Officious men of state: Early Modern Drama and Early English Bureaucratic Identity
Christopher, Brandon Whiting
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This dissertation investigates representations of bureaucracy in early modern drama and culture. Focusing on a group of plays that feature bureaucratic figures among their characters, and reading those plays in the context of contemporary discussions of administration, this project attempts to understand the role played by the increasingly bureaucratic state in developing conceptions of individual subjectivity. Specifically, this dissertation seeks to show that bureaucratic administrative structures and the methods deployed to maintain them provide a conceptual space in which early modern writers could conceive of themselves as possessing a private, inscrutable interiority. Chapter Two argues that whereas the binary relationship of secretary and master is often characterized in contemporary accounts as intensely, and problematically, intimate, the multivalent bureaucratic relationship is characterized, for the most part, as impersonal. Chapter Three links bureaucratic labour with one product of that labour, the bureaucratic document, in order to analyze the way in which early modern representations and discussions of bureaucratic documents constitute a medium through which a form of bureaucratic identity is conceptualized. Chapter Four examines a problem inherent to the bureaucratic delegation of authority – the combination of a desire to see everything and an inability to trust in the observations of others to aid you in fulfilling that desire – and seeks to find a solution to that problem in the way in which Much Ado About Nothing presents a vision of a disciplinary surveillance that is diffused throughout society, rather than residing in one privileged figure. Chapter Five shifts the focus of inquiry from the bureaucracy and those in its employ to the subject of bureaucratic authority. The chapter reads Hamlet’s claims to inscrutable interiority in the context of the state’s desire to see, and document, its subjects. In it, I argue that, rather than deflecting questions, Hamlet’s assertions serve to align him with other targets of disciplinary surveillance. The dissertation ends by considering links between the representational crisis engendered by the growth of the early modern bureaucracy and the representational practices of the early modern theatre.