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The social meaning of Money in Dekker's The Shoemakers Holiday and Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice.

With the growing interest in early modern English economic issues, money has become the focus of critical attention in recent years, as attested by Money and the Age of Shakespeare, a collection of essays that consider how Renaissance literature challenges the commensuration of money and human life even when it is saturated with "bookkeeperish, quantifying language." (1) More recently, literary critics focus on the materiality of coined money to investigate various aspects of early modern English society and culture. Certainly, the materiality of early modern money contributes to its function as the medium of both economic and social exchanges, but it barely tells the full story. As sociologist Viviana A. Zelizer argues, given its fungible, impersonal characteristics, money may indeed "'corrupt' values and convert social ties into numbers, but values and social relations reciprocally transmute money by investing it with meaning and social patterns." (2) In this essay, I want to focus primarily on the social roles money plays at the encroachment of market economies. Through my readings of Thomas Dekker's The Shoemakers Holiday and William Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice, I argue that vestiges of social currency can be detected in the use of money for social purposes; that money as a form of social currency works in tandem with its use as commercial currency to deal with the changing dynamics of both inter-group as well as intragroup relations; and that, consequently, how money is used depends on the kind of relationship one wishes to form or maintain with another person or a group.

Among those critics who focus on the materiality of coined money is David Hawkes, who delves into the ways in which the separation of monetary value from gold bullion provides a conceptual link between religious idolatry and commodity fetishism. He argues that it was during the early modern period that financial value became increasingly detached from its physical incarnation in precious metals and turned into "an independent force." The autonomy of value, for most literate Englishmen, was "one manifestation of the same tendency that could be observed in religious idolatry and carnal sensuality in all its forms." It is this "totalizing perspective" that offers "the thinkers of the early modern period" and, perhaps more importantly, Hawkes's post-modern readers, an "insight" into "the spiritual and ethical implications of commodity fetishism that has largely been lost to our own epoch." Such an "insight," however, is achieved by considering money in isolation and thereby reducing its various social meanings and implications into mere "financial value," an autonomous and nonreferential force that reverses the natural relationships of use and exchange, things and signs, reality and representation. (3)

Similar to Hawkes, Stephen Deng and David Landreth both emphasize the ways in which the discrepancy between extrinsic and intrinsic values of coined money opened up a space for a wide variety of social relations that were not necessarily related to exchange. Deng argues that the interactions between literary representations and the malleability of coinage inform the complex dynamic interrelations between state formation and economy. (4) Landreth, on the other hand, contends that the interaction of material qualities and socially determined values in gold and silver coins enables the intrusion of these objects into the discursive debate over "the contested relations among poetics, human institutions, and material substance." (5) For Deng and Landreth, it is the peculiar material form inhabited by early modern money that allowed it, in contrast to its modern counterpart, to maintain the capacity to embody memories and social relations beyond the circuits of exchange. Their emphasis on the materiality of coins, however, implies that once money loses that malleable materiality, it would also cease being the reservoir of a value antithetical to exchange, and function effectively as a universal medium of exchange.

Zelizer's research demonstrates, however, that even in modern capitalist America, people rarely use money simply as the reservoir of exchange value, but routinely adopt especially elaborate controls over money and establish differential earmarks "when and where they are engaged in delicate difficult social interactions." (6) Since the early modern coin remained "an extremely variable commodity, whose market worth had to be judged based on its quality, just like any other commodity," it was more susceptible to earmarking than its modern counterpart. (7) Even so, it is not so much the materiality of money per se as its use in varying social contexts that defines what it means. While people did use the coin for payment, it was not uncommon for them, for instance, to withdraw it from the exchange sphere and convert it into objects for social display, hence rendering it open to the influence of particular networks of social relations and varying systems of meanings. As a result, early modern coins could be stored and circulated just like any other material goods as unique objects that embodied memories and intimate relations, and monetary value, as Craig Muldrew points out, "remained enmeshed with other values." (8)

In this light, money in early modern England was not employed wholly for the purpose of buying and selling, but could be used as what David Graeber calls "social currencies." As Graeber argues, historically, money did not originally start as commercial currencies for buying and selling. Rather, it was first and foremost employed as "social currencies" in what he calls "human economies"--"economic systems primarily concerned not with the accumulation of wealth, but with the creation, destruction, and rearranging of human beings." (9) In such a human economy, each person is "unique, and of incomparable value, because each is a unique nexus of relations with others." A person may be someone's daughter, sister, lover, mother, and many others to different people in different ways, and each relation is unique. No money, therefore, can be made equivalent to a human being. (10) Neither bridewealth, the money used to arrange marriage, nor wergeld (or "bloodwealth"), the money presented to the family of a murder victim so as to prevent or resolve a blood-feud, is a form of payment or compensation. Instead, both serve as the "recognition of a life-debt," acknowledging that one is asking for or owing something much more valuable than money. (11) As much as early modern England displayed the capitalist world system in embryonic form, it remained to a great extent a society in which human relations came first. (12) Its market, operating almost entirely on trust and credit, was also a way in which social trust was communicated and mutual aid was extended to friends and kin, as well as a structure through which people exchanged material goods. Money as commercial currency hence coexisted with its use as social currency to create, maintain, and reorganize relations between people, and in so doing, created each individual as "a unique conflux of relations" in society. (13)

In The Shoemaker's Holiday, although the accumulation of monetary wealth is embraced by all as the means to achieve success and prosperity, it is lauded only when the commercial gains are then transformed into beneficial resources for social solidarity against alien foes. (14) Presciently anticipating "many elements of the fully capitalist world that is to come," Dekker's play dramatizes the significance of money's social function at a time when the human economy is being incorporated into the widening orbits of the commercial one. (15) In a further step, Shakespeare's play demonstrates the indispensability of money as social currency even in a fully developed commercial society like Venice. In The Merchant of Venice, money is employed first and foremost to cement personal bonds and attachments between the Venetian Christians against the Jew who is represented as the embodiment of the alienating market force. (16) In both plays, the flow of money serves predominantly to underwrite or initiate social relations within the same group. Particularly when the growing market economy threatens to rip apart the existing social fabric that binds the society together, some symbolic operations such as a ceremonial feast or gift exchange are performed to transform money from commercial currency into social currency for the maintenance of social cohesion and the reproduction of long-term social order.

Money may bear within itself "the seed of capitalism," (17) but historians have demonstrated that during the early modern period money had not yet developed the impersonality and alienated value of what Marxists call "the cash nexus." Surely there had been a complex involvement with money across England since the Middle Ages, but, as Muldrew explains, due to the combination of expanding markets and demand-driven inflation, by the end of the sixteenth century there was a pronounced shortage of money in England. The scarcity of coins was exacerbated by the problem of quality caused by clipping, counterfeiting, and other kinds of abuse, which further resulted in the hoarding of good coins by merchants and tradesmen. With limited amounts of gold and silver in circulation, people increasingly resorted to credit in order to meet the needs of the expanding economy. (18) What existed in early modern England, therefore, was "a credit economy in which everything was measured by monetary prices, but where money was not the primary means of exchange." (19) Peter Mathias concurs. Given the universality of credit in early modern England, he observes, it is perverse to identify the growth of capitalism as "the triumph of the 'cash nexus' in a 'money economy.'" (20)

Although money was never used on a scale large enough to alienate economic exchanges from social ones, it was a crucial component of the credit system since, according to Muldrew, it existed as "the ultimate means of payment within credit networks." (21) The most important use of money was to pay off the remaining balance when reciprocal debts contracted between as many interested parties as possible over a period of time were "reckoned" and cancelled against each other. (22) Since any unpaid debts had a domino effect on each link in the chains of credit, money functioned as the last line of defense against the disruption of hundreds of thousands of intertwined and interconnected credit relationships. Taking into account that an extraordinarily high premium was put on "individual dealings with known individuals, personal trust and the kinship nexus," debt default would simultaneously result in the disintegration of many face-to-face personal relationships and kinships, essentially the circle of friends that one would turn to for help and support at times of crisis. (23) Indispensible to the maintenance of credit systems, money was equally important in sustaining the web of relations that made social cohesion possible.

