Members of His Body: Shakespeare, Paul, and a Theology of Nonmonogamy

Members of His Body: Shakespeare, Paul, and a Theology of Nonmonogamy

Members of His Body: Shakespeare, Paul, and a Theology of Nonmonogamy

Members of His Body: Shakespeare, Paul, and a Theology of Nonmonogamy

Synopsis

Building on scholarship regarding both biblical and early modern sexualities, Members of His Body protests the Christian defense of marital monogamy. According to the Paul who authors 1 Corinthians, believers would do well to remain single and focus instead on the messiah’s return. According to the Paul who authors Ephesians, plural marriage is the telos of Christian community. Turning to Shakespeare, Will Stockton shows how marriage functions in The Comedy of Errors, The Merchant of Venice, Othello, and The Winter’s Tale as a contested vehicle of Christian embodiment. Juxtaposing the marital theologies of the different Pauls and their later interpreters, Stockton reveals how these plays explore the racial, religious, and gender criteria for marital membership in the body of Christ. These plays further suggest that marital jealousy and paranoia about adultery result in part from a Christian theology of shared embodiment: the communion of believers in Christ.

In the wake of recent arguments that expanding marriage rights to gay people will open the door to the cultural acceptance and legalization of plural marriage, Members of His Body reminds us that much Christian theology already looks forward to this end.

Excerpt

In the final scene of The Comedy of Errors, Shakespeare resurrects Christ on stage as the abbess Emilia—wife of Egeon, the condemned man from neighboring Syracuse, and mother to the Antipholus twins, whom she pronounces “deliverèd” (5.1.404) after “Thirty-three years … in travail” (5.1.402). the Duke immediately begins the work of interpreting Emilia’s self-revelation as the “same Emilia” (5.1.346) whom Egeon “once called Emilia” (5.1.343). and like one of Christ’s apostles, the Duke does so in accordance with older testament: “Why, here begins his [Egeon’s] morning story right: / These two Antipholus’, these two so like, / and these two Dromios, one in semblance” (5.1.347– 49). the Antipholus and Dromio twins are each identified as four separate men consequent to the selfidentification of an abbess who herself figures Christ dead and resurrected at age thirty-three—as mother, minister, and spouse to multiple bodies delivered from error. in the parlance of modern evangelicalism, this family and its servants have been “born again” (John 3:3). in the parlance of the play’s principle apostolic source, the epistle to the Ephesians, this family and its servants are no longer “strangers and foreners” to each other or in . . .

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