Discourses of economic exchange and of theatrical participation at the turn of the seventeenth century each began to rely on a rhetoric of “crediting”: both lending and theatergoing, that is, demand a trust in the circularity of expenditure, whereby what is given out may return to the benefit of the giver. Considering that the very word “credit” was only just beginning to acquire a specifically economic usage at this time, how does the crediting of imaginative representation on stage interact with the surge of a rising credit culture? This article posits that credit, as a kind of collective “imagining,” becomes fascinating to Ben Jonson in particular as something utterly fragile and yet vitally necessary for both productive and creative social order. Jonson’s drama Volpone (1606) demonstrates the ability of “credit culture” to sustain itself through theatrical effects of collective belief, even as various rhetorics of obligation become disconcertingly obscured in the process.

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