Critically analyse the hellenic and Hebraic elements in Milton's Paradise Lost.

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lynnebh eNotes educator| Certified Educator

We cannot write your essay for you, but we can give you some help on how to do it. First of all, Paradise Lost is an epic poem based on the Biblical account of man’s creation and fall found in the book of Genesis. Epic poetry is an Hellenic element (Iliad, Odyssey, Aeneid). There are tons of Hebraic elements since the story itself is the foundation of the Hebrew religion– a monotheistic God who is holy and superior to man but who loves man, for example. This is unlike the gods and goddesses of Hellenic tradition, who were more like man and had man’s foibles such as pride, greed, etc. The character closest to the idea of an Hellenic immortal would be Satan, who has been thrown out of heaven because of his pride, a human quality. Some scholars believe that Satan is the hero of Paradise Lost, but this is hotly debated to this day. Satan does have some heroic (therefore Hellenic) qualities like Achilles, for example, but since his first major act is one of disobedience, many scholars believe this discounts him as a true Hellenic hero. The idea of Messiah is a Hebrew element, however Jesus as Messiah is part of Milton’s Christian beliefs.

Adam can be considered an Hellenic element because he is the father of a new race in much the same way as Aeneas. Plus, Milton claims that he has been inspired by a muse, which is another Hellenic element. If you consider Paradise Lost in comparison to the Hebrew Scriptures and Greek epic poetry, you will find many more elements.