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"The implications of these early stage directions are upheld and amplified elsewhere in the play. In what follows, I demonstrate this to be the case by reviewing some of the ways the interlude seeks to justify Jacob’s usurpation, most interestingly in its systematic and strategic deployment of kinship ties and familial terms. After explaining how the play leverages family relations to elevate Jacob and overthrow Esau, I concentrate on one family relation in particular: namely, the complicated bond between twin brothers. As I will make clear, the interlude’s treatment of twinship raises pressing questions about the way wealth, affection, and opportunity are distributed among siblings, anticipating by several decades the heated debates about primogeniture that characterize the 1630s. As we shall see, the interlude’s staging of the twin relation puts pressure on traditional and formal modes of apportioning benefits, edging toward an antinomianism that is exhibited most fully in the epilogue, where the prescriptions of consanguinity and primogeniture take a back seat to the unalterable decrees of God. Whereas the first five acts of the play ask us to attend to Abraham’s immediate family, bound together by blood and birth, the epilogue focuses our attention on God’s eternal family, bound together by acts of divine election. In the end, what the interlude upholds as the most important form of filiation is not the material bonds between blood relatives but the mystical bonds that come about as God arbitrarily adopts this or that sinner."


This article was originally published in Medieval and Renaissance Drama in England, volume 32, in 2019.

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