For the period terms “crack” and “break,” see Muldrew, Economy, p. 282. These words expressed credit’s fragility and spoke to the abruptness with which solvency could become bankruptcy. ⁴⁵ On debt’s temporality, see John Kerrigan, Shakespeare’s Binding Language (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016), pp. 146–73; see also p. 338 for Timon and time. ⁴⁶ Wilkinson, Debt book, sig. F6v. ⁴⁷ Wilkinson, Debt book, sig. G2r.

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Here and throughout, Wilkinson is warning his readers against taking on financial debt, but also against trusting appearances: what may look like great wealth may be hollow, illusory, “full” of debt. Though most practical literature of the period presents debt relations as ultimately navigable—even Powell’s desperate debtor makes a recovery— Wilkinson dwells on the catastrophic consequences of an estate “full of nothing else but debt.” He likens an indebted rich man to one poisoned in his sleep: How ofte[n] do we see, that as after the biting of an Aspe, the man smitten fals asleepe, but the poison dispearseth it selfe through euerie member till the whole bodie be poisoned: So after debt contracted, specially vpon the hard tearmes of vsurie, or ill conditions the debter is lulled a sleepe by the sweetnes of the present supply, but the debt passeth as a poison through euery part of a mans substance, donec totum conuertatur in debitum, till all be turned into debt.⁴⁸

Like a reverse Midas touch, debt transforms wealth into want, but it does so invisibly, from within. The debt book’s sleeper never wakes to discover his ruination. Timon of Athens presents us with the same situation: a man “lulled a sleepe by the sweetnes of the present supply.” But it also dramatizes what happens when he wakes to confront what Flavius calls “the ebb of your estate / And your great flow of debts” (4.136–7).

3.3. Debt’s Poetry Thus far, this chapter has considered Timon’s character as a product of a system that rewarded then ruined him. His liberality and his prodigality are products of rhetorical redescription, and his wealth and “brokenness” likewise depend on others’ descriptions. Timon as I have sketched him is a strikingly passive figure, made and unmade by language and exchange, a single verse in the vast, unauthored poetic fiction of debt culture. Now I want to offer a different Timon, an active figure, agential and strategic in his own right. Finding this more active Timon involves thinking about his character across the play, as he shifts from plenty to poverty and from benevolence to misanthropy. Up to this point, we have considered simultaneous, contradictory Timons: the liberal and the prodigal, the rich man and the man in debt. Now we turn to serial Timons: the benevolent lover of his fellow man and self-proclaimed “Misanthropos” who hates “mankind” (14.53).

⁴⁸ Wilkinson, Debt book, sig. F2r–v.

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The change in who Timon is, I would like to suggest, is secondary to the change in what Timon says. Or rather: the shift in his character follows in part from the shift in how Timon is socially perceived, described, and interpreted but also in part from how he, in turn, constructs his world in words. Timon’s misanthropic railing represents a fresh articulation, a redescription, of something that Timon knew all along: that social behavior is necessarily always performed and that the civilized world is always a kind of counterfeit. In the play, the gap between a poetic fiction’s surface and substance—the way in which words and meaning “meete not”—is itself subject to rhetorical redescription.⁴⁹ In the second half in particular, Timon rails against money and flattery as agents of falsification. Artful language is identified as hypocrisy and linked to social disorder. But surprisingly, in the first scenes, poetic artifice appears, albeit fleetingly, in a positive light: as the possible means of “making” a golden age on earth. Relentlessly exploring credit culture’s conflicting imperatives, Timon momentarily finds comic as well as tragic potentialities lurking within slant speech and, by extension, within credit relations and economized social life more generally. In so doing, the play engages with divergent Renaissance ideologies of the poetic word, one skeptical and pessimistic, the other idealizing and utopian.⁵⁰ To take the second half, the misanthropic one, first: When Timon leaves Athens, he says strikingly little about borrowing, lending, and gift-giving. Little, but not nothing: as his former friends flee his second banquet, he cries, “Stay, I will lend thee money, borrow none” (11.100), and later he suspects Flavius’ offering of a few coins of being a “usuring kindness” (14.508). In his first speech outside of Athens, “a series of imperatives aimed at persons, qualities [and] illnesses, which he demands should do their worst,” he orders, “Bankrupts, hold fast! / Rather than render back, out with your knives, / And cut your trusters’ throats” (12.8–10).⁵¹ More generally, he assumes greed to be a primary motivator for villainy and villainy to be a universal condition, and his lines on the power of money constitute perhaps the most well-known passages in the play. Crucially, when he speaks about his own past life and the transformation he has undergone, he tends to conflate the economic with the social and rhetorical. He recalls having been “stuck and spangled” with “flatteries” (11.90), an image that captures both the material glitter of his former life and its fragile rhetorical grounding.

⁴⁹ Puttenham, Arte, sig. X4r. ⁵⁰ See Wayne Rebhorn, “Introduction,” to Renaissance Debates on Rhetoric (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2000), pp. 1–13.; Heinrich F. Plett, Rhetoric and Renaissance Culture (Berlin: de Gruyter, 2004), pp. 67–73; and Eric MacPhail, The Sophistic Renaissance (Geneva: Librairie Droz, 2011), 65–71. ⁵¹ Anthony Dawson, “Is Timon a Character?,” in Shakespeare and Character: Theory, History, Performance and Theatrical Persons, ed. Paul Yachnin and Jessica Slights (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009), pp. 197–221, p. 198.

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In the long fourteenth scene, Timon digs for roots to eat in the wilderness and finds the proverbial “root” of all evil: “Yellow, glittering, precious gold” (14.26). He launches into an excursus on the transformative power of money: Thus much of this will make Black white, foul fair, wrong right, Base noble, old young, coward valiant. Ha, you gods! Why this, what, this, you gods? Why, this Will lug your priests and servants from your sides, Pluck stout men’s pillows from below their heads. This yellow slave Will knit and break religions, bless th’accursed, Make the hoar leprosy adored, place thieves, And give them title, knee, and approbation With senators on the bench. This is it That makes the wappered widow wed again. She whom the spittle house and ulcerous sores Would cast the gorge at, this embalms and spices To th’ April day again. (14.28–42)

Gold’s power is redescriptive. It resembles the power of a skilled rhetorician, whose words are so potent they alter not only our perceptions of things, but things themselves. We may recognize, in Timon’s speech, shades of Puttenham’s Curry-favell, but instead of adjacent traits like rashness and courage or prodigality and liberality, it pairs stark contraries: black and white, courage and cowardice, wrong and right, thieves and senators, diseased and desirable bodies. When Timon says that gold “makes black white, foul fair,” “coward valiant” and the rest, he in fact echoes a different passage from Puttenham’s Arte of English poesie. In the first chapter of the treatise, Puttenham defines poetry as both making and counterfeiting, then immediately goes on to praise Queen Elizabeth as “the most excellent Poet of our time.”⁵² We might expect him to praise her verses (as he does some two hundred pages later). But instead of the productions of her pen, he here commends those of her “Princely purse[,] fauours, and countenance.”⁵³ He describes the queen as “making in maner what ye list, the poore man rich, the lewd well learned, the coward couragious, and vile both noble and valiant.”⁵⁴ Elizabeth’s excellent poetry consists of distributing wealth, title, office, and place. The world she makes by these means is indeed like a poem: in a sense, after all, it is counterfeit. Neither inherited or given identities based in rank ⁵² Puttenham, Arte, sig. C1r. ⁵⁴ Puttenham, Arte, sig. C1v.

⁵³ Puttenham, Arte, sig. C1v.

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and birth nor earned ones based in education, deeds, and moral worth are stable. They can be re-assigned and altered, “authored” by the queen. Implicit in the passage is the claim that when Queen Elizabeth favors a vile person he or she becomes not only superficially “noble and valiant,” but actually so. She adds value to persons. Her creative power, like that of the best poesy, extends beyond surface to substance. The terms of Puttenham’s praise could just as easily be marshalled in service of blame, and indeed they often appear in anti-rhetorical writing. Pico della Mirandola, for example, famously attacked rhetoric for having the power to make “black white,” which Timon says of gold and Puttenham of his queen. Pico writes: For what is the office of the rhetor other than to lie, deceive, circumvent, practice sleight of hand tricks? It’s your business, as you say, to turn black into white and white into black as you will; by means of speech to raise up, cast down, amplify and diminish whatever you wish; and finally, to transform things themselves, as if by the magical force of eloquence . . . so that they assume whatever face and dress you wish, not appearing what they are in actuality, but what your will wants them to be.⁵⁵

Rhetoric shapes its objects; words alter things. According to Timon, gold works along similar lines. Like Pico, Timon condemns slant speech; like Puttenham, he likens its power to money’s. His repudiation of money is a repudiation of poetry, as well. Gold “makes” surface-level fictions, woven from the interplay of performative behavior and social evaluation. The perception of riches causes people to treat the “wappered widow” like a young bride, the leper like a lover, the thief like a senator. Underneath, or at first, the people with gold are not really transformed, and the people who flatter them are not really fooled—yet gold effectively recreates their shared reality. Money produces a counterfeit world, in which civility is a disguise for greed, and whose only social glue is feigned civility. Gold is a bad poet: instead of creating a Golden World, it ironizes ours. It scrambles reality beyond recognition until there is no telling what’s black, what’s white, or who’s a gentleman born. As he turns his back on Athens, Timon declares flattery to be a universal condition: Who dares, who dares In purity of manhood, stand upright And say, “This man’s a flatterer”? If one be, So are they all, for every grece of fortune ⁵⁵ Pico della Mirandola, Letter to Ermolao Barbaro, cited in Plett, Renaissance, p. 68. MacPhail locates this letter within a rhetorical game of praising and blaming rhetoric itself. Sophistic, pp. 65–9.

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Is smoothed by that below. The learnèd pate Ducks to the golden fool. All’s obliquy; There’s nothing level in our cursed natures But direct villainy. (14.13–20)

Timon’s term for the indeterminacy that marks the economized social sphere is “obliquy,” a pun that suggests both “obloquy,” a synonym for “villainy,” and “obliquity,” the quality of being oblique, skew, or slanted. Such slantedness marks lies, flatteries, and poetic utterances alike. All’s obliquy: everyone is a villain, and everyone is a Curry-favell. This is as true of the “golden fool” who accepts unearned deference as it is of the “learnèd pate” who hypocritically bows to him, hoping for a reward. Local, interpersonal fictions contribute in aggregate to the larger fictionalization of the world. In the play’s second half, then, Pico’s anti-rhetorical stance forms the premise of Timon’s misanthropy. He identifies rhetoricity as the basic condition of living in society, and elides rhetoric itself with duplicity, hypocrisy, and deceit. In its first scenes, however, he more closely resembles Puttenham: someone who feels that some social fictions at least are “most excellent” poetry. At key moments before the discovery of his debts, the play presents the possibility that the coded behavior and rhetorical artifice surrounding exchange might stabilize relationships and provide the only possible channels for human connection. Like an exercise in arguing in utramque partem, Timon of Athens describes the communitarian possibilities of credit culture’s codes, as well as their vulnerability to exploitation and manipulation.⁵⁶ The play opens with a discussion between a Poet and Painter. Before we encounter Timon, we meet this pair, who have come to their patron’s house armed with recent work, seeking monetary reward. Critics have argued that, by opening with these figures of artistry and artifice, the play plunges us into an atmosphere of deceit and fraudulence.⁵⁷ The artistic productions of the Poet and Painter are commodified fictions, reified versions of the courtesies offered by Timon’s flattering friends. The friends, too, offer artifice in exchange for a patronage, receiving presents for courtesy. It is often assumed that Timon is too naïve to detect the gap—between surface and substance, promise and intention, outward flattery and inward judgment—that structures his friends’ behavior, the images produced by the Painter, and the texts made by the Poet.⁵⁸ Yet his ⁵⁶ For plays as arguments in utramque partem, Joel Altman, The Tudor Play of the Mind: Rhetorical Inquiry and the Development of Elizabethan Drama (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1978), pp. 107–29. ⁵⁷ Soellner, Timon, pp. 1–2. Most readings of the Poet and Painter focus on the paragone tradition; see Plett, Rhetoric, pp. 297–304; and Anthony Blunt, “An Echo of the ‘Paragone’ in Shakespeare,” The Journal of the Warburg Institute 2, no. 3 (January 1939): pp. 260–2. ⁵⁸ See Lynne Magnusson, Shakespeare and Social Dialogue: Dramatic Language and Elizabethan Letters (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999), pp. 114–40, esp. p. 137. As Magnusson’s own

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extended interactions with these figures indicate that he not only sees it, but can manipulate, control, and enjoy it. He understands that what he’s being offered (in his friends’ praise, in the Poet’s poem, in the Painter’s portrait) is flattery. Timon never reads the proffered poem, but his commentary on the picture is revealing. Looking at the portrait, he remarks: The painting is almost the natural man; For since dishonour traffics with man’s nature, He is but outside; these pencilled figures are Even such as they give out. (1.160–4)

Timon starts off praising the picture but quickly shifts to dispraise of mankind. Men nowadays are as artful and artificial as “pencilled figures.” Both people and pictures show only “outsides,” surfaces that invite interpretation, but that also misdirect, conceal, and deceive. Timon’s reading of the picture suggests that even here, before the break in his credit and his character, he recognizes that “there’s nothing level” (4.19) in social intercourse. It is worth noting Timon’s discursive decorum: he addresses tradesman and artificers in a different register than the one he uses with his friends. With the non-elite, he is facetious, ironic, jocular, familiar. Here, he teases the Painter, redescribing his artistry as mere artifice, which both emblematizes the falseness of flattery and is itself a form of flattery. Later, he knowingly accuses the Jeweler of trying to gouge him with inflated prices. With his friends, he offers expressions of courtesy: “More welcome are ye to my fortunes / Than my fortunes to me” (2.19–20). With the lower-class characters, whose economic relation to Timon requires less mystification, he offers a commentary on how courtesy actually works: a fair seeming outside with an economic core. Of Timon’s relation to his high-born friends, Coppélia Kahn observes, “Hospitality flows from him, and waves of flattery wash back over him.”⁵⁹ The exchange of wealth for words is complicated by Timon’s acknowledgment of it in dialogue with the Painter and Jeweler, which allows us to see that, even in the play’s first half, Timon operates as an agent within his rhetorical environment; he is not just its product and its victim. As his discussion of social counterfeiting demonstrates, he knows that courtesy can shade into hypocrisy and that it can be impossible to discern inner motive from outward show. We might say that Timon’s hypocritical friends exemplify one extreme of courtesy: artfulness masking deceit. Timon embodies another. His language is a graceful dissembling aimed

reading of the play’s discursive context in fact makes clear, Timon draws on rhetorical tropes and stock expressions that form the common currency of polite discourse among well-born friends. ⁵⁹ Kahn “ ‘Magic,’ ” p. 38.

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at the higher goal of truth: not the quotidian truth of “what is,” but the higher truth of “what may be, and should be.”⁶⁰ Rather than ignoring the slippery rhetoricity of social life, he seeks to mobilize the split between being and seeming in service of producing and reinforcing an ideal community. In other words, Timon’s language is poetic—both in the sense that it is artful, stylized, and rhetorical and in the sense that it makes. His words after all have material effects; they translate the productions of “the realm of the imagination” into “sensuous, actual existence.”⁶¹ As Flavius laments, Timon imagines “kingdoms” (2.221) so that he can give them away. When he tells his servants to provide one of his friends with a horse or a dog or a jewel, a horse or dog or jewel appears. The point, for Timon, is not the metamorphic flow of money itself, as it takes on myriad shifting forms. Rather, as we have seen, it is the sociable surplus that results from the exchange of gifts. As G. Wilson Knight puts it: “Timon’s world is poetry made real, lived rather than imagined. He would break down with conviviality, music, art”—and, I would add, wealth—“the barriers that sever consciousness from consciousness.”⁶² At the lavish feast in the play’s second scene, Timon declares to his friends: Why, I have often wished myself poorer, that I might come nearer to you. We are born to do benefits; and what better or properer can we call our own than the riches of our friends? O, what a precious comfort ’tis to have so many like brothers commanding one another’s fortunes! O, joy’s e’en made away ere’t can be born: mine eyes cannot hold out water, methinks. To forget their faults, I drink to you. (2.96–103)

Timon offers a vision of the gathered company as the inhabitants of a new Golden Age, where meum merges with tuum and all things are held in common. This utopian dream is circumscribed, extending only to an all-male inner circle made up of nobles and Senators. Timon’s appealing fantasy is an expression of the horizons opened by the social and economic inter-entanglement of persons. It describes an ideal that is latent within and, at least potentially, facilitated by the forms of exchange he and his friends practice. To Timon’s mind, material obligations bear within them the utopian possibility of transcending exchange altogether, of establishing a sphere of boundless harmony and endless abundance. Throughout the play’s first scenes, he seems to be trying to effect this merging of affective and material resources with his gifts and hospitality. Like Puttenham’s

⁶⁰ Philip Sidney, An apologie for poetrie (London, 1595), sig. C3v. ⁶¹ The quotations are from Karl Marx’s discussion of the play, in which he describes money as “the creative power” in the world. “The Power of Money in Bourgeois Society,” in The Marx-Engels Reader, ed. Robert C. Tucker (New York: Norton, 1978), pp. 101–5, p. 104. ⁶² Knight, Wheel, p. 239.

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Queen Elizabeth, he is carefully making a world—a better world, a golden one—by means of his purse and his favors. Like his status as a rich beggar, Timon’s idealizing rhetoric also points to a specific structure in the play’s historical context. Muldrew argues that, in the period, society as a whole “came to be defined . . . as the cumulative unity of the millions of interpersonal obligations which were continually being exchanged and renegotiated.”⁶³ Whatever currents of suspicion or self-interest produced fissures in that “unity,” credit was in a very real sense social glue, both binding people together in new market-based configurations and shoring up traditional hierarchies and allegiances.⁶⁴ Credit’s binding function was perhaps especially strong for the elite, whose wealth was shared effectively, if not legally. Stone describes how wealth circulated like a “gigantic merry-go-round, with the great moneyed men of London in effect paying each other off every six months or so.”⁶⁵ For optimistic observers, the net effect may indeed have been a sense of the blurred boundaries between one household’s coffers and its neighbor’s, between mine and thine. This was true for Gerard de Malynes, who likens England’s wealthiest inhabitants to a company of soldiers that passes muster despite a shortage of arms, because they borrow and lend strategically: “if they were all mustred in a day, and at one instant, a great part of them would bee found to want Armour. So the like want of monyes and wealth would be found if rich men were examined, for their personall estates vpon any vrgent occasion.”⁶⁶ “Brothers” or not, elite borrowers did command one another’s fortunes. Timon is as mistaken about his friends’ feelings for him as he is about the specifics of his account-books; their hearts turn out to be as empty as his coffers. But his idealism is a sane (if very optimistic) response to the material conditions of his world. Financial interdependence can look and feel like sharing. In choosing to call the former the latter, Timon offers a paradiastolic redescription of the ordinary state of things. His later condemnation of gold and the world it makes—a nightmarish fiction, an illusory harmony shored up by myriad local acts of feigning—is really a fresh redescription of the same thing: a community both bound and fissured by economic interdependence. After the other guests have left, Apemantus attacks the hollowness of the courtesy on display during the feast, calling the deferential bows of the Lords and Senators a “jutting-out of bums” (2.235). He goes on to suggest that Timon has bought these physical shows of deference from his friends: “I doubt whether their legs be worth the sums / That are given for ’em” (236–7). Timon responds: “Now, Apemantus, if thou wert not sullen / I would be good to thee” (240–1). ⁶³ Muldrew, Economy, p. 123. See also Keith Wrightson, Earthly Necessities: Economic Lives in Early Modern Britain, 1470–1750 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2002), p. 78. ⁶⁴ For the credit’s function within traditional hierarchical social structures, see Muldrew, Economy, pp. 1–15 and pp. 97–8. ⁶⁵ Stone, Crisis, p. 528. ⁶⁶ Gerard de Malynes, Consuetudo, vel lex mercatoria (London, 1622), p. 71.

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Apemantus calls this offer a bribe (242). It is one. If Timon’s use of his wealth amounts to a poetic project, an attempt to make a certain kind of world, then he is also trying to achieve a certain kind of language: to literalize the courtly rhetoric of love, reciprocity, and fellowship. The golden world he wants to create—by being “good” to his followers in multiple senses—is one in which outward shows are strongly knit together with inner feelings. Timon does not naïvely assume a confluence between inner and outer, or being and seeming. Rather he seeks to create such a confluence, using gifts and hospitality. At the point when he discovers his debts, he is still working on Apemantus; evidently, he believes he has succeeded with the Lords and Senators. Paradoxically, the counterfeit world he is trying to make using money will be one in which artifice and property have no real place. Timon uses the tools of the brazen world—riches (on the material side of things) and rhetoric (on the verbal)—to realize, materially and affectively, the rhetoric of abundance, mutuality, and love that he uses with his friends. His tools are conventional and coded, but what he imagines is a state of being beyond conventions and codes altogether. As Flavius notes, debt destabilizes Timon’s verbal and material poetic project, hollowing it out from within: “what he speaks is all in debt, he owes / For every word” (2.198–9). The result is a depletion of material resources and the loss of his friends—not a communitarian Golden Age or a poetic Golden World at all. “All’s obliquy,” Misanthropos declares in a pun that captures the proximity of both rhetoric and poetry to hypocrisy and flattery: they are all slant, concealing one thing and disclosing another. The word also describes Timon himself: he is always slant, oblique, double. This is true not only of the liberal-prodigal Timon with whom we began, but also of the self-conscious poet, who paradoxically feigns in order to make. And it is true of the unwitting debtor, whose riches are in the end a poetic fiction: illusory and constructed, made up of words, gestures, and interpretation—riches that are only real as long as they elicit belief, or credit, from the right audience.

