The epic in general, ancient and modern, may be describes as a dispassionate recital in dignified rhythmic narrative of a significant theme or action fulfilled by heroic characters and supernatural agencies under the control of a sovereign destiny. The theme involves the political or religious interests of the people or mankind. The epic awakens the sense of the mysterious, the awful and the sublime. According to Aristotle, the epic action should have unity, entirety and sublimity. Its style must be proportionate to its great subject and architecture. Milton's epic, "Paradise Lost", by and large has all these features of an epic on a higher scale.
Milton tried to keep as close as possible to the rules and regulations of epic poetry as derived by Aristotle after an analysis of ancient Greek poetry.
The first essential feature of the epic is its fable or theme which should be national significance. Milton's subject transcends the bounds of a particular race or nationality. It has a cosmic character. As Coleridge observed, it represents the origin of evil, and the conflict between good and evil. It considts the basis of philosophy.
Aristotle pointed out that epic "has no limit of time and it has a special capacity for enlarging its dimensions". In Paradise Lost focused in Eden, confined by the unities. B. Rajan said that it would have sacrificed the propulsive power of style, the sense, the interplay of cosmic forces, integreted perspectives of time and space that give the epic not merely its dimension but its basic strength as a model of reality. The fall of Man is the theme of the epic. It was a subject unattempted yet in prose or rhyme.
In an epic there should be three actions- a) it should be one action, b) it should be complete in itself, having a beginning, middle and end and c) it should be sublime action. The action of this epic has a unity of texture
Lilton's subject is greater than of Homer or Virgil. It has achieved universality.
The characters in an epic should be larger than life.
(Rest in a next post)