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Religions 2019, 10(1), 28; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel10010028

Bondage of the Will: The Limitations of Political Theology in Measure for Measure

Department of English, Catholic University of America, Washington, DC 20064, USA
Received: 2 December 2018 / Revised: 28 December 2018 / Accepted: 1 January 2019 / Published: 3 January 2019
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Religions in Shakespeare's Writings)
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Abstract

Although Peter Lake and Debora Shuger have argued that Measure for Measure is hostile to Calvinist theology, I argue that the play’s world presents a Reformed theo-political sensibility, not in order to criticize Calvinism, but to reveal limitations in dominant political theories. Reformed theology informs the world of the play, especially with regards to the corruption of the human will through original sin. Politically, the sinfulness of the human will raises concerns about governments—despite Biblical commands to obey leaders, how can they be trusted if subject to the same corruption of will as citizens? Close analysis of key passages reveals that while individual characters in Measure suggest solutions that account in part for the corruption of the will, none of their political theories manage to contain the radical effects of sin in Angelo’s will. Despite this failure, restorative justice occurs in Act 5, indicating forces outside of human authority and will account for the comedic ending. This gestures towards the dependence of governments in a post-Reformation world on providential protection and reveals why the Reformed belief in the limitations of the human will point towards the collapse of the theory of the King’s two bodies. View Full-Text
Keywords: original sin; political theology; human will original sin; political theology; human will
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited (CC BY 4.0).
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Besteman, B.C. Bondage of the Will: The Limitations of Political Theology in Measure for Measure. Religions 2019, 10, 28.

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