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The Epic Poem “Paradise Lost” by John Milton

It has become common today to view the most notable literary works in the light of their reflection of the specific era. Paradise Lost, the epic poem written by 17th-century English poet John Milton in 1667, represents the political and historical events of this period. Still, it can be argued that it is a purely biblical story as it concerns the Fall of Man – the transition of Adam and Eva from a state of innocent obedience to God to a state of guilty disobedience. Yet, this writing will provide the analysis of Paradise Lost as the reflection of the era by examining Milton’s background and the poem itself and its connection with the historical context of this time.

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As a political activist, John Milton is known for his antimonarchical and republican views, which he mirrored in his works. Being borne in turbulent times, which led to the English Civil War in 1642-1651, he was dedicated to implementing his talents by defending the rights of the people (Kili 2). These findings are consistent with the claim that the significant writings of Milton, including Paradise Lost, represent his political ideology. Another essential point to take into account is the author’s religious background. The Anglican Church split into three sects during his lifetime, with Milton belonging to the Presbyterian one. It influenced his view to a great extent in terms of demanding the removal of the bishops and attacking corruption. His strong commitment to religion in conjunction with the protection of individual liberties resulted in the poem. To infer, John Milton’s background is vital for understanding the context of Paradise Lost and its connection with the historical events happening during this time.

Proceeding to the poem itself, it is important to analyze the plot with a focus on the author’s central ideas. Essentially, one can refer to Paradise Lost as the rewriting of Genesis through Milton’s world perception, especially considering his religious and political beliefs. The main themes recurring through all ten books are the struggle between good and evil, fate versus free will, and obedience against rebellion. The famous speech of Satana, who is a bright, independent heroin Milton’s perspective, finishes with the words: “Better to reign in hell, than serve in heaven,” showing us his specific outlook on Genesis (Milton, I: 254–63). God’s address to his Son demonstrates the second struggle: whereas foreseeing Adam’s Fall, it is still the Man who makes a choice (Milton, III: 95–111). The last theme can be represented by Eve’s speech and clarifies her attitude to obedience and rebellion (Milton, IX: 726–30). The main inference is that Paradise Lost tends to be more than just a biblical tale, as it provides Milton’s view on the Christian motives.

The seventeenth century is one of the most important historical eras for England and the world, finding reflection in many works, with Paradise Lost is not an exception. The incipient conflict between the King and the Parliament, the Thirty Years War, and the English Civil War can be called the most prominent events of this period (Brice 1). Milton presents the main actors of the poem through his political perspective: Satana reminds a republican politician and militant, God’s monarchy in Heaven reflects the royalist attitude. In the last books, he demonstrates his opinion about England’s best form of government – a free commonwealth based on the core human virtues.

To conclude, Milton’s Paradise Lost highly reflects political and historical events of the era, such as the English Civil War. Although the poem’s foundation is the Biblical story of the Creation, it is not a purely religious book. John Milton rewrote it through his perspective, influenced by political and religious motives.

Works Cited

Brice, Katherine. The Early Stuarts. Hodder & Stoughton, 1994.

Kili, Volkan. Milton’s Political Ideas and Paradise Lost as a Political Allegory. Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2018.

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Milton, John. Complete Prose Works. Yale University Press, 1962.

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