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date: 04 July 2022

Abstract and Keywords

This essay examines the history of the corporation as both ‘person’ and ‘group’ and compares legal theories of corporate personhood with poetic and theatrical ideas about ‘personation,’ fictional ‘personality,’ and allegorical ‘personification’. Major examples include Calvin’s Case (1608) and the case of Sutton’s Hospital (1612), Spenser’s Faerie Queene, assorted plays by Shakespeare, Hobbes’s Leviathan, and Ben Jonson’s The Alchemist and Bartholomew Fair. The essay concludes with some theoretical speculation about the pragmatic and mimetic nature of corporate personhood today, especially in advertising and branding. It suggests that our current debates over corporations are symptomatic of a more general impoverishment in our public discourse concerning ethical ideas and the value of collective action.

Keywords: corporation, personification, personation, personhood, allegory, theater, Spenser, Shakespeare, Hobbes, Jonson

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