Shakespeare’s Textual Traces
Patterns of ‘exchange’ in The Merchant of Venice
Mainly focusing on the relevance of Italian cultural models as a crucial component of English Renaissance drama, this book largely draws on the critical debate which in the last two decades has explored more inclusive and dynamic notions of intertextuality and interdiscursivity.
Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice is here examined as part of an extensive network of transnational exchanges between sixteenth-century Venice and England. The major centre of attention is the migration of both literary and non-literary texts and discourses which offer valuable insights into the socio-cultural, theological and economic conflicts embedded in the debates on money-lending and trade in Elizabethan England, where the moral and legal justification of interest was a vital issue in the transition from feudal economy to modern capitalism.
Light is mostly shed on the pre-eminently linguistic nature of such migrations in a period in which language was the most significant ‘currency’ of the age. Against the background of the wide circulation of ideological codes and cultural models in Renaissance Europe, this book inspects Shakespeare’s exploration of the polysemic status of such words as ‘obligation’, ‘interest’, ‘credit’, ‘good’, ‘bond’, which still bore a strong moral or ethical significance, and whose powerful resonances he imaginatively weaves into the intricate linguistic texture of his play.