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Author ORCID Identifier


Open Access Dissertation

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Program


Year Degree Awarded


Month Degree Awarded


First Advisor

Adam Zucker

Second Advisor

Marjorie Rubright

Third Advisor

Jane Degenhardt

Fourth Advisor

Monika Schmitter

Subject Categories

Renaissance Studies | Theatre History


This dissertation, Theater of Exchange: The Cosmopolitan Stage of Jacobean London, examines how early modern theater reflected and participated in the developing global economy and corresponding emergence of London as a capital of world mercantilism. I argue that moments of economic and cultural exchange appearing in work from Jacobean playwrights, including William Shakespeare, Francis Beaumont, Ben Jonson, Thomas Heywood, and John Marston, mediated native and foreign influences and promoted cosmopolitan attitudes among playgoers. Reading plays through a lens of hybridity, this dissertation positions the early modern playhouse as a site of international integration and exchange that, like the emerging marketplace, united goods, services, and cultures from around the world. Theater of Exchange is organized around popular commodities, such as coins, art objects, and plays themselves, as well as commercial services including the sex trade, and argues that Jacobean drama engaged its audiences in processes of reevaluation across economic and cultural networks. Parallel to my project’s critical engagement with networks of economic and cultural exchange is its attentiveness to the ways in which London theater mediated value for native and foreign commodities, as well as how playwrights ultimately showcased qualities such as mutability, integration, hybridity, and adaptability as profitable both to London and its playhouses. Drawing on contemporary approaches to dramatic literature, including audience reception theory, new economic criticism, and cultural materialism, the chapters are connected by a consideration of how theater not only topically addressed popular debates about value, but it also enacted those debates by inviting audiences to participate in processes of reevaluation within the fiction of the performance. Although largely centered on the London of city comedies, the geographical scope of this project extends to countries that composed England’s growing commercial networks, since well-defined local markets were superseded by an indistinct global economy. By paying attention to the cultural effects of commercial globalization, Theater of Exchange participates in shifting critical discourse away from perceptions of England as xenophobic by arguing that through representations of cultural and economic exchange, early modern theater promoted attitudes and fostered desires among its audiences that contributed to London consumers’ openness to foreign cultures.