Term Paper: Shakespeare's Twelfth Night With Milton

Pages: 9 (2432 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 1+  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Mythology - Religion  ·  Buy This Paper


[. . .] 194) before God.

Theme of World Order and Balance:

In Twelfth Night we are shown that disorder is a threat to society and that a happy peaceful existence depends on social order, and ultimately world order. This theme is demonstrated in many instances. When the play opens, Orsino's life is in disorder, citing "excess" and "appetite":

If music be the food of love, play on,

Give me excess of it, that suffering,

The appetite may sicken and so die.

That strain again, it had a dying fall.

O, it came o'er my ear like the sweet sound

That breathes upon a bank of violets,

Stealing and giving odor. Enough, no more,

"Tis not so sweet now as it was before. (1, 1, 1-8).

Several other characters are involved with the struggle of balance and order. Toby and Andrew, with their drunken arguments and ideas, also threaten the social order. Olivia tries to impose order on her life by going into mourning, but feels a disorderly stirring in the form of love for Cesario and is happy only once she restores order by marrying Sebastian.

Malvolio is constantly on fighting disorder, yet his severity leads to its own form of disorder, which according to the other characters presents itself in the form of madness. He is controlled by jealously and insecurity, much like the antagonist Satan in Paradise Lost.

In Paradise Lost, Milton effectively uses the theme of world order through the idea of moral consequences and resulting in human error and restoration. In this work, good and evil choices result in rewards and punishment. The son is to become the King of Glory; Satan, driven from heaven, becomes the leader of hell. Adam and Eve, ejected from paradise, inhabit the world of sin and death. Moral neutral places are affected by human action. As a result, war among the animals begins to occur after the Fall, as do natural disasters such as floods. Sin and death impose chaos to build a bridge from hell to Earth.

In Milton's work, once evil is chosen, the original capacity for good is corrupted and a person needs divine grace from redemption to restore balance. Satan, sending Sin and Death from Hell and Chaos to Earth, succeeds in bringing evil out of good. This displays itself in a variety of fashions and is often concealed to be something it is not in order to deceive the characters. God, however, succeeds in bringing good out of evil by sending the Son down from Heaven to offer grace to the fallen Adam and Eve and all humans. This provides for the restoration of balance and order.

According to Milton freedom of choice is necessary to God's providence, or love for his creatures, and as a result of this freedom, temptations to make the wrong choices and to fall are inevitable. We learn from Milton that Satan tempted Eve through the serpent, another representation of the element of disguise, and by extension, Adam through Eve. The Fall is not only an outcome of Adam and Eve's wrong choices but is a continuing process until the end of time. Restoration also is a process of balancing good and evil, begun by Adam and Eve when they accepted God's grace after their Fall.

The Use of Setting and its representation of Paradise:

Twelfth Night takes place on the island of Illyria and serves as Shakespeare's idea of utopia. This is very significant because of the disruption and restoration of order that takes place there. According to Lewalski, "Illyria is one of Shakespeare's many places of retreat, but unlike the other places, the characters who retreat to Illyria do not leave it and are not allowed by it. Rather, these characters -- Viola and Sebastian -- enter Illyria and they restore the peace to this 'refuge ... ' Although there is the presence of good will and celebration, there is also madness, disorder, and self-delusion which requires rectification" (Lewalski, p. 137).

Similarly, the main setting for Milton's work is the utopian Garden of Eden. Even when the setting is outside the Garden, reference is made to it and as a result it virtually has become a character of the epic. The Garden of Eden was described


In the eyes of many critics, Milton and Shakespeare are among the most significant English authors. Their writings and influence are an important part of the history of English literature and culture. Shakespeare is best known for the wide variety of plays he has created. He has contributed tragedies, comedies, romances, and historical dramas that are yet to be matched by another playwright. Milton is possibly best known for Paradise Lost, which is generally regarded as the greatest epic poem in the English language. Milton's prose works, however, are also important as a valuable to English culture as the epic. Although on opposite ends of the literary spectrum, many thematic similarities can be seen in the works profiled here.


Bloom, H. (ed.) (1987). John Milton's Paradise Lost. New York: Chelsea House Publsihers.

Corns, T. (1998). John Milton: The Prose Works. New York: Twayne Publishers.

Elledge, S. (1993). John Milton's Paradise Lost: An Authoritative Text Backgrounds and Sources of Criticism. New York: W.W. Norton & Company.

Notkoff, T. (2001). Readings on Twelfth Night. San Diego, CA: Greenhaven Press

Toliver, H. (1989). Transported Styles in Shakespeare and Milton. University Park & London: The Pennsylvania… [END OF PREVIEW]

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