Milton’s Paradise Lost

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Milton’s Paradise Lost


Critics of the Romantic Period have claimed that John Milton was unconsciously allied with the forces of evil. In Paradise Lost Milton’s accounts of “Devils & Hell” are much more elaborate and awe inspiring than those of “Angels & God.” Hell and Satan are portrayed extensively whereas the reader is given brief and inconclusive glimpses of Heaven. The apparent dichotomy is explained by William Blake: “The reason Milton wrote in fetters when he wrote of Angels & Gods, and at liberty when of Devils & Hell, is because he was a true Poet and of the Devil’s Party without knowing it.”
Milton’s adherence to orthodox views resulted in an uninspired portrait of Heaven. Hell, in contrast, was greatly developed; the vivid imagery of the volcanic and desolate terrain gave Hell a genuine ambience. Milton described Hell as a “lake of fire” (280) and commented on the “Floods and Whirlwinds of tempestuous fire” (77). He indicated that darkness is given off instead of light: “No light, but rather darkness visible” (63). The devils, especially Satan, were characterized in more detail than the angels or God. The first two books of Paradise Lost featured the fallen angels’ debate regarding their future plans. As a “true Poet” Milton sought to appeal to the emotions of his readers. The natural human inclination towards evil inspired Milton’s powerful description of Hell as opposed to his unimaginative view of Heaven.
Milton held strongly antipathetic views with regard to tyrannical authorities. He created numerous pamphlets to protest the regime of unjust rulers such as King Charles I. Blake suggested that Milton’s opposition to tyranny was also applicable to the authority of God. Both Satan and Milton expressed similar rebellious sentiments. In Paradise Lost, Satan speaks of God’s unjust rule, which parallels Milton’s philosophy regarding tyrannical princes and kings of his day. For example, Satan says to his followers that “All is not lost; the unconquerable Will / And study of revenge, immortal hate / And courage never to submit or yield” (106-108).

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Thus, a natural alignment existed between Milton and his interpretation of Satan.
Satan was the most thoroughly characterized entity in Milton’s epic poem, Paradise Lost. Similarities between Milton and Satan, such as their mutual opposition to tyranny, indicate that Milton may have unconsciously created his version of Satan in his own image. William Blake’s claim that Milton was “of the Devil’s Party without knowing it” indicates that he held similar views regarding the connection between Milton and Satan.


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