This essay explores the political implications of the periodization divides created by the closing of the public theaters in 1642 at the start of the English Civil War and their reopening in 1660 at the restoration of Charles II. The meaning of the theater, and the meanings attributed to the cultural icons of Shakespeare and Milton, played important parts in the cultural battle between royalists and republicans, and those debates continue to shape literary studies in the twenty-first-century university despite recent reevaluations of the literature of the Civil War and the Revolution. Shakespeare is walled off from Milton, drama separated from poetry, prose, and epic. These divides distort the readings of the period’s literature and, at a time of resource scarcity, threaten to limit which writers and texts are researched and taught. The essay concludes with a reading of Paradise Lost that puts drama, dialogue, and conversation at the center. In the dramatic Milton, meaning is found in dialogue and conversation, growing out of the noise of debate and conflict.

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