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...

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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.

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