Indeed, money was often instrumental in creating and maintaining social ties within communities increasingly permeated by market relations. According to liana Krausman Ben-Amos, money could be employed "to imply attachments well beyond the provision of material needs." (24) Indeed, as Muldrew notes, due to their scarcity, coins could be attached with "a distinct material and physical value which could provoke a specific and sometimes emotional response." (25) Particularly in wealthy households, gold and silver coins were often converted into eating utensils such as spoons, bowls, plates, salt cellars, or tankards. These items, on the one hand, represented "a symbolic value of the wealth and social standing of the household." On the other, since hospitality remained "a central means for creating and maintaining relations of trust and also, increasingly, 'interest' in the form of mutually profitable business agreement," such items were thus "a powerful representation of both wealth and good neighbourliness vital to the creating of creditworthiness." For merchants and trading aristocrats, the possession of such luxury goods was more important--more profitable even--than the mere possession of a large hoard of money, since, by demonstrating their ability to pay, it ensured "the liquidity of their credit," thereby enabling them to borrow more and do more business. (26)

With the great demand for gold and silver money at higher levels of the economy, the poor were left with only badly clipped coins and the few small coins, and were often forced to rely on tokens issued by private tradesmen to conduct their daily business. Although used solely for the purpose of buying and selling, tokens were anything but a "neutral" currency. Since tokens were not accepted outside limited geographic areas, (27) their value rested simply on "the assumption of continuing neighborhood custom and popular trust." (28) As such, their use would overlap with the flow of reciprocal favors and services that ran through early modern urban neighborhoods, whose dense habitation tended to foster "intense contacts forged on the basis of mutual dependencies and the indispensability of trust." (29) If this suggests that the lower strata would be more inclined to see the market as an extension of mutual aid than merchants and trading aristocrats, it was more a difference of degree than of kind since, conducting most of their business on credit, even the latter needed to preserve sociability to foster and maintain lasting business relationships. For the poor and the rich alike, the operation of the market depended on the stability of social relations.

Only when exchanged between people without any personal relationship was money used specifically as commercial currency. Money was normally needed to pay rents, tithes, and taxes, or it was used as loans at interest to people of dubious reputation. Despite the predominance of credit, people would rather resort to money when conducting small transactions with strangers in a foreign setting or with people met only irregularly in market sales. While landowners tended to use money to pay off bills drawn on the London market, merchants and tradesmen also needed a great deal of money for goods bought overseas or in cases where bills of exchange might not be accepted. (30) In many ways, money made it possible for people to deal safely and profitably with those outside the web of credit relations by enabling both interested parties to end the relationship as soon as the transaction was completed. Under these circumstances, money did display the features of anonymity and impersonality. However, so long as money in this form applied predominantly to exchanges with comparative strangers instead of neighbors, friends, and kinsmen, it can hardly be argued that money was responsible for the alienation of social relations. Rather, it was the social distance between those who exchanged that conditioned the mode of exchange and defined the meaning of money.

The moral ambiguity of money, moreover, reflects not so much a transition from pre-capitalist to capitalist economies as a contrast, according to J. Parry and M. Bloch, between "two related but separate transactional orders"--one concerned with the reproduction of the long-term social or cosmic order; the other with the arena of individual competition. (31) For one thing, the gold and silver that played such a significant part in social exchanges such as feasting, gifting, and charitable giving were increasingly derived from the profits of trade. No matter how incompatible the relations of monetary exchange seemed to be with the moral bonds of friendship and kinship, the two were organically essential to each other. Indeed, as demonstrated by The Shoemaker's Holiday, it is the commercial profits gained from the foreign merchant that enables Eyre to expand his social network far beyond the class he was born into, thereby creating social cohesion despite the conflict of interests among various social groups. The Merchant of Venice further suggests that what really matters is not to curb any individual pursuit of material self-gain, but to ensure that money derived from business transactions could be converted into resources for the reproduction of social relations that constitute the society.

According to David Scott Kastan, The Shoemaker's Holiday is "a realistic portrait ... of Elizabethan middle-class dreams" and "a fantasy of social cohesion and respect" despite the tensions and contradictions created by capitalism. (32) He takes it for granted that "economic relations would distort and degrade human relationships," so the play's failure to address the "threatened alienation that money would effect" is viewed as a "moral sleight-of-hand." (33) A case in point would be Eyres bargain with the skipper. True, the shoemakers are more interested in maximizing their masters gain at the skippers expense than in establishing any lasting bond with him. Insofar as the skipper represents a foreign merchant whom the shoemakers never met and don't expect to see again once the transaction is done, the use of money works not so much to depersonalize relations as to reflect and reproduce the social distance that has already existed between them. Under such a circumstance, there is nothing morally opprobrious about money-making so long as it helps protect the interests of the shoemakers and the English people in general against foreign dealers. Indeed, the happy ending of the play to a large extent relies on Eyre's commercial success in order to have the resources that foster the social unity necessary to enable English people, regardless of their class affiliations, to work together for the common interest of the country.

Despite their enthusiasm about money-making in their dealing with the skipper, the shoemakers use money first and foremost to cement social bonds with each other--particularly when the cohesiveness of the group is disrupted. For instance, when Ralph, the most junior journeyman in the workshop, is drafted to war, Eyre, Hodge, and Firk each offer five sixpences (30d.), a shilling (12d.), and three twopences (6d.) as farewell gifts. In comparison to Lincoln's gift of thirty portagues to Lacy, what the shoemakers give Ralph, even when taken together, is nothing but small change. However, given the shoemaker's meager income--less than 20d. per week plus meals--such offers are substantial. (34) More importantly, not all of the money is given to Ralph, but a portion of Firk's three twopences is used to "wash our souls at parting--for sorrow is dry" (1.229-30). For the shoemakers, beer is not only "a sign of holiday festivities but also of comradeship." (35) While beer drinking enables the shoemakers to establish their group identity in distinction from "cowards" (4.113), it helps establish seniority among them so that senior journeymen such as Hodge and Firk are privileged to drink before Hans (4.100-102). Even if money distances and estranges the gift from the giver much more definitely than other kinds of gift, when converted into prosocial expenditure and consumption, it can still become a morally admissible resource that sustains the order and solidarity of the shoemaker's community. (36)

For elite merchants such as Roger Oatley, money further serves to create and cement connections with those of high social and political standings to promote the interest of their own group. As Catherine F. Patterson has shown in her study on patronage, many urban corporations in early modern England regularly laid out money for the purpose of gift-giving and hospitality in order to craft connections to noblemen and gentlemen who were then obliged to reciprocate with tangible benefits such as economic aid and protection. (37) Likewise, Oatley has "sundry times" feasted the Earl and many other courtiers (1.1); he and his brethren have also financed the Crown's war against France by provisioning all soldiers with "imprest, coats, and furniture" (1.63). More importantly, he furnishes Rowland Lacy with twenty pounds as a gift in addition to his salary. Even if Oatley s gift to a certain extent represents his "joy" (1.73) to separate Lacy from his daughter Rose, it is simultaneously a gift on behalf of Oatley's "brethren" (1.66). Displaying the civil leaders "loves" (1.67) most unequivocally in monetary terms, the gift reflects as much the Lord Mayor's personal assumption that "emotions can be purchased or compensated in a commercial exchange" as the long-term commitment and esteem of the civic leaders to Lincoln. (38)

The social meaning of money, however, is not appreciated by all. A young nobleman yet to prove himself, Lacy uses money not to establish connections, but to distinguish himself via conspicuous consumption. His attempt to make his nobility visible to all, however, backfires. For Eyre, such sumptuous appearances are associated with those "silken fellows," who are but "painted images," with their inner linings "torn" (11.43-45). Even Rose's chambermaid Sybil is appalled at seeing him: "here a scarf, here a bunch of feathers, and here precious stones and jewels, and a pair of garters--O, monstrous!--like one of our yellow silk curtains at home here in Old Ford House" (2.28-31). As Amanda Bailey argues, sumptuary monstrousness in early modern England indexed "a lack of self-control and, more particularly, an inability to master one's urges that was equated with a devolution from a state of civilized manhood." (39) Sybil's description of Lacy, Ronda A. Arab notes, "easily has a place with the variety of early modern discourse that marked ostentatious, extravagant dress as feminine or effeminizing." (40) Far from proving him a "man," his "silken" image exposes what a "boy" (11.40-41) he still is--physically and socioeconomically. Rather than manifesting his nobility to all, the jumble of fancy accessories further works to confound his identity to such an extent that Sybil exclaims in dismay: "I scant knew him" (2.27).

