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Shakespeare and the Economics of the Death Penalty


Battell, Sophie Emma (2023). Shakespeare and the Economics of the Death Penalty. Textual Practice, 37(11):1670-1689.

Abstract

This article pursues an economic reading of Shakespeare’s The Comedy of Errors, arguing that the monetisation of stranger relations has been neglected in the criticism, yet the economic calculations in the text undermine the principles of hospitality and international asylum. Refugees, guests and other newcomers depend on the intersection of credibility and credit. Without friends or relatives nearby to vouch for them, the stranger’s personal history - the story that they tell about themselves - must speak for them and inspire trust and credibility with the authorities. Equally important is the outsider’s creditworthiness, both in terms of the money that they carry on them, and their financial solvency. The hardening of social attitudes towards outsiders and immigrants is likewise often accompanied by an economic vocabulary and apprehensions about impoverishment, unemployment, and resource scarcity. To show the significance of this for economic theory, I draw on the work of Georg Simmel and Sara Ahmed, which understands economics in terms of stranger relations and political discourse. In addition, the article engages with Jacques Derrida’s late seminars on the death penalty, suggesting some of the ways in which the state-sanctioned execution of foreigners in The Comedy of Errors operates similarly to any other credit-based economy.

Abstract

This article pursues an economic reading of Shakespeare’s The Comedy of Errors, arguing that the monetisation of stranger relations has been neglected in the criticism, yet the economic calculations in the text undermine the principles of hospitality and international asylum. Refugees, guests and other newcomers depend on the intersection of credibility and credit. Without friends or relatives nearby to vouch for them, the stranger’s personal history - the story that they tell about themselves - must speak for them and inspire trust and credibility with the authorities. Equally important is the outsider’s creditworthiness, both in terms of the money that they carry on them, and their financial solvency. The hardening of social attitudes towards outsiders and immigrants is likewise often accompanied by an economic vocabulary and apprehensions about impoverishment, unemployment, and resource scarcity. To show the significance of this for economic theory, I draw on the work of Georg Simmel and Sara Ahmed, which understands economics in terms of stranger relations and political discourse. In addition, the article engages with Jacques Derrida’s late seminars on the death penalty, suggesting some of the ways in which the state-sanctioned execution of foreigners in The Comedy of Errors operates similarly to any other credit-based economy.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:06 Faculty of Arts > English Department
Dewey Decimal Classification:820 English & Old English literatures
Scopus Subject Areas:Social Sciences & Humanities > Literature and Literary Theory
Uncontrolled Keywords:Shakespeare; Derrida; death penalty; economics; immigration
Language:English
Date:2 November 2023
Deposited On:30 Jan 2023 15:31
Last Modified:28 Jun 2024 01:40
Publisher:Taylor & Francis
ISSN:0950-236X
OA Status:Hybrid
Free access at:Official URL. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1080/0950236X.2022.2111707
Official URL:https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/0950236X.2022.2111707
  • Content: Published Version
  • Language: English
  • Licence: Creative Commons: Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0)