3.4. Origin Stories In closing, I want to consider Timon’s movement from Athens to the woods as a failed attempt to recover a pre-monetary, pre-linguistic state of nature. I read this movement alongside a set of contemporary practical texts that likewise use the state of nature as a conceptual framework for theories of civil society. Drawing on a common feature of rhetorical manuals, certain period arithmetics textbooks and merchant manuals prefaced their lessons in commercial skill with etiological stories—stories explaining the origins of the world in which their authors and readers live, the world as it is. In this world, lessons in calculation (like lessons in rhetoric) are necessary, because exchange (like communication) is one of its

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fundamental activities. Imagining a lost state of nature prior to civilization, both Timon of Athens and contemporary handbooks identify language and commerce as basic conditions of society. Yet where the play slides from flashes of praise in its first half to profound critique in the later scenes, the authors of rhetorical and mathematical treatises treat eloquence, commerce, and the social structures they enable in overwhelmingly positive terms. Credit broken, Timon explicitly rejects society. He sheds his clothes—“Nothing I’ll bear from thee, / But nakedness, thou detestable town” (12.32–3)—and eschews human company: “Timon will to the woods, where he shall find / Th’unkindest beast more kinder than mankind” (35–6). After finding gold, he is beset by the conditions he fled: smooth-tongued visitors, looking for handouts. In its movement from society to isolation to society again, Timon of Athens draws on a pair of myths about the state of nature and the origins of civilization. The first is the story of rhetoric’s civilizing power, told by Cicero and retold in numerous rhetorics and poetics tracts in the Renaissance. Cicero describes humanity’s initial condition as one of isolation: “Men were scattered in the fields and hidden in sylvan retreats.”⁶⁷ The first rhetor “through reason and eloquence . . . transformed them from wild savages into kind and gentle folk.”⁶⁸ In England, Peacham and Puttenham retell the story, while Thomas Wilson fuses it to the biblical narrative of the Fall, after which “al thinges waxed sauage” until God granted a chosen few the gift of eloquence, effecting a universal transformation: “of wilde, sober: of cruel, gentle: of foles, wise: and of beastes, men.”⁶⁹ Closely related to this story are the myths of Orpheus and Amphion, figures who embody poetry’s civilizing power. In the Ars poetica, Horace writes that Amphion moved stones with his lyre and that Orpheus’ laments tamed wild beasts. Peacham glosses Horace: “The Poet here vnder the name of tigres and lions, meant not beasts but men, & such men as by their sauage nature & cruell manners might well be compared to fierce tigres and deuouring lions.”⁷⁰ Rhetoric and poetry reform wild men, converting them “from that most brutish condition of life, to the loue of humanity, and polliticke government.”⁷¹ Hostile isolation gives way to communal interdependence. Thus, as Puttenham puts it, poets were “the first Legislators and polititians in the world” and poetry itself was “th’originall cause and occasion of their first assemblies.”⁷² The second myth invoked in Timon’s movement to the woods is the story of the Golden Age, familiar from Hesiod and Ovid, in which the discovery of precious metal in the earth contributes to the ongoing fragmentation of a once-harmonious society. Where myths about the power of rhetoric and poetry describe an ⁶⁷ ⁶⁸ ⁶⁹ ⁷⁰ ⁷²

Cicero, De inventione, quoted in Plett, Rhetoric, pp. 74–5. Cicero, De inventione, quoted in Plett, Rhetoric, pp. 74–5. Thomas Wilson, The arte of rhetorique (London, 1553), sig. A3r–v. Peacham, Garden (1593), sig. AB3v. ⁷¹ Peacham, Garden (1593), sig. AB3v. Puttenham, Arte, sig. C2r.

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essentially comic movement, from wild isolation to mutually beneficial coexistence, Golden Age myths trace a fall, from social harmony to an “unsocial sociability” marked by competition, self-interest, greed.⁷³ One key element in this fall is gold itself. In Ovid’s telling, the discovery of various metals and their uses initiates the iron age, the last and worst phase of civilization: “Then hurtfull yron came abrode, then came forth yellow golde, / More hurtfull then the yron farre, then came forthe battell bolde, / That feightes with bothe . . . ”⁷⁴ This age— which is of course the one in which Ovid writes and his readers live—represents the endpoint to a progressive deterioration: from Golden Age to Silver, Brazen, and finally Iron. Early modern retellings sometimes compressed Ovid’s staged process into a single sharp break, with a single clear cause: gold. In Roger Bieston’s dialogue The bayte and snare of fortune (1556), for instance, Man blames a personified Money for the Golden Age’s end: “For after that man had made the[e] for delite / The golden world furthwith was quenched quite.”⁷⁵ Man describes the lost era as one in which shared resources preempted selfish appetites and prevented disorder: “Al riches was commune without barat or strife.”⁷⁶ People were free of “concupiscence / Of the[e] that art nowe the causer of all vyce.”⁷⁷ Ever since Money came into the world, however, “mennes hertes” burn “with fyre of auarice.”⁷⁸ Naked and alone, Timon resembles the “scattered” and “hidden” first people Cicero describes: he likens himself to a “beast” (14.49) and in his anger resembles Peacham’s tiger-like people’s “sauage nature & cruell manners.” At the same time, the scene in which he unearths gold echoes the Golden Age myth. As in that story, precious metal brings “unsocial sociability” along with it, drawing flatterers, politicians, and thieves to the woods. Both stories set out to explain the world as it is. One does so in positive and the other in negative terms: civil society is ordered by language, or it is disordered by money. By drawing these stories together in Timon’s own trajectory, Timon posits a deep link between their central terms: language and money. Both are foundational for civilization; both structure the world as it is. Where one myth claims that language binds and the other that money fragments, the play claims that both do both. Neither myth’s image of society is adequate to the play’s purposes. Overlaid, they allow the playwrights to articulate a vision of social relations as simultaneously corroded and shored up by structures of communication and exchange.

⁷³ The phrase is from Immanuel Kant, “Idea for a Universal History from a Cosmopolitan Point of View,” in Political Writings, ed. Hans Reiss, trans. H.B. Nisbet (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003), pp. 41–53, p. 44. See also Muldrew, Economy, p. 105. ⁷⁴ Ovid, The fyrst fowr bookes of P. Ouidius Nasos worke, intitled Metamorphosis, trans. Arthur Golding (London, 1565), sig. A2v. ⁷⁵ Roger Bieston, The bayte and snare of fortune (London, 1556), sig. A4v. ⁷⁶ Bieston, Bayte, sig. A4v. ⁷⁷ Bieston, Bayte, sig. A4v. ⁷⁸ Bieston, Bayte, sig. A4v.

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Each of the invoked myths explains the world as it is in terms of a cataclysmic change, whether destructive lapse or constructive leap. Timon tells a story about the impossibility of change. The Athens that comes to Timon in the woods is no different from the Athens he renounced. It is the same mixture of self-seeking followers and loyal associates (notably, Flavius), drawn together by the same nexus of linguistic and monetary relations. Society—which is both bound and fragmented by gold, and both bound and fragmented by language—reclaims Timon. There is no world elsewhere, even after death. In the last speech of the play, Alcibiades reads Timon’s epitaph aloud: “Pass by and curse thy fill—but pass, and stay not here thy gait” (17.74). Ignoring the injunctions to curse and to leave, Alcibiades praises the dead man and resolves to continue praising him: “Dead / Is noble Timon, of whose memory / Hereafter more” (80–2). Timon will once more be reconstructed in language, “spangled with . . . flatteries” (11.90). In the woods, Timon fails to achieve a pre-linguistic, pre-monetary state of nature even briefly. In dialogue with Apemantus, he reveals that he cannot imagine a world prior to civil society. To Apemantus’ stated desire to dwell in a world “rid of the men” (14.323), Timon responds: If thou wert the lion, the fox would beguile thee. If thou wert the lamb, the fox would eat thee. If thou wert the fox, the lion would suspect thee when peradventure thou wert accused by the ass. If thou wert the ass, thy dullness would torment thee, and still thou lived’st but as a breakfast to the wolf. (14.328–33)

Instead of being distinct from human relationships, animals’ relations of predation and victimization are analogous to them. Foxes are tricky, lions suspicious, asses servile and accusatory. These animals are capable of “obliquy” and on the lookout for it. For Timon, there is no imaginable primary, natural state that might be recovered from the conditions of mutual deception fostered by human civilization, even with humanity itself destroyed. Timon is not the only period text to draw together myths that identify eloquence or money as the origin of sociable relations and as the ongoing enabling condition of society. As we have seen, rhetorical manuals continued to retell Cicero’s story throughout the period. At the same time, commercial handbooks borrowed and repurposed that story, sometimes in praise of mathematical learning and sometimes in defense of trade. Robert Record’s arithmetic The ground of artes (1543), discussed in Chapter 1, is an example. Later editions of this work contain a dedication to Prince Edward, which praises learning of every kind and includes Record’s own translation of Cicero’s story. After the translation, Record goes on to say that along with the arts that “informe the tongue . . . as Grammer, Logike, and Rhetorike,” the ancients revered arithmetic and geometry: arts that that “did appertayne to the iuste order of partition of Landes, the true vsying of

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weyghtes, measures, and reckenings in all sortes of bargaynes.”⁷⁹ Record sees mathematical learning as fulfilling a similar civilizing function to eloquence. Like eloquence, skilled reckoning is “needefull unto the fyrste planting of a common wealth” and “as muche required to the preservation of it also.”⁸⁰ Record’s near-contemporary Humphrey Baker places mathematics in competition with rhetoric. A direct gift from God, it is so universally beneficial that “the greatest Orator” could not enumerate its “commodities.”⁸¹ Baker imagines premathematical life much as Cicero and his followers represent pre-linguistic society: as disordered and beastly. In the first edition of the The well spryng of sciences, he asserts that without “Arithmetical art . . . nothinge either priuate or common can bee well ordered.”⁸² In a later edition, he elaborates this claim: “Take away Arithmetick, wherein differeth the Shepparde from the Sheepe, or the Horsekeeper from the Asse?”⁸³ Arithmetic makes us human, because it makes us civilized. Like mathematics more generally, measurement could be seen as the basis of successful commercial activity and civil society. In a preface to the 1592 The assise of bread—a printed table of the legally mandated price-to-weight ratio for all types of loaf—John Powell addresses himself to all those “whose vsuall trades” involve measuring goods.⁸⁴ He praises accurate calculation in “weight and measure” as vital social glue.⁸⁵ Fair measurement facilitates fair exchanges, which bind members of the commonwealth “in that most lovying and memberlike duetie which one part oweth unto others & everie one of them to the conservation of the whole bodie.”⁸⁶ Record, Baker, and Powell assert that society is founded on the skills that enable trade. To varying degrees, all three nod at the etiological story told in rhetorical treatises. Gerard de Malynes goes further, beginning his massive book of merchant customs, Lex mercatoria (1622), with a fully elaborated account of the state of nature and the subsequent organization of isolated individuals into society:

⁷⁹ Robert Record, The grounde of artes (1543; repr. London, 1575), sig. A6r–v. Quotations in this chapter are from the 1575 edition. ⁸⁰ Record, Grounde (1575), sig. A7v. ⁸¹ Humphrey Baker, The well springe of sciences (London, 1574), sigs. A2r–A3v. Different editions of this work are distinguished in these notes by title and date. ⁸² Baker, The well spryng of sciences (London, 1568), sigs. A2v–A3r. ⁸³ Baker, Well springe (1574), sig. A3v. ⁸⁴ John Powell, The assise of bread newly corrected and enlarged (London, 1592), sig. A3r. The assize’s “principle was simple: a unit loaf would be sold at a constant price (usually a farthing or halfpenny) while its weight would vary according to changes in the market price of grain. As the price of corn increased, the size of the loaf would decrease and vice versa.” James Davis, “Baking for the Common Good: A Reassessment of the Assize of Bread in Medieval England,” The Economic History Review, 57, no. 3 (Aug. 2004): pp. 465–502, p. 466. ⁸⁵ Powell, Assise, sig. A2r. ⁸⁶ Powell, Assise, sig. A2r. For conflicting accounts of measurement as socially binding and as socially fragmenting, see Witold Kula, Measures and Men, trans. R. Szreter (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1986), esp. p. 3 and p. 13.

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When Almightie God had created man, good and a sociable creature, who could not so well liue alone, as other creatures sufficiently prouided (by nature) for their sustenance; and had reason assigned and giuen vnto him, aboue all the said creatures: yet all the meanes and faculties of his bodie and soule, were not sufficient to make him happie whilest he was alone. But necessitie did require a concourse of men helping one another to supplie (with a common strength) the said weakenesse; for the burden of the said necessitie was so weightie and great, that one man alone was not able to manage the same. Then it came to passe, that by mutuall contribution of offices, euerie man did afford means according to his abilitie for the common good.⁸⁷

Insufficiently provided for in solitude, human beings come together and apparently automatically organize themselves into a natural division of labor, each contributing “according to his abilitie for the common good.” Malynes goes on to detail how the “mutuall contribution of offices” that marks the earliest communities naturally develops into more sophisticated forms of commerce: The mutuall contribution of offices amongst men hath from the beginning continued both in labouring and manuring the naturall riches of the lands in corne and pasturage . . . . Which riches in matter and foundation naturall, and partly also in alteration and managing artificially, euery possessor not long after the beginning of the world seuerally inioyed in propertie: and hence did proceed a commerce, first, in reall enterchange and communication of things of the same or other kinds, but all naturall commodities, as sheepe for sheepe, sheepe for corne, wine for oyle, &c. betweene man and man, or nations and nations, according to number, weight, and measure, and after, to auoid confusion, by a commune pignus currant mutuall, which we call money, both by way of merchandizing . . . . The obseruation and customes whereof, was the beginning of the Law-Merchant, and that especially when mankind was propagated into an infinite number, and the domestiques or neere hand commodities were not sufficient for their sustenance in some countries, and in other countries were ouer aboundant: Then of necessitie followed the vse of trusting, exchanging, and trading; first, on the Land in the maine Continent, and then extensiuely vpon the Seas, both for fishing and negotiation. Then did merchants trauell from countrey to countrey.⁸⁸

Pooled natural resources become private property, which begets a system of barter, which produces the need for money, which allows for increasingly complex forms of “trusting, exchanging, and trading” by land and by sea. Mutual consent

⁸⁷ Malynes, Lex mercatoria, p. 1.

⁸⁸ Malynes, Lex mercatoria, p. 2.

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marks every stage of the progression; the only negative phase is the very first one, when people are isolated and insufficient. Instead of a break with an original Golden Age of harmonious communal living, merchandizing is an extension of it—or rather, a means of instantiating it in the world we live in.⁸⁹ For Malynes, this world, our world, is unfallen. Notably, Malynes’s names for exchange, “enterchange” and “communication,” are also words for speech. Society is here both marketplace and conversation. Malynes gives us an idealized version of the same insight that Timon articulates in pessimistic terms: that society depends on communication and on exchange. As the mutually agreed upon conventional currencies for commercial and linguistic exchange, money and words form “the basis for collective order.”⁹⁰ In its presentation of rhetorically structured credit relations, Timon of Athens addresses the conditions of a historically particular society. What it critiques most clearly, though, is what credit culture could be seen as intensifying and epitomizing: the category of the social in general—and the paradoxical, inescapable, largely unchanging fact that the conventions that bind human communities also fragment them. In the end, though, even this critique is equivocal. In having an individual tragedy play out against a static social backdrop, Middleton and Shakespeare suggest the very conditions that kill Timon are, for most people, not only livable but ordinary, and not only ordinary but necessary. The most extreme catastrophe of credit culture, the perfect storm created in the meeting of rich beggar with flattering parasites, is itself an exaggerated articulation of the possibilities latent in the basic activities of sociability: exchange and communication. Put differently: the tragedy presents as unbearable what is borne every day. It tells us what it feels like to live in contradiction with oneself: what it feels like to live inside a fiction, to try to escape it, and to find that it has no outside. And it tells us what it feels like to break—financially, psychologically, philosophically—only to find that breaking precipitates no change and reveals no deeper truth. Timon escapes the worldly impasse in which he finds himself by dying. His death may be the only dramatically satisfying ending available; the play is after all a tragedy, and virtuosic in its melding of the everyday with the catastrophic. But from a practical standpoint, such an outcome to the everyday scenarios produced by overlapping systems of exchange and communication is profoundly undesirable. Thomas Powell, in his little pamphlet on the “mysterie” of lending and borrowing, offers a different possible ending. After suffering “the wonderfull Cracke,” Powell’s desperate debtor recovers swiftly, because his creditors quietly agree with one another to forgive or reduce his debts. Some do so out of pity; ⁸⁹ Malynes was not the only seventeenth-century writer to make this connection. See, for example, John Hodges, How to revive the Golden Age (London, 1666), a densely printed broadside about the balance of trade. ⁹⁰ Lawrence Manley, Convention 1500–1750 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1980), p. 3.

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others, “of the more pragmaticall sort,” out of fear that news of their losses by him will bring “their owne estates . . . likewise in question.”⁹¹ They “dissemble the matter,” restoring their debtor’s credit in order to protect their own.⁹² Powell’s little story is satirical, itself an exaggeration highlighting one form of self-interest, but it also underscores the usefulness of a flexible and pragmatic approach to credit relations, rather than a rigid one. Writers of handbooks and manuals, like Powell, saw the same things dramatists saw: from the slippery hermeneutics of localized credit interactions to the more general rhetorical and economic undergirding of social life itself. But they have no interest in impasses and no time for tragedy. Instead, they offer skills for navigating economic and social life, as compromised and compromising as it may be. Some practical texts, like Wilkinson’s The debt book, do express anxiety about the world as it is, the world we live in. The next chapter looks at a group of mathematical aids that at times seem to lament their own usefulness. These are tables for calculating interest—tables, that is, for “usurers.” Only in a fallen world, the prefaces and title pages of these tables imply, would the skills they teach be necessary. The arithmetics, assizes of bread, and merchant manuals by Robert Record, Humphrey Baker, John Powell, and Gerard de Malynes, by contrast, celebrate the commercial skills they teach. They do not accept that to be sociable is to be fallen, or that to truck, barter, and exchange is to live in the age of gold rather than the Golden Age. They praise the world as it is, and, like many of the rhetorical treatises from which they borrow, they tacitly argue for accepting life in that world: comprised of countless acts of reckoning and of reading, of artful speech and careful measurement; of compromise, of community, of ordinary obliquy. The world they praise, however, was neither fixed nor permanent. In the decades to come, rhetoric and credit would begin to pull apart.

⁹¹ Powell, Wheresoeuer you see mee, sig. G4v.

⁹² Powell, Wheresoeuer you see mee, sig. G4v.

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4 Other Worlds 4.1. Unpuzzling Credit In 1665, Hugh Chamberlen’s A Description of the Office of Credit proposed a new kind of institution, part pawn shop and part bank, “by the use of which none can possibbly sustain loss, but every man may certainly receive great gain and wealth.”¹ The system proposed is simple: depositors will leave “Goods and Merchandize” with the Office and receive in return “Tickets”: paper credit.² The tickets’ status as currency will depend neither on their possessors’ personal credit—their reputations, their self-presentation, or others’ reading of that presentation—nor even on the value of the particular goods offered as collateral, but on public estimation of the Office itself. Among the many benefits of such a system, the author writes, will be the simplification of chains of credit in which individuals within credit culture often found themselves enmeshed. “Suppose,” he writes, that “A. oweth to B. 100 l. B. the like to C. and C. the like to D. and D. the like to E. and E. to F. F. to G. G. to H. H. to I. and I. to A. which if it were possible for them all to know, they might agree upon a Meeting, and quit each other.”³ Such a meeting will never happen, “because each knows but his immediate Creditor and Debtor, and not the mediate.”⁴ A. knows I. and B.; the one owes him money and he owes money to the other. But C., D., E., and the rest are all strangers to him. Nodes in a web whose dimensions they cannot apprehend, all these people remain “puzled with Debts and Credits.”⁵ The Office of Credit eliminates such puzzlement, along with the risks it entails. Of his hypothetical chain of interlinked debtors and creditors, the author warns: “if any of these were dishonest, or disable, what a trouble they bring upon all the rest.”⁶ In the new system, people will no longer have to trust one another’s appearances as creditworthy individuals, or to treat as functionally sound a system

¹ Hugh Chamberlen, A Description of the Office of Credit (London, 1665), sig. A1r. ² Chamberlen, Description, sig. A3r. Arguing for a form of paper money, Chamberlen goes on to discuss “publick tickets” made of other materials lacking intrinsic value but useful both as currency and as a “common and unalterable standard to measure other commodities.” The materials he cites include “Bones, Beanes, Beads, [and] Shels” (sig. D1r). On the impact of contact with such non-metallic currencies on European theories of monetary value, see Germano Maifreda From Oikonomia to Political Economy: Constructing Economic Knowledge from the Renaissance to the Scientific Revolution (Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2012). ³ Chamberlen, Description, sig. C4r. ⁴ Chamberlen, Description, sig. C4r. ⁵ Chamberlen, Description, sig. C4r. ⁶ Chamberlen, Description, sig. C4r.

Fictions of Credit in the Age of Shakespeare. Laura Kolb, Oxford University Press (2021). © Laura Kolb. DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198859697.003.0005

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made up of countless crisscrossing promises and bonds that they know to be unstable. With the inauguration of the Office of Credit, Chamberlen declares, “for the future there will be no need of Trusting, which onely crept into the World, because there was not Money enough, or that it made not so swift a Circuit as was desired, to measure Commodities.”⁷ Chains and networks of socially embedded, verbally negotiated credit will be a thing of the past. The only thing people will have to believe in—the only fiction they will have to accept as real—is the Office of Credit itself.⁸ A Description of the Office of Credit thus stands poised between two understandings of credit: as a matter of interpersonal relationships, negotiated through artifice and interpretation and dependent on trust in fictional (but functionally real) conditions; and as quantifiable purchasing power, represented on paper that is itself effective as currency because it is underwritten by a wealthholding institution. Though it would be nearly three decades before the founding of the Bank of England made “truly negotiable bank paper” the norm, by the time Chamberlen published his Description in 1665, private banking had a significant foothold in England, and various paper instruments of credit circulated widely.⁹ In other words, by 1665, a wholescale transformation of credit relations was on the horizon, as it became increasingly possible to conceptualize the financial as a terrain separate from the total set of social and rhetorical relations. This chapter looks forward to that transformation, making the case that the separation of finance from social life and language began to be thinkable earlier, in the 1620s and 30s. The chapter offers a prehistory of institutional, quantifiable, “bank” credit by looking at the early development of financial credit: that is, credit widely understood as a tool for profit-making, for borrower and lender alike; credit therefore unyoked from interpersonal and rhetorical coordinates. The financialization of credit was related to England’s increased foreign trade in the early seventeenth century: as merchant corporations developed, so too did the need for reliable, low-risk, large-scale credit.¹⁰ As A Description points out, chains of interpersonal bonds do not serve a mercantile economy; networked interpersonal ⁷ Chamberlen, Description, sig. C4r. ⁸ On the reorientation of financial trust toward institutions and instruments, see Catherine Gallagher, “The Rise of Fictionality,” in History, Geography, and Culture, vol. 1, The Novel, ed. Franco Moretti (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2006), pp. 336–63. Gallagher argues that such trust always depends on a degree of “imaginative play” and “suspension of literal truth claims” (pp. 346–7). ⁹ For this history, see Mary Poovey, Genres of the Credit Economy: Mediating Value in Eighteenthand Nineteenth-Century Britain (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2008), pp. 35–55; and Richard D. Richards, The Early History of Banking in England (1929, 1958; repr. New York: Routledge, 2012). The quotation is from Poovey, Genres, p. 44. ¹⁰ Greta Krippner defines “financialization” as a “pattern of accumulation in which profit making occurs increasingly through financial channels rather than through trade and commodity production.” “The Financialization of the American Economy,” Socio-Economic Review 3, no. 2 (May 2005): pp. 173–208, p. 174. I here apply the term to credit that is (1) oriented towards accumulation of such profit and (2) circulated primarily through financial channels rather than among persons and in language.

