PAGE SEVEN -- Restoring Goddess Diana: 
Subtexts of Jealousy in Shakespeare's The Comedy of Errors
Written by Elizabeth Howell Brunner at Cal Poly, 1997, for English 431: Shakespeare Seminar, taught by Professor Steven Marx.  Posted online December 1999. 
Intro | Page Two | Page Three | Page Four | Page Five | Page Six | Page Seven | Works Cited
Equalizing the Matriarchal and Patriarchal
       Can the maternal be reaffirmed within patriarchy if we appease male fears of our reproductive power?  Monaghan describes Diana as "the personification of natural law, so different from the laws of society, so much more ancient, so apparently everlasting" (28).  Certainly, natural law argues for the male and the female, the union essential for offspring.  As the Abbess reminds Old Egeon that he "hadst a wife once," she might also be instructing God that his consort should be restored.  T.G. Bishop views Emilia as "the redemptive figure that the Pauline allusions have led us to expect" and questions "Why should the body of the mother, whose labor as mother is explicitly announced as finally accomplished at the point of reunion, replace the body of Christ?" (88).  Bishop's answer connects the "thirty-three years" of separation from her offspring with "the period of the Incarnation" of Christ on Earth (88).  But Emilia's role as mother also represents the Great Mother Goddess, a divinity older than the Judeo-Christian God and subsumed into Mary, the Mother of God as Christ.  The play ends with Ephesian Dromio's words: "And now let's go hand in hand, not one before another" (V.i.427).  Implying far more than the equality of twins, the final line  indicates the potential equality between patriarchal and matriarchal. 
Call for Harmony  
     Emilia's facilitation of this call for harmony resonates during the Renaissance, a period described by Werner Gundersheimer as "a time of unprecedented turmoil and uncertainty": "The Christian world had fragmented into dozens of sects and denominations, promoting skepticism and relativism" (330).  This tendency towards disbelief as a result of religious fragmentation has intensified during our postmodern age.  But such conflict also permeates the Bible, ranging from the tension between Diana worshippers and Christians in the Book of Acts to the wall between Christians and Jews in Ephesians 2, as well as the relationship between a jealous god and his followers.  Patricia Parker suggests that Emilia's role parallels that of the Christian cross, replacing  "separation, partition or division by a reconciliation in which the 'twain' are made 'one,' the former aliens or strangers equally adopted heirs" (47).  I suggest that reconciliation moves beyond long-long twin brothers, beyond spouses, and beyond competing sects.  In buried subtext, The Comedy of Errors hints at the reunion between male and female deities within the ancient shrine of Artemis.  Such a joining of matriarchy and patriarchy fulfills the promise of fertility inherent in a multi-breasted goddess.
       As Adriana enters the Abbey with her true Antipholus, I am reminded of my own marriage in Turkey, the nation now encompassing Ephesus and the remnants of Diana.  In a small village, with my new husband, I underwent a brief fertility ritual.  Local women draped a  red scarf over my head, rubbed henna into my palms, and escorted me under a candle-lit tunnel of outstretched hands.  Goddess Diana probably placed even less faith in my prospects for marital happiness than in the likelihood that Adriana and Antipholus could find consistent bliss. Ultimately, nonetheless, we merge -- man with woman -- from a deep belief, perhaps the only belief possible, that life is fundamentally good and the life cycle must continue.  
Author: Elizabeth Howell Brunner
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