I've just spent the afternoon with one of my favourite classes, doing plays about bankers and other con-men, from almost 300 years apart: Philip Massinger's very conservative comedy A New Way to Pay Old Debts (revolting city wide-boy loses his cash and daughter as punishment for being a flash social climber - the aristocratic values endure) and Caryl Churchill's Serious Money, an astonishing satire set in the 1980s world of investment banking and financial engineering - in verse.
In this one, the wide-boys win, though the toff bankers they replace are equally corrupt and revolting. They use the crudest sexualised language to discuss their work, though they're all too worn-out to actually have sex with anyone. They're amoral, cruel, greedy and selfish. Unfortunately, the City Boys didn't see it as a critique: legend has it that City firms block booked the theatre when it was first released, encouraging their workers to worship their fictional counterparts.
I hope my students enjoyed today's session: it's hard to analyse comedy without killing it stone dead. Some hadn't read them of course, but I like to think I've done my bit for the cause while simultaneously introducing them to literature they might not otherwise have come across. It's Gerrard Winstanley next: some of his pamphlets and Churchill's play about him, A Light Shining in Buckinghamshire.
(For your amusement: David Cameron Pretending To Be Common).