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debts cause “Deadness or Slowness of Trade” because they tie up liquid assets.¹¹ Long before 1665, merchants and others were arguing that debt was needed to fund merchant ventures and that lending had to be incentivized with interest. As Francis Bacon put it in 1625: “if the Usurer, either call in, or keepe backe his Money, there will ensue presently a great Stand of Trade.”¹² In the early decades of the seventeenth century, when Bacon was writing, new tools for calculating interest quickly and with ease were made widely available in print. As we will see, descendants of the arithmetics discussed in Chapters 1 and 3 helped make a model of credit as an impersonal, abstract, alienable financial tool widely available, conceptually as well as practically. Credit had long been and was still a matter of reputation, relationships, language, and networks. For some segments of English society, it would remain socially embedded and verbally negotiated even after institutionalized banking became common.¹³ Yet, in general, as credit became increasingly visible as a financial tool, it became newly abstract, numerical, and alienable. Its relationship to persons and to language began to loosen. This chapter examines the reconceptualization of credit through a highly specific lens: Ben Jonson’s dramatic portrayals of acquisitiveness, which themselves have long been read as indices of and responses to economic and ideological change.¹⁴ The contours of this story are familiar: appetitive desire for material goods became the drive for profit in the abstract; passionate greed gave way to dispassionate interests; what was once condemned as private vice became celebrated as the foundation of public good.¹⁵ Jonson seems to want to tell us this whole story all at once: his plays simultaneously look back to older models of material desire and forward to changes in the marketplace and its values; they are both old-fashioned and prophetic; their portrayals of greed are broadly generalized and at the same time highly topical accounts of trade, finance, and their instruments. Representative of a mixed or even mixed-up moment, these plays offer paradoxical economic scenarios: a world of goods with no debt in Volpone; financial wizardry condemned as usury by the very people it enriches in The Magnetic Lady. We might by this point expect the contradictions that inform ¹¹ Chamberlen, Description, sig. A1r. ¹² Bacon, “Of Vsurie,” in The essayes or counsels, civill and morall (London, 1625), p. 242. As Bacon notes, a popular counter-argument ran that high interest rates caused seasoned merchants to leave off trading, and new ones never to start. See for example Thomas Culpeper, A tract against vsurie (London, 1621), sig. A3v. On the place of these arguments within wider debates about trade in the seventeenth century, see Lars Magnusson, The Political Economy of Mercantilism (New York: Routledge, 2015), pp. 184–5. ¹³ One need only think of Defoe’s Moll Flanders, who constructs and reconstructs her own reputation multiple times and verbally manipulates others’ credit within various communities, to see how the older structures remained in place. Moll, it may be remembered, cannot open a bank account on her own. Excluded from certain financial economies, she maintains access to a robust rhetorical and interpersonal circuits of exchange. ¹⁴ L.C. Knights, Drama and Society in the Age of Jonson (London: Chatto and Windus, 1937). ¹⁵ A.O. Hirschman, The Passions and the Interests: Political Arguments for Capitalism before its Triumph (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1977).

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plays’ plots to be downplayed or elided in related practical texts—yet as we will see, some of the same explicitly contradictory quality marks the genre most interested in the practical mechanics of financialized credit: the printed table of compound interest, designed to be “an equall friend” to borrower and lender alike.¹⁶ For Jonson, making is always related to wanting, poetry to desire. In what follows, I will track a stage convention—the trope of a character inspired to rhetorical and imaginative heights by contact with worldly treasure—across several plays, with particular focus on Marlowe’s Jew of Malta (c.1590) and Jonson’s responses to it in Volpone (1606) and The Magnetic Lady (1632). This trope articulates a circuit between a rich object to-hand and an imagined world, a fiction, which both mimics and surpasses the world of trade. Unlike the local acts of artifice and interpretation and the aggregated fictions to which they contributed that I have been tracking so far, these fictions tend not to be dialogic or diffused throughout thick social networks. Rather, they are the proliferative products of an individual mind in an imaginative encounter with the world. They are often dependent on a desire to get beyond the day-to-day world of interpersonal credit relations: to access “real” value, whether embodied in things (in Volpone) or numbers (in The Magnetic Lady). Between them, Jonson’s plays register a significant change in the sources of material desire and consequently in the imaginative coordinates of the world conjured by the acquisitive imagination. Volpone articulates a parallel between the “second worlds” of poetic invention and the world constituted by Venetian trade routes and the rich objects moving through them.¹⁷ The force of this parallel depends on a fantasy: of goods that are separable from a system of debt and credit, of rich objects that can become full possessions—owed nowhere, to nobody—yet still generate profit. In The Magnetic Lady, financialized credit means that rich objects have all but dissolved, and verbal and imaginative inventiveness are inspired by an abstract concept: profit, represented numerically, rather than embodied in objects. Set in the household of a merchant’s widow and her “usurer” brother, this late play’s plot is driven by the workings of credit that has been dislocated from interpersonal and rhetorical structures and rendered indifferent to the commodities it helps move through the world. In both plays Jonson links a household economy to a larger economic structure: Venice’s maritime trade empire in Volpone, and the increasingly sophisticated financial practices that funded London’s mercantile enterprises in The Magnetic Lady. The foregrounded interpersonal economies are rife with trickery, policy, and feigning—all the strategies Timon condemns and that handbook writers from the poet-farmer Thomas Tusser to the draper William Scott both teach and warn against. The differing backdrops, however, index a radical shift in how early

¹⁶ William Webster, Websters tables (London, 1629), sig. A3v. ¹⁷ The phrase is from Harry Berger Jr., “The Renaissance Imagination: Second World and Green World,” The Centennial Review 9, no. 1 (Winter 1965): pp. 36–78.

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modern people understood wealth: first as rich and tangible things, then as abstract numbers growing implacably on the page. The trade in luxury goods (crucial to Volpone) depended on the development of new financial technologies (central to The Magnetic Lady), which in turn led to a reconceptualization of both goods and credit. Tangible commodities and intangible credit were increasingly able to be seen as different phases of capital in motion rather than as distinct forms of wealth. As the nature of wealth changed, so did acquisitive fictions of the wide world which—The Magnetic Lady tells us—began to lose their proliferative abundance, their glittering variety, and their specific relation of both mimicking and surpassing the world of trade.

4.2. The Stuff of Poetry When Timon of Athens holds up the gold he has found in the earth and declares that it makes “black white, foul fair” and the rest, he calls attention to the objectat-hand, but also to what that object stands for: the creative force of money in society. At the same time, he exhibits his own creative power: words spill from him with extraordinary vehemence, force, and abundance. A combination of rich subject matter and verbal expansiveness marks Timon’s speech as a version of what, by the first decade of the seventeenth century, had become a trope in plays concerned with debt, credit, trade, and wealth: a protagonist of questionable moral status inspired to rhetorical heights by contact with treasure. Holding a precious object and declaiming on its powers, Timon recalls Marlowe’s Barabas in his counting house and Jonson’s Volpone greeting his gold.¹⁸ For these figures, treasure is rich subject matter for verbal flight, the “imaginatiue groundplot” of rhetorical and poetic inventions.¹⁹ It is also a token for a broader set of relationships and concerns: for Barabas, the hugeness and richness of the far-flung market world; for Volpone, the world-making power of his own restlessly inventive will; for Timon, the crazed and slippery realm of universal feigning. Barabas, Volpone, and Timon are all practitioners of a material poetics, in which worldly wealth sparks imagination, and in which money’s work in the world resembles human creativity, with money’s infinitely varied productions mimicking man’s own capacity to make. Timon is, here, an outlier; he dispraises what the others praise. But the essential dynamic remains in place. A rich object

¹⁸ On Jonson’s debt to Marlowe in Volpone’s first speech, see James Shapiro, Rival Playwrights: Marlowe, Jonson, Shakespeare (New York: Columbia University Press, 1991), pp. 62–3. On the relationship of Timon’s invective against gold to Volpone’s speech in praise of it, see John M. Wallace, “Timon of Athens and the Three Graces: Shakespeare’s Senecan Study,” Modern Philology 83, no. 4 (May 1986): pp. 349–63. Wallace writes that Timon and Volpone “read like competitive studies of the same subject, perhaps deliberately intended” (p. 350). ¹⁹ Philip Sidney, An apologie for poetrie (London, 1595), sig. H1r.

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produces an outpouring of words, and these words present a totalizing image of the world—that is, of the sphere of human thought and activity within which the inspiring object exerts its peculiar power. “World” is a term with complex and shifting contents in the period.²⁰ Here, I use it in two senses, which are linked though not identical. First, the world is that which is sublunary and nontranscendent; that which is more narrowly “worldly” in the sense of having to do with money, possessions, and trade. Second, the world is a geographic and conceptual entity, in the words of Emily Bartels, “charted . . . loosely across bodies of waters and boundaries of nation-states, configured dynamically as transnational and international economies, and defined by mixed and ethnically intermixed populations.”²¹ In this second sense, the world is made up of networked routes of trade and exploration, of the constellated cities that form the central nodes within those networks, and of the persons and things that circulate through them. Poets inspired by rich matter are not only describers of the world, but also makers it. Their words strive to reconfigure, enrich, or augment the world’s contours and its contents. Marlowe’s Barabas is the epitome of material poetics on stage and the inspiration for later dramatic representations of an imagination inflamed by contact with treasure. The stage direction for Act 1, scene 1 of The Jew of Malta reads, “Enter Barabas in his counting-house, with heaps of gold before him.”²² Barabas then gives a speech, which moves from that gold outward, to other objects on other shores. Counting his money, Barabas first contemplates goods in which he himself trades—“my Spanish oils and wines of Greece” (1.1.5)—and then imagines objects richer than his gold and more exotic than his goods: an Arabian “wedge of gold” (9), “metal of the purest mold” (20) from “Indian mines” (19); “Bags of fiery opals, sapphires, amethysts, / Jacinths, hard topaz, grass-green emeralds, / Beauteous rubies sparkling diamonds, / And seld-seen costly stones” (25–8) gathered on “eastern rocks” (21). The world as Barabas pictures it is rich, varied, and far-flung. It extends eastward and gets richer as it does so. The “wide world” that he imagines surpasses the smaller one to which he has more immediate access, just as the treasures he conjures in words exceed his own wealth. Barabas dreams of gathering jewels in the Indies but deals in “spice and silks” (45) in the Mediterranean. At the end of the speech, he notes the direction of the wind and expresses the hope that his ships sent to Egypt have made it to “Nilus’ winding banks” (43), and that his “argosy from Alexandria” (44) ²⁰ Roland Greene, “World,” in Five Words: Critical Semantics in the Age of Shakespeare and Cervantes (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2013), pp. 143–72; Ayesha Ramachandran, The Worldmakers: Global Imagining in Early Modern Europe (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2015), pp. 1–21. ²¹ Emily Bartels, Speaking of the Moor: From Alcazar to Othello (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2008), p. 13. ²² Christopher Marlowe, The Jew of Malta, ed. Stephen J. Lynch (Indianapolis: Hackett, 2009). All subsequent references of the play are from this edition and are by act, scene, and line.

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has sailed past Crete en route back to Malta. These are exotic locales for the play’s English audiences, but not for Barabas. They are the places with which he trades, not the shores of which he dreams. The same dynamic holds for his wealth: what he can take hold of has less value to him that what lies over there, out of reach to the hand but not to the imagination. However Barabas and his counting-house were revealed to early audiences at the play’s start, it is probable that his “heaps of gold” were meant to be visually impressive, even dazzling, in the playhouse.²³ Marlowe makes a point of how quotidian, how boring, these heaps are to Barabas himself. At the climax of his speech, he reaches a pronouncement: “men of judgment” (34) should “frame / Their means of traffic from the vulgar trade, / And as their wealth increaseth, so enclose / Infinite riches in a little room” (34–7). Coming as it does after his list of gemstones, the “little room” enclosing “infinite riches” seems likely to be an imaginary jewel, a fantastic dream object that encloses within itself all the variegated abundance gathered in the rest of the speech, from wedges of gold to rubies and diamonds to wine and oil and silks and spices. It also seems to be a kind of miniaturization of the whole wide world: an encompassing compression both of relatively nearby locales like Greece and Alexandria and of the distant glittering shores of the Indies. This longed-for jewel is both a poetic fiction—in the sense that it is made up, unreal—and a hyperbolic description of the very space in which Barabas sits: the counting house that contains great (if not infinite) riches, from far-off shores (if not from the farthest-imaginable ones). Contact with his own treasure leads Barabas to imagine greater treasure. Taking inventory leads to poetic invention, and that invention both enfolds and exceeds the material wealth at hand.²⁴ The imagined jewel of “infinite riches” has another dimension that deserves mention here. Barabas spends the speech complaining as well as dreaming, and his main complaint is not primarily that his own money fails to contain all the variegated richness of the Mediterranean and points east. It is rather that counting it up is a lot of work. The very first lines of the speech emphasize the work of reckoning: “So that of thus much that return was made; / And of the third part of the Persian ships / There was the venture summed and satisfied” (1.1.1–3). Barabas is calculating profits.²⁵ “Fie what a trouble ’tis to count this trash!” (7), he exclaims, grumbling that though a “needy groom, that never fingered groat” (12) would find his coin-crammed counting-house impressive, a really rich man would recognize it for what it is to him: a space of tedious labor: “he whose steel-barred ²³ See Jonathan Gil Harris and Natasha Korda, eds., Staged Properties in Early Modern English Drama (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002), p. 3; and Katharine Eisaman Maus, “Idol and Gift in Volpone,” ELR 35, no. 3 (Sept. 2005): pp. 429–53, esp. pp. 447–8. ²⁴ For semantic and conceptual links between “inventory” and “invention,” see Greene, Five Words, p. 4. ²⁵ As Lynch puts it in his note to 1.1.3, “a third part of his return has paid off all his expenses (and thus two-thirds of his return is profit).”

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coffers are crammed full, / And all his lifetime hath been tired, / Wearying his fingers’ ends with telling it, / Would in his age be loath to labor so” (14–17). Barabas’s dream of “infinite riches in a little room” has two dimensions: he wants on the one hand to possess the whole world, to grasp its richness and variety in his own hand, and he wants to stop working—to rest.²⁶ There would be no need to count up one precious object; no need to reckon infinite wealth. In what follows I will track the two sides of Barabas’s wish—the longing for the wide world’s infinite wealth and the longing for ease—through two of Ben Jonson’s plays, Volpone and The Magnetic Lady. While both revisit the speech’s logic and its central desire for a way to compress and grasp the varied and proliferative world, they ultimately do so with far more difference than similarity. Their differences, I’ll argue, stem from the way in which Jonson reinserts debt and credit into a Marlovian vision of a rich and far-flung world. Volpone’s Venice is in many ways a more varied and glittering version of Marlowe’s Malta. Jonson’s version of the city abounds in luxuries from pearls to damasks to porphyry boxes, and these luxuries serve the same function for Volpone that gold, oils, wines, silks, and spices served for Barabas: rich in themselves, they both generate and fail to satisfy an expansive and proliferative desire for more. Here, though, Jonson calls our attention to a curious feature of this desire: its assumption that the pure possession of wealth, not underwritten by credit or threatened by debts, is possible. Though Jonson incorporates mercantile debt relations into the play’s Venetian setting, these remain very much in the background, detached from either interpersonal relationships or rich objects. Moreover, Jonson establishes that Volpone’s own household is free of debts; consequently, the material imaginings in which he indulges and which he inspires in others are also fantasies of passing beyond networked and constellated credit relations, into material self-sufficiency. In The Magnetic Lady, debt relations are brought back to the fore: as the engine running large-scale commercial ventures. Here, new tools for quick calculation offer “infinite riches” on the page, in numerical form. In this setting, Jonson suggests, the desire for more (in the form of abstract profit) paradoxically leads to less of what inspired Barabas and Volpone: less tangible wealth, less imaginative scope, less contact with the wide world. As many critics have noted, Jonson’s plays are obsessed with stuff: with flesh, with things, with gifts and counter-gifts, with objects and collections of objects. They are also obsessed with people’s relations to stuff: with idolatrous and covetous and appetitive orientations towards attractive objects. Jonsonian poiesis abounds in things, captured in language that is itself often thickly material: verbal copia responding to and refashioning the material abundance of the sublunary

²⁶ On the longing for rest as a counterpoint to restless striving across Marlowe’s works, see Harry Levin, The Overreacher: A Study of Christopher Marlowe (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1952).

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world.²⁷ Imagination itself, in Jonson’s work, is often figured as a decidedly thingly arena. Take, for example, Wasp’s complaint to his exasperating charge in Bartholomew Fair: “Would the Fair and all the drums and rattles in’t were i’ your belly for me! They are already i’ your brain; he that had the means to travel your head now, should meet finer sights than any are i’ the Fair, and make a finer voyage on’t, to see it all hung with cockle-shells, pebbles, fine wheat-straws, and here and there a chicken’s feather, and a cobweb” (1.5.86–91).²⁸ The passage speaks to one way in which Jonson draws characters: like Queen Mab, he grants specific dreams. And those dreams are made of stuff—of commodities, flesh, possessions. He crams Bartholomew’s head with “drums and rattles”; in other plays, he grants other material dreams. These are also inventoried: think of Epicure Mammon’s lavish foodstuffs and home furnishings, or Fungoso’s longed-for satin sleeves, collars, linings. As Ann Barton has argued, Jonsonian con-men—in some ways figures of poetic invention, though without the true poet’s claim to moral instruction—fill their gulls’ minds with stuff, introducing them to new things and arousing new desires, progressively widening the imaginative horizons of their marks.²⁹ Jonson’s plays mount the argument that the poetic imagination attends to the world, desires it, and arouses desire for it in others. A relation of covetous attention to the world is of course a problem with poetry, “the genre most tightly bound to literalism and to flesh, the most dangerously seductive.”³⁰ Lucretius likens poetic fiction’s imaginative and verbal pleasures to “the sweet and golden juice of honey” brushed on the rim of a cup of wormwood.³¹ These “sweet” pleasures pose the danger of being, ultimately, more enticing than the cup’s (or the poem’s) medicinal contents. In The Advancement of Learning (1605), Francis Bacon offers a related account of poetic pleasure. He describes poetic fictions as worlds more imaginatively stimulating than our own, writing that: The vse of this FAINED HISTORIE, hath beene to giue some shadowe of satisfaction to the minde of Man in those points, wherein the Nature of things doth denie it, the world being in proportion inferiour to the soule: by reason whereof there is agreeable to the spirit of Man, a more ample Greatnesse, a more

²⁷ On this point, see (among others) Arthur F. Marotti, “All about Jonson’s Poetry,” ELH 39, no. 2 (June 1972): pp. 208–37; Anne Lake Prescott, Imagining Rabelais in Renaissance England (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1998), pp. 116–23; and Bruce Thomas Boehrer, The Fury of Men’s Gullets: Ben Jonson and the Digestive Canal (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1997), pp. 147–9. ²⁸ Ben Jonson, Bartholomew Fair, ed. Eugene M. Waith (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1963). References are to act, scene, and line. ²⁹ Ann Barton, Ben Jonson, Dramatist (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1984), p. 273. ³⁰ David Nirenberg, Anti-Judaism: The Western Tradition (New York: W.W. Norton, 2013), p. 231. ³¹ Lucretius, On the Nature of Things: De rerum natura, trans. Anthony Esolen (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins, 1995), p. 51.

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exact Goodnesse; and a more absolute varietie then can bee found in the Nature of things.³²

Bacon posits a reader of poetry who is fundamentally dissatisfied by the world, because the world is “in proportion inferiour to the soule.” We may be reminded of Barabas who, surrounded by actual heaps of gold brought to him by Mediterranean trade, imagines richer objects, from farther-off. Neither Bacon’s imagined reader nor Marlowe’s Barabas really seeks something different in kind. Rather, they go looking—either by producing words or reading them—for more of what the sensible, sublunary world has to offer: more “magnitude,” “more Rarenesse, and more vnexpected, and alternatiue Variations.”³³ Bacon goes on to invoke the standard defense of poetic fiction: poems edify readers because a poem’s pleasing surface attracts and holds attention, allowing the poem to disclose a higher truth. Even here, however, he insists on dissatisfaction and desire as the basic conditions for reading. Poetry “was euer thought to haue some participation of diuinesse, because it doth raise and erect the Minde, by submitting the shewes of things to the desires of the Mind.”³⁴ Poetry can only elevate the mind by first giving in to the mind’s “desires,” and those desires are worldly. Bacon famously ends his discussion of poetry, “But it is not good to stay too long in the Theater.”³⁵ A poem may contain a stable truth, but it is the sweetness and pleasure of its variegated outward part that draws us in, and potentially traps us. In Volpone and The Magnetic Lady, the restless circuit between wanting and making is central, and poiesis is the province of those who have much and want more. Each of these plays articulates a correspondence between the world of goods and the “second worlds” created by the poetic invention: between poetry’s airy nothings and the myriad things proliferating in the marketplace.³⁶ Both plays are also invested in the way immaterial forms of value, like credit, can render material things unstable, quasi-imaginary, apt to vanish or fade. The plays were written nearly thirty years apart, and, taken together, they index a significant shift in the imaginative coordinates of the early modern marketplace.

4.3. Volpone’s Will In the first scene of Volpone, the title character delivers a twenty-seven-line encomium to his own gold. Where Timon’s mock-encomium says one thing many ways—gold scrambles and fragments society—Jonson’s praise unfolds like

³² Francis Bacon, The twoo bookes of Francis Bacon. Of the proficience and aduancement of learning, diuine and humane (London, 1605), sig. 2E1v. ³³ Bacon, Aduancement, sig. 2E1v. ³⁴ Bacon, Aduancement, sig. 2E2r. ³⁵ Bacon, Aduancement, sig. 2E3v. ³⁶ Berger Jr., “Renaissance Imagination.”

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a metaphysical poem, with varied conceits metamorphosing one into another. Gold is a saint, the world’s soul, Volpone’s own soul; it is the sun, the son of God, a god itself. The pleasures of gold outstrip the joy of “children, parents, friends” (1.1.17); its luster rivals the beauty of Venus.³⁷ Volpone’s inventions are so expansive and so self-perpetuating that they threaten to continue indefinitely. He only breaks off when Mosca cuts in with a blandly sententious tag: “Riches are in fortune / A greater good than wisdom is in nature” (28–9). Volpone is ravished by his gold: inspired by it to rhetorical heights, which both amplify and intensify his passion for it.³⁸ Critics have argued that Volpone’s gold helps him fill an “inner void” and that he “idolizes” it because he wants to forestall death and dwell forever in the “here-and-now.”³⁹ But for the most part Volpone does not long for more here-and-now any more than Barabas longs to spend more time in his countinghouse. His gold and other possessions tilt him forward, launching him towards a fantastical future even more abundant, various, pleasurable. This future will have more gold and other treasures in it, as he gathers gifts from guests, the main fruit of his inventions. But his imagination also conjures visions of sexual excess and pleasurable trickery—visions so enticing that, even after a harrowing trial, he chooses not to “rest” (5.2.13) but to begin another trick: to fake his own death, making his would-be heirs “greedy and full of expectation” (67) for a rich legacy, only “to have it ravished from their mouths” (68). Volpone’s gold is rarely discussed in terms of the economic circuits the play invokes, circuits through which it must have moved to find its endpoint in Volpone’s household. Most obviously, it traveled through local economies of inheritance and gift-giving, the means by which he apparently acquired it in the first place. Volpone’s genius lies in having made these economies interlock: the promise of inheritance draws gifts to him but relieves him of having to make counter-gifts. Beyond these local economies, though, Volpone’s treasure also derives from international trade. Such trade has made Venice rich, gathering to itself objects from Europe, Turkey, the Levant, and elsewhere. Though primarily obsessed with policy and conduct, Sir Politic Would-be, the play’s travel-dazzled Englishman, is much taken with the city’s mercantile hubbub: he buys toothpicks, haggles over sprats, and chats with a Dutch merchant. His real-life countryman, the traveler Thomas Coryate, termed Venice’s Piazza di San Marco “Orbis rather Vrbis forum, that is, a market place of the world, not of the citie.”⁴⁰ Late in the play, when Mosca takes an inventory of his master’s goods, we learn that his ³⁷ Ben Jonson, Volpone, ed. Brian Parker (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1999). Subsequent references to Volpone are from this edition and are by act, scene, and line. ³⁸ See Michael Goldman, “Marlowe and the Histrionics of Ravishment,” in Two Renaissance Mythmakers: Christopher Marlowe and Ben Jonson, ed. Alvin Kernan (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1977), pp. 22–40. ³⁹ Stephen J. Greenblatt, “The False Ending in Volpone,” Journal of English and Germanic Philology 75, no. 1/2 (Jan.–Apr. 1976): pp. 90–104, p. 93; Maus, “Idol,” p. 448. ⁴⁰ Thomas Coryate, Coryats crudities (London, 1611), sig. O7v.

