Cyber trolls and mass surveillance have been around much longer than the internet.
According to a new book by Massey University’s Dr Bill Angus, a particularly virulent form of the eavesdrop society existed back in England’s socalled ‘‘golden’’ Elizabethan times.
Then, as now, information was hard currency.
‘‘The surveillance society is something that we’re used to, but something similar operated then.’’
Then, a particular type of ‘‘troll’’ could seriously endanger not just your feelings or status, but your liberty, your limbs and your life.
Informers could earn good coin by dobbing people in to the authorities.
The shadow they cast was reflected in the literature of the times and found its way on stage. Angus said that included the plays of William Shakespeare and Ben Jonson.
His book Metadrama and the Informer in Shakespeare and Jonson was launched at City Library during Massey’s Off the Page Writers Series on Friday night.
Paid informers made writing risky. The Master of Revels could put you away indefinitely. Ben Jonson was imprisoned three times for things he wrote.’’
A paperback version of the book is due out later in the year.
Massey University’s Dr Bill Angus has published ‘‘Metadrama and the Informer in Shakespeare and Jonson’’ .