‘Love Merchandized’

Money in Shakespeare’s Sonnets

in Critical Survey
Manfred PfisterFreie Universität Berlin manfred.pfister@fu-berlin.de

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Although analysing Shakespeare’s sonnets in the context of ‘Shakespeare and money’ is not an obvious choice, I believe that Karl Marx’s ‘The Power of Money’ in his Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts are as relevant to the sonnets as they are to plays such as Timon of Athens. My reading of them will foreground their dialogue with terms and developments in early modern banking and focus on metaphors of economic transaction that run through the whole cycle; indeed, a third of them figure love, its wealth and truth, use and abuse, in terms of investment in order to project an alternative economy beyond the self-alienating world of banking/financial gain. This imbrication of the erotic with the economic comprises also the writing of love sonnets, a competitive game-like economic transaction. Soneteering is a way of ‘merchandizing love’ that inevitably casts a capitalist shadow across the supposedly most sincere expression of love.

Contributor Notes

Manfred Pfister was professor of English at the Freie Universität Berlin and guest professor at the universities of Vienna, Gdansk, Dartmouth College, Sussex, East Anglia and the Cuban International School of Film and Television, and is a member of the Berlin-Brandenburgische Akademie der Wissenschaften. He was co-editor of the Shakespeare Jahrbuch and Poetica and author of Das Drama: Theorie und Analyse (Munich 1982; Cambridge 1988). Among his more recent book publications are Laurence Sterne (2001), A History of English Laughter (2002), Performing National Identity Anglo-Italian Transactions (2008), Shakespeare’s Sonnets Global, A Quatercentenary Anthology (2009, 2014), Dialoge zwischen Wissenschaft, Kunst und Literatur in der Renaissance (2011), and Heroen und Heroisierungen in der Renaissance (2013); other works include editions of Bruce Chatwin’s In Patagonia (2003), Samuel Butler’s Notebooks (2005), Shelley’s Zastrozzi (2009) and Sir Thomas Brownes’ Urne Buriall and Selected Writings (2014). He is also a translator and as such one of the German voices of Robert Lowell (1982) and Ezra Pound’s Cantos (2012). Together with linguist Ekkehard König, he has just published a book on interfacing linguistics and literary studies (2017). Since his retirement, he has spent half of his time in the Italian Maremma, where he pursues, among others, Anglo-Italian crossways.

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