The South Sea Bubble and the Crisis of Property
This chapter aims to recapture the way that the South Sea Bubble of 1720 was understood by contemporaries as an essentially theatrical event, one readable through the generic codes of comedy and tragedy as understood in neoclassical dramatic theory. In particular, the chapter demonstrates how fully the theory of exemplarity as it relates to dramatic characters was translated (and continues to resonate) to the domain of the economic. The chapter focuses primarily on works by Joseph Addison, Richard Steele, and Eliza Haywood, each of which is marked by its relationship to the issues of property, speculation, theatricality, representation, and imitation that the South Sea Bubble brought into the public sphere.
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