full name / name of organization:
German Shakespeare Association
Money Matters: Shakespeare’s Finances
“Put money in thy purse,” Iago keeps reminding Roderigo throughout the play Othello but we never actually learn why Iago presses Roderigo for money. Iago is not a spendthrift, he does not follow expensive fashions, and he is certainly not a generous husband. What matters is that as creditor Iago is in control of Roderigo: Iago’s demands create a vacuum that arguably sets Iago’s plot and the whole play in motion. Money matters are central to the plot of Othello, but they are at the same time peculiarly obscure.
Financial transactions, the exchange of goods, credit and debt, possession, profit and loss all feature prominently in the plays (and poems) of Shakespeare and his contemporaries. Even Karl Marx was impressed by how accurate Shakespeare portrayed the real nature of money as ‘visible divinity’ that is capable of ‘the universal confounding and distorting of things’ and should be regarded as the ‘common whore’ and ‘common procurer of people and nations.’ Essentially, Elizabethan England was an economy of obligation due to the chronic shortage of ready money. As coins were devaluated, Shakespeare’s London saw a credit crunch not unlike the financial crisis we experience today. It is thus hardly surprising that our pecuniary concerns are also central concerns in the plays by Shakespeare and his contemporaries.
The Shakespeare Seminar aims at exploring the link between money matters on stage and the role that money plays in society at large. How do the plays envision the economic, social, and psychic repercussions of financial trade? How do they reflect the beginnings of capitalism in Shakespeare’s day? Is money indeed shown to have transformative, and most often corruptive, power, as Marx argued? How is the financial sphere related to other discourses? For instance, how are ideas of financial credit and debt associated with religious and moral ideas of integrity and guilt? Do Shakespeare’s financial statements also lend themselves to metatheatrical and metapoetic use? How can we relate our current concerns with financial crises in a globalised capitalist system to Shakespeare’s theatrical world? How have theatrical and filmic productions of Shakespeare’s plays envisioned the role of money?
Our seminar plans to address these and related questions with a panel of six papers during the annual conference of the German Shakespeare Association, Shakespeare-Tage (26-28 April 2013 in Munich, Germany). As critical input for the discussion and provocation for debate, panellists are invited to give short statements (of no more than 15 minutes) presenting concrete case studies, concise examples and strong views on the topic.
Please send your proposals (abstracts of 300 words) and all further questions by 15 November 2012 to the seminar convenors:
Felix Sprang, University of Hamburg: firstname.lastname@example.org
Christina Wald, University of Augsburg: email@example.com
See also: http://shakespeare-gesellschaft.de/publikationen/seminar.html