Not until Lacy learns to use money to create, maintain, and reorganize relations with those around him is he able to define who he is in the eyes of others. Far from spending on himself the monetary gifts he receives from the city leaders and Lincoln as he would have done in the past, he gives a great part of it to Askew in order to take the latter into his confidence so that he can pursue his "serious business" (1.100) of love. After he is admitted into Eyre's workshop, he at once treats his fellow shoemakers to half a dozen cans of beer, which helps to incorporate him into the group. His most crucial move, moreover, is to lend twenty portagues to Eyre so that the latter can clinch a deal with the skipper and achieve the commercial success that paves his way to social prosperity. As Eyre admits, he "had never walked in a red petticoat, nor wore a chain of gold, but for [his] fine journeymans portagues" (17.19-21). So long as he is indebted to Lacy's "fine portagues" for the creation of his new identity, it hardly befits his "princely mind" (17.22) to "forget" his "fine Dutch journeyman" (17.14) when the latter needs his help. If Eyre depends on Lacy's generosity to embark on the upward spiral of social mobility, Lacy in turn relies on his old master to be restored to "the King's love" (1.82) and to regain the "honour" (1.86) that he failed to get in the battlefield. With Eyre's support, Lacy can finally resume his old clothes in their full glory--this time be recognized not as a "boy," but as a nobleman in the eyes of others.

Under most circumstances, therefore, the play is dominated by the human economy, in which the importance of human relations outweighs that of individual gain, and money, far from being a purely depersonalized instrument, is employed as the means to cement social bonds. As demonstrated by Lacy's example, while money is essential to purchase those status objects necessary to build up a person's social identity, money by itself is scarcely enough to transform him into a proper social being. No matter how much he spends on himself, the clothes and adornments do not make him who he is in the eyes of others. What is more important, as Lacy comes to learn, is the relationship kept alive by the taking and giving between people, through which mutual construction of human beings as "persons, internalized nexuses of meaningful social relations" can be possible. (41) For those who have money to spare, it is therefore paramount to spend it first and foremost on things--be they feasts or gifts--that work to strengthen existing communal bonds within the same group or to establish strategic alliances with people of different groups. This way, they can not only further the collective interest of their own kind, but also transcend the traditional boundaries between social groups and, like Eyre, venture into the world of their socioeconomic betters.

Nevertheless, although for the poor and the rich alike money serves to maintain the most valued social relations, only few have enough wealth to gain admission to the social circles traditionally denying their entrance. Eyre, for one, could never earn enough to catapult himself out of the meager existence of a shoemaker merely through his labor. As Paul Seaver points out, given the low profit margin of the business, "the opportunities for a mere shoemaker to expand his trade were severely limited." (42) No matter how successful Eyre is in his trade, in the eyes of wealthy citizens like Oatley he is as much a "needy knave" (16.45) as other shoemakers. Even if he tries to increase his profit by focusing on clients with deeper pockets such as "Ladies of the Court" (7.92-93), the purchase of "a ship worth the lading of two or three hundred thousand pounds" (7.14-15) is still way out of his league. Only with Lacy's extravagant loan can he participate in a commercial transaction of this scale and make exorbitant gains out of it. Once his wealth is divested of its supposed origins--the specific activity of shoemaking by which it is earned--it begins to grow by leaps and bounds. As his profits soar, he is able to establish connections far beyond his most immediate kin and friends, and his power also expands with his ever-widening social influence. Although work was consistently valorized as the way to success before Eyres sudden rise in fortune, Eyre now attributes his success to madness, exhorting his journeymen to "be as mad knaves as your master Sim Eyre hath been" (10.155-56). None of his journeymen, however, will have the privilege to be "mad" since they must follow a fairly strict labor regime and collaborate with each other in order to eke out a living for themselves. (43)

Eyre's sudden rise in fortune may raise a few eyebrows, but no matter how morally dubious it is, it is embraced by the shoemakers as their collective triumph over foreign strangers. (44) At a time when the economic competition of the Dutch posed a threat "not only to the prosperity of the great London merchants but to the whole commercial and maritime sector of the English economy," the skipper, being an alien and a competitor to the English as a whole, is a double stranger to Eyre and his shoemakers alike. (45) As such, the latter inhabits the negative extreme in the spectrum of sociability, where self-interested gain at the expense of such an alien "may be not merely condoned but positively rewarded with admiration of one's fellows." (46) In this light, Eyres exploitation of the skipper is just as legitimate and laudable as the shoemakers' imagined violence toward the French when they exhort Ralph to "crack ... the crowns of the French knaves" (1.225-26) and to "cram [his] slops with French crowns, and [his] enemies' bellies with bullets" (1.232-33). As demonstrated by the enthusiasm of Eyre's journeymen as they collude with him in the gulling of the skipper, the appearance of a potentially exploitable outsider actually helps unite the shoemakers as a group.

Whereas Eyre's sudden elevation remains largely unquestioned, Margery's ascendance to the status of a lady turns her into an object of satirical gaze. Critics are quick to observe how the satirical treatment of Margery serves to turn her into the "comic stock figure of consumer wife." (47) Defending Margery against such a stereotype, Ann C. Christensen argues that "Margery's desire for new clothes comes in answer to her social advancement, not as evidence of her longing for it." (48) Even so, as Mark Thornton Burnett comments, the play nonetheless demonstrates that "the master may impersonate an alderman successfully, but the mistress presents a ridiculous spectacle if she attempts a similar subterfuge." (49) No doubt the differential representations of the couple's attempt to upgrade their appearances are informed by the gendered double standard, but they also reflect the shifting moral economy of consumption and a growing desire for money and the commodities it can buy. For one thing, the alderman's gown, the sheriff's golden chain, or the "red petticoat" of Lord Mayor (17.19) are the sartorial symbols of a person's unique identity as the alderman, the sheriff, or the mayor of London. These items certainly cost a fortune to get, but money plays only a secondary part in their acquisition. Conversely, although clothing or accessories such as the feathers, farthingales, French hoods, wigs, and high cork heels are associated with ladies, they are not reserved exclusively to them; anybody wealthy enough can easily buy them in the market. Put on a woman like Margery, such sartorial items could become "trash, trumpery, vanity" (17.18) since she is "made" a lady not by birth but by money. In this light, Margery's consumption, while reflecting "anxieties about what the dominance of the placeless market and the influx of foreign commodities will do to traditional society," is also symptomatic of moneys potential to subvert the most valued social relations that construct an orderly society. (50)

Despite the general tendency among the shoemakers to prefer the use of money as social currency to its use as commercial currency, Eyres sudden elevation inevitably tips it the other way. The satirical representation of Margery's consumption may serve to divert some negative judgments of Eyre's mercantilist profit; (51) the shoemakers' participation in their master's economic skullduggery may help reframe the meaning of his exorbitant gains more as a resource that benefits the whole group than as a threat to its cohesion; Eyre's "unhesitating extension of the benefits of his wealth to all shoemakers" furthermore may render "the manner of acquisition not only acceptable but worthy of celebration." (52) Still, even if Eyre gives his shop and tools to Hodge, and promotes Firk to the position of foreman, the chance is slim that by themselves, they could ever "live to be sheriffs of London" (10.157) like their old master. Not to mention that Eyre's transaction with the skipper is motivated at least as much by the desire to promote the collective interest of the shoemakers as by his individualistic pursuit of self-gain. His newly acquired wealth hence can never be truly morally acceptable without being transformed by "a simple symbolic operation into a positively beneficial resource which sustains the ideal order of an unchanging community." (53)

It is therefore essential that, in addition to using his newly acquired wealth to gratify his own desire, Eyre converts it into a ceremonial feast that works to maintain the long-term social order, in which all tiers of the social hierarchy are bound by mutual responsibilities and obligations to each other. Aimed to return the kindness that "some mad boys" (21.181) bestowed on Eyre during his apprenticeship years, the feast nonetheless greatly exceeds what he received from his original benefactors. Pasi Falk argues that the medieval guilds are "collective sharing communities," in which "all the hierarchical power relations" are to be conceived of as "relations of sharing." (54) Tasting Eyre's banquet therefore implies the incorporation of all apprentices of London into the civic community represented by the "Gentleman Shoemakers" (20.1-2). Making him the "lord of incomprehensible good fellowship" (18.219-20) to the apprentices, his liberal reciprocity simultaneously obliges them to give "eternal credit" (18.229) to the Gentle Craft. By giving what the apprentices could never return, Eyre renders them eternally indebted to him, thereby binding them in an affective, yet unequal relationship that obliges them to pledge loyalty to him. (55)

Whereas the feast for apprentices seems to welcome all, the banquet that follows is reserved exclusively to the liverymen of the Shoemakers Company, who are privileged to "wait upon the trencher of my sovereign" in their ceremonial "satin hoods" (20.5-6). As Patterson argues, "Like a gift, hospitality served as a sign of the honor of both the recipient and the host." (56) Certainly, Eyres hospitality adds to his own honorable reputation as its acceptance stands as an acknowledgement of his membership in the elite circle. However, since "at the highest social level, a guest who was more exalted than the host had to be offered the staves of [the host's] officers," (57) far from "dismantling social barriers" and "eradicating social difference," it actually works to ensure that the hierarchical principle remains intact by placing him in a subordinate position to the King. (58) The royal power is further reinforced when the King is established as a patron with his image placed "cheek by jowl" beside the shoemakers patron saint, Saint Hugh (21.8). This way, as Eyre and the shoemakers render all London apprentices indebted to them, so the King is bound in a hierarchical, symbiotic patron-client relationship with the shoemakers and indirectly with the city as a whole.