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possessions reflect Venice’s far-flung trade routes (a point to which I’ll return); like the Piazza, they epitomize the wide world of trade, and hold out the promise of distant shores and untold riches. In other words, there is more in this household than gold alone, and even hoarded gold has a history and a future. Indeed it is that future—the gold must pass to someone else when Volpone dies—that drives the plot. If Volpone’s household epitomizes the world of trade, it also stands out for another reason: it lacks debts. Early in the play, Volpone boasts that he doesn’t lend money at interest or deal with institutions that do: “I turn no monies in the public bank, / Nor usure private” (1.1.39–40). Indeed, he doesn’t lend money at all. Mosca notes that his patron does not “devour / Soft prodigals” (40–1), “swallow” (41) inherited estates, or “Tear forth the fathers of poor families / Out of their beds, and coffin them, alive, / In some kind, clasping prison, where their bones / May be forthcoming when the flesh is rotten” (44–7). These evils are the typical behaviors of the “wolfish” creditor, a figure who haunts the pages of antiusury tracts, damnable for devouring both the estates of his debtors and, in a very real sense, their bodies—since those unable to pay their debts often suffered hunger and even starvation in prison.⁴¹ Distancing Volpone’s particular brand of economic exploitation from that of predatory lenders, Mosca calls our attention to an unusual feature of Volpone’s home: no one owes anything to Volpone and Volpone owes nothing to anyone. He lives in a debt-free household. This is an extraordinary, even fantastical state. In early modern England, as we have seen, nearly everyone borrowed or lent at one time or another. Most households (and probably all wealthy estates) owed money and had money owing to them at the same time. In Italy, where the play is set, debt was “the price of magnificence.”⁴² Demonstrating the intimate links between debt and wealth in Renaissance Europe, Lisa Jardine cites the example of Cardinal Francesco Gonzaga, whose fortunes were “a dazzling illusion.”⁴³ The cardinal possessed treasures “ranging from gems and tapestries to rare books and manuscripts” as well as “a fabulous collection of cameos” and gowns and cushions made of silk, brocade, and velvet.⁴⁴ At his death, he owed about twenty thousand ducats, “in contemporary terms a small fortune,” and his prized cameos were “lodged as pledges against the debts.”⁴⁵ Volpone’s fortune, by contrast, is all his own. As if to underscore the point, Jonson is careful to establish the importance of debt relations to the wider world of Venetian trade. The “public bank” and “usure private” to which Volpone refers were necessary for mercantile enterprise.⁴⁶ ⁴¹ The preacher W. Crashawe, for example, calls exacting creditors “hungry Wolues” and “Rauens, Vultures, Kytes, or Cormorants.” Prefatory letter to Samuel Cottesford, A very soueraigne oyle to restore debtors (London, 1622), sig. A2v. ⁴² Lisa Jardine, Worldly Goods: A New History of the Renaissance (New York: Norton, 1998), p. 91. ⁴³ Jardine, Worldly Goods, p. 93. ⁴⁴ Jardine, Worldly Goods, pp. 66–7, p. 69. ⁴⁵ Jardine, Worldly Goods, p. 93. ⁴⁶ Magnusson, Political Economy, pp. 184–5.

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One of the would-be heirs, Corvino, is himself a merchant, and his desperation to inherit the magnifico’s wealth is at least in part motivated by the need to pay off loans. As he tells his wife, “I’ve told you . . . what my engagements are; / My means, and the necessity of those means, / For my recovery” (3.7.32–6). The speech asks Celia—and us—to do a quick kind of reckoning: to weigh engagements (implied to be many and serious) against means (implied to be severely limited). “Recovery,” here, almost certainly means recovery from a state of indebtedness. Even non-mercantile credit receives treatment: Sir Politic Would-be inadvertently parodies standard credit-cultivating advice when he tells Peregrine, “Make sure choice / Both of your company and discourse; beware / You never speak a truth—” (4.1.15–17). Credit matters in the play’s Venetian context. It does not matter in Volpone’s home. The absence of debt from Volpone’s household gives the material abundance of his (and others’) fantasies a particular force. Volpone is stuffed with objects, real and imagined, from the pearls, diamonds, and rubies Volpone offers Celia to the onions, apricots, toothpicks, beans, and sprats that fill Sir Politic’s visions of intrigue. In keeping with its thingliness, the play’s dominant rhetorical structure is the list.⁴⁷ Volpone’s wealth consists of “gold, plate, and jewels” (2.4.21–2); Scoto’s oil cures “the mal caduco, cramps, convulsions, paralyses, epilepsies, tremor cordia, retired nerves, ill vapours of the spleen, stopping of the liver, the stone, the strangury, hernia ventoso, iliaca passio” (2.2.107–11); Lady Would-be rattles off reading lists and recipes while her husband enumerates fruits, vegetables, projects, and plots. Volpone himself gets broken down into parts, inventoried in a grotesque blazon: “filthy eyes . . . that flow with slime” (1.5.58), “hanging cheeks / Covered with hide instead of skin” (59–60), nose like a “common sewer” (65), mouth like a “draught” (66). Lists have rhetorical force, and characters use them here variously to enflame desire (Volpone’s enumeration of delights to Celia) and to arouse disgust (Mosca’s blazon of his master’s face).⁴⁸ Above all, Volpone uses lists to disrupt the experience of time: to overlay the present with images of a fantastical but tantalizingly imminent future, just beyond the here-and-now.⁴⁹ Lists are the mechanism by which Volpone and Mosca entice the heirs: as Mosca tells Voltore, “Here I wear your keys, / See all your coffers and your caskets locked / Keep the poor inventory of your jewels” (1.3.40–2). Keys, coffers, caskets, jewels—lists like this inflame Voltore’s imagination, and make him and his fellow hopefuls into miniature Volpones, dreaming of “a more ample

⁴⁷ Greenblatt, “False Ending,” p. 90; Barton, Ben Jonson, pp. 108–9; Maus, “Idol,” p. 447. ⁴⁸ Laura Kolb, “Jonson’s Old Age: The Force of Disgust,” in Disgust in Early Modern English Literature, ed. Natalie K. Eschenbaum and Barbara Correll (New York: Routledge, 2016), pp. 164–82. ⁴⁹ On Renaissance literary imaginings of the worldly future, see J.K. Barret, Untold Futures: Time and Literary Culture in Renaissance England (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2016). For the poetic construction of “imminent futures” (similar to Mosca’s conjurations in temporal structure if not content), see esp. pp. 177–208.

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Greatnesse, a more exact Goodnesse; and a more absolute varietie” than their daily lives afford. It is, I propose, the absence of debt from Volpone’s goods that allows these fantasies to take such complete hold on Corbaccio, Corvino, Voltore, and the rest. The trick that structures the play’s first three acts creates a weird temporality: a dilatory, seemingly endless moment just before Volpone’s much-anticipated death and the transfer of his goods to a single heir. Except for Celia and Bonario, everyone in the first three acts lives in a feverish state of expectancy within this moment. The work that Volpone and Mosca do is largely aimed at producing and maintaining this state. They only count their deceptions successful if they contribute to a cycle of raising and thwarting hopes, “Letting the cherry knock against their lips” and then “draw[ing] it . . . back again” (1.1.89–90). They keep the heirs “full of expectation” (5.2.67) by holding open a gap between desire and its fulfillment. In the play’s first act, Mosca reassures each of them in turn, saying “You are he / For whom I labour here” (1.4.123–4) to the rich old Corbaccio and asking the merchant Corvino, “Is not all here yours?” (1.5.77). Mosca’s reassurances to Voltore in particular make hope seem like actuality. Greeting the lawyer, “You are sir, what you were sir,” Mosca elides past with present, and both with future: what Voltore was and is, he claims, are continuous with “what he should be tomorrow” (1.2.102): the heir. Voltore’s suspension between today and tomorrow, between present self and transformed heir, depends on Volpone’s own supposed suspension between life and death: “Not dead, sir, but as good” (1.5.4). Mosca’s verbal reminders of his master’s imminent death create a temporality both dilatory and proleptic, in which now and soon collapse into one another: the moment of expectation overlaid with the fantasy of the full possession of great wealth untainted by debt. At the heart of Mosca and Volpone’s game is a will. Itself a fiction—Volpone isn’t dying, and has no apparent intention of bequeathing his riches to anyone at all—the will gives rise to even more elaborate fictions. It is an imaginary document that stirs desire and gives rise to dreams: Voltore longs for the elevated social position that attends on wealth; Corvino for solvency; Corbaccio for youth. They dream not so much of Volpone’s wealth as past it: imagining a reconfiguration of self and world along lines dictated by their own particular characters. Like Barabas, they are inspired by what they can grasp (or almost grasp) to dream of what lies beyond. William West’s The first part of symboleography (1598), a legal formulary, notes the difficulties in construing real-life wills—difficulties that can arise in part from heirs’ desires. Wills, West tells us, are very often filled with “obscuritie, ambiguitie, & incertainty” and so require careful interpretation.⁵⁰ Part of the problem lies in ⁵⁰ William West, The first part of symboleography (London, 1598), sig. 2N8r. This book is a version of Symbolaiographia (1590).

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how they are written: “many times it is doubtful in what sense the Testator would haue his words taken.”⁵¹ Part of the problem lies in how they are read: they may be “euill and diuersly vnderstood by their posterity and suruiuors.”⁵² All of the legal documents in Symboleography are subject to dispute, but wills present a special case. In them, the sometimes murkily expressed intentions of the deceased meet the diverse competing desires of the living. West therefore urges notaries and all others who write wills to use language “plainely, with apt and significant words and phrases omitting all such as bee either hard to be vnderstood or diuersly to be taken.”⁵³ He advocates a kind of writing that is in some ways poetry’s opposite: writing that needs no interpretation and that cannot be altered according to a reader’s desiring imagination. This directive is necessary precisely because wills are poetic documents: arousing desire and imagination; activating the circuit between wanting and making. They are lists of things, money, and people. In their thingliness and their listiness, they offer grounds for imaginative flight. In the play’s fifth act, Volpone’s servants spread the rumor that Volpone has died, and hopeful heirs flock to his home to find out once and for all who the will names as heir. There they find Mosca “taking an inventory” (5.3.3). Over their questions and interjections—“Is it done, Mosca?”; “Is his thread spun?”; “Where’s the will?”—the parasite names over his master’s goods: Turkey carpets, nine— . . . Two suits of bedding, tissue— . . . Of cloth of gold, two more— . . . Of several velvets, eight— . . . Eight chests of linen— . . . Six chests of diaper, four of damask— . . . Down-beds and bolsters— . . . Ten suits of hangings— . . . Two cabinets— . . . One / Of ebony— . . . The other mother of pearl— . . . Item, one salt of agate— . . . A perfumed box—made of an onyx— . . . A table / Of porphyry—. (5.3.2–79)

The document Mosca is reading—or conceivably writing—is not the will itself but an attendant document: the inventory of Volpone’s possessions. West’s Symboleography defines an inventory as “a description or Repertorie orderly made of all dead mens goods and chattels . . . made so soone as conueniently may be after the parties death, least the goods be imbesiled.”⁵⁴ West gives an example:

⁵¹ ⁵² ⁵³ ⁵⁴

West, Symboleography, sig. 2N8r. West, Symboleography, sig. 2N8r. West, Symboleography, sig. 2N8v. West, Symboleography, sig. 2P7r.

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Inprimis, in ready Money. His Apparell. Item in his bed Chamber two standing beds with testors. Item fower Fetherbeds, and one downe bed. Item fowerteene Blankets. Item eight paire of Sheetes. Item sixe Couerlets, and two Couerings.

x.l. xl. s~. iiii. l. x. l. xxx. s~. xl. s~. vii. l.55

Mosca’s inventory contains richer stuff than this, but it is nevertheless a recognizable instance of the genre. The telltale “Item” preceding “one salt of agate” (5.3.32) clinches it. West breaks off after only a few entries but explains that a full inventory would record “In like maner euery thing, as woollen, linnen, wine, oyle, beere, ale, corne, and graine, hey, wooll, flaxe, wood, coales, iron, lead, houshold stuffe of all sortes: as tables, hangings, chaires, cushions, chestes, pots, pannes, pewter vessell, brewing vessels, implements of husbandrie, leases, debts due to the dead man, or by him due to any other, corne vpon the ground, horses, oxen, kine, sheepe, swine, pullen &c.” (my emphasis).⁵⁶ In early modern England, probate inventories had to be made, by law, of the goods belonging to “any man or independent woman dying in possession of goods worth more than £5.”⁵⁷ One of their purposes was to prevent goods from being “imbesiled,” as West notes, but another equally important function was to balance the deceased’s assets against his or her debts.⁵⁸ In fact, no legacies could be paid out of the deceased’s will until after his or her outstanding debts were paid off.⁵⁹ As Henry Swinburne repeatedly notes in his Briefe treatise of testaments and last willes (1591), the role of an executor is not simply to perform the will of the dead by paying out legacies, but also (and first) to pay the testator’s debts as recorded in the probate record.⁶⁰ Swinburne warns, that if “the executor paie anie of those legacies, before hee haue discharged the debts, by meanes wherof there is not sufficient goodes lefte wherewith to pay the testators debtes” those debts remain due, and “the executor shall be charged with the payment thereof out of his owne purse.”⁶¹ Repayment was hierarchized. The executor paid back debts to the crown ⁵⁵ West, Symboleography, sig. 2P7r. ⁵⁶ West, Symboleography, sig. 2P7v. ⁵⁷ Lena Cowen Orlin, “Fictions of the Early Modern English Probate Inventory,” in The Culture of Capital: Property, Cities, and Knowledge in Early Modern England, ed. Henry Turner (New York: Routledge, 2002), pp. 51–81, p. 51. ⁵⁸ Craig Muldrew, The Economy of Obligation: The Culture of Credit and Social Relations in Early Modern England (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 1998), pp. 22–4; Margaret Spufford, “The Limitations of the Probate Inventory,” in English Rural Society, 1500–1800: Essays in Honour of Joan Thirsk, ed. John Chartres and David Hey (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990), pp. 139–74; and Lena Cowen Orlin, “Fictions.” ⁵⁹ On the way this rule shaped the writing and execution of wills, see Lena Cowen Orlin, “Debt Culture in Shakespeare’s Time,” Shakespeare Studies 48 (2020): pp. 201-19. ⁶⁰ Henry Swinburne, A briefe treatise of testaments and last willes (London, 1591). ⁶¹ Swinburne, Briefe, sig. P4r.

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and debts “due vpon statute merchant” before “other personal debts, whether they be due by obligation, bill, or otherwise.”⁶² The possessions that could be used in repayment included “apparel, ‘ready money,’ farm animals and farm equipment (as appropriate), and household goods.”⁶³ Lena Cowen Orlin writes that “Probate processes reveal that individual debt levels were often high, sometimes exceeding an estate’s credits, and the records are full of ‘desperate debts,’ or those for which a creditor would never see satisfaction.”⁶⁴ Only “if the inventory documented surplus” could assets pass down to heirs, or to legatees named in a will.⁶⁵ Jonson stages the reading of a probate record by an executor to a group of expectant legatees—and there is no mention of debt, no figuring out about what’s owed where, and no anxious calculation of what will be left over.⁶⁶ Volpone’s inventory is pure surplus and, at least in the version of reality conjured by the trick Volpone and Mosca are playing, all of the objects listed will all be inherited by the person named in the will. What each of the heirs hopes to possess, and what Mosca conjures in this list, is nothing short of a world: a miniature, epitomized version of the great trade world in which Venice was a central port. The items Mosca names reflect “vigorous and heterogeneous trade” between Venice, the rest of Europe, and the East.⁶⁷ Each object implies a provenance and a trajectory, a place of origin and a route to the magnifico’s household. Some examples: Volpone’s tapestries might come from Tournai, Bruges, or Siena, the “European centers for tapestry-weaving.”⁶⁸ His linen could have been produced locally, though someone as well-off as Volpone might possess imported linen from Holland, known for exceptionally fine weaving, or Normandy, the “center for the world export” of linens in the sixteenth century.⁶⁹ The sheer amount of it (fourteen chests, total, probably comprising a mixture of bed-linens, table-linens, napkins, and towels) attests to the fabric’s importance, both as one of the greatest household expenses and assets in the early modern period, and a central element in the important European textile trade.⁷⁰ Other objects imply longer and shorter

⁶² Swinburne, Briefe, sig. 2H1r. ⁶³ Orlin, “Fictions,” p. 56. ⁶⁴ Orlin, “Fictions,” p. 51. ⁶⁵ Orlin, “Fictions,” p. 51. ⁶⁶ Michelle M. Dowd argues that plots about inheritance tend towards the fantastical, frequently including “quixotic narratives about prodigal sons, lost daughters, remarrying widows, and childless households.” The Dynamics of Inheritance on the Shakespearean Stage (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015), p. 11. Volpone’s inheritance plot is fantastical in multiple ways—not least of which is the absence of debt from the will. ⁶⁷ Jardine, Worldly Goods, p. 87. ⁶⁸ Jardine, Worldly Goods, p. 68 ⁶⁹ Harry A. Miskimin, The Economy of Early Renaissance Europe, 1300–1460 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1975), p. 112. See also Linda Levy Peck, Consuming Splendor: Society and Culture in Seventeenth-Century England (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005), p. 132 and Francoise de Bonneville, The Book of Fine Linen (Paris: Flammarion, 2011), esp. p. 78. ⁷⁰ This count depends on reading “damasks” as linens, following Parker’s note to the line. “Damask” could mean heavy patterned silk as well as patterned linen. On the economic importance and functions of linen, see among others Simon Schama, The Embarrassment of Riches: An Interpretation of Dutch Culture in the Golden Age (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1987), pp. 319–20; and Hester C. Dibbits, “Between Society and Family Values: The Linen Cupboard in Early Modern Households,” in

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trajectories: the carpets come from faraway Turkey, but his velvet hangings would probably have been manufactured relatively nearby by Venetian veluderi.⁷¹ Some of his belongings are extraordinarily valuable. Bedding made of cloth of gold suggests royal luxury. In the early sixteenth century, Venetian emissaries offered “8 robes of the heaviest cloth of gold” along with other gifts to Suleiman the Magnificent.⁷² Around the same time, English sumptuary laws limited wearing of cloth of gold to the royal family.⁷³ The agate salt cellar, too, would have been an item of great value and probably exquisite workmanship: in fifteenth-century Florence, the Medici collected “hardstone vessels carved in agate, jasper, and rock crystal.”⁷⁴ A taste for similar objects migrated to England: Queen Elizabeth received “an agate salt with a steeple on the cover” from John Harrington, and an agate-and-gold salt from the Archbishop of Canterbury in 1573.⁷⁵ Volpone’s table of porphyry, a dark red stone prized in antiquity and famously incorporated into St. Mark’s Church, suggests both rarity and fine craftsmanship. His onyx perfume box may be an antiquarian treasure.⁷⁶ In short, Volpone’s inventory promises abundance and variety of the highest order. It is infinite riches in a little list. Objects and descriptions of objects awaken the fancy. So, too, did the common shopkeepers’ greeting, “What do you lack?”, which the people of the Fair cry out to Cokes. It could be Mosca’s motto, too. He reminds the would-be heirs of what they are lacking and displays “wares” to fuel their desires and imaginations. The effect of worldly goods on the imagination is a topic frequently discussed in the history of consumption. Colin Campbell describes the modern window-shopper as “continually withdrawing from reality as fast as he encounters it, ever-casting his day-dreams forward in time, attaching them to objects of desire, and then Private Domain, Public Inquiry: Families and Life-Styles in the Netherlands and Europe, 1550 to the Present, ed. Anton Schuurman and Pieter Spierenburg (Hilversum: Verloren, 1996), pp. 125–45. ⁷¹ Cristina Gregorin, Venice Master Artisans (Ponzano: Vianello, 2003), p. 27. ⁷² Jardine, Worldly Goods, p. 56. See also Ann Rosalind Jones and Peter Stallybrass, Renaissance Clothing and the Materials of Memory (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001), p. 6. ⁷³ Queen Elizabeth’s 1574 sumptuary laws limit the wearing of “Any silk of the color of purple, cloth of gold tissued, [or] fur of sables” to “the King, Queen, King’s mother, children, brethren, and sisters, uncles and aunts.” Certain members of the aristocracy, “dukes, marquises, and earls,” were permitted “to wear the same in doublets, jerkins, linings of cloaks, gowns, and hose.” Enforcing Statutes of Apparel, Greenwich, June 15, 1574, 16 Elizabeth I, Elizabethan Sumptuary Statutes, accessed September 23, 2019, http://elizabethan.org/sumptuary/index.html. ⁷⁴ Eva Helfenstein, “Lorenzo de Medici’s Magnificent Cups: Precious Vessels as Status Symbols in Fifteenth-Century Europe,” I Tatti: Studies in the Italian Renaissance 16, no. 1/2 (Fall 2013): pp. 415–44, p. 415. ⁷⁵ For Harrington’s gift, see Philippa Glanville, Silver in England (1987; repr. Abingdon, UK: Routledge, 2006), p. 33. For the Archbishop’s, see Elizabeth Goldring et al., eds., John Nichols’s The Progresses and Public Processions of Queen Elizabeth, vol. 2, 1572–1578 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014), p. 79. ⁷⁶ The poet Sextus Propertius writes about an “onyx” in his Elegies; in a note to Elegy II, line 13, Lawrence Richardson Jr. defines an onyx in this context as “a “box or jar of semiprecious stone, not necessarily an onyx, used to hold perfume or unguent.” Propertius: Elegies I–IV (Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 2006), p. 250.

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subsequently ‘unhooking’ them from these objects as and when they are obtained or experienced.”⁷⁷ Recently, Linda Levy Peck, Nancy Cox, and others have argued that the “consumer revolution,” generally located in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, actually began in the sixteenth.⁷⁸ As their work demonstrates, the affective and imaginative structure of anticipation, desire, and future-tilting “day-dreams” that Campbell limns was very much available in Jonson’s day. “New wares” inspired “new wants,” and new modes of displaying and selling those wares constituted an “architecture of desire,” designed to produce and direct consumer demand.⁷⁹ Jonson’s own keen interest in consumer responses to exotic goods has been the subject of critical appraisals of his Entertainment at Britain’s Bourse (1609), rediscovered in the late twentieth century.⁸⁰ To redescribe Volpone in terms of the beginnings of the consumer revolution, then: inserting costly and beautiful articles from the world of goods before his victims’ eyes, Mosca offers them a panoply of “objects of desire” and at the same time makes sure these objects are never “obtained or experienced.” He keeps open the space of the daydream, the projected future meeting of self and world. For each of the would-be heirs, Volpone’s things exist both in themselves (as bearers of material value, as status symbols, as sources of sensory and aesthetic pleasure) and as tokens of what lies beyond: gateways into a fantasy of gathering, inventorying, and possessing the wide world. But the dream of worldly riches within the play depends on a different fantasy, one that Jonson offers to London playgoers: of material wealth truly possessed, owed to no one.

