Making oeconomies : elite domestic culture and the reception of Shakespeare's Ovidian poetry in early modern England.
Venus and Adonis and Lucrece, though rarely studied, were Shakespeare's bestsellers:
reprinted fourteen times during his lifetime, they generated considerable commentary
providing rare accounts both of men and women as readers of Shakespeare and of
Shakespeare's reputation among his contemporaries. This thesis examines issues of
gender and sexuality in venus and Adonis and Lucrece by turning both to contemporary
accounts of reading the poems and to the actual reading environment of Shakespeare's
The Elizabethan and Jacobean elite home was extraordinarily rich in visual images. Elite
men and women read Shakespeare's Ovidian poetry in an environment itself furnished
with Ovidian imagery. But connections between textual representation and the immediate
context of reading -- by which I mean the actual rooms in which men and women read -
- have rarely been examined. Despite claims for greater interdisciplinarity in Renaissance
literary criticism, we still know very little about the habitats of early modem readers.
However, questions of gender and sexuality currently examined in Renaissance literary
criticism can be powerfully interrogated in the furnishings of rooms in which men and
women read. Though little known to literary critics, the striking images that appeared
upon the walls, chairs, chests and beds of Shakespeare's elite readers represent a rich
source for studying early modern oeconomy -- 'or what appertains to the house'. In this
thesis, I seek to show both how Shakespeare's bestselling works explore the making of
oeconomy, and how his readers could have interpreted them in the making of their own
oeconomies. In so doing, I explore the implications of reading Shakespeare in the early
modem elite home.