As a patron saint for the shoemakers, the King distinguishes himself in his seemingly boundless generosity, showering them with more "favours" (21.124) than requested. Nevertheless, as Patterson suggests, in all patro-nclient relationships, "giving assumes mutual obligation." (59) Certainly, the King has never voiced openly to Eyre and the citizens what he expects in return, but even when he is at the height of jollity, war and plunder are never far from his mind. He talks to Lincoln about incorporating "a new supply" of troops before the end of summer (21.140), and, at the end of the play, he says to his "lords" that "wars must right wrongs which Frenchmen have begun" when "all our sports and banquetings are done" (21.194-96). To wage wars against France, however, he relies on the city to supply both money and men, and Eyre's newly acquired wealth and power come just in handy. (60) Not only is he now wealthy enough to finance the King's war, but his consolidation of the largest and least privileged social groups also enables him to supply a troop, whose loyalty to him will guarantee a more successful campaign for the King. Whereas "the old troop" (21.139) were paid to go to war--reluctantly, as attested by Ralphs hesitancy to serve the war as well as Lacy's dereliction--the "new supply" of soldiers supposedly will do it out of "love," if not directly for the King, at least for Eyre. At the emergence of an external threat and a common enemy, the imperative of the state as the largest group will also overwrite the private interests of any individuals or smaller groups in such a way that beating the common enemy becomes the goal that everybody strives to achieve.

If money in The Shoemaker's Holiday is a crucial element in sustaining social cohesion against the growing influence of a market economy, it is more so in The Merchant of Venice, where international commerce is the mainstay in Venice's economy. However, although the infiltration of money into the realm of social relations is not left unnoticed by critics, their discussion tends to focus on the impact of money as commercial currency for buying and selling. (61) Marc Shell, for instance, explores the "commensurability (even identity) of men and money" in Shakespeare's play. (62) He argues that, as the basis of institutions such as debtor's prison, slavery, and execution for debt, money's ability to pay for "the right to take the life of a man still living" is typical of and necessary to both the political economy and the domestic economy in Venice. Although marriage seems to provide a "stopgap measure" against "the tendency for the tension between purse and person," (63) it is hardly a permanent solution to the ideological dilemma of property and person since the bond of marriage is governed by the same logic as other social bonds or contracts that allow "the slavish alienation of the citizenry in sales in which men can be bought and sold." (64) For Shell, the tendency of money to alienate social relations seems universal, making no distinction between marriage bonds and commercial contracts.

Undoubtedly, money has the potential to subvert the most intimate social relations in The Merchant of Venice. However, as I will argue, its impact on those relations varies in proportion to social distance between people. Despite its use as commercial currency in business transactions with comparative strangers, money is predominantly employed to create, maintain and reorganize relations between people of the same group. This is particularly true in a commercial city like Venice, where economic trust is interpreted in terms as emotive as other forms of human interaction such as friendship, kinship, and marriage. Under such a circumstance, the profits of individual commercial ventures can become morally acceptable so long as they can be transformed into a moral and socially positive resource that can then be incorporated into and nourish the household and the community as a whole. Once the world of commerce is oriented towards the long-term goals of reproducing the household as the representative of the wider community in Venice, money-making--at the expense of aliens--can also be justified as a deed of positive moral value that supposedly would bless "him that gives" and definitely "him that takes" (4.1.183).

Although Venice is a city of international commerce, its citizens use money primarily to cement communal attachments and bonds of obligations with those of the same community. Among the Venetians, Antonio is particularly noted for his generosity to fellow merchants. At a time when tradesmen and merchants, needing a great deal of money for overseas trade, were notorious for coin-hoarding, Antonio, an ambitious international trader, is nonetheless relentless in his free lending "for a Christian courtesy" (3.1.44). (65) He insists that, when it comes to friendship, only an enemy would take "a breed for barren metal of his friend" (1.3.129). To Lars Engle, his liberality appears "unbusinesslike," but it is actually profitable for his business in the long run. (66) As Muldrew points out, in early modern England "the construction of personal value in the form of reputation created through social exchange" was far more important than "the convenience and power which the possession of cash brought to an individual." (67) Whether Antonio is rescuing other Venetian merchants from the Jews "forfeitures" (3.3.22) or extending his credit for Bassanio, his behavior works to cement his bonds of obligations with kith and kin, and to build up his reputation in the community as "good Antonio" (2.8.25; 3.1.12; 3.2.238). In doing so, his generosity also helps to establish him as a man of credit worthy to be trusted and to do business with.

Just as Antonio is renowned for his generous giving, so Bassanio is notorious for his conspicuous consumption. When the play begins, Bassanio has already "disabled [his] estate" and rendered himself in "great debts" for "showing a more swelling port / Than [his] faint means would grant continuance" (1.1.123-25,128). With no intention "to be abridged / From such a noble rate" (1.1.126-27), he proceeds to borrow more from Antonio and then squanders the loan on new "liveries" (2.2.109) for servants, "gifts of rich value" (2.9.90) for Portia, and a feast with his "best esteemed acquaintance" (2.2.162) before he embarks for Belmont. Ostensibly, his extravagant spending is symptomatic of his incurable prodigality, but it is actually indispensible to the maintenance of his reputation and status. While early modern gentry and noble families still relied on acts of hospitality and charity to maintain their reputation, increasingly they became heavily involved in credit networks as well. (68) As Alexandra Shepard points out, since any suggestion of poverty could provoke distrust and bring about exclusion from credit networks, men in particular were anxious to maintain the impression of ability and sufficiency by competing for credit "in terms of spending power and its associations of independence and self-sufficient mastery." (69) Precisely because Bassanio has already been deeply in debt, it is paramount for him to keep up the appearance. As attested by Lancelots willingness "to leave a rich Jews service, to become / The follower of so poor a gentleman" (2.2.138-39) like him, it is with unstinting generosity that Bassanio can secure and even enlarge his retinue of dependents, thereby maintaining his reputation and status in society. Only then can he maintain the liquidity of his credit and secure his place in the web of credit relations.

Given the significance of money in fostering sociability among the Venetians, it is perhaps no wonder that they would regard the Jews as strangers and potential enemies, because the Jews use money not to make friends with them, but to make profit at their expense. (70) For the Jews, however, money is used to breed more money only when dealing with outsiders; among themselves, perhaps more so than the Christians, they employ money to reinforce social cohesion and enhance the collective interest of the group. As a minority group, the Jews are bound together by their faith and their loyalty to each other; such a feeling of solidarity is further intensified by interdependency born of shared experience of discrimination and even abuse from Venetians like Antonio, who many times spits on Shylock's Jewish gabardine in public. Since they rely on usury for a living, money is not just the means that sustain an individual's livelihood, but also the common resource that determines the survival of the group as a whole. For a Jew like Shylock, group identity inevitably comes before self-identity, and group interests before self-interests. Therefore, he is more concerned about how Antonio's lending "brings down / The rate of usance here with us in Venice" (1.3.40-41, italics added) than how it results in his personal loss in forfeiture. This also explains why Shylock is confident that Tubal is willing to sacrifice his own interest in his favor, lending him three thousand ducats at such a short notice. For him and his tribesmen alike, although money is the means to profit at the expense of outsiders, it is shared freely within the group on principles of solidarity and mutual aid.

