PAGE TWO -- 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. 
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The Goddess of Ephesus
      Given Parker's challenge, I begin with Chapter 19 from the Book of Acts, observing Paul's conflict with the worshippers of "the great goddess Diana" and the jealousy between competing religions (19:27). Paul arrives in Ephesus with his customary zeal: baptizing disciples, debating in the synagogue and the school of Tyrannus, performing miraculous cures, exorcising evil spirits, and inspiring magic men to burn their incantation books.  A local silversmith, Demetrius, fears that Paul will next challenge the craftsmen who sell "silver shrines for Diana" so he gathers fellow workmen to defend their livelihood and the "magnificence" of the goddess "whom all Asia and the world worshippeth" (Acts 19:24; 19:27).  In a chaotic scene, the Ephesians swarm the city, crying "Great is Diana of the Ephesians," a chant inscribed at archaeological sites in the area.  The town clerk calms the crowd by explaining that Paul has not yet committed blasphemy against the goddess or any other crime. 
       Although Paul never directly confronts the souvenir salesmen, Demetrius' fears demonstrate the threat that rival religions posed against the institutions surrounding the temple of multi-breasted Diana.  The goddess' presence in Ephesus dates from a Bronze Age shrine to an ancient Anatolian and Asian mother goddess, connected with fertility and nature under the various names of Cybele, Atargatis, and Ashtoreth (Achtemeier 66).  The Ionian Greeks colonized Ephesus in the tenth century B.C., converting the Near Eastern deity into Artemis.  Her guardianship passed through a series of conquerors: Persians, Macedonians, Romans, Byzantines, and Turks.  The original primitive temple burned in the fourth century B.C., only to be rebuilt during the Hellenistic period as one of the Seven Wonders of the World and then rampaged again by the Goths (66).  During the time frame of The Comedy of Errors, the historic temple featured "over 100 columns some 60 feet high" with huge marble blocks possibly mortared with gold (Laymon, 755).  Inside the shrine, a "massive statue" of the goddess rose "from a legless base into a huge torso ringed with breasts, then up to a head surmounted by the turret crown of her city" (Monaghan 28).  Such imposing splendor signifies the power of ancient Diana, derived from the Great Mother Goddess of prehistory and mythologically revered by the Amazons, but now threatened by the gluttony of Christianity. 
       Shakespeare never mentions Diana in The Comedy of Errors, but her spirit shapes four female characters.  Patricia Monaghan describes Diana-Artemis as "a veritable compendium of feminine possibility," associated with the changing phases of the moon (27).  Adriana represents Diana during Roman rule, combining the aggression of a huntress jealously pursuing her twinned husband, the nurturance of a mother calling her men home for dinner, and the persistence of a goddess fighting for recognition in a patriarchal household.  Younger sister Luciana portrays the slivered moon, "the virgin who promoted promiscuity" (Monaghan 27), fearing the prospect of her own "marriage bed" (II.i.27)  but also tolerates the perceived unfaithfulness of  her brother-in-law. Abbess Emilia depicts the mother goddess as crone, remembering ancient wisdom but torn from power over her progeny.  The courtesan hints at the ritual prostitution common under the cult of an early incarnation of Diana, Ashtoreth of the East (Mercatante 87). Even the description of Luce -- mocked by S. Dromio as a "very beastly creature" (III.ii.89) encompassing the globe within her mammoth proportions -- plays on the image of the ample fertility goddess, worshipped in various forms across national boundary lines, and enshrined with an overwhelming array of pendulous breasts in temple statuary. 
Author: Elizabeth Howell Brunner
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