Shakespeare's critics have often claimed that plays such as The Merchant of Venice, King Lear, and Coriolanus allegorize the ways in which class conflict influences the transition from feudalism to capitalism in England. Revisionist historians have argued, however, that the rise of capitalism was more often conditioned by the unintended consequences of social policy, rather than by polarized class positions. This study uses revisionist historical accounts of the transitional period in order to offer a new methodology for understanding the representation of social and economic change in Shakespearean drama.

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