While money works to consolidate the Christians' and the Jews' opposition to each other, it simultaneously provides both groups the alternative of "peaceful symbiosis" to overcome hostility between them. (71) Rather than "conflict between two different ways of doing business ... along religious lines," what exists between the two groups is an intergroup conflict in which both see hard bargaining as the institutionalized external relation with each other. (72) As Benjamin N. Nelson suggests, the assumption of hostility against aliens implies "a world perpetually at war, in which the respect for the rights of property did not extend beyond the borders of the group." (73) Such inter-group hostility is likely to undermine the socioeconomic stability of a city like Venice whose "trade and profit ... / Consisteth of all nations" (3.3.30-31). Under such a circumstance, money as "the absolute representative and embodiment of exchange" serves as the vehicle for the expansion of the economy and the inclusion of "all nations" through the give-and-take of the exchange process. (74) Despite the history of hostility between them, the Christians and the Jews can thus engage in what Marshall Sahlins calls "silent trade," in which the propensity for self-interested gain at the expense of each other is socially suppressed so that equitable and peaceful exchanges can be conducted between them. (75) This way, the Christians and the Jews can establish a kind of trade-friendship or partnership, which immunizes an important economic interdependence against a fundamental social cleavage between them.

Indeed, although Shylock will neither "eat," "drink," nor "pray" with the Christians, he is willing to "buy" and "sell" with them (1.3.30-34). Likewise, Antonio, notwithstanding his ancient grudge against Shylock, is willing to accept Shylock's "friendship" and "love" (1.3.164, 166) only in the context of commercial exchange. When forced to borrow money from Shylock, Antonio presumes that Shylock would treat him like an "enemy" (1.3.130), charging him interest for his loan. On the contrary, Shylock merely demands an equal pound of Antonio's flesh as the penalty for the late payment on the loan of three thousand ducats. However ominous the proposal sounds, it at once softens Antonio's antagonistic attitude toward Shylock. Antonio's change, on the one hand, results from his confidence in the timely "return" of his overseas trade, which is "of thrice three times the value of this bond" (1.3.154-55). On the other hand, whereas Shylock's charge of interest is viewed as a deed of hostility, his willingness to accept something worthless as the penalty for forfeiture is interpreted as an expression of "love" and "friendship." As Shylock explains, in terms of its market value, "A pound of a man's flesh, taken from a man, / Is not so estimable, profitable neither, / As flesh of muttons, beeves or goats" (1.3.161-63). Instead of considering Antonio's flesh as something uniquely valuable, Shylock suggests that so long as human flesh as a commodity has no exchange value, it is uniquely worthless. (76) Accordingly, he will have nothing to gain from the loan; it hence stands to reason that he lends simply "to buy [Antonio's] favour" (1.3.164). Treating "favour" as something that can be bought and sold, Shylock measures "love" and "friendship" in monetary terms. Such a commercial language nonetheless strikes a chord with Antonio. Despite his earlier hostility toward Shylock, Antonio suddenly is willing to turn away from what Sahlins calls "negative reciprocity," the most unsociable extreme in the spectrum of sociability that aims primarily to defend one's self-interest, toward "balanced reciprocity" where peaceful and equitable exchange is possible. (77) As he admits, "there is much kindness in the Jew" (1.3.149).

The temporary peace, however, is shattered by Jessica's elopement with Lorenzo or, rather, his theft of Jessica. So long as Jessica is Shylock's "flesh and blood" (3.1.31), he has claims, privileges, and powers in her person. Just as Shylock takes on his identity as a father and a man from Jessica, so the latter takes on hers as a daughter and a member of the Jewish community from him. Neither is alienable from the other. However, when Lorenzo and his bachelor friends come to play "the thieves for wives" (2.6.24), they transform Jessica from a human being of absolute value into an object of exchange that can be alienated from Shylock. (78) Even when acknowledging Shylock as his "father" (2.6.26), Lorenzo nonetheless confronts his father-in-law as having opposed interests and looks to maximize his own unearned increment at the latter's expense. On the one hand, his violent appropriation of Jessica--albeit with her own consent--at once rips apart the closest and ideally the most enduring personal tie that defines the core of Shylock's identity. On the other, it transposes Shylock's relationship with the Venetians from the mode of "balanced reciprocity" back into that of "negative reciprocity" so that reciprocation becomes contingent upon "mustering countervailing pressure or guile." (79) Not only does Shylock lose his daughter, but, having spent a fortune to search for her in vain, he is compelled to suffer "loss upon loss" (3.1.84). Jessica hence becomes the opening through which his monetary resources are continuously sapped by outsiders as if they were common resources for all.

So far, money has been used almost exclusively for social purposes. While it is employed by both the Christians and the Jews to cement social bonds with their own kith and kin, it also allows them to form trade partnerships with each other regardless of the history of enmity between the two groups. The peaceful symbiosis does not reconcile the hostility between them, but it at least enables them to respect each other's property rights, thereby allowing them to conduct equable and peaceful transactions with each other. Since commercial exchange allows people to call it even and end the relationship once the transaction is completed, it also gives them a way to have good relations by preventing any relations at all. Such a tenuous balance, however, is tipped by Lorenzo's theft of Jessica. It is true that her elopement is not Shylock's only motive for revenge, but it is the most crucial one. So long as Shylock, as Mark Shell argues, cannot accept "anything other than a death for the loss of [Jessica]," Antonio's forfeiture comes just in time to balance the accounts by taking him in exchange for her. (80) For critics, if Shylock's penalty for default on the bond is "closer to folklore than to capitalism," (81) his refusal to accept Bassanio's offer of money is also a "rejection of rational-choice economics." (82) So long as a pound of human flesh has no exchange value in the market, it indeed appears "unbusinesslike" or "irrational" for Shylock to prefer it to cash repayment twice, thrice, or even ten times his original loan. However, as I will demonstrate, it is precisely in Shylock's insistence on identifying Antonio's flesh as an object of exchange that the logic of market economies proceeds in full swing, and the meaning of money is changed. No longer "a constant reminder that human beings can never be equivalent to anything--even, ultimately, to one another"--money now becomes the means by which everything, including people, could be made potentially equivalent and exchangeable as a commodity. (83)

As William O. Scott observes, "In making [his] claim to actual ownership of some of Antonio's flesh, Shylock effectively converts a loan transaction into a purchase." (84) As Antonio's pound of flesh becomes not so much the fine for his forfeiture as something "dearly bought" (4.1.99), it is turned into a potential commodity with exchange value that may be realized by resale. Ironically, although Bassanio tries desperately to emphasize that Antonio's life is uniquely valuable and therefore not exchangeable for money, he conveys quite the opposite in his eagerness to rescue Antonio from Shylock's grip. He first makes a bid on Antonio's life at "twice the sum" and then, if not enough, "ten times o'er" (4.1.206-7); in the end, he even offers to trade it for "life itself, [his] wife and all the world" (4.1.280). But nothing can convince Shylock to sell. By making Antonio exchangeable for a sum of money, a human life, and all the world, Bassanio only reinforces the identification of Antonio as a potential commodity. Shylock's refusal is to insist that Antonio's flesh--if not his life--is an object that belongs exclusively to him.

Consequently, Antonio is transformed from the unique conflux of relations that he is into an object of exchange, a generic value capable of being used as a means to measure debt, and ultimately into Shylock's private property. As Orlando Patterson argues, the notion of absolute private property was derived from slavery. (85) Given Venice's history of slavery from the fifteenth century onwards, (86) it is perhaps no surprise that Shylock would evoke the example of slavery to justify his proprietary rights over Antonio's flesh:
   You have among you many a purchased slave,
   Which, like your asses, and your dogs and mules,
   You use in abject and in slavish parts,
   Because you bought them....

   The pound of flesh which I demand of him
   Is dearly bought; 'tis mine, and I will have it.
   If you deny me, fie upon your law:
   There is no force in the decrees of Venice. (4.1.89-92, 98-101)

Although Antonio is a native Venetian loved and respected by all, nobody can save him from debtor's prison when he fails to pay his debt. As Walter S. H. Lim argues, "Shylock's case against Antonio rests upon the very infrastructure of law and economics that facilitates the vibrancy and success of Venetian commercial life itself." (87) Because of his failure to meet the legal and socioeconomic norms of behavior which dictate that all debts must be paid, Antonio is deprived of his franchise or freedom, "the most important criterion upon which was based the distribution of urban privileges" during the early modern period. (88) Moreover, according to Patterson, the identification of the absence of civic freedom with slavery, an identification that dominated later modern European thought, was first started in the Middle Ages. (89) Antonio's incarceration by no means turns him into a slave. However, he shares the plight of a slave when uprooted from the social context that defines who he is and deprived of normal participation in the community to which he ceases to belong. Just as the slave is used "in abject and in slavish parts" as his master wishes, so Antonio is subject to the absolute power or mercy of his creditor. Degraded and natally alienated, Antonio also becomes as socially dead as "a purchased slave."