4.4. The Magnetic Lady’s Logarithms Written two and a half decades after Volpone and performed only once in Jonson’s lifetime, The Magnetic Lady is explicitly backward-looking in many ways. Its subtitle, Humours Reconciled, suggests a final reworking of Jonson’s early humours comedies. The play also revisits Jonson’s mid-career successes, especially Volpone. Opening in a “poetic shop” with the cry, “What do you lack, gentlemen? What is’t you lack?” (“Induction,” 1), it recalls the circuit traced between wanting

⁷⁷ Colin Campbell, The Romantic Ethic and the Spirit of Modern Consumerism (New York: Blackwell, 1987), pp. 86–7. ⁷⁸ Peck, Consuming; Nancy Cox, ““Objects of Worth, Objects of Desire: Toward A Dictionary of Traded Goods and Commodities 1550–1800,” Material History Review 39 (Spring 1994): pp. 24–40; see also Muldrew, Economy, pp. 13–94. ⁷⁹ The quotations are from Peck, Consuming, p. 346 and p. 71; see also Kathryn Morrison, English Shops and Shopping: An Architectural History (New Haven: Published for the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art by Yale University, 2003), pp. 18–33. ⁸⁰ James Knowles, “Cecil’s Shopping Centre: The Rediscovery of a Jonson Masque in Praise of Trade,” The TLS, no. 4897 (Feb. 7 1998), pp. 14–15; David J. Baker, On Demand: Writing for the Market in Early Modern England (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2009), pp. 93–120.

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and making central to the earlier play.⁸¹ Volpone himself has a clear successor in The Magnetic Lady’s Sir Moth Interest: greedy, imaginative, in love with his own cunning. Yet The Magnetic Lady seems to address an entirely different world. The earlier play’s Venice epitomizes the world of goods; the later play’s London is a hub of capital: money in motion. Value is, here, disembodied and abstracted. Like Volpone, this play traces the relationship between trade and desire, and between desire and imaginative capacity. This play, however, reconfigures the circuit between words and things, introducing a new object of desire and ground-plot of imaginative play: ever-growing numbers, rather than heaped-up rich and exotic objects; abstract representations of wealth, rather than tangible bearers of value. Moreover, debt and credit are here rendered newly abstract, depersonalized, and disembodied. Credit is no longer a matter of rhetoric and social interpretation, and debts are no longer interpersonal bonds, with overlapping financial and affective content. The Magnetic Lady links the development of financial credit to a broader cultural program of mathematical learning and innovation. It repeatedly invokes the rising tide of mathematical activity in England in the first decades of the seventeenth century. This tide brought together university-trained scholars with London practitioners and instrument-makers, and it led to significant advances in measurement and computation that affected various branches of applied mathematics, including navigation and trade.⁸² Jonson was keenly interested in this movement. For several years in the 1620s he was associated with Gresham College, London’s hub of mathematical learning.⁸³ While we do not know what kind of contact Jonson had with scholars like Henry Briggs—a Gresham professor dedicated to making mathematical advances accessible in English—he almost certainly had such figures in mind when he made the play’s protagonist, Compass, “a Scholar mathematic.”⁸⁴ Compass’s namesake instrument was the subject of discussion by numerous real-life “scholars mathematic.” These included Briggs;

⁸¹ Ben Jonson, The Magnetic Lady, ed. Peter Happé (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2000). Subsequent citations are from this edition and are by act, scene, and line. ⁸² E.G.R. Taylor, The Mathematical Practitioners of Tudor & Stuart England (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press for the Institute of Navigation, 1954); David W. Waters, The Art of Navigation in England in Elizabethan and Early Stuart Times (London: Hollis and Carter, 1958); Mordechai Feingold, The Mathematicians’ Apprenticeship: Science, Universities and Society in England, 1560–1640 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1984). ⁸³ Ian Donaldson, Ben Jonson: A Life (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012), pp. 376–8. For Gresham’s place in the context of London’s and of England’s early scientific communities, see Feldman, Mathematicians’, pp. 166–89. ⁸⁴ This is Compass’s description in the list of “The Persons that act” (p. 63). Jonson and Briggs most likely did not overlap at Gresham since the latter had taken up the inaugural Savile professorship in geometry at Oxford in 1619. Briggs is, however, a figure who worked on magnetism, logarithms, and problems of compounding interest, all of which are concerns of the play. See Taylor, Mathematical, pp. 50–1 and p. 184; John Fauvel and Robert Goulding, “Renaissance Oxford,” in Oxford Figures: 800 Years of Mathematical Sciences, ed. John Fauvel, Raymond Flood, and Robin Wilson (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000), pp. 59–60.

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Mark Ridley and William Barlow, both named in The Magnetic Lady; William Gilbert, with whose De magnete (1600) the play engages; and Edward Wright, whose Certaine errors in nauigation (1599) deals with questions that troubled natural philosophers, mathematicians, and navigators alike: why a compass’s magnetized needle does not quite point due north and why the degree of variation differs across the globe.⁸⁵ The body of work these scholars produced clearly informs the play’s magnetic allegory, which offers a flexible and generative framework for the social forces that knit up the play’s “heterogene” (2.6.106) company.⁸⁶ Mathematical innovation was understood to be good for merchandizing, in large part because navigation was necessary for trade. Compass himself, we learn, once voyaged with the East India Company (2.4.10). This voyage was probably in his capacity as scholar—more than one expedition in the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries took a mathematician along—but he remains linked to the company and its profits.⁸⁷ His hostess and close friend, Lady Loadstone, inherited “the wealth of six East Indian fleets at least” (2.5.71) from her deceased husband, the Company’s governor for a time in its wildly lucrative early years.⁸⁸ A “Scholar mathematic,” Compass inhabits a comfortable commercial milieu—or rather, a post-commercial one. The Lady’s money was made in the play’s past; it now grows comfortably, in the background, unyoked from the East India Company and its voyages. Like Volpone’s gold, the Lady’s wealth seems to have exited the world of trade, and entered into a local economy: a household with many guests, headed by a marriageable widow. And indeed, at the play’s end, this fortune “moves” through this local economy, when the soldier Ironsides weds the Lady, and obtains her fortune. Yet unlike in Volpone, household wealth in The Magnetic Lady re-enters larger economic structures—not through merchant voyages, or not directly, but through investment. The main representative of financial enterprise in the play is neither the mathematical Compass nor the deceased merchant John Loadstone, but rather Sir Moth Interest, Lady Loadstone’s brother. Identified as “an Usurer, or Moneybawd” in the printed play’s list of “the Persons that act,” Interest is in some ways a stereotypically grasping figure. As such, he is the play’s villain and its comic butt. ⁸⁵ Indeed, the various problems posed by navigational instruments in many ways spurred the rise of the study of mathematics in sixteenth- and early seventeenth-century England. See Taylor, Mathematical, pp. 32–48. ⁸⁶ Benedict S. Robinson, “Magnetic Theatres,” in Historical Affects and the Early Modern Theater, ed. Ronda Arab et al. (New York: Routledge, 2015), pp. 28–39; and Ronald E. McFarland, “Jonson’s Magnetic Lady and the Reception of Gilbert’s De Magnete,” SEL 11, no. 2 (Spring 1971): pp. 283–93. For a different approach to the play’s presentation of mathematical learning, see Helen Ostovich, “ ‘These Recreations, Which Are Strange and True’: Wit, Mathematics, and Jonson’s The Magnetic Lady,” in The Mysterious and the Foreign in Early Modern England, ed. Helen Ostovich, Mary V. Silcox, and Graham Roebuck (Newark: University of Delaware Press, 2008), pp. 107–23. ⁸⁷ Taylor, Mathematical, pp. 44–5. ⁸⁸ Philip Lawson, The East India Company: A History (New York: Longman, 1993), pp. 29–30.

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He begins the action having fought to block the marriage of his niece, Lady Loadstone’s ward, in order to retain his access to her wedding portion: sixteen thousand pounds that he has been profitably lending out at interest ever since her deceased parents left it in his (supposedly temporary) care. In the play’s middle, he delivers an eloquent and impassioned defense of acquisitiveness. And near its end, he falls down a well looking for buried gold. He is, then, an old-fashioned figure of greed, fully embodying the timeworn saying “much would have more.”⁸⁹ Yet Interest is also a remarkably forward-looking figure. In this character, we look simultaneously backward to Barabas’s counting-house and forward to modern financial systems based on systematic, depersonalized circulation of debts, credits, and profits. Like Compass and Loadstone, Interest uses new mathematical learning in his own ventures. Readers of the play—and the play has, historically, had far more readers than spectators—encounter two competing accounts of Sir Moth Interest before they encounter him.⁹⁰ As we have seen, the list of “Persons that act” describes him as a “Money-bawd,” invoking the traditional critique of money breeding money as the “most unnatural” form of exchange.⁹¹ From his designation in the character list, focused on breeding money, we might reasonably expect Jonson’s portrayal to include the other major period critique of lending at interest: the social harm caused by predatory lending to individuals unable to repay.⁹² “Usurer” in 1632 was less a designation of a person engaged in a specific activity than a moral judgment. In theory, usury was distinct from taking interest, defined as “compensation due to a creditor because of a loss he had incurred through lending.”⁹³ In practice, the distinction was often blurred, and the line between usurious and nonusurious interest-bearing loans moved around. Often, it was a line between a type of lending being condemned and a type being defended. “Usury” could designate lending over and above a legal limit; lending at compound rather than simple interest; lending at interest to ordinary people short of cash rather than to merchants and others likely to profit from borrowed funds.⁹⁴ The word was a tarry brush. As such, it generally contained two implicit claims: that the activity

⁸⁹ Francis Meres, Palladis Tamia (London, 1598), sig. K4v. ⁹⁰ For the play’s extremely limited performance history, see Happé, “Introduction,” 21–9. ⁹¹ Aristotle, Politics, trans. C.D.C. Reeve (Indianapolis: Hackett, 1998), pp. 18–19. ⁹² Bacon, Essayes (1625), pp. 239–41; and Gerard de Malynes, Consuetudo, vel lex mercatoria (London, 1622), p. 336. ⁹³ Sidney Homer and Richard Sylla, A History of Interest Rates, 4th ed. (Hoboken: Wiley, 2005), p. 71. ⁹⁴ On the range of attitudes towards usury in early modern England, see R.H. Tawney, “Historical Introduction” to Thomas Wilson, A discourse upon usury by way of dialogue and orations, for the better variety and more delight of all those that shall read this treatise [1572] (London: G. Bell and Sons, 1925); Norman Jones, God and the Moneylenders: Usury and the Law in Early Modern England (Oxford: Blackwell, 1989); David Hawkes, The Culture of Usury in Renaissance England (New York: Palgrave, 2010); and David Hawkes, Shakespeare and Economic Theory (London: Bloomsbury, 2015), esp. pp. 143–60.

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being called usury was unnatural and that it victimized borrowers. Given his designation, then, we might expect Moth Interest to do what Volpone is so proud of not doing: prey on “soft prodigals” and imprison “the fathers of poor families.” But our next encounter with the figure undermines these expectations, revealing Moth Interest to be less economic bogeyman than proto-banker: a figure whose activities are as historically specific as Compass’s, and as mathematically up-to-date. Early in the play, Compass delivers a series of satirical epigrams, or “characters,” of other members of Lady Loadstone’s household and entourage. After he gives Practice’s “character,” the young lawyer comments that Compass probably doesn’t think very highly of legal study in general, it being less lofty than the contents of his own “Mathematical Head” (1.6.29). The scholar responds that all men, even lawyers like Practice, are “Philosophers to their inches” (1.6.31). He goes on to give an example: There’s within Sir Interest, as able a philosopher In buying and selling, has reduced his thrift, To certain principles, and i’ that method, As he will tell you instantly, by logarithms, The utmost profit of a stock employed: Be the commodity what it will, the place, Or time, but causing very, very little, Or, I may say, no parallax at all, In his pecuniary observations! (1.6.31–40)

Though the speech begins as a response to Practice’s comparison of himself to Compass, and of law to mathematics, it quickly becomes a comparison of Compass to Interest, and of mathematics to moneylending.⁹⁵ What follows is mock-praise at best—Compass habitually speaks with a degree of satirical bite when describing others—but it is also remarkable articulation of both the specifics of Interest’s profession and the emerging financial systems driving the whole world of the play. What Compass literally tells us here is that Sir Moth Interest calculates the profits on large-scale commercial ventures, to which he also lends money. Such ventures begin with a “stock” (36), a period term for capital.⁹⁶ That stock is ⁹⁵ The logic of the transition goes something like this: you think I look down on the study of the law, but even an activity more suspect than law—like what Moth Interest does—has its own kind of admirable expertise. ⁹⁶ Robert S. DuPlessis, “Capital Formations,” in The Culture of Capital: Property, Cities, and Knowledge in Early Modern England, ed. Henry S. Turner (New York: Routledge, 2002), pp. 27–49, pp. 32–3.

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“employed” (36)—put to use—by being turned into a “commodity” (37), which is then turned back into money at the point of sale, resulting in “profit” (36). The circuit Compass describes is essentially Marx’s M-C-M0 avant la lettre.⁹⁷ Compass notes that Interest’s calculations are more or less indifferent to what is traded, or where, or when. “Be the commodity what it will, the place, / Or time,” Interest calculates accurately. Various goods are bought and sold in various places; Interest calculates the profits at home. He is not a merchant by the period’s most common definition, “the import-export trader, the individual whose commerce depended upon and fed foreign markets.”⁹⁸ Rather, he finances merchants. Sir Moth Interest is thus an able “philosopher” in “buying and selling” because his activities are essential to mercantile enterprise. Compass’s speech presents Interest as a necessary player in an economic system where trade depends on readily available loans and reasonably assured profits. The Interest conjured here bears little resemblance to either the wolfish usurer of the popular imagination or the unnatural “Money-bawd” of the list of characters. He functions as a one-man bank: an institution whose soundness, efficiency, and precision facilitate trade and at least partly guarantee a future of ever-increasing profit for everyone involved. The Magnetic Lady appeared in 1632, before commercial banking had taken firm root in England but when early banking systems were nevertheless emerging.⁹⁹ The basic structuring activities of banking— deposits, loans, and interest—were well enough understood by the early seventeenth century to appear in problems given in mathematics textbooks.¹⁰⁰ One example from 1613 runs: A Gentleman offered to a Merchant 50 l. to receive for it yearly 10 l. for 8 yeares following, and then to leaue the capitall wholly to the Merchant. The Question is, whether it were better for the Merchant to accept of this, or to refuse it, accounting interest after 10 per Cent per Ann. &c.¹⁰¹

The merchant in this problem is also (perhaps only) a banker. The arrangement the gentleman proposes to him is what we now call a terminable annuity, in which an initial deposit brings annual payment for a set period. Crucially, the question here posed is whether both the gentleman and the merchant will profit from the arrangement. This is the kind of question that, Jonson strongly implies, Sir Moth Interest has to answer regularly. The profit he calculates or “tell[s] you” (1.6.35)

⁹⁷ Karl Marx, Capital, vol. 1, trans. Ben Fowkes (New York: Penguin, 1990), p. 251. ⁹⁸ Andrea Lynne Finkelstein, Harmony and the Balance: An Intellectual History of SeventeenthCentury English Economic Thought (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2000), p. 25. ⁹⁹ See Poovey, Genres, pp. 35–55; and Richards, Early History. ¹⁰⁰ Banking was also the subject of debate among the mercantilist writers of the seventeenth century; see Finkelstein, Harmony, pp. 113–14, p. 137. ¹⁰¹ Richard Witt, Arithmeticall questions (London, 1613), sig. V2r–v.

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would seem to be of two sorts. It is, of course, the interest on the loans he issues: his own profit. But it is also the surplus that goes to the merchants with whom he deals. He “tells” future profits—that is, he reckons or calculates them—but he also “tells” them to others; he communicates his findings.¹⁰² Before he ever appears on the stage (or page), then, Sir Moth Interest stands poised between two culturally available ways of understanding interest itself: as unnatural and socially harmful, on the one hand, and as the engine that makes mercantile enterprise run, on the other. In The Magnetic Lady’s London, big loans finance international commerce, of the kind that has enriched the household at the play’s heart, benefitting all the characters—protagonists and villain alike. Not only does the play establish the symbiosis of finance and merchandizing, it suggests that they are roughly parallel activities in terms of innovation, discovery, and adventure. We might expect to find a hard division between Jonson’s estimation of navigation and merchandizing, on the one hand, and his opinion of finance, on the other. Questions of usury aside, the romance of high seas, distant shores, and variegated goods, as well as the often-cited risks taken by merchants, elevated their expertise in the popular imagination above that of the land-bound, risk-averse moneylender. Yet Jonson insistently connects them, underscoring the interwovenness of these two branches of economic life. This connection registers even at the level of individual words. Compass ends his “character” by noting that Interest’s calculations result in “very, very little” or even “no parallax at all.” In context, “parallax” means something like error or imprecision in calculation. An informed early modern audience, however, would have understood this word as a term imported from astronomy or navigation. Parallax—the apparent difference in position of an object (often, a celestial body) viewed from different vantage points—was a topic of interest to those mathematicians who, like Compass, went to sea. In Certaine errors in nauigation, for example, Edward Wright discusses “the errors of parallax arising in the use of the cross-staff,” as had earlier mathematical voyagers, including Thomas Harriot and Thomas Digges.¹⁰³ Using the word here, Compass links Sir Moth Interest’s sphere of activity with his own. The link Compass posits is far from superficial. Improvements in navigational science in fact developed in tandem with innovations in financial calculation. Two such innovations—the printed table of compound interest and the invention of logarithms—are central to Jonson’s portrayal of Moth Interest. When Compass finally claims the wedding portion that Interest has been turning into more and more money, he claims it with “interest upon interest” (4.8.75)—that is, with compound interest, which accrues not only to the principle of a loan but to any

¹⁰² On these two senses of “telling,” see David Landreth, The Face of Mammon: The Matter of Money in the English Renaissance (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012), pp. 58–9. ¹⁰³ Taylor, Mathematical, 47.

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previously accrued interest as well.¹⁰⁴ It’s a safe bet that “interest upon interest” is the “profit” Moth Interest calculates with great speed and accuracy. Compound interest is both more profitable and more difficult to calculate than simple interest, which accrues only to the principal. Calculating compound interest by hand can be a time-consuming matter. Imagine an updated Barabas: instead of tediously counting up coins, he even more tediously works out complicated computations. For him, the wished-for “little room” bearing “infinite riches” might not be a jewel but a table, with numbers arranged in an easy-to-navigate grid: a representation of ever-growing value, rather than a tangible bearer of it. Both grid and gem eliminate the need for tedious reckoning, though the difference between a rich object and an abstract number—however big—is a crucial one in The Magnetic Lady, as we shall see. Such tables were common by 1632, though relatively recently so. While it is highly likely that manuscript tables of compound interest existed in sixteenthcentury England, as they did elsewhere in Europe, these would have been closely guarded rather than widely circulated.¹⁰⁵ Printed tables appeared on the continent in the sixteenth century but may not have been widely available to London-based traders.¹⁰⁶ All this changed around 1612, when Richard Colson included a densely printed, three-page “Table of Vsurie, with compound interest, and capitall together, at 10 in the hundred for 21 yeares” in his textbookslash-ready-reckoner, A general tresury.¹⁰⁷ Along with Henry Briggs and Gerard de Malynes, a mathematician named Richard Witt was one of eight signatories to a letter of “Generall approbation” to Colson’s book.¹⁰⁸ Witt then went on to publish his own, far more extensive tables, which he calls “breviats,” displaying interest to be paid on various sums, at various rates, calculated at various intervals of time. Titled Arithmeticall questions, Witt’s book represents “a landmark in the history of compound interest.”¹⁰⁹ It offers lessons in calculating

¹⁰⁴ On calculating compound interest in early modern England, see William Deringer, “Pricing the Future in the Seventeenth Century: Calculating Technologies in Competition,” Technology and Culture 58 (2017): pp. 506–28. On the history of compound interest more generally, see G.W. Smith, “A Brief History of Interest Calculations,” Journal of Industrial Engineering 18 (1967): pp. 569–74; and Geoffrey Poitras, The Early History of Financial Economics, 1478–1776: From Commercial Arithmetic to Life Annuities and Joint Stocks (Northampton, MA: Edward Elgar, 2000), pp. 143–86. ¹⁰⁵ Ad Meskens, Practical Mathematics in a Commercial Metropolis: Mathematical life in Late 16th Century Antwerp (New York: Springer 2013), p. 79. ¹⁰⁶ See Christopher Lewin and Margaret de Valois, “History of Actuarial Tables,” in The History of Mathematical Tables: From Sumer to Spreadsheets, ed. Martin Campbell-Kelly et al. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003), pp. 79–103. ¹⁰⁷ Richard Colson, A general tresury, a perpetual repertory, or a common councel-place of accounts for all countries in Christendome (London, 1612), sigs. 2I2r-2I3r. ¹⁰⁸ Colson, General tresury, sig. A1v. ¹⁰⁹ C.G. Lewin, “An Early Book on Compound Interest: Richard Witt’s Arithmeticall Questions,” Journal of the Institute of Actuaries (1886–1994), 96, no. 1 (1970): pp. 121–32, p. 131. See also D. E. Smith, Special Topics of Elementary Mathematics, vol. 2, History of Mathematics (New York: Dover, 1923), p. 565; and Poitras, Early History, pp. 169–75.

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interest on loans, annuities, leases, and offices—in short, on all matters involving “forbearance of money” over time.¹¹⁰ Witt assures readers of his tables’ accuracy, claiming to have checked and double-checked both the calculations and the printing: “not onely before the Printing of these Breuiats, but also since they were Printed, I haue heedfully examined euery Number: yea, euery Figure in each Breuiat.”¹¹¹ Witt’s predecessor Colson, in fact, had complained of the “negligence of the Printer” and claimed to have corrected “faults escaped in printing” by hand in each printed copy of his work.¹¹² Like its ancestor, An introduction for to lerne to recken (1537; discussed in Chapter 1), Arithmeticall questions teaches through narrative problems, which are here keyed to particular breviats (Figure 4.1). As in An introduction, many of Witt’s problems feature merchants and their activities. The problem of the terminable annuity, cited above, is one example. Another, involving compound interest, runs:

Figure 4.1. The first breviat in Richard Witt’s Arithmeticall questions (London, 1613), along with an accompanying practice question (sigs. C3v–C4r). RB 79708, The Huntington Library, San Marino, CA.

¹¹⁰ Witt, Arithmeticall, sig. A3r. ¹¹¹ Witt, Arithmeticall, sig. A3v. ¹¹² Colson, General, sig. A3v. Both Witt’s and Colson’s claims to accuracy—achieved before or after printing—aim at enhancing their books’ credibility. At the same time, however, they underscore printed mathematical tables’ vulnerability to computational and compositorial error. See Natasha Glaisyer, “Calculating Credibility: Print Culture, Trust and Economic Figures in Early EighteenthCentury England,” The Economic History Review, New Series, 60, no. 4 (Nov. 2007): pp. 685–711.

