Interludes, Economics, and The Elizabethan Stage

Paul Whitfield White

in The Oxford Handbook of Tudor Literature

Published in print September 2009 | ISBN: 9780199205882
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks of Literature

 Interludes, Economics, and The Elizabethan Stage

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During the period in between, and especially in the decades immediately following Elizabeth's accession when London in particular experienced unprecedented growth and rapid expansion of trade, the preponderance of extant Protestant religious drama is deeply distrustful of commercial practices. Representative of this highly critical attitude towards commerce is a series of printed plays that specifically target economic issues. They are The Cruel Debtor (1565), The Trial of Treasure (1567), Like Will to Like (1568), Enough Is as Good as a Feast (1570), The Tide Tarrieth No Man (1577), and All for Money (1578). Identified today as ‘moral interludes’, these plays are essentially religious in purpose, present characters who are part allegorical abstraction and part social type, and appeal to popular audiences. This article argues that these plays were written in response to what early Elizabethan preachers and play-makers saw as the widespread practice of fraud, oppression, and injustice arising from a surge in the growth of commerce and wealth. Emphasizing the spiritual implications of economic ill-doing, these interludes were part of a print propaganda campaign led by the advanced Protestant wing to outlaw usury and to reduce rent-racking and other forms of economic exploitation.

Keywords: Protestant plays; religious drama; Elizabethan period; commerce; wealth; fraud; oppression; injustice; print propaganda; economic exploitation

Article.  7694 words. 

Subjects: Literature ; Literary Studies (1500 to 1800)

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