Christian Themes (Masterplots II: Christian Literature)
In Paradise Lost, Milton’s Puritanism and his broad Christian humanism transform all aspects of the epic poem. His blindness (since at least 1651) presented no impediment to his achievement. The style, technique, and features of the epic were derived from Homer’s Iliad (c. 750 b.c.e.; English translation, 1611), Homer’s Odyssey (c. 725 b.c.e.; English translation, 1614), and Vergil’s Aeneid (c. 29-19 b.c.e.; English translation, 1553). Milton, however, asserts the uniqueness and superiority of his epic because of its Christian truth rather than pagan myth. In books 1, 3, 7, and 9, the blind Milton indicates that, if he receives the inspiration he seeks and if he can attain an “answerable style,” he will surpass the ancient epics in importance of subject and in majesty of language. He invokes God’s spirit that he may glorify him by showing his power and asks for aid in the task to “assert Eternal Providence/ And justify the ways of God to men.” He combines his inspiration with vast sacred and secular learning. Paradise Lost reconciles the justice of God’s providential design with human freedom and responsibility, defending it with respect to the existence of evil, a form of literature known as theodic.
Milton’s defense of God’s ways, as far as they fall within the scope of human comprehension, is...
(The entire section is 539 words.)
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