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A Merchant solde certain Pepper for 12000 l. to be paid in 3. yeares, viz. 100 l. per quarter: If all these payments be respited till the last payment grow due; What ought then to be paid, reckoning 10 per Cent. per Ann. int[erest] and int[erest] vpon int[erest]?¹¹³

To solve the problem, the book’s user needs to note various numbers—principal, rate, time, and intervals of repayment—and then turn to the appropriate table, in this case, “The second Breuiat of quarterly payments,” which reveals the answer to be 1,372.66429 pounds, or 1,372 pounds, thirteen shillings, and three pence.¹¹⁴ Though it aims to reduce the labor and potential for error involved in calculation, there is nothing rudimentary about either Witt’s book or the skill demanded of its users. Rather, his tables provide evidence that “by 1613 the techniques of compound interest were no longer still in their infancy,” and that “the methods of carrying out the arithmetic” were both “clearly understood” and in common use in business transactions.¹¹⁵ What makes Arithmeticall questions a landmark, then, is less mathematical innovation and more what we might see as a huge leap forward in accessibility and ease-of-use. Not only is the book in print and in English, it also offers very clear verbal instructions throughout. Witt guides his readers with patience and eloquence, offering encouragement along with numerical grids. One modern commentator marvels that Witt was able to create his tables “at such an early date—when even logarithms had not yet been invented.”¹¹⁶ Logarithms were not far off, and these would further aid in the calculations made by moneylenders. They would also contribute to tables of interest printed after the sixteen-teens. Compass identifies logarithms as Moth Interest’s special tools in calculation: the means by which he can tell profits “instantly” without “parallax.” Invented in Scotland by John Napier, logarithms exploit “the difference between arithmetical and geometrical progression, or simple and proportional increase and decrease.”¹¹⁷ The simplest definition of a logarithm is the exponent to which a numerical base must be raised to produce a given number.¹¹⁸ For our purposes, it is useful to know one fundamental property of logarithms: the logarithm of the product of two numbers is equal to the sum of those numbers’ logarithms. This property and its corollaries are important because they make logarithms into useful tools for reducing complicated calculations to matters of arithmetic. As the title page to one pocket-sized table printed in 1626 put it, “By the helpe” of logarithms, “Multiplication is performed by Addition, Diuision by ¹¹³ Witt, Arithmeticall, sig. O2r. ¹¹⁴ Witt, Arithmeticall, sig. N4v. ¹¹⁵ Lewin, “Early Book,” p. 128. ¹¹⁶ Lewin, “Early Book,” p. 131. ¹¹⁷ George Molland, “Napier, John, of Merchiston (1550–1617), mathematician,” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography online, accessed April 12, 2018. ¹¹⁸ For example, if we are dealing with a numerical base of ten, the logarithm of 100—that is, the power to which ten must be raised to get to 100—is two.

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Substraction, the extraction of the square roote by bipartition, & of the cube roote by tripartition.”¹¹⁹ Logarithms lighten “the burden of computation.”¹²⁰ Napier’s invention “came on the world as a bolt from the blue.”¹²¹ He published the Mirifici logarithmorum canonis descriptio in Edinburgh in 1614. Henry Briggs, the Gresham scholar, wrote that he “never saw [a] Book that pleased me better, or made me more wonder.”¹²² The following year, the London mathematician visited Napier in Scotland, where the two collaborated on changes that would make logarithms easier to use.¹²³ Back in London, Briggs’s friend Edward Wright translated Napier’s Descriptio into English. Wright died before A description of the admirable table o[f] logarithmes (1616) was completed. To his work, Briggs added a preface and Wright’s son Samuel a dedicatory letter. These additions to Wright’s translation make clear that the practical applications of Napier’s invention were already manifest. In the dedicatory letter, Samuel Wright alludes to his father’s contributions to the science of navigation: Edward Wright’s earlier Certaine errors in nauigation addressed common problems with navigational instruments and sea charts; this new book, too, will be “chiefly behoouefull” to “Mariners . . . in long and dangerous voyages.”¹²⁴ Logarithms were very quickly understood to be useful at sea, since they simplified the trigonometric calculations needed for determining location. In his preface to the volume, Henry Briggs notes a second practical use: calculating compounding annuities.¹²⁵ Perhaps unintentionally, the multi-authored Description—the first work on logarithms in English—associates Napier’s invention with two sides of early modern commercial enterprise: sea travel and interest-bearing loans. Fittingly, the book is dedicated to the East India Company, a group for whom navigational and financial calculation were of paramount importance, and the company with whom Jonson’s Compass once sailed. If logarithms themselves reduced multiplication and division to addition and subtraction, the instruments and tables that made them widely available performed a further reduction, making difficult computation easy and slow work ¹¹⁹ Edmund Wingate, Logarithmotechnia: or, The construction, and use of the logarithmeticall tables (London, 1626), sig. A1r. This phrasing also appears in later works by Wingate and his associates. ¹²⁰ Taylor, Mathematical, p. 51. ¹²¹ John Fletcher Mouton, “Inaugural address: The Invention of Logarithms,” in Napier Tercentenary Memorial Volume (London, 1915), cited in Smith, Special Topics, p. 514. ¹²² Brian Rice, Enrique González-Velasco, and Alexander Corrigan, The Life and Works of John Napier (Cham, Switzerland: Springer, 2017), p. 422. ¹²³ In a nutshell, the pair of mathematicians decided to make ten a standard base for logs. For a detailed account of their collaboration, see Rice, González-Velasco, and Corrigan, John Napier, pp. 422–4. The story of this meeting appears in some of the early literature on logarithms; see for example Edmund Wingate, Arithmetique made easie in two bookes (London, 1630), sigs. A2r–A3r. ¹²⁴ Samuel Wright “To the right honourable and right worshipfull company of merchants of London Trading to the East-Indies,” in John Napier, A description o[f] the admirable table of logarithmes, trans. Edward Wright (London, 1616), sig. A2r. See also Amir Alexander, Geometrical Landscapes: The Voyages of Discovery and the Transformation of Mathematical Practice (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2002), pp. 93–4. ¹²⁵ Henry Briggs, “Preface to the Reader” in Napier, Description, sig. A8r.

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fast. Logarithms fueled the development of mathematical instruments like Edmund Gunter’s “Line of Numbers” and Edmund Wingate’s “Line of Proportion.”¹²⁶ These were precursors of the slide rule, and they were notable for their portability. Unlike printed tables of logarithms, which could be cumbersome and run to thousands of pages, such instruments were commodiously small. Wingate describes his own as “so portable, that being rolled up you may inclose it in a paper box no bigger than your finger, and little more than two inches long.”¹²⁷ Table-makers followed suit, seeking to produce more compact, easy-to-use volumes.¹²⁸ Nicholas Roe declares that his printed logarithmic tables have been “reduced to such a portable form, that they, which would make use of it, may have it always readie at hand upon all occasions” and assures readers that “those operations . . . found out upon the line of Proportion, may here be wrought by Logarithmes taken out of this Table.”¹²⁹ Popularizing writers promoted logarithms’ uses in various fields. The prolific Wingate, for instance, published in different volumes on using logarithms in “geometrie, astronomie, geographie, and navigation” and in “equation of time, interest of money, and valuation of purchases, leases, annuities.”¹³⁰ Of the early writers on logarithms, Wingate offers the clearest directions on using them to calculate interest, in Arithmetique made easie in two books (1630): When a summe is forborne a certaine time, to find how much it will bee augmented at the expiration of the same time, accounting Interest vpon Interest according a certaine rate propounded, this is the Rule: Deduct the Logarithme of 100 from the Logarithme of 100 and the rate added together; this done, if you multiply their difference with the time propounded, & then adde that product vnto the Logarithme of the stocke, or principall; that summe is the Logarithme of the stocke, and interest required.¹³¹

Working out exercises and real-life questions, Wingate’s readers could turn to the hundred-page table of logarithms in the middle of Arithmetique made easie to find the appropriate numbers to plug into this formula (see Figure 4.2), reducing the ¹²⁶ See Taylor, Mathematical, p. 60; and Wingate, Arithmetique, sig. A4r. ¹²⁷ Wingate, Arithmetique, sig. A4r. ¹²⁸ On this labor-intensive process, see Rice, González-Velasco, and Corrigan, John Napier, pp. 424–9. On their unwieldiness for daily use, see Nathaniel Roe and Edmund Wingate, Tabulae logarithmicae: or, Two tables of logarithmes (London, 1633), sigs. A2r–A3v. ¹²⁹ Roe and Wingate, Tabulae logarithmicae, sigs. A3r and A8r. Roe’s claim should not be taken as simple competitiveness; Wingate collaborated on this volume. ¹³⁰ Roe and Wingate, Tabulae logarithmicae, sig. A1r; and Wingate, Arithmetique, sig. π2r. ¹³¹ Wingate, Arithmetique, sig. 2H6r. Briggs had similarly shown how to use tables of logarithms to find compound interest in Arithmetica logarithmica (London, 1624). Briggs’s Arithmetica was in Latin; Wingate’s text would have been more accessible to those would could only read English. For a survey of English texts combining the computation of interest with tables of logarithms, see C.G. Lewin, “Compound Interest in the Seventeenth Century,” Journal of the Institute of Actuaries (1886–1994) 108, no. 3 (1981): pp. 423–42.

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Figure 4.2. One page of the 111-page table of logarithms, from one to 9,999, printed in Edmund Wingate, Arithmetique made easie in two bookes (London, 1630), sig. N4v. RB 79926, The Huntington Library, San Marino, CA.

need for complex calculation at every step of the way. They could, for example, solve the following problem, which calls to mind the arrangement that generates The Magnetic Lady’s comic plot:

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A having a Daughter of the Age of 3 ye. deliuers to B at the same time a thousand markes or 666,l. 13,s. 4,d. vpon condition that B shall redeliuer vnto his daughter at the Age of 15 yeares two thousand markes or (which is all one) 1333,l. 6,s, 8,d. Now the Question is, at what rate B enioyes the 666,l. 13,s. 4,d. that it may augment to 1333 l 6 s 8 d in 12 years?¹³²

Jonson’s play could be similarly rendered. Translated into an “arithmetical question,” it might run: One Steele leaving behind at his death a newborn daughter (1.4.31–2) in his will delivers to Sir Moth Interest 16,000 pounds upon condition that Sir Moth Interest shall redeliver it, with interest upon interest, unto his daughter at the time of her marriage. The question is, how much money, at the legal rate of interest, shall be delivered to the daughter, if she is married at the age of fourteen (1.2.4)?

If we take the interest rate as the legal limit for 1632 (eight percent), the answer works out to around £46,792, following Wingate’s formula—but not, in the final calculation, making use of his tables, which do not go high enough, or his instrument, which is lost.¹³³ Though their inventor did not contribute to the literature on their practical applications, Napier did note logarithms’ potential for saving labor, writing that they make it “easie to resolve mo[r]e Mathematical questions in one houres space, then otherwise . . . can be done even in a whole day.”¹³⁴ According to Compass, Sir Moth Interest’s method compresses calculation even further: he “has reduced his thrift, / To certain principles” and in so doing he has decreased the time needed for calculation. He computes “instantly.” We are back to Barabas in the counting house: big reduced to small, work reduced to ease.¹³⁵ Only instead of a jewel, we have a slide rule, a printed table, or maybe even both together.¹³⁶ Viewed in his mathematical context, Moth Interest’s difference from the typical stage usurer becomes even more apparent. Given his probable Oxford education

¹³² Wingate, Arithmetique, sig. 2H7r–v. ¹³³ But see Practice’s speech at 2.6.29–35, which assumes an interest rate of 10 percent. Practice here calculates using a rule of thumb, according to which a principal will double in seven years at 10 percent compound interest. This rule is an approximation, and the sum at which the lawyer arrives—£64,000— is a good round estimate, but not as accurate as what Wingate’s students (or Interest himself) could produce with logarithms. ¹³⁴ Napier, Description, sig. A4r. ¹³⁵ It was possible to think of mathematical tools as jewels or treasures. The prime example would be the elaborate instrument designed by John Blagrave and described in his The mathematical iewel (London, 1585). ¹³⁶ Later instances of the genre also called attention to their own compactness. John Castaing’s popular and well-regarded An interest-book (1700), was advertised as “very exact and convenient, not much bigger than a Spectacle-Case.” Glaisyer, “Calculating Credibility,” p. 699.

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(cf.1.1.73) and his sea voyage, Compass has almost certainly worked on both “pure” and “mixed” mathematics—that is, on the study of the principles of arithmetic and geometry and on their applications in “such fields as astronomy and music, as well as engineering and geography.”¹³⁷ We are probably meant to understand his “Mathematical head” (1.6.29) as resembling the “Mathematicall minde” described by John Dee in his preface to Euclid’s Elements of geometrie (1570): able both to “Mount aboue the cloudes and sterres” and to “Descend, to frame Naturall thinges, to wonderfull vses.”¹³⁸ By contrast, Interest practices neither pure nor mixed mathematics. He merely puts to use tools that have been “framed” by others, to borrow Dee’s term. Yet by specifying the moneylender’s practice of taking “interest upon interest” and his use of the very recently invented and even more recently popularized logarithms, Jonson particularizes Interest’s “pecuniary observations,” and in so doing links them to the same sphere of mathematical innovation as the play’s protagonist. It may be tempting to separate the play’s pair of mathematical figures into two bifurcated ideological and moral strains, with Moth Interest, commerce, nascent capitalism, and usury on the one side, and Compass, navigation, experimentalism, and university mathematics, on the other. The play’s comic plot after all relentlessly distinguishes between Compass (who wins) and Interest (who loses). But the nexus of family and financial ties that bind the two unavoidably suggests that they stand for the same enterprise: the zone of practices, people, and things that make up early seventeenth-century capitalism—an enterprise to which using compasses and calculating interest were both centrally important.

4.5. Interest’s Contradictions If Compass’s initial speech presents Moth Interest as a “philosopher” of moneylending and a skilled user of new mathematical technologies, the rest of the play’s action presents him as a grasping and foolish villain. His desire to turn money into more money temporarily thwarts his niece’s marriage prospects and threatens the possibilities for advancement of several young men. In general, Interest stands apart from those characters whose role it is to drive the plot

¹³⁷ Amir Alexander, “Exploration Mathematics: The Rhetoric of Discovery and the Rise of Infinitesimal Methods,” Configurations 9, no. 1 (Winter 2001): pp. 1–36, p. 3. On the London milieu Compass likely inhabits, see Lesley B. Cormack, “Mathematics for Sale: Mathematical Practitioners, Instrument Makers, and Communities of Scholars in Sixteenth-Century London,” in Mathematical Practitioners and the Transformation of Natural Knowledge in Early Modern Europe, ed. Lesley B. Cormack, Steven A. Walton, and John A. Schuster (Cham, Switzerland: Springer 2017), pp. 69–85. ¹³⁸ John Dee, “Preface” to Euclid, The elements of geometrie, trans. Henry Billingsley (London, 1570), sig. C3v.

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towards community.¹³⁹ True, he can at no point be condemned in the straightforward terms that his designation in “the Persons that act” suggests. Also true, his financial activities ultimately bind him to the others who populate the play, both the “good” and the “not-so-bad”: the smaller, local economies that the plot foregrounds—marriage, office-holding, hospitality—are all nourished by the larger structures of debt, trade, and profit that Interest’s financial computations facilitate. Yet the movement of the plot punishes him for greed, and rewards others with his gains. The augmented wedding portion ends up in Compass’s possession, after a series of extraordinary plot twists involving a hidden pregnancy and a switched-at-birth narrative: Compass’s beloved, the maid Pleasance, turns out to be Lady Loadstone’s true niece, a discovery precipitated by the false niece, Placentia, unexpectedly giving birth after being frightened by a fight at a dinner party. Compass’s good fortune in turn leads to windfalls and benefits for others.¹⁴⁰ As the source of much of this redistributed wealth, Interest serves the common good, but only in spite of himself. The financier’s very name encapsulates the tension between what the play presents sometimes as his necessary function in society, sometimes as his lack of moral worth. As Interest, he is the profit that drives capitalist enterprise. As Moth—in the 1640 folio spelled “Moath,” a word reminiscent of “mouth”—he is a kind of embodied consumption, a canker in the commonwealth epitomized by Lady Loadstone’s variegated household.¹⁴¹ Compass’s speech gives us the former identity, but the play’s action insists on the latter. If Jonson paints his usurer in contradictory terms, as both damnable and necessary, a similar mixture of moral condemnation and pragmatic defense marks the prefaces of a number of printed tables of interest of the kind discussed above. The delicate question of whether or when interest counts as usury had rarely come up in earlier, sixteenth-century commercial arithmetics.¹⁴² By the same token, in moralizing tracts condemning usury and usurers, “contemporary instruments of credit . . . are barely mentioned.”¹⁴³ These genres had radically different aims, and they treated interest accordingly in different ways: as practical

¹³⁹ Compass and Lady Loadstone, primarily, but also less fully antisocial “humours,” like Practice the lawyer, Silkworm the courtier, Bias the court secretary, and Ironsides the irascible soldier. ¹⁴⁰ Compass gives possession of a lucrative office to Practice, who remains unwed but is at least financially satisfied; another erstwhile suitor, Bias, gets to keep funds received from Interest for agreeing to accept a reduced wedding portion, though he, too, now lacks marriage prospects; Ironsides wins Lady Loadstone and her riches and ends the play promising to give a “portion” (5.10.148) to Placentia and her child’s father. ¹⁴¹ Moths, like wolves, were metaphorically associated with moneylending: “as a Moth eateth a hole in cloath, so Vsury eateth a hole in siluer.” Henry Smith, The examination of vsury in two sermons (London, 1591), sig. C2r. ¹⁴² Natalie Zemon Davis, “Sixteenth-Century French Arithmetics on the Business Life,” Journal of the History of Ideas 21, no. 1 (1960): pp. 18–48, esp. pp. 22–4. ¹⁴³ Ceri Sullivan, The Rhetoric of Credit: Merchants in Early Modern Writing (Madison, NJ: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 2002), p. 49.

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necessity, or as harmful and unnatural usury. Yet the prefaces to seventeenthcentury printed English tables of interest frequently address the question of whether the specific thing they teach counts as usury, and what that means for their creators and users. Very few debate the stock moral charges that usury is unnatural and causes a host of social harms. More surprisingly, very few offer a robust defense in practical terms, making the argument that interest is necessary to merchandizing, that trade needs finance. Rather, these texts tend to gesture obliquely at both moral and economic arguments; often, they seem to simultaneously condemn and defend what they teach. These texts’ presentation of interest bears the same complexity that marks Jonson’s portrayal of Moth Interest: a tangle of moral opprobrium and defense on practical grounds. Three examples illustrate the point. The first appears in Websters tables (1629). In “The Author vnto his Booke,” William Webster writes: Goe booke abroad, and see that thou vnpartially decide Cases of Interest, where thou find’st such causes to be tride. Such is the world, that in the world thou need not idle be; A common vse, is taking vse, so vse enough for thee.¹⁴⁴

Webster plays on three senses of the word “use”: (1) that which is habitual—a common use; (2) lending at interest—taking use; and (3) the book’s own utility— use enough for thee. This book is useful because usury is usual. These opening lines conflate interest and use (usury), but later in the poem, these become distinct. Webster tells the book: “And though in Interest thus thou deal’st / thou not approu’st at all / Of vsurie.”¹⁴⁵ The author then disclaims the book’s ability to distinguish between usurious and non-usurious loans: “Thou not conclud’st such contracts made / are lawfull yea or no.” What this tool provides is mathematical rather than moral reckoning. Used correctly, the book will be “To Lender and to Borrower both . . . an equall friend.”¹⁴⁶ But using it at all, the poem hints, is perhaps a little dangerous, a little compromising. Individual transactors are only really absolved because “taking use” is customary, and therefore unavoidable; you can use it, he implicitly tells the reader, because everybody else does. “Such is the world, that in the world / thou need not idle be,” Webster tells his Tables. The world being what it is, learning to calculate interest is a good idea, though it is not in itself a good thing. ¹⁴⁴ Webster, Websters tables, sig. A3v. ¹⁴⁶ Webster, Websters tables, sig. A3v.

¹⁴⁵ Webster, Websters tables, sig. A3v.

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Figure 4.3. Title page of John Penkethman, The Purchasers Pinnace: or, The Bargainees Brigantine (London, 1629). STC 19600.8 (folio), The Folger Shakespeare Library, Washington, D.C. Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0.

The second example involves the various texts based on work that ultimately became John Penkethman’s 1629 The Purchasers Pinnace: or, The Bargainees Brigantine (Figure 4.3), which consists of a short pamphlet accompanied by two separate tables of compound interest, at eight and ten percent, meant to be laid flat or hung on a wall for easy reference. Like Webster, Penkethman distinguishes between interest and usury, though he does so unambiguously and on legal grounds, defining usury as interest that exceeds the legal limit. Penkethmen’s work bears the Latin tag, “Non vsurae Vsus, Lex verò damnat abusus; / Istis mulctatis, hi tolerantur opus,” which translates roughly to “The law truly condemns not the use of usury, but its abuse; the latter must be punished, the former allowed.”¹⁴⁷ Far more than the question of moneylending’s morality, however, Penkethman concerns himself with condemning the work of plagiarists who copied his work and published it badly formatted, full of errors, and “vnder . . .

¹⁴⁷ The tag appears on a loose leaf titled Penkethman his President: or, The New Art of Accompt.

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abusive Titles.”¹⁴⁸ Penkethman’s own title celebrates commercial computation by casting it in terms of maritime trade and exploration: his tables are ships, bearing their users to “Terra Frugi, or, Thrift’s Territories.”¹⁴⁹ His alleged plagiarists, however, named their first version of his pirated tables The money monger: or, The Vsurers Almanacke (1626), a title that denigrates the very skills the enclosed tables promote (Figure 4.4).¹⁵⁰ A second plagiarized edition then reversed course. This time, the tables appeared as The Treasurers Almanacke: or, The MoneyMaster (1627), and the title page bore the tag, “God gives Art, let Men regard it,” valorizing commercial computation in the highest possible terms (Figure 4.5). In the competing print versions of Penkethman’s tables, interest is variously a morally neutral tool, the stuff of romance, and the object of satirical condemnation: a necessity allowed by law, a God-given art, and the grubby practice of worldly money-mongers. The third example is an early table that very succinctly captures the toggle between seeing calculating interest as an admirable art and as part of damnable usury. Titled A Caveat for the Borower: or, A perfect table of usurie (1602), this broadsheet table purports to warn readers against borrowing from moneylenders, by showing how much a “principall summe” increases when lent out at “interest, and interest vpon interest.” In smaller type below the table, however, we find instructions for its use, as well as a list of myriad practical applications: calculating leases, annuities, pensions, rents, and indeed “all money bargaines” where money and time come into play. The Caveat turns out to be a ready reckoner. It is simultaneously a tool and a moral judgment on those who use it. Interest can be celebrated on one part of the page—or play—and condemned on another. While these tables all register the potential slide of commercial interest into usurious lending, they treat it differently: either bracketing the overlap or foregrounding it with almost comical aggression, embracing a moralizing point of view while at the same time acknowledging that morality may need to be “overridden for the sake of practice.”¹⁵¹ As counterintuitive as it seems, this latter strategy has a logic shared by many of the more conduct-oriented practical manuals surveyed in previous chapters. This strategy embraces contradiction, rather than denying it. Claiming to serve the needs of grossly incompatible moral and monetary economies, works like The Vsurers Almanacke and A Caveat for the Borower are, in a way, of a piece with Polonius’s advice to be subtle but “true” or with William Scott’s admonition not to lie but not to tell the whole truth in An essay of drapery.

¹⁴⁸ John Penkethman, The Purchasers Pinnace: or, The Bargainees Brigantine (London, 1629), sig. A3v. ¹⁴⁹ Penkethman, Purchasers, sig. A1r. ¹⁵⁰ Penkethman, Purchasers, sig. A3v. ¹⁵¹ Davis, “French Arithmetics,” p. 23.

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Figure 4.4. Title page of The money monger: or, The Vsurers Almanacke (London, 1626). Antiq.f.E.13 (1), The Bodleian Library, University of Oxford.

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Figure 4.5. Title page of The Treasurers Almanacke: or, The Money-Master (London, 1627). Antiq.f.E.13 (2), The Bodleian Library, University of Oxford.

