Biblical Themes in Shakespeare

Biblical Themes in Shakespeare

The three overriding Biblical concepts in the play are the fruits of folly, the cancer of deception, and the poverty of unbiblical love. Many examples of each of those themes can be found in the text, which correspond closely to what the Bible says on the same subject. Folly abounds in Twelfth Night, and it bears various kinds of fruit. The fruit of the coarse jesting among Maria, Sir Toby, and Feste is confusion, wasted time, and personal offense. Even though Malvolio is not a sympathetic character, he suffers greatly from the trick that is imposed on him, and spouts vanity as he imagines future wedded bliss with Olivia. Sir Toby and Sir Andrew represent different aspects of folly, and neither will inspire any child as a potential role model. Sir Toby epitomizes sloth, and is manipulative of Andrew in order to sustain his self-indulgence. Sir Andrew, aside from not comprehending the true nature of love, reveals the poverty of his philosophy when he states that life consists of eating and drinking (Act II, S. III), to which Sir Toby commends him as a scholar, showing the depths of his foolishness. There is a rich storehouse of Biblical thought concerning the contrast between wisdom and folly. Verses like “The thought of foolishness is sin: and the scorner is an abomination to men,” (Proverbs 24:9) and “I applied mine heart to know, and to search, and to seek out wisdom, and the reason of things, and to know the wickedness of folly, even of foolishness and madness:” (Ecclesiastes 7:25) should be familiar to most Bible readers. Deception is practiced wholesale in Twelfth Night. Although Shakespeare is highly inventive in the manner in which he portrays deception, it is important to note that he never justifies it. Viola nearly misses out on the love of her life by purposing to deceive, while Malvolio is devastated by the deception that is practiced on him. Even the clown deceives Malvolio by pretending to be a priest…


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