Much to the dismay of the Venetians, there is no lawful means to carry Antonio out of Shylock's power. Nor can they afford to twist the law to achieve that end since what is at stake is not just the "freedom" of one individual citizen, but also "the freedom of the state" (3.2.277). The western notion of freedom, as Patterson explains, was defined and invigorated by the exclusion and domination of those who do not belong--in particular, the slaves. (90) To be free is to become the subject of property, safeguarded by law to have the absolute dominion in tangible things to the exclusion of all others. Conversely, "the slave was a slave not because he was the object of property, but because he could not be the subject of property." (91) It is therefore essential for Shylock, as Bailey argues, to construe his place in Venetian society "not by ethnicity or religion but by what he owns." (92) However tempting it is to twist the law in order to save a fellow member from an alien like Shylock, such a deed would usher "many an error by the same example ... into the state" (4.1.217-18). Indeed, to deny Shylocks proprietary rights over Antonio's flesh, the penalty legally entitled to him, is to put in question the "force" of law in Venice. Since law during the early modern period functioned as "the embodiment and guardian of [urban] freedoms and liberties," such a violation of law would affect not just Shylock, but all Venetian citizens whose freedom is defined collectively against those who are deprived of any right to claim or exercise direct powers of property. (93)

Ironically, the very law that Shylock imposes on Antonio turns out to be the cause of his own downfall. Although acknowledging Shylocks exclusive and absolute legal rights to Antonio's flesh, Portia stipulates that Shylock can take only one pound of flesh, neither more nor less. Should he fail to do so, he will lose his life, and his "lands and goods" (4.1.328) will be confiscated by the state of Venice. He can give up his claim on Antonio, but that can hardly free him from the power of the state. Insofar as Shylock is legally an "alien," his mere attempt to seek the life of Antonio, a citizen of Venice, turns him into a culprit under the justice system, which has the full authority and force to deprive him of his life and living. The only way Shylock can save his life and keep half of his wealth--in name, if not in truth--is to accept the mercy thrust upon him and be converted into a Christian. In the view of Paul Stevens, the mercy works to "erase his cultural memory," depriving Shylock of his "individual agency" and his "Jewishness, his own way of being in the world." (94) Even if Shylocks life is spared, as Julia Reinhard Lupton argues, it is nonetheless tantamount to "death into citizenship" by uprooting him from the civil networks that gave his life meaning. (95) Socially, he might as well be dead.

Even after the conversion of Shylock, the logic of exchange continues exerting its influence in the social world, posing a threat to relations fundamental to social order. After the trial, Bassanio offers three thousand ducats to Portia (in the disguise of Balthazar) to express his gratitude. Portia, however, refuses the offer for the reason that money, given its ambiguous association with a "fee" (4.1.419), is valuable only to the "mercenary" mind (4.1.414). Instead, she asks for the very ring she gave him as a pledge of love. Despite his initial hesitation, Bassanio eventually surrenders the ring to Balthazar at Antonio's exhortation. In so doing, as Karen Newman notes, "Bassanio affirms homosocial bonds--the exchange of women, here represented by Portias ring, sustains relations between men." (96) Nevertheless, as Bernard Capp points out, for respectable male householders, sexual honor or reputation was "an intrinsic part of the good name' that gave them ... a position of respect within their community." (97) As Bassanio once swore to Portia, "when this ring / Parts from this finger, then parts life from hence; / O, then be bold to say, 'Bassanio's dead'" (3.2.183-85); the ring is an integral part of him as a proper social being. The alienation of the ring, while protecting his community "honour" from being besmeared by "ingratitude" (5.1.218), puts his sexual "honour" in question (5.1.201). As a result, not only is his newly acquired identity as a householder compromised, but his reputation for trustworthiness is also undermined, particularly in a world where "economically rational transactions" are intertwined with "other social transactions." (98)

The ramifications of losing the ring ripple beyond Bassanio's private domain. Although sociability between men is important to keep the wheel of commerce running smoothly, it is often in conflict with the relationship between husband and wife, which is essential to the reproduction of the household and the long-term order of society. As "a ceremony" (5.1.206) that symbolizes the marriage of Bassanio and Portia, the ring--albeit a "trifle" (4.1.426) in terms of its market price--is hence priceless in another higher scheme. Once converting the ring from a uniquely invaluable object into quasi-money to pay off the "fee" (5.1.164) of gratitude, Bassanio at once puts the sacredness of marriage in peril by rendering the marital relationship common, exchangeable for other relationships. As Portia says, since the doctor has got the ring, he is to replace Bassanio in marriage and is privileged to have everything she has, including her "body" and her husband's "bed" (5.1.228). With the subversion of the rules of possession and fidelity that insure the male line, marriage also ceases being the means of family and social reproduction in a patriarchal society, thereby jeopardizing the viability of the household and the over-arching social order.

In order to restore the long-term social order, the ring has to be reconstituted as an object of singularity, and Antonio, once the cause of the domestic "quarrels" (5.1.238), now becomes responsible for the keeping of Bassanio's "faith" (5.1.253). Once the conflict between the moral obligations of marriage and those of male sociability is reconciled, money can finally be introduced back into the community as a morally admissible resource to furnish those in need. On the one hand, once marriage is prioritized over homosocial relations, and long-term social order over short-term exchange, Antonio is allowed to have both his "life" and "living" restored as three of his argosies (5.1.286), despite the danger of pirates and natural hazards, are "richly come to harbour suddenly" (5.1.277). On the other hand, the morally equivocal money is turned into a beneficial resource that sustains the household of Lorenzo and Jessica when Shylock, with half of his wealth confiscated by the state, is further compelled to sign "a special deed of gift" that transfers the rest at his death to the couple (5.1.292). For the Venetians, a mutually beneficial relationship hence is established between the short-term transactions of commerce and those of long-term social order. Once subversive of the most valued social relations, money now becomes an instrument for the maintenance of the most valued social relations. Hence the ideal social order is coalesced into the cosmic or divine order in such a way that merchants are protected from the risk and uncertainty of foreign trade, and what befits the "mercenary" (4.1.414) mind is transformed into "manna" dropping from heaven to succor the "starved people" (5.1.294-95). However, such a happy ending is achieved at the sacrifice of Shylock who is forced to surrender his living and a life meaningful to him.

As anthropologist C. A. Bayly argues, "money of itself could not transform relationships." (99) In The Merchant of Venice and in The Shoemakers Holiday, the meaning of money is conditioned by the span of social distance between those who exchange, inclining towards social currency when kinship and friendship are close and toward commercial currency in proportion to the distance of kinship and friendship. What money means, therefore, as Bloch and Parry argue, is "not only situationally defined but also constantly negotiated" in different social and cultural contexts. (100) While characters in both plays view money and the market economy as the means to achieve personal and group prosperity, they also try relentlessly to convert the monetary profits derived from commercial exchanges to reinforce communal solidarity against those who do not belong. Under most circumstances, the market is viewed as an extension of mutual aid since it operates entirely through the same trust and credit that constitute the relationships between people, and money is used to create, maintain, and negotiate social bonds within each group.

Although the two plays seem to paint a rosy picture of the market economy, neither Dekker nor Shakespeare is oblivious to the darker potential of money to subvert the most valued social relations, turning a human being into an object of exchange. Amid the optimism and holiday ethos in The Shoemaker's Holiday, for example, there is a moment when Ralph's wife, Jane, is almost made equivalent to money by the wealthy citizen Hammon, who offers twenty pounds--and more if necessary--to purchase her from her husband. If the twenty pounds represents the alienating force of money to turn Jane into a "commodity" (18.94), the power is counteracted by the shoemakers as they act together as a corporate body, a collective group, to challenge Hammon and his servants with "cudgels, or such weapons" (18.s.d.). Backing up Ralphs claim to Jane with the potential for violence, they succeed in incorporating her back into the web of relations that defines who she is. Forced to acknowledge that no money can be made equivalent to a shoemakers wife, Hammon ends up giving the twenty pounds to the couple as a gift. As a result, the money that threatens to rip Jane out of her context is transformed from "pelf" (18.97) into a socially positive resource which not only compensates for the "great wrong" (18.99) Hammon did to Jane, but also helps the couple to rebuild and sustain their household.