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There are, of course, key differences. Polonius’s and Scott’s advice speaks to navigating a rhetoricized social sphere, whose slipperiness is heightened and intensified by the interpersonal nature of credit relations. Tables of interest presume a more limited set of social data necessary for economic transacting. Rather than mutual, interpersonal evaluation based on hints, inferences, reputation, and social connections, the basis of the relationship between borrower and lender here derives from exact or “just” calculations. As Webster puts it in his poem addressed to his tables, “To Lender and to Borrower both, / thou art an equall friend / For ease, on easie tearmes to each, / thou readie art to lend.”¹⁵² And as Thomas Clay writes in Briefe, easie, and necessary tables, of interest and rents forborne (1624), his tables “Might bring some benefit, and giue some ease both to the Nobility and Communalty, and be a meanes to preuent many inconueniences, wrongs, and abuses.”¹⁵³ We are not yet at Hugh Chamberlen’s Office of Credit, with its promised elimination of great chains of interlinked transactors. But we are seeing a shift in the direction of trust: instead of borrower trusting lender, and lender borrower, both are advised to place their trust in the tables, in the numbers, in the math. The earliest printed English arithmetics presented mathematical calculation and social evaluation as overlapping skills.¹⁵⁴ A little under a century later, these skills have begun to pull apart. Reckoning replaces rhetoric; proto-calculators produced by experts relieve not only the burden of computation, but also the risks and difficulties attendant on unmediated social interpretation. If tables of interest offered the “ease” of clear calculations to transactors on both sides of a credit relationship, they still addressed a culture in which overt profitseeking was considered strongly suspect—and interest is, in many cases, profit. Often, the profit motive needed to be strategically disavowed, even by merchants, tradesmen, and proto-bankers. This is why, I think, the specter of usury haunts the edges of some tables but takes center stage in others: different writers adopted different strategies around the same pressure point. As Andrea Finkelstein notes in her study of the seventeenth-century mercantilist writers, in early modern England, we often find evidence of “a critique of market values” alongside evidence of “the advance of that market itself.”¹⁵⁵ At times, the critique appears in the very documents that serve the advance. And that’s practical, too. To live in the world is to live with contradiction. Jonson’s play dramatizes the same contradiction as these tables—between the moral condemnation of usury and the undeniable economic need for interestbearing loans—but takes it in a very different direction. Plays’ plots, I have been arguing, often respond to the contradictions inherent to credit culture’s rhetoricized

¹⁵² Webster, Websters tables, sig. A3v. ¹⁵³ Thomas Clay, Briefe, easie, and necessary tables, of interest and rents forborne (London, 1624), sig. A2v. ¹⁵⁴ See Chapter 1, pp. 46–51. ¹⁵⁵ Finkelstein, Harmony, p. 15; see also pp. 24–5.

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sociability by exposing them, rendering them in simplified and hyperbolic terms. Tragic (or near-tragic) catastrophes tend to coincide with those moments when a centrally important character becomes caught in an unbearable bind: Othello discovers that social value is constructed according to contradictory criteria; Timon finds out that riches and desperate debt can look exactly the same; Antonio nearly dies because he refuses to dwell in the ordinary tension between the demands of love with those of self-protective thrift; Anne Frankford dies and Susan Mountford comes close to committing suicide because they are both women and emblems, persons and externalized male credit. In The Magnetic Lady, however, what starts as a suspension of contradictory identities—Moth Interest is both a lauded “philosopher” of commerce and a contemptible “Usurer, or Money-bawd”—ends up as a celebration of Interest’s humiliation and Compass’s acquisition of his wealth. Jonson gives us no crisis, no catastrophe, no realization that condemning usury contradicts benefiting from capitalist enterprise. Rather, comic resolution comes close to rendering the system the play interrogates impermeable to critique, because it makes the contradictions that system produces less visible, rather than more.

4.6. “The World Over” If The Magnetic Lady looks forward to abstract, impersonal forms of credit and the emerging structures of finance, it also looks backward to earlier forms of accumulation. Interest’s status as a moth (or mouth) links him to earlier stage figures of material desire, like Barabas and Volpone: characters whose desire for wealth has a distinctly appetitive dimension. Like them, Moth Interest is hungry for more and, like them, his hunger begets a restless verbal inventiveness and an expansive imaginative capacity. Unlike them, however, the object of his desire is abstract, rather than concrete; dematerialized, rather than tangible. The more he seeks is an ever-growing number, rather than a jewel, a piece of plate, a pearl. Placentia Steele’s dowry is a case in point: he is not trying to hold on to an inert heap of cash, sixteen thousand pounds’ worth of coins. He is instead reaching “for the profits every way arising” (2.6.7) from lending it out at “interest upon interest” (4.8.75). Interest’s desire for that which does not stop growing—interest without limit, capital getting implacably bigger, growing numbers—renders his passion in a way objectless. As Compass notes, Interest’s calculations are accurate, “be the commodity what it will,” no matter the “place” of trade. The kinds of rich goods and distant shores that one or two generations previously had inflamed the poetic imagination are curiously irrelevant to the new acquisitiveness. And this, I think, is where the play locates crisis: as greed becomes disentangled from things, the imaginative relation of word to world that Jonson spent a career celebrating, condemning, tracking—a relation that is fundamentally one of desire—begins to

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disintegrate. Revisiting Volpone and Barabas in Moth Interest, Jonson redraws the coordinates of “the world”: no longer a constellation of far-off places and rich objects, a detailed and variegated amalgam of real-world luxuries and the fantasies they inspire, but rather a hazy conception lacking material and geographic particularity. In the play’s second act, Interest mounts an eloquent defense of greed. Echoing Volpone, he begins by claiming, “My moneys are my blood, my parents, kindred: / And he that loves not those, he is unnatural” (2.6.39–40). Hearing this, Compass asks him to produce an extemporaneous oration on “the love of money” (41). Interest begins: First, we all know the soul of man is infinite I’ what it covets. Who desireth knowledge Desires it infinitely. Who covets honour Covets it infinitely. It will be then No hard thing for a coveting man to prove, Or to confess, he aims at infinite wealth. (2.6.50–5)

Interest’s argument is premised on humanity’s boundless capacity to want, in the senses both of desiring and lacking. His treatment of the topic fuses the proverbial insatiability of greed—much would have more—with humanist celebrations of mankind’s transcendence of limit, the potential “infiniteness” of man.¹⁵⁶ At the root of man’s infiniteness is his covetousness: his desire for more of what the world has to offer and for what the mind, imitating and augmenting the world, can imagine. The argument is embedded in the verse: “the soul of man is infinite”—line break—“I’ what it covets.” His second point runs:  Next, every man Is i’ the hope or possibility Of a whole world: this present world being nothing But the dispersèd issue of the first one: And therefore I not see but a just man May with just reason, and in office ought Propound unto himself—  An infinite wealth! (2.6.56–62)

This is mock theology. Interest invokes the world “every man” hopes to gain (the kingdom of heaven), and the lost “first” world (before the flood, or perhaps the ¹⁵⁶ Karsten Harries, Infinity and Perspective (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2001), pp. 148–83.

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fall). But the “whole world” he himself desires is the sublunary world of trade from which wealth flows, and which wealth, in its material form, symbolizes. As with Barabas or Volpone, contact with the world inspires imaginative and verbal flight: Interest’s speech swells to eight points, each point elaborated in four or more lines of verse. Unlike these earlier figures of materialist poetics, though, he has no gold to touch. In the play’s fifth act, Needle, the father of the false niece Placentia’s child, pretends madness, claiming to know of a treasure hidden “i’ the garden” (5.5.13) by “an alderman’s widow” who “fell in love / With our Sir Moth” (10). The treasure takes the form of three hundred thousand gold coins “stuck / Edge-long into the ground” (5.7.43–4) and twice that number hidden in the well. Like Lady Loadstone’s inherited wealth and Interest’s ever-growing profits, this money comes from long-distance trade. Needle describes the widow as an “Indian magpie” (5.5.9), whose wealth likely also came from her husband’s mercantile activities in the East. Hearing Needle’s tale, Interest becomes inflamed with desire for gold and almost equally enraptured by the story of a secret love: “Who can contain himself to hear the ghost / Of a dead lady do such works as these?” (5.7.49–50), he asks. The prospect of tangible treasure ignites his imagination. Describing his “mad” friend Needle, he invents fantastical events that never took place: according to Interest, Needle “talked in’s sleep; would walk to Saint John’s Wood, / And Waltham Forest, scape by all the ponds / And pits i’ the way; run over two-inch bridges; / With his eyes fast, and i’ the dead of night!” (5.8.13–16). Imagination inflamed, Interest climbs into the well’s bucket, hoping to lower himself down to the six hundred thousand gold pieces hidden within. The chain breaks. Saved by a rope, he emerges “a little wet” (5.10.12) but not particularly chastened. He shakes himself off and returns to his “world of business” (21), reverting briefly and unsuccessfully to his old project of retaining the dowry. In Interest, Jonson gives us a contradictory bundle of characteristics and activities: he has mastered capitalist activity and abstracted moneymaking from the particularity of people, places, and things. He has created a system that generates wealth mechanically, by unyoking value from objects and treating it as an abstract product of exchange. At the same time, he justifies his passionate attachment to money in archaizing terms previously associated with the relation between subject and object: the soul’s extension toward “what it covets” (2.6.51). Moth Interest understands that the quickest way to make money with money is to keep it circulating, which means, essentially, to keep it disembodied and abstract rather than ready-to-hand in tangible form. Yet he longs for the touch of gold. His “thrift” has been reduced to mathematical “principles,” condensed and compressed into an instrument or table. Yet he is far from thrifty with his words. In his passionate, irrational descent into the well, Interest dives into the physical stuff of the world: dirt, earth, soil, water. At the same time, he takes a leap into fairyland: enraptured by images of love, ghosts, ladies, and madmen as well as

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of gold. He plunges into the stuff of the poetic imagination, as Jonson theorizes it on stage: the physical material of the actual world, reordered by the mind into more pleasing shapes. In Volpone’s “Epistle,” Jonson notes “the impossibility of any man’s being the good poet without first being a good man” (20–1). Yet in that play and in his later reworking of some of its material in The Magnetic Lady, Jonson suggests that a person can be an effective poet without being a “good” one. Good poetry offers access to “things divine no less than human” (“Epistle” 26). Bad poetry awakens desire only for the world. In his selfish, greedy, desiring, fanciful, rhetorically gifted lovers-of-money, Jonson isolates and analyzes the link between the material world in its abundance and variety and the plenitude of the poetic imagination. Revisiting Volpone, The Magnetic Lady presents capital, or “stock” as an abstraction, produced by the movement of money and things across the surface of the world, but oddly indifferent to their nature and particularity. Poetry, by contrast, both begins and ends in the variety and particularity of the world itself. The reconciliation of “heterogene” (2.6.106) characters at the end of The Magnetic Lady is a more forgiving resolution than the series of stark punishments that end Volpone. It is also curiously muted. Even the unions effected by the play’s end seem to be far from passionate affairs. In the brief and ambiguous scene in which the true niece, Pleasance, and Compass make their feelings known to each other, Compass asks her to follow him to the coach house. Pleasance replies “With you the world o’er” (4.5.17). The line’s simplicity and capaciousness are striking in context. The bigness of the world contrasts with the play’s circumscribed geography—it takes place entirely within or just outside Lady Loadstone’s house—and with the diminutive scope of Compass’s own measured, continent desires. To his credit, he wanted to marry Pleasance before he knew she was an heiress. Even so, his feeling for her is more one of liking than of loving (cf. 4.2.51–3), and he is more pragmatic than passionate in his affection. Compass once sailed the world with John Loadstone, but his days of venturing are past, and Loadstone long dead. Since those days, the money he gains by marrying Pleasance has also traveled the world: sent out by Interest, it has taken many shapes in many places. It has been converted into all kinds of goods. But none of them are particular, none listed or inventoried. In its resolution, The Magnetic Lady leaves us with the sense that “infinite” desire is on the wane. Souls are no bigger than their objects, and objects are no longer scarce, or hard to get, or far away, or worth imagining.

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Coda The changes indexed by Jonson’s Magnetic Lady were by no means immediate or universal. In some ways, the shift to a fully depersonalized system of credit separate from rhetorical relations remains incomplete—or rather, perhaps, social and rhetorical dynamics have proven irrepressible, bubbling up in one context or another, pushing back against capital’s drive to abstraction. By way of conclusion, I want to point out a handful of striking correspondences between the economic, social, and discursive structures traced in this book, and those still visible in contemporary life. Ellen MacKay has noted a trend of “epilogues that track the long tail of an early modern habit into the present.”¹ Such epilogues—and this is one of them—tacitly or openly acknowledge that, as Frances E. Dolan writes, “present concerns . . . motivate our inquiry” into the past: “they are why we look to the past at all.”² Dolan’s rigorous “presentist historicism” aims to “denaturalize present arrangements by uncovering their roots in the past,” and it is a major influence here.³ But my goal in these few pages must of necessity be more modest: rather than uncovering roots, detecting echoes; rather than tracing arcs of change and threads of continuity, offering snapshot views of a few repeated structures and recurring configurations. The earliest systems of exchange ran on borrowing and lending, and even our modern, disembedded, financialized economy remains dependent on the promises of credit and the profitability of debt.⁴ However radically different and historically discontinuous these economies are, certain forms—forms of sociability, of value, of talk, of interpretation—either persist, or subside only to re-emerge. Attention to the way these forms echo one another, across long stretches of time and in spite of enormous economic change, suggests that the webs of debt and surveillance in which we are currently enmeshed are not altogether the products of a contemporary history. This book began with Polonius’s aphoristic advice, and it has come to rest, more or less, with numbers growing in a grid. Polonius stresses that language and behavior influence others’ opinions of us, to our profit or loss. The creators of early printed tables of interest advertise their work as removing interpersonal ¹ Ellen MacKay, “Recent Studies in Tudor and Stuart Drama,” SEL 59, no. 2 (Spring 2019): pp. 429–79, p. 430. ² Frances E. Dolan, Marriage and Violence: The Early Modern Legacy (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2008), p. 15. ³ Dolan, Marriage and Violence, p. 17. ⁴ David Graeber, Debt: The First 5,000 Years (New York: Melville House, 2011), pp. 21–41.

Fictions of Credit in the Age of Shakespeare. Laura Kolb, Oxford University Press (2021). © Laura Kolb. DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198859697.003.0006

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hermeneutics from transactions: these books “unpartially decide” questions between debtor and creditor, as Websters tables puts it.⁵ Yet as Natasha Glaisyer notes, tables of interest continue to participate in an economy of interpersonal credit. By the early eighteenth century, traders risked loss of face if they could not accurately calculate interest, and this risk motivated the purchases of printed tables.⁶ The tables in turn needed to appear “plausible” in order to be “vendible.”⁷ In a bid to cultivate trust, they advertised their authors’ credentials and, like Richard Witt’s 1613 tables, offered assurances of the accuracy both of calculation and of printing.⁸ These instruments of credit needed, themselves, to be credited. This remains the case. Moth Interest’s logarithms look forward to increasingly complex modern financial instruments, controlled and understood primarily by experts, and his dealings point the way toward an economic system within which value is understood to be objective and quantifiable. Yet even in the sphere of modern finance—that is, the arena of capitalist activity conducted by “retail, corporate, and investment banks, private equity and hedge funds, insurance and mortgage firms”—credit in the sense of trust remains important.⁹ As Irene FinelHonigman writes, “intrinsically, financial transactions are based on credit and debt,” and both credit and debt, no matter how quantified or abstracted, are matters of trust.¹⁰ Even recently developed, sophisticated financial tools depend on their users’ faith. Take derivatives, financial products that played an active role in the 2008 financial crisis. Martin Mayer defines a derivative as “a financial instrument that ‘derives’ its value from changes in price of other financial instruments.”¹¹ A derivative is “a bet on the direction, dimension, duration and speed of changes in the value of another financial instrument,” and, Mayer writes, “like any bet, its value is entirely a function of the creditworthiness of the man who wrote it.”¹² Prior to the 2008 crash, an enormous number of people placed their faith in these instruments, in the experts who created them, and in the firms and brokers who sold them. The result was a bubble whose bursting echoed Timon’s far more modest crash—a resemblance that led to a spate of theatrical productions explicitly allegorizing the financial crisis in the events of the play.¹³ The correspondence is ⁵ William Webster, Websters tables (London, 1629), sig. A3v. ⁶ Natasha Glaisyer, “Calculating Credibility: Print Culture, Trust and Economic Figures in Early Eighteenth-Century England,” The Economic History Review, New Series, 60, no. 4 (Nov. 2007): pp. 685–711, p. 688. ⁷ Glaisyer, “Calculating Credibility,” p. 692. ⁸ Glaisyer, “Calculating Credibility,” p. 693. ⁹ Irene Finel-Honigman, A Cultural History of Finance (New York: Routledge, 2010), p. ix. ¹⁰ Finel-Honigman, Cultural History, p. 11. ¹¹ Michael Mayer, The Bankers, The Next Generation (New York: T.T. Dutton, 1997), p. 289; cited in Finel-Honigman, Cultural History, p. 15. ¹² Mayer, Bankers, p. 291. ¹³ Chicago Shakespeare Theater’s 2012 production set the play on Wall Street, with an electronic stock ticker scrolling in the background. In London in the same year, the National Theatre’s Timon was a wealthy patron of the arts (donor of “The Timon Wing” to a museum very like the National Gallery); the play’s second half featured an Occupy-Wall-Street-style collective encampment. Miguel Ramalhete Gomes analyzes a similarly allegorical 2012 production by Portugal’s Teatro de Almada, in “Presentism

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imperfect: the play’s bubble results from misplaced confidence in an individual, not in esoteric instruments or remote institutions. Yet both the “humungous, global version of the ‘Emperor’s New Clothes’” in 2008 and the events of Shakespeare and Middleton’s tragedy reveal contradictions within credit itself: it is at once an economic tool and a matter of belief; a quantifiable entity, and a fiction.¹⁴ In a study of very recent cultural representations of debt relations, Annie McClanahan argues for two scales structuring contemporary economic life: “the visible, the experienced, and the everyday” and “the economic system as a whole and . . . the complex global financial markets that have driven world economic growth for the last four decades.”¹⁵ What binds these scales, according to McClanahan, is consumer debt. Though its workings become visible more universally in times of crisis, for ordinary people, the global financial system can feel remote, impersonal, and implacable. Yet everything from an individual’s student loans to her mortgage to her credit card spending links her to this system. The link goes both ways: as became clear in 2008, in the case of certain types of debt—like the subprime mortgages which were bundled, divided up, and resold as securities—“a single default could trigger a chain reaction that would spread swiftly and virally through the whole economy.”¹⁶ Here, too, is another site of both rupture and repetition. On the one hand, we are a far cry from the system of interpersonal interdependence Craig Muldrew describes, with its crisscrossing chains of debtors and creditors. Such chains were unmediated by firms and, though they connected strangers, their individual nodes generally involved face-to-face transactions. On the other hand, however detached from ordinary social relations, contemporary debt remains an inescapable connective tissue. It binds our fortunes to those of countless unseen, unknown others.¹⁷ The smaller of McClanahan’s two scales, the personal and experiential, also has a partial yet recognizable double in early modern England. If individual credit was then a matter of reputation—of language, conduct, and social interpretation—it is now a matter of numbers. Modern people have credit scores, created by “a vast and indefinite number of data points” which “are fed through a quantitative algorithm and recombined into a wide range of highly individualized microassessments.”¹⁸ In his recent history of credit bureaus and the rise of surveillance culture, Josh Lauer reminds us that the earliest credit agencies sought not to and its Discontents: Cultural Translations of the Financial Crisis through Macbeth and Timon of Athens,” Shakespeare Studies 46 (Jan. 2018): pp. 84–93. ¹⁴ The quotation is from Finel-Honigman, Cultural History, p. ix. ¹⁵ Annie McClanahan, Dead Pledges: Debt, Crisis, and Twenty-First-Century Culture (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2017), p. 4. ¹⁶ McClanahan, Dead Pledges, p. 7. ¹⁷ On our current debt system as a collective of connected individuals, see Richard Dienst, The Bonds of Debt: Borrowing against the Common Good (London: Verso, 2011), esp. 28–32. ¹⁸ McClanahan, Dead Pledges, p. 65.

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replace, but to replicate, face-to-face credit. Early firms aimed to “convert an individual’s local reputation into an easily readable, centralized summary of creditworthiness for remote lenders.”¹⁹ Such summaries were initially verbal sketches of character and assets; in the mid-nineteenth century, these narrative descriptions gave way to a system of numerical codes.²⁰ With the advent of these codes, Lauer writes, “the textualization of credit risk became increasingly abstract and, in contrast to earlier forms of credit assessment, disembodied and impersonal.”²¹ But even numerical credit scores can never be, fully, impersonal. To borrow from Mary Poovey, “even the numbers are interpretive.”²² Like a reputation, a credit score “represents a social rendering of a person’s data”; in order to be meaningful, it has to be read and interpreted.²³ As McClanahan argues, the score is a version of a “social person” constructed and weighed by others.²⁴ It shapes its possessor’s economic fate and it operates as an index of moral as well as monetary worth.²⁵ As such, it is about as impersonal as Shylock’s pronouncement that “Antonio is a good man” (1.3.12).²⁶ Of course, all of these echoes index change as well as continuity. Perhaps most strikingly, they reveal that the interpersonal, dialogic dynamics of performance and interpretation have disappeared from the creation of credit, or at least become so scattered and attenuated as to function in completely different ways. Our financial credit is no longer assigned by our immediate interlocutors and communities. It is no longer the object (and creation) of up-close social interpretation, manipulable through rhetoric and performance, but rather of constant, dispersed, invisible surveillance. In closing, though, I want to note that reputation still matters—and remains, at least in certain contexts, both profitable and a matter of skilled “impression management.”²⁷ Advice literature from Benjamin Franklin in the eighteenth century to Dale Carnegie in the twentieth retains the idea that creating a favorable impression leads to gain, especially in the business world, where connections, relationships, and impressions directly influence personal success. Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People (1936) is both sunnier and more simplistic in its view of social relations than, say, Tusser’s rhymed points or Polonius’s commonplaces. Still, at the book’s heart, we find advice strikingly similar to the counsel offered by the early modern literature of thrift. This is because, on a fundamental level, Carnegie’s advice is rhetorical. To

¹⁹ Josh Lauer, Creditworthy: A History of Consumer Surveillance and Financial Identity in America (New York: Columbia University Press, 2017), p. 6. ²⁰ Lauer, Creditworthy, pp. 35–46. ²¹ Lauer, Creditworthy, p. 45. ²² Mary Poovey, A History of the Modern Fact: Problems of Knowledge in the Sciences of Wealth and Society (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1998), p. ix. ²³ McClanahan, Dead Pledges, p. 65. ²⁴ McClanahan, Dead Pledges, p. 67. ²⁵ Lauer, Creditworthy, pp. 19–22. ²⁶ William Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice, ed. John Drakakis (London: Bloomsbury, 2010). ²⁷ Erving Goffman, The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1959), p. 132.

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persuade someone, he insists, you have to “arouse in the other person an eager want,” a task that can be accomplished by performing your own enthusiasm.²⁸ Three hundred years earlier, William Scott’s An essay of drapery (1635) offered the same lesson: in “perswading his Customer to the liking of his commodity,” a retailer “must put on the same liking himselfe.”²⁹ This line of thinking can be traced back to Horace on poetry—“If you would have me weep, you must first feel grief yourself”—and Quintilian on judicial rhetoric: “we should ourselves be moved before we try to move others.”³⁰ And it can be traced forward, to the snappy, aphoristic pronouncement delivered by fictional advertising genius Don Draper in the television show Mad Men: “You are the product. You feel something. That’s what sells.”³¹ Business, oratory, sales, and poetry rely on the same persuasive principle: to make others feel; you have to feel; to make others believe, you have to believe. To be credited, you have to inhabit the fictions you conjure. What was advice to orators and poets in the ancient world becomes a directive to advertising agents in a twenty-first-century reimagining of the 1960s. And it applied to everyone—merchants and poets, drapers and dramatists—in early modern England’s culture of credit.

