In his book The Structure of World History (2014) Kojin Karatani has argued that too little attention has been paid in Marxist historiography to the issue of ‘exchange’. In a number of Shakespearean texts ‘exchange’ and ‘reciprocity’ are of vital importance in sustaining social cohesion; in Romeo and Juliet, for example, radical disruptions of patterns of reciprocity and exchange expose an ambivalence that, in certain critical circumstances, inheres in language itself. The disruption that results from the perversion of these values is felt at every level of the social order, but particularly in the sphere of the ‘economic’, where money and trade become metaphors for the disturbance of the relation between language and action, word and object. This disruption is represented as a product of ‘nature’ but it also becomes a feature of a historically over-determined human psychology, and leads to a critical examination of different forms of government and social organization.
John Drakakis is emeritus professor at the University of Stirling, and visiting professor at the University of Lincoln. He is the general editor of the Routledge New Critical Idiom series, and he is the general and contributing editor to the forthcoming revision of Geoffrey Bullough’s Narrative and Dramatic Sources of Shakespeare. He has recently edited Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice for Arden (Third Series), and he has contributed a number of book chapters and journal articles on Shakespearean subjects. He is the editor, along with Dale Townshend, of Gothic Shakespeares, and Macbeth: A Critical Reader for the Arden Early Modern Drama Guides series. He is on the editorial board of a number of scholarly journals and he has guest-edited volumes for the ESSE journal and Poetics Today. He is a Fellow of the English Association, an Honorary Fellow of Glyndwr University and he holds an honorary PhD from the University of Clermont-Auvergne.