If Jane's case suggests that in Dekker's London the influence of the market economy has not yet become pervasive enough to overwrite the value of human relations, the situation is more ambivalent in Shakespeare's Venice. Given its role in international trading, the city permits and encourages merchants of "all nations" (3.3.31) to participate in its market. Inevitably, the push for market expansion, as exemplified by Antonio's case, poses a potential threat to the carefully constructed distinction between the value of human lives and that of money. No Venetian, however, dares to challenge Shylock's right to a commodity that he has "dearly bought" (4.1.99) since the "trade and profit" (3.3.30) of the city, and "the freedom of the state" (3.2.277) depend on the enforcement of the Venetian law which endorses and protects the individual right to private property. Ostensibly, the Venetians are constrained by law from resorting to the kind of violence wielded by Dekker's shoemakers to save their friend. Nevertheless, the law which protects the property and trading rights of foreigners is simultaneously grounded in discrimination against them once they cease being an asset and become a menace to the city and its citizens. The Venetian state, in other words, is capable of a more sustained and systematic kind of violence, which can more effectively counteract the force that threatens to turn the life of its citizen into a generic value to measure debt and, in a further step, rip the alien moneylender out of his context, transforming both his life and living into resources for the use of its citizens.

In both plays, therefore, the emergence of the market economy is not incompatible with the existence of human economy, nor is market value wholly destructive to human value. So long as the money derived from commercial exchange can be converted into a positively beneficial resource for the sustenance of the ideal order of an unchanging community, the two kinds of economic systems are organically essential to each other. The more a human economy is incorporated into the economic orbits of a wider commercial one, the more resources people in the same community can get to create, maintain, and reorganize social relations with others. And the more developed the market economy becomes, the more they can be equipped with an increasingly more powerful and systematic means to ensure that each member in their community is unique and of incomparable value, and therefore can never be made saleable for money, and that, despite their participation in the market, they can still be protected against the onrush of commodification at the dear expense of those who simply do not belong.

National Chi Nan University, Taiwan


The research for this essay is supported by National Science Council, Taiwan (NSC 100-2410-H-260-060-).

(1) Linda Woodbridge, introduction to Money and the Age of Shakespeare: Essays in New Economic Criticism, ed. Linda Woodbridge (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003), 11.

(2) Viviana A. Zelizer, Vie Social Meaning of Money: Pin Money, Paychecks, Poor Relief, and Other Currencies (New York: Basic Books, 1995), 18.

(3) David Hawkes, Idols of the Market place: Idolatry and Commodity Fetishism in English Literature, 1580-1680 (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2001), 22.

(4) Stephen Deng, Coinage and State Formation in Early Modern English Literature (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011).

(5) David Landreth, The Face of Mammon: The Matter of Money in English Renaissance Literature (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012), 6.

(6) Zelizer, The Social Meaning of Money, 25.

(7) Craig Muldrew, "'Hard Food for Midas': Cash and Its Social Value in Early Modern England," Past and Present 170 (2001): 78-120 (90).

(8) Ibid., 81.

(9) David Graeber, Debt: The First 5,000 Years (New York: Melville House Publishing, 2011), 130.

(10) Ibid., 158.

(11) Ibid., 133.

(12) Ibid., 327-28.

(13) Craig Muldrew, The Economy of Obligation: The Culture of Credit and Social Relations in Early Modern England (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 1998), 158.

(14) Thomas Dekker, The Shoemaker's Holiday, ed. R. L. Smallwood and Stanley Wells (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1999). All quotations are from this edition and are cited parenthetically in the text.

(15) Jean E. Howard, "Material Shakespeare/Materialist Shakespeare," in Shakespeare Matters: History, Teaching, Performance, ed. Lloyd Davis (Newark: University of Delaware Press, 2003), 39.

(16) William Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice, ed. John Drakakis, The Arden Shakespeare (London: Menthuen, 2010). All quotations are from this edition and are cited parenthetically in the text.

(17) Jean-Christophe Agnew, Worlds Apart: The Market and the Theater in Anglo-American Thought, 1550-1750 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986), 44.

(18) Muldrew, "Hard Food." Muldrew estimates that "the use of money generally formed less than one-fifteenth of the value of exchanges" (93). See also Martha C. Howard, Commerce Before Capitalism in Europe, 1300-1600 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2010), 12.

(19) Muldrew, "Hard Food," 84.

(20) Peter Mathias, "Risk, Credit and Kinship in Early Modern Enterprise," in The Early Modern Atlantic Economy, ed. John J. McCusker and Kenneth Morgan (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000), 28.

(21) Muldrew, "Hard Food," 84.

(22) Ibid.

(23) Mathias, "Risk, Credit and Kinship," 17.

(24) Ilana Krausman Ben-Amos, The Culture of Giving: Informal Support and Gift-Exchange in Early Modern England (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008), 153.

(25) Muldrew, "Hard Food," 112.

(26) Ibid., 109.

(27) C. E. Challis writes that early in the 1590s, Bristol tradesmen had already begun issuing their own lead and brass tokens. The Tudor Coinage (New York: Manchester University Press, 1978), 209. J. R. S. Whiting points out that such tokens were "payable through the neighborhood ... seldom reaching further than the next street or two." Trade Tokens: A Social and Economic History (Newton Abbot: David and Charles, 1971), 13.

(28) Deborah Valenze, The Social Life of Money in the English Past (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006), 37.

(29) Ben-Amos, Culture of Giving, 66.

(30) Muldrew, "Hard Food," 84.

(31) J. Parry and M. Bloch, introduction to Money and the Morality of Exchange (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989), 24.

(32) David Scott Kastan, "Workshop and/as Playhouse: Comedy and Commerce in The Shoemakers Holiday," Studies in Philology 84 (1987): 324-37 (325-26).

(33) Ibid., 331-32.

(34) Deng, Coinage and State Formation, 171.

(35) George Evans Light, "All Hopped Up: Beer, Cultivated National Identity, and Anglo-Dutch Relations, 1524-1625," Journal x: A Journal in Culture and Criticism 2 (1998): 159-78 (171).

(36) Georg Simmel, The Philosophy of Money, trans. Tom Bottomore and David Frisby (London: Routledge, 1990), 333.

(37) Catherine F. Patterson, Urban Patronage in Early Modern England: Corporate Boroughs, the Landed Elite, and the Crown, 1580-1640 (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1999), 17.

(38) Kastan, "Workshop," 331.

(39) Amanda Bailey, Flaunting: Style and the Subversive Male Body in Renaissance England (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2007), 27. See also Alexandra Shepard, Meanings of Manhood in Early Modern England (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003), 28.

(40) Ronda A. Arab, "Work, Bodies, and Gender in The Shoemaker's Holiday," Medieval and Renaissance Drama in England 13 (2001): 181-212 (188-89).

(41) David Graeber, Possibilities: Essays on Hierarchy, Rebellion, and Desire (Oakland: AK Press, 2007), 77.

(42) Paul S. Seaver, "Thomas Dekker's The Shoemaker's Holiday: The Artisanal World," in The Theatrical City: Culture, Theatre and Politics in London, 1576-1649, ed. David L. Smith, Richard Strier, and David Bevington (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003), 92.

(43) Hodge, on the contrary, still urges them to work: "Ply your work today--we loitered yesterday. To it, pell-mell, that we may live to be Lord Mayors, or aldermen at least" (13.2-4).

(44) Peter Mortenson, for example, points out that "Eyre's economic gain and civic aggrandizement depend on another's loss and on unexpected death." "The Economics of Joy in The Shoemakers' Holiday" SEL 16 (1976): 241-252 (242). Andrew Fleck attributes the acceptability of Eyre's gulling of the skipper to the "new economic outlook" that divorces "the ground of relationships and alliances" from "higher moral purposes" and puts it into "the practical terms of exchange and use value." "Marking Difference and National Identity in Dekker's The Shoemaker's Holiday," SEL 46 (2006): 349-370 (360, 362).

