What are the classical elements of Milton's epic poem, Paradise Lost?
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What is so fascinating about this epic classic is the way that Milton takes so many elements of classical literature and adopts them, but only to subvert them. Consider the variety of aspects in this poem that we would normally associate with classical poetry. Firstly the beginning starts in the middle of the action, there is repetition of the phrase "what cause?", the angels indulge in epic games and there are long lists of armies, soldiers and wars to name but a few.
However, if we examine such classical elements carefully, we can see that Milton always uses them for his own purposes. For example, the statement of his theme and purpose deliberately parallels the introduction of Virgil and Homer. However, unlike these two epic authors, he appeals to the power of Providence instead of Fate. In addition, with his standard invocation to the Muse at the beginning of the poem, he addresses Urania and then the Holy Spirit as being responsible for his work. Other classical authors addressed Calliope, who was the Muse epics normally began by invocating.
In its framework 'Paradise Lost' is a classical epic. It is written in the form of a classical epic. Milton conceived and executed the grand scheme of the poem in accordance with the design of Homer's 'Iliad' and Virgil's 'Aenied' - The great epics of classical antiquity. To a great extent he conforms to the rules of the epic poetry laid down by Aristotle. In conformity with the classical tradition 'Paradise Lost' opens with a proposition followed by an invocation in the manner of Homer and Virgil. Its theme is classical. Like classical epics, it contains several episodes. It is saturated with Milton's classical learning. It is written in a grand style befitting its grand theme and characters. It is full of classical allusions.It contains Homeric similies. It has a great hero and deals with great action. It conforms to the Aristotlean theory of the epic poetry.
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