²⁸ Dale Carnegie, How to Win Friends and Influence People (1936; New York: Pocket Books, 1981), p. 32. ²⁹ William Scott, An essay of drapery: or, The compleate citizen (London, 1635), sig. E5r. ³⁰ Horace, “Ars poetica,” lines 102–3, in Satires. Epistles. The Art of Poetry, trans. H. Rushton Fairclough, Loeb Classical Library 194 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1926), pp. 458–9; Quintilian, The Orator’s Education 6.2.26, in The Orator’s Education, Volume III: Books 6–8, ed. and trans. Donald A. Russell, Loeb Classical Library 126 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2002), pp. 58–9. ³¹ Mad Men, Season 2 episode 1, “For Those Who Think Young,” written by Matthew Weiner, directed by Tim Hunter, aired July 27, 2008, on AMC.

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Index Note: Figures are indicated by an italic ‘f ’ respectively, following the page number. For the benefit of digital users, indexed terms that span two pages (e.g., 52–53) may, on occasion, appear on only one of those pages. 2008 financial crisis 196–7 adages see commonplaces; proverbs advice 3, 5–8, 77–9, 82, 86–7, 134–5, 162–3, 198–9 See also commonplaces; manuals; Polonius; practical literature; proverbs; surety, injunctions against agate vessels 168 allegoria 12–13, 19 Amphion 144 amplificatio 63–4 annuities 174–5, 179 aphorisms see commonplaces; proverbs Aristotle 20–1, 80–2, 128–9 arithmetics, early printed 38–44, 47, 49–50, 143–4, 152–3, 190 See also Baker, Humphrey, The well spryng of sciences (1568, 1574); interest, printed tables of; introduccion for to lerne to rekyn, An (1537); introduction for to lerne to recken, An (1539); partnership problems; Record, Robert, The ground of artes (1543) artifice see dissimulation; social performance assize of bread see Powell, John, The assise of bread newly corrected and enlarged (1592) Bacon, Francis Advancement of Learning, The (1605) 159–60 Essayes (1597) 25–7, 98 Essayes (1625) 8n.20, 27, 130–4, 152–3 New Organon, The (1620) 17–18 Baker, Humphrey, The well spryng of sciences (1568, 1574) 127–8, 146–7, 150 banknotes see paper money Bank of England, the 151–2 banks and banking 9n.23, 151–2, 174 Barret, Robert, Theorike and practike of moderne warres (1598) 69, 72–3 barter 148–9 Bieston, Roger, The bayte and snare of fortune (1556) 144–5

bonds 99–101, 107–8, 112–13 See also surety Breton, Nicholas Conceyted letters, newly layde open (1618) 89–92, 91f, 96 Crossing of proverbs (1616) 85n.39 poste with a madde packet of letters, A (1602) 5–7, 89–92, 96 poste with a packet of madde letters, A (1606) 89–92 Wits private wealth (1607) 77–8 Briggs, Henry 170–1, 176–7, 179, 180n.131 Brooke, Henry, Lord Cobham 14 Browne, John, The marchants avizo (1589) 5–7, 77–8, 89–90 Burghley, William (Cecil), Lord see Cecil, William, Lord Burghley Burke, Kenneth 20, 83–4, 86–8 Calandri, Filippo, Aritmetica (1491) 75 capitalism 36, 154–5, 196–7 See also Jonson, Ben, Magnetic Lady, The (1632), capitalism in Carnegie, Dale, How to Win Friends and Influence People (1936) 198–9 cash 1–2, 70–1 See also coins; paper money; purses Caveat for the Borrower: or, A perfect table of usurie, A (1602) 187 Cecil, William, Lord Burghley 2–3, 77–8, 130–1 Chamberlen, Hugh, A Description of the Office of Credit (1665) 78–9, 151–3, 190 chrysolite 74 Cicero 80 De inventione 144, 146–7 De officiis 129 civilization, origin myths of 144–9 Clay, Thomas, Briefe, easie, and necessary tables, of interest and rents forborne (1624) 190 clothing 6–7, 15–16, 168n.73 cloth of gold 168

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Cobham, Henry (Brooke), Lord see Brooke, Henry, Lord Cobham coins 62–3, 157–8, 193 See also gold; jewels; purses Colson, Richard, A general tresury (1612) 176–7 commonplace marks 1 commonplaces 77, 82, 85, 88 in letters 82–4, 88 in plays 82–4 See also advice, friendship; proverbs; surety, injunctions against community see friendship; good name; social evaluation; social performance; society consumer revolution, the 168–9 Contarini, Gasparo, The commonwealth and gouernment of Venice (trans. Lewkenor, 1599) 52–3 conversation 19–21, 25, 31–2 Cornwallis, William, Essayes of certaine paradoxes (1616) 16–18 Coryate, Thomas, Coryats crudities (1611) 52–3, 161–2 counsel see advice court culture 12–14 craft 18–19, 23–5 creditors, “wolfish” 162 credit plays 20, 31–3 credit scoring 197–8 creditworthiness 15–16, 67–8, 103–4, 197–8 See also good name; reputation; social performance Crosse, Henry, Vertues common-wealth (1603) 134n.43 “curry-fauell” see paradiastole Day, Angel, The English secretary (1586; 1599) 88–91 debts desperate 131–3, 149–50, 166–7 invisible or hidden 14 see also “rich beggary” mercantile 152–3 permanent and standing 134 prevalence of 1–2, 29–31, 130–1, 162–3, 197 probate inventories and 166–7 satire on 131–2, 149–50 self-assessment of 133–4 See also Jonson, Ben, Magnetic Lady, The (1632), debt in; Jonson, Ben, Volpone (1606), debt in; Shakespeare, William, Timon of Athens, debt in decorum 28, 89–91, 96 Dee, John 182–3 Defoe, Daniel complete English tradesman, The (1726) 64 Moll Flanders (1722) 153n.13

derivatives 196–7 Digges, Leonard, An arithmeticall warlike treatise named Stratioticos (with Thomas Digges, 1579; 1590) 69–73 dissimulation 12–13, 19, 25, 27, 29, 31 See also lies and lying Dorke, Walter, A tipe or figure of friendship (1589) 80 Downame, John, A treatise against lying (1636) 18–19 dragons 75 Draper, Don 199 East India Company 171, 179 economic advice see advice; practical literature, economic; surety, injunctions against Elizabeth I 137–8, 168 ensigns 72–3 epistolary manuals see manuals, letter-writing Erasmus, Adages 77–80, 111 Euclid, Elements of geometrie (trans. Billingsley, 1570) 182–3 finance 152–3, 196–7 See also Jonson, Ben, Magnetic Lady, The (1632), finance in flattery 29 See also Shakespeare, William, Timon of Athens (with Thomas Middleton), flattery in formularies see manuals Franklin, Benjamin 198–9 friendship 77–85, 89–98 See also Heywood, Thomas, A Woman Killed with Kindness (1603), friendship in; Shakespeare, William, Merchant of Venice, The, friendship in Fulwood, William, The enimie of idlenesse (1568) 89–90 Gainsford, Thomas, The secretaries studie (1616) 82–3, 89–102, 93f gifts 101, 102n.92, 104, 109–10, 125–6, 129–30, 141–2 See also Shakespeare, William, Merchant of Venice, The, gifts in; Shakespeare, William, Timon of Athens (with Thomas Middleton), gifts in Gilbert, William 170–1 gold 106–7, 137–8, 144–6, 155–7, 160–2 Golden Age 16–17, 141–2, 144–5, 148–9 Golden Rule see rule of three Gonzaga, Francesco 162–3 good name 1–2, 59–64, 66–7 See also honor; reputation; social evaluation

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 Googe, Barnabe, “Of Money” (1563) 79, 111 Gorgias 31–2 greed 106–7, 136, 138, 153–4, 171–2, 183–4, 191–3 Gresham College 170–1 Guazzo, Stefano, The ciuile conuersation (trans. Pettie, 1581) 16–19, 25, 31–2 Guevara, Antonio de, A looking glasse for the court (trans. Bryan, 1575) 12–13, 14n.45 Gunter, Edmund 179–80 handbooks see manuals Heywood, Thomas, A Woman Killed with Kindness (1603) date 110n.106 friendship in 34, 110–13, 115–21, 123 pair vs. network in 111–15, 121–2 proverbs in 111–12 rhetorical facility in 122–3 servants in 119–20 women in 112–18 121–2, 190–1 honor distinct from credit 41–2, 67–9, 73 military 68–73 sexual 68–9, 73 See also good name; Shakespeare, William, Othello, honor (military) in; Shakespeare, William, Othello, honor (sexual) in Horace, Ars poetica 28n.123, 144, 199 husbandry 2–3 See also Tusser, Thomas, Fiue hundreth points of good husbandry (1573) hyperbole 12–13, 20, 33, 102, 111 hypocrisy 96–7, 136, 139–41, 143 interest 174–5 compound 175–8 printed tables of 152–4, 175–9, 184–90, 188f, 189f, 195–6 usury and 184–7, 190 introduccion for to lerne to rekyn, An (1537) 42–4, 47–8, 75, 177 introduction for to lerne to recken, An (1539) 42–6, 43f, 48–51, 71–2 inventories see probate inventories investment see finance; interest; Jonson Ben, Magnetic Lady, The (1632), finance in jewels 58–9, 61–3, 73, 156–7, 182n.135 Jewish people in The Merchant of Venice 106, 108 mathematical puzzles and 49–50 moneylenders 45–6 Jonson, Ben Alchemist, The (1610) 158–9

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Bartholomew Fair (1614) 158–9 Entertainment at Britain’s Bourse (1609) 168–9 Every Man Out of His Humour (1599) 15–16, 158–9 Magnetic Lady, The (1632) abstract wealth in 154, 169–70, 191–2, 194 capitalism in 36, 173–4, 182–3, 190–1, 193–4 debt in 158, 169–70 finance in 154–5, 171–6 logarithms in 35–6, 178–9, 182, 196–7 London in 169–70 material desire in 154, 158, 191–4 mathematical learning in 170–1, 182–3 poetry, materialist in 160, 191–2, 194 trade in 171, 175, 192–3 usury in 172–3, 183–4, 190–1 value in 154, 160, 169–70, 193–4 Volpone and 169–70, 191–2 writing of 169–70 Volpone (1606) debt in 158, 162–4 lists in 163–4 material desire in 35–6, 154, 158, 160–1, 164, 168–9 poetry, materialist in 35–6, 154–6, 160, 194 temporality in 164 trade in 154–5, 161–2, 167–8 value in 154, 160 Venice in 154, 158, 161–2, 167–8 wills and probate in 164–6, 168 letters see commonplaces, in letters; manuals, letter-writing; proverbs, in letters letter-writing manuals see manuals, letter-writing lies and lying 18–19, 29, 47–8 See also dissimulation linen 167–8 logarithms 35–6, 178–82, 181f Lucian, Dialogues 126–7 Lucretius 159 Lupton, Thomas, All for Money (1578) 81n.22 Mad Men 199 Malynes, Gerard de 176–7 Consuetudo, vel lex mercatoria (1622) 44, 47–8, 51, 64, 74–5, 127–8, 142, 147–50 manuals account-keeping 39n.9 letter-writing 34, 82–3, 88–92, 96 mercantile see Browne, John, The marchants avizo (1589); Malynes, Gerard de, Consuetudo, vel lex mercatoria (1622)

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manuals (cont.) military see Barret, Robert, Theorike and practike of moderne warres (1598); Digges, Leonard, An arithmeticall warlike treatise named Stratioticos (with Thomas Digges, 1579; 1590) poetic see poetry and poetics rhetorical see Peacham, Henry, the Elder, The garden of eloquence (1577; 1593); Wilson, Thomas, The arte of rhetorique (1553) See also arithmetics, early printed; Gainsford, Thomas, The secretaries studie (1616); practical literature; Scott, William, An essay of drapery (1635); Tusser, Thomas, Fiue hundreth points of good husbandry (1573) Markham, Gervase, Hobsons horse-load of letters (1613; 1617) 89–91, 96 Marlowe, Christopher, The Jew of Malta (c.1590) jewels in 61, 156–7 poetry, materialist in 35–6, 155–7, 160 villainy in 107n.100 wealth in 156–8 Marx, Karl 141n.61, 173–4 marriage 73–4, 108–10, 115–17, 119, 121n.124 See also women, as property materialist poetics see poetry and poetics, materialist mathematical instruments 179–80 See also interest, printed tables of; logarithms mathematical learning 39–40, 170–1, 182n.135 See also arithmetics, early printed; Jonson, Ben, Magnetic Lady, The (1632), mathematical learning in; logarithms mathematical textbooks 20–2 See also arithmetics, early printed; logarithms meiosis 128–9 merchants debt and 152–3 deceitful 47–8 fellowships see partnership problems manuals for see Browne, John, The marchants avizo (1589); Malynes, Gerard de, Consuetudo, vel lex mercatoria (1622) performativity and 16 popular imagination and 175 prejudice against 18 Meres, Francis, Palladis Tamia (1598) 74 Middleton, Thomas see Shakespeare, William, Timon of Athens (with Thomas Middleton) military hierarchies 69–71 See also honor, military military manuals see Barret, Robert, Theorike and practike of moderne warres (1598);

Digges, Leonard, An arithmeticall warlike treatise named Stratioticos (with Thomas Digges, 1579; 1590) money see coins; paper money money monger: or, The Vsurers Almanacke, The (1626) 185, 187, 188f Montaigne, Michel de, “Of Friendship” 80, 109–10, 112–13, 119–20 moths 184n.141, 191–2 movable goods 10, 80–2, 129 Muldrew, Craig 1–2, 9–11, 67–8, 142, 197 Napier, John 178–9 description o[f] the admirable table of logarithms, A (trans. Wright, 1616) 179, 182 Mirifici logarithmorum canonis descriptio (1614) 179 numerals, Arabic 39–40 “obliquy” 139, 146 See also lies and lying; Shakespeare, William, Timon of Athens (with Thomas Middleton) Orpheus 144 Ovid 144–5 paper money 9n.23, 151–2, 151n.2 paradiastole 12–13, 128–30, 142 paradox 12–13 parallax 175, 178–9 partnership problems 45–8, 54, 70–1, 74–5 Peacham, Henry, the Elder, The garden of eloquence (1577; 1593) 128–30, 144 pearls see jewels Peele, James, The pathe waye to perfectnes (1569) 38–9 Penkethman, John, The Purchasers Pinnace (1629) 185, 186f Pepys, Samuel 132–3 Pico della Mirandola, Giovanni 138 Plutarch 31–2, 61–2 poetry and poetics materialist 35–6, 154–7, 159–60, 191–2, 194 rhetoric and 144 theories of 11–13 See also Peacham, Henry, the Elder, The garden of eloquence (1577; 1593); Puttenham, George, The arte of English poesie (1589); Sidney, Philip, An apologie for poetrie (1595); Shakespeare, William, Timon of Athens (with Thomas Middleton), poetry and rhetoric in Polonius 1–9, 25, 79, 187–90, 195–6, 198–9 porphyry 168 Portman, Richard 77–9, 96n.79, 111

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 Powell, John, The assise of bread newly corrected and enlarged (1592) 147, 150 Powell, Thomas 127–8 mysterie and misery of lending and borrowing, The (1636) 131–2 Tom of all trades (1631) 131–2 Wheresoeuer you, See mee, trust vnto your selfe (1623) 131–2, 149–50 practical literature 3, 20–2, 74–5, 131–2, 187 economic 25, 33–5, 86–7 See also arithmetics, early printed; interest, printed tables of; manuals praxis 20–1 precepts see advice; commonplaces; proverbs probate inventories 165–8 prodigality see Shakespeare, William, Merchant of Venice, The, prodigality and thrift in; Shakespeare, William, Timon of Athens (with Thomas Middleton), prodigality in proverbs 63–4, 82–8 in letters 88, 92, 96 in plays 100–1 See also advice; commonplaces; Heywood, Thomas, A Woman Killed with Kindness (1603), proverbs in; Shakespeare, William, Merchant of Venice, The, proverbs in Proverbs 77–8 public opinion see good name; social evaluation purses 59, 61–3, 118 Puttenham, George, The arte of English poesie (1589) 11–13, 19, 128–9, 137–9, 144 Quintilian 28n.117, 199 Rabelais, François 16–18 Record, Robert, The ground of artes (1543) 42–4, 47, 50, 127–8, 146–7, 150 reputation 6–7, 66–8, 197–9 See also good name; honor rhetoric epideictic 128–9 See also allegoria; amplificatio; Cicero, De inventione; paradiastole; Quintilian; Shakespeare, William, Timon of Athens (with Thomas Middleton), poetry and rhetoric in; society, as structured by language and rhetoric theory of 128–9, 138, 144 transactional 25–8 rhetorical manuals see Cicero, De inventione; Peacham, Henry, the Elder, The garden of eloquence (1577; 1593); Wilson, Thomas, The arte of rhetorique (1553)

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“rich beggary” 14, 34–5, 130–5 See also Shakespeare, William, Timon of Athens (with Thomas Middleton), “rich beggary” in Roe, Nicholas, Tabulae logarithmicae (with Edmund Wingate, 1633) 179–80 Romance 75–6 rule of three 45 Rymer, Thomas, A short view of tragedy (1693) 37 Saracens see “Turks and Christians” mathematical puzzle Savyle, Robert 79 Scott, William, An essay of drapery (1635) 27–32, 30f, 86–7, 98n.84, 154–5, 187–90, 199 sententiae see commonplaces servants 119–20 Shakespeare, William Hamlet see Polonius Merchant of Venice, The date 110n.106 flexibility and contradiction in 106–8, 190–1 friendship in 34, 99–101, 108–10 gifts in 101, 102n.92, 104, 109–10 prodigality and thrift in 98–9, 103–6 proverbs in 100–2, 106–7, 109–12 rhetorical facility in 98–9, 103 rings in 109–10 self-sameness in 100–2, 106–8 social performance in 103–6, 108 surety in 99–100, 102n.92, 103, 108–10 value in 62–3 Othello criticism of 37–8 Cyprus in 40–1, 56–7 honor (military) in 56–7, 71–3 honor (sexual) in 68–9, 73 idealism versus instability in 73, 106 international trade in 40–1, 75–6 material and economic language in 37, 58–68, 71–6, 114–15 Othello’s social status 39–41, 53–4, 65–6 race in 41–2, 53–4, 64–6 Romance in 75–6 social evaluation in 33–4, 37–8, 41–2, 52, 54–62, 64–6, 71–3, 76, 190–1 value in 59–67, 71–6 Venice in 40–1, 55–6 Timon of Athens (with Thomas Middleton) contradiction and doubleness in 125–9, 143, 149 criticism of 124–6 debt in 32–3, 125–7, 130, 133–5, 143, 190–1

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Shakespeare, William (cont.) economic themes in 125–6, 130, 137, 154–5, 160–1 flattery in 34–5, 133–4, 136, 138–40, 143 gifts in 125–6, 129–30, 141–2 misanthropy in 126–7, 136, 139–40, 144–5 naïveté in 124–5, 139–40, 142–3 patronage in 139–40 performances of (modern) 196–7 poetry and rhetoric in 125–7, 129–30, 135–7, 139–43, 145, 155–6 prodigality in 129–30, 135, 141–2 “rich beggary” in 32–5, 123, 133–4, 149 sociability in 126–7, 149 sources 126–7 state of nature in 143–6 Winter’s Tale, The 119 Shepard, Alexandra 10–11 Sidney, Philip, An apologie for poetrie (1595) 11–12, 141n.60. social evaluation 38–40, 190 See also creditworthiness; good name; reputation; Shakespeare, William, Othello, social evaluation in; social performance social performance 3–4, 6–8, 14–16, 103–4, 132–4, 140, 142–3 See also Shakespeare, William, Merchant of Venice, The, social performance in society as structured by credit relations 1–2, 9–10, 13–14, 16–18, 162–3, 197 as structured by language and rhetoric 17–19, 145–50 as structured by money 145–9 as structured by self-interest 17–18 founding myths of 144–9 subscriptions, epistolary 91–2 surety 95–6 injunctions against 77–80, 82–7, 96, 102, 111–12 Swinburne, Henry, A briefe treatise of testaments and last willes (1591) 166–7 tables of interest see interest tables of logarithms see logarithms Taverner, Richard, Prouerbes or adagies (trans., 1539) 78–9, 111 thrift see Shakespeare, William, Merchant of Venice, The, prodigality and thrift in trade see Jonson, Ben, Magnetic Lady, The (1632), trade in; Jonson, Ben, Volpone (1606), trade in; Shakespeare, William, Othello, international trade in; world, the, as structured by trade

trash 58n.80, 61–3 treasure see gold; jewels Treasurers Almanacke: or, The Money-Master, The (1627) 189f triall of true friendship, The (1596) 80–2 trust 3–4, 31, 51, 56, 67–8, 190, 195–7 See also creditworthiness; good name; social performance “Turks and Christians” mathematical puzzle 49–52, 75 Tusser, Thomas, Fiue hundreth points of good husbandry (1573) 1–3, 5–7, 23–5, 24f, 77–8, 86–7, 98, 154–5, 198–9 usury 172–3, 184–7, 190 See also Jonson, Ben, Magnetic Lady, The (1632), usury in value see Jonson, Ben, Magnetic Lady, The (1632), value in; Shakespeare, William, Othello, value in Venice 52–3, 55–6, 68–9 See also Jonson, Ben, Volpone (1606), Venice in; Shakespeare, William, Othello, Venice in wealth abstract 191–2, 194 credit as form of 154–5, 169–70 in material objects 156–62 underwritten by debt see “rich beggary” women as 58–9, 73–4, 114–15 See also gold; jewels Webster, William, Websters tables (1629) 185, 190, 195–6 West, William, The first part of symboleography (1598) 164–7 Wheeler John, A treatise of commerce (1601) 18 Wilkinson, Henry, The debt book (1625) 79, 127–8, 134–5, 150 Wilkinson, John, The ethiques of Aristotle (trans., 1547) 80–2 wills 164–7 Wilson, Thomas, The arte of rhetorique (1553) 63–4, 144 Wingate, Edmund Arithmetique made easie in two bookes (1630) 179–80, 179n.123, 180–2, 181f Logarithmotechnia (1626) 178–9 Witt, Richard, Arithmeticall questions (1613) 174–8, 177f, 195–6 women as embodied male credit 112–13, 115

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 as friends 112–13 as property 58–9, 109–15, 118–21 world, the as stage 17–18, 31–2 poetic imagination and 154–6, 191–4 structured by trade 35–6, 40–1, 155–6, 167–8 See also society

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Wright, Edward Certaine errors in nauigation (1599) 170–1, 175, 179 description of the admirable table o[f] logarithmes, A (trans., 1616) 179 Wright, Samuel 179 Wright, Thomas 20–1

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OUP CORRECTED AUTOPAGE PROOFS – FINAL, 9/12/2020, SPi

OUP CORRECTED AUTOPAGE PROOFS – FINAL, 9/12/2020, SPi

OUP CORRECTED AUTOPAGE PROOFS – FINAL, 9/12/2020, SPi

OUP CORRECTED AUTOPAGE PROOFS – FINAL, 9/12/2020, SPi

OUP CORRECTED AUTOPAGE PROOFS – FINAL, 9/12/2020, SPi

OUP CORRECTED AUTOPAGE PROOFS – FINAL, 9/12/2020, SPi