(45) C. G. A. Clay, Economic Expansion and Social Change: England 1500-1700 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1984), 2:184.

(46) Marshall Sahlins, Stone Age Economics (London: Tavistock Publications, 1974), 199.

(47) Wendy Wall, Staging Domesticity: Household Work and English Identity in Early Modern Drama, Cambridge Studies in Renaissance Literature and Culture (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002), 153. See also Howard, "Material Shakespeare," 38; and Ann C. Christensen, "Being Mistress Eyre in Dekker's The Shoemaker's Holiday and Deloney's The Gentle Craft" Comparative Drama 42 (2008): 451-480 (463).

(48) Christensen, "Being Mistress Eyre," 463.

(49) Mark Thornton Burnett, Masters and Servants in English Renaissance Drama and Culture (New York: St. Martin's, 1997), 67.

(50) Howard, "Material Shakespeare," 38.

(51) Ibid. See also Christensen, "Being Mistress Eyre," 464.

(52) Marta Straznicky, "The End of Discord in The Shoemaker's Holiday," SEL 36 (1996): 357-372 (367).

(53) Parry and Bloch, Money and the Morality of Exchange, 25.

(54) Pasi Falk, The Consuming Body (London: Sage, 1994), 24.

(55) Henry Wilkin in Debt Book (London, 1625) not only claims "it is a servile thing to be indebt," but also goes so far as to say that "by Debt a man's state and person is in a maner mancipated to the lender" (5).

(56) Patterson, Urban Patronage, 22.

(57) Felicity Heal, Hospitality in Early Modern England (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1990), 32.

(58) Stephen Maynard, "Feasting on Eyre: Community, Consumption, and Communion in The Shoemaker's Holiday," Comparative Drama 32 (1998): 327-346 (341).

(59) Patterson, Urban Patronage, 17.

(60) As George Unwin writes in The Gilds and Companies of London (London: Menthuen, 1908), during the whole period of the Tudors and Stuarts, the city companies furnished one of the chief financial resources of the Government--in both the demand for money and demands for men (240).

(61) Mark Netzloff, for instance, examines how the play naturalizes emergent forms of capital by translating the merchant's monetary gains into the kind of wealth that nonetheless reinforces class hierarchies, landed property, and the patriarchal household. See "The Lead Casket: Capital, Mercantilism, and The Merchant of Venice," in Woodbridge, Money and the Age of Shakespeare, 159-76. For a discussion of how money inserts itself into all economic and social relationships in the play see Lars Engle, "Money and Moral Luck in The Merchant of Venice," in Shakespearean Pragmatism: Market of His Time (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1993), 77-106. In "The Merchant of Venice and the Value of Money," Cahiers Elisabethains 69 (2001): 13-30, Peter D. Holland explores the ways in which the play's systems of value are measured against the monetary economy in Venice. See also Simon Critchley and Tom MacCarthy, "Universal Shylockery: Money and Morality in The Merchant of Venice" Diacritics 34 (2004): 3-17, for discussion of the disruptive impact that monetary economy has on the natural economy of oikos. Landreth likewise emphasizes how the importance of money as an object to be disavowed proves fundamental to the Venetian commonwealth that the play depicts; see The Face of Mammon, 150-83.

(62) Marc Shell, Money, Language, and Thought (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1982), 48.

(63) Ibid., 65-66, 82.

(64) Ibid., 64.

(65) Muldrew, "Hard Food," 92-93.

(66) Engle, "Money and Moral Luck," 80.

(67) Muldrew, "Hard Food," 109.

(68) Muldrew, Economy of Obligation, 153.

(69) Alexandra Shepard, "Manhood, Credit and Patriarchy in Early Modern England c. 1580-1640," Past and Present 167 (2000): 75-106 (88).

(70) As Muldrew writes in Economy of Obligation, "because lending on a small scale to one's poorer neighbours was a duty of Christian charity and neighbourliness, usury was seen to be a highly anti-social activity" (113).

(71) Sahlins, Stone Age Economics, 200.

(72) Valerie Forman, Tragicomic Redemptions: Global Economics and the Early Modern English Stage (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2008), 30.

(73) Benjamin N. Nelson, The Idea of Usury: From Tribal Brotherhood to Universal Otherhood (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1969), xxiv.

(74) Simmel, Philosophy of Money, 349.

(75) Sahlins, Stone Age Economics, 201.

(76) Igor Kopytoff, "The Cultural Biography of Things: Commoditization as Process" in The Social Life of Things: Commodities in Cultural Perspective, ed. Arjun Appadurai (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986), argues that "to be a non-commodity is to be 'priceless' in the full possible sense of the term, ranging from the uniquely valuable to the uniquely worthless" (75).

(77) Sahlins, Stone Age Economics, 194-95.

(78) Even Antonio sees Lorenzo's behavior as theft, as he later identifies Lorenzo as "the gentleman / That lately stole [Shylock's] daughter" (4.1.380-81).

(79) Sahlins, Stone Age Economics, 195.

(80) Shell, Money, Language, and Thought, 61.

(81) Walter Cohen, "The Merchant of Venice and the Possibilities of Historical Criticism," ELH 49 (1982): 765-89 (769). Engle also regards the "merry bond" as "unbusinesslike a proposition as one could find." See Engle, "Money and Moral Luck," 85. Walters S. H. Lim, in "Surety and Spiritual Commercialism in The Merchant of Venice," SEL 50 (2010): 355-382, views it as a manifestation of Shylock's "vindictive irrationality" (366). Natasha Korda, similarly, thinks that "Shylock's hatred of Antonio leads him to succumb to a passion that privileges vengeance over profit or precision." "Dame Usury: Gender, Credit, and (Ac)counting in the Sonnets and The Merchant of Venice," Shakespeare Quarterly 60 (2009): 129-53 (149).

(82) William O. Scott, "Conditional Bonds, Forfeitures, and Vows in The Merchant of Venice," English Literary Renaissance 34 (2004): 286-305 (290).

(83) Graeber, Debt, 158.

(84) Scott, "Conditional Bonds," 301.

(85) Orlando Patterson, Slavery and Social Death: A Comparative Study (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1982), 31.

(86) Hugh Thomas points out that from the fifteenth century onwards, Italian cities such as Genoa, Venice and Florence had substantial slave populations. The Slave Trade: The History of the Atlantic Slave Trade 1450-1870 (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1997), 42-43.

(87) Lim, "Surety and Spiritual Commercialism," 374-75.

(88) Steve Rappaport, Worlds within Worlds: Structures of Life in Sixteenth-Century London (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989), 29.

(89) Orlando Patterson, Freedom: Freedom in the Making of Western Culture (New York: Basic, 1992), 1:389.

(90) Patterson, Freedom, 405.

(91) Patterson, Slavery, 28.

(92) Amanda Bailey, "Shylock and the Slaves: Owing and Owning in The Merchant of Venice',' Shakespeare Quarterly 62 (2011): 1-24 (18).

(93) Jonathan Barry, "Civility and Civic Culture in Early Modern England: The Meaning of Urban Freedom," in Civil Histories: Essays Presented to Sir Keith Thomas, ed. Peter Burke, Brian Harrison, and Paul Slack (Oxford: Oxford Cambridge University, 2000), 193.

(94) Paul Stevens, "Heterogenizing Imagination: Globalization, The Merchant of Venice, and the Work of Literary Criticism," New Literary History 36 (2005): 425-37 (431).

(95) Julia Reinhard Lupton, Citizen-saints: Shakespeare and Political Theology (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005), 101.

(96) Karen Newman, "Portia's Ring: Unruly Women and Structures of Exchange in The Merchant of Venice" Shakespeare Quarterly 38 (1987): 19-33 (31).

(97) Bernard Capp, "The Double Standard Revisited: Plebeian Woman and Male Sexual Reputation in Early Modern England," Past and Present 162 (1999): 70-100 (72).

(98) Muldrew, Economy of Obligation, 149.

(99) C. A. Bayly, "The Origins of Swadeshi (Home Industry): Cloth and Indian Society, 1700-1930," in Appadurai, The Social Life of Things: Commodities in Cultural Perspective, 316.

(100) Parry and Block, Money and the Morality of Exchange, 23.
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Title Annotation:Thomas Dekker's "The Shoemakers Holiday" and William Shakespeare's "The Merchant of Venice"
Author:Lee, Huey-ling
Publication:Comparative Drama
Article Type:Critical essay
Date:Sep 22, 2015
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