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JOHN MILTON 1608-1674:

JOHN MILTON 1608-1674 He was a Christian humanist He devoted his best years to the Puritan cause He was Secretary of State under Cromwell He wrote many prose pamphlets in defence of the Commonwealth Issues and themes the biblical story of man’s fall (Paradise Lost, 1667) The fusion of classical themes and Christian doctrine.

Milton’s life and works:

Milton’s life and works Milton’s life and literary career is divided into 3 periods : Private study of poetry and classical learning to become a poet During the Civil War he devoted himself to the composition of political and religious pamphlets in defense of the puritan government . After the fall of the Puritan Commonwealth he suffered public disgrace , became blind but he wrote his masterpiece “ Paradise Lost ”.

Paradise Lost 1667:

Paradise Lost 1667 It is a Christian epic poem which deals with the biblical story of the creation of the world and mankind, man’s fall from the state of grace in the Garden of Eden, and man leaving Paradise. It is the last and the greatest work of Renaissance epic : it is full of the spirit of Greek and Roman literature (Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey, and Virgil’s Aeneid were Milton’s great models.) The poem is also a political allegory of English history of the period. Satan’s rebelllion seems to refer to the rebellion of the Puritans against Charles I, which led to the Civil War and the Commonwealth. Epic poem Literary models : Classical epics and the Bible Central theme : the Fall of Man caused by Satan ’s revenge Style: written in blank verse , with latin syntax , full of biblical and classical references Political allegory of Puritan revolution against Monarchy

“Better to reign in Hell than serve in Heaven”:

“ Better to reign in Hell than serve in Heaven ” Milton gives Satan the rhetorical voice of a great leader, who has lost everything except his self confidence, energy and charisma. This quality of of Milton’s Satan was later admired by the Romantics, who saw him as the best example of the dark solitary hero, who fights alone against society and the universe. In Book 1, Satan , called Lucifer as he was the brightest of the rebel angels , because of pride , is thrown out of heaven down into a dark region : hell . Here Satan gathers the other fallen angels around a lake of liquid fire and speaks to them .In this passage Satan speaks bravely and beautifully , like a king to his people. He begins with a rhetorical question (“ is this the region… ”) that is a question to which he already knows the answer : the devils must change the light of heaven for the darkness of hell . But then Satan says that he is indifferent for the new state: “ Farthest from him is best”. Satan hasn ’t lost his pride because he wants to be equal to God . He affirms the superiority of the mind over external circumstances : “The mind is its own place , and in itself can make a heaven of hell , a hell of heaven ”. For Satan what really matters is to be free and have power . He has immense pride : “ Better to reign in hell than serve in heaven ”. ( this is one of the most famous lines in English literature ).


Questions Milton’s life and literary career are traditionally divided into three periods. What characterizes each period? In what way can Satan be considered an epic ‘hero’? Summarise the main elements of Paradise Lost. In what way can Paradise Lost be seen as a political allegory?

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