Surveilling Shake­speare

The Tribune (NZ) - - YOUR LOCAL NEWS - RICHARD MAYS

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.

PHOTO: MASSEY UNIVER­SITY/SUP­PLIED

Massey Univer­sity’s Dr Bill An­gus has pub­lished ‘‘Me­tadrama and the In­former in Shake­speare and Jon­son’’ .

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