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The Corporate CommonwealthPluralism and Political Fictions in England, 1516-1651$
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Henry S. Turner

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780226363356

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: January 2017

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226363493.001.0001

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Dekker and Company

Dekker and Company

(p.117) Chapter Five Dekker and Company
The Corporate Commonwealth

Henry S. Turner

University of Chicago Press

This chapter focuses on the guild and livery company as corporate forms: on the place of guilds and livery companies within the “body politic” of the City of London, and the relation of guilds, companies, and City to the commercial institution of the theater and its share-holding system. The chapter explores the legal, economic, and symbolic intersections among these urban corporate forms through a reading of Thomas Dekker’s The Shoemaker’s Holiday (1599), a play that affirms long-standing and increasingly anachronistic modes of corporate affiliation over new ones, including the long-distance trading companies and the theater itself. By means of acting, characterization, and other mimetic techniques, Dekker uses the resources of theater to intervene in an ongoing struggle over the right to assemble publicly in theaters, and to defend both actor and theater as a way of giving a symbolic structure to conflict among social groups and to produce a distinctive system of values for civic life. In this way, Dekker’s play affirms a corporate theater modeled on the guild as one of many sites in a pluralistic public space—a space composed out of multiple publics and associations, rather than as a single virtual “public sphere.”

Keywords:   Thomas Dekker, The Shoemaker’s Holiday, guilds, livery companies, City of London, theater companies, characterization, acting, shares

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