Daniel Vitkus
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Turning tricks
Erotic commodification, cross-cultural conversion, and the bed-trick on the English stage, 1580–1630
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The (‘bed-trick’) was a pervasive plot device in prose fiction and other forms of Renaissance literature but appeared late as a device in English drama. The arrival and proliferation of the bed-trick can be connected to the emergence of capitalism as a system founded on a basic structure of deception by means of substitution in an increasingly aggressive commodity exchange market. This chapter discusses those plays in which the substituted lover is a Moor. In each of these plays with a Moorish woman substitute, we encounter the Moor as placeholder, a degraded substitute and commodity, the monstrous and demonized version of what women had become in bourgeois marriage. By looking at erotic trickery, at dangerous or dubious economic transactions, and religious or racial instability in Elizabethan and Early Stuart plays, we can begin to glimpse a broad pattern, one in which the fundamental anxieties and instabilities produced by new economic practices in early modern England were projected into stage actions involving rape, theft, swindles and racial or religious infidelity.

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Gender and religious change in early modern Europe


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