Accusing the Christ Figure in Shakespearean Drama: Typological Imitations of Corpus Christi Cycle Trial Narratives
Lethbridge Undergraduate Research Journal
At first glance, the medieval Corpus Christi plays from N-Town, Wakefield, and York detailing the events of Christ's crucifixion bear little resemblance to secular renaissance dramas, such as the plays of Shakespeare. However, further inspection reveals a fascinating phenomenon that deserves exploration: despite the apparently non-religious nature of the work, secular dramas often present their protagonists as typological representations of Christ. In William Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice, for example, Antonio resembles Christ in that he is targeted by Shylock, a “wolfish” Jewish figure who insists on upholding the law; this approximates the way in which the Passion plays represent Christ as the victim of bloodthirsty Jewish officials of the law. Similarly, Shakespeare's The Winter's Tale depicts a female character, Hermione, who can be interpreted as a Christ figure due to the events which befall her. Just as Christ was unjustly accused, put on trial, crucified, and ultimately rose again, so is Hermione unfairly accused of adultery, put on trial by her husband, experiences an apparent death, and finally is “resurrected” when her husband discovers her as a living statue at Paulina's house.
Corpus Christi Festival , Shakespeare, William, 1564-1616
Berg, Jamie (2006). Accusing the Christ Figure in Shakespearean Drama: Typological Imitations of Corpus Christi Cycle Trial Narratives. Lethbridge Undergraduate Research Journal, 1(2)