At Work in the Early Modern English Theater: Valuing Labor explores the economics of the theater by examining how drama seeks to make sense of changing conceptions of labor. With the growth of commerce and market relations in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century England came the corresponding degradation and exploitation of workers, many of whom made their frustrations known through petitions and pamphlets. Poverty affected all sectors of society in early modern England and many laborers, even London citizens from more prosperous trades, could expect to experience periods of impoverishment. This group of precarious laborers included actors and playwrights, many of whom had direct connections to London's more established trades and occupations.
Scholars have argued that dispossessed laborers turned to other forms of labor in lieu of their traditional livelihoods, including brigandage, piracy, begging, and cozening. To this list of alternative communities and applications of labor in the early modern period, Matthew Kendrick's scholarship adds the London theaters. Each chapter is guided by the central premise that anxiety over the objectification and dispossession of labor in its various forms is enacted on stage, and that drama helps to formulate, by merit of the theater's socioeconomic identity, an emerging laboring subjectivity engendered by the violent development of capitalism. As the nexus of a declining feudal social structure and an emerging capitalist regime of commodity production, a location in which dispossessed labor intersected with traditions of skilled labor and the unwieldy consumerist energies of the marketplace, the space of the theater was uniquely situated to channel and give dramatic form to the growing antagonisms and tensions that shaped labor. The stage offers a space in which to negotiate the value and meaning of labor in an increasingly exploitative society.
Publisher: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press
Number of pages: 228
Weight: 318 g
Dimensions: 231 x 149 x 16 mm
Kendrick is willing to go father and be more explicitly in his Marxist analysis than has been typical of scholars writing on similar topics. Though this study is not the first to argue that the early modern period is more than simply a precursor to the development of oppositional classes during the industrial era, it makes a particularly thoughtful and often refreshingly polemical case that the absence of a fully formed bourgeoisie and proletariat during the period should not be confused with laborers' passivity to the commodification and alienation of their labor. * Comparative Drama *
Kendrick's book provides the reader with a clear outlook about labor and laborers in the early modern English theatre. * Sixteenth Century Journal *