Abraham’s Ordeal and Historical Change: From Sacrifice to Ethics

  • Mary Jo Kietzman


Shakespeare uses the figure of Abraham and the story of his near-sacrifice of Isaac (the Akedah) in three plays, written between 1593 and 1596 (Titus Andronicus, Richard II, and King John) that dramatize historical progress from the sacrificial economies of paganism and Catholic feudalism toward polities that must be reformed by covenant relations, beginning with the bond between fathers and sons. In Shakespeare’s implicit reading of the Akedah, Abraham struggles to bear the cross of his covenantal commitments to both God and his son, and, in suffering the ordeal, he sacrifices himself metaphorically instead of sacrificing Isaac literally. Kietzman shows how this struggle becomes the new political ordeal in her analyses of Aaron in Titus Andronicus, York in Richard II, and Hubert in King John.



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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mary Jo Kietzman
    • 1
  1. 1.University of Michigan–FlintFlintUSA

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