What is Milton's style and its features in Paradise Lost?

Milton's style in Paradise Lost can best be described as grand. It is serious, elevated, and forceful as well as extremely allusive and filled with Latinate constructions and high-level vocabulary.

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The best word to describe Milton's style in Paradise Lost is “grand.” Paradise Lost is epic poetry, and Milton elevates his style to match the seriousness and grandeur of his subject matter. Think, for instance, of this famous quotation:

The mind is its own place, and in it self
Can make a Heav'n of Hell, a Hell of Heav'n.

Notice the high tone here, the seriousness, the forcefulness of the assertion, and the language. This is a grand claim for a grand poem.

Scholars also call Milton's style Latinate. Milton often imitates the word order of Latin rather than sticking with English syntax, and Latin word order is much freer than English word order (Latin being an inflected language with word endings that show the function of a word in a sentence). This makes his poetry dense and sometimes quite difficult to follow, but it also increases readers' attention (as they struggle to figure out Milton's sentences) and adds another level of dignity and seriousness to the lines. Look at these lines, for example:

This inaccessible high strength, the seat
of deity supreme, us dispossessed,
He trusted to have seized.

The object (seat) appears first surrounded by modifiers. Milton includes what in Latin would be ablative absolute (“us dispossessed”) but in English throws in yet another phrase to add further information. The subject (he) doesn't appear until the third line. This is very much Latin in style, and it is difficult to parse in English.

Further, Milton's style is highly allusive. He throws all kinds of biblical and classical references into Paradise Lost, expecting that his readers will know what he means. Milton was an extremely learned man; these references were part of his repertoire, part of his intellectual landscape. But they certainly give modern readers plenty to look up. Once, for instance, Milton writes, “Whose waves overthrow / Busiris and his Memphian chivalry.” He is talking about the Egyptians drowned in the Red Sea after the Israelites passed through, but his allusiveness makes this unclear until we discover that Busiris is the mythical son of Egypt and that Memphis, in this case, is a city in Egypt.

Milton also creatively uses extremely high-level vocabulary, again elevating his style to the heights of learned grandeur. Phrases like “the palpable obscure” and “wanted calm” make readers sit up and take notice (and also reach for their dictionaries). Again, Milton's subject matter is high, and he intends for his expression to match it, reaching to the heights and depths into which he carries his readers.

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This is a huge question so I will focus on some of the important characteristics of Milton's style. First, yes, it is an epic poem, and Milton follows the traditional epic form, giving the reader war and love, the supernatural, the descent into hell, a catalogue of warriors. Yet that tells us little about its style. Milton's style is dense, Baroque, packed with similes and metaphors, complex sentences, and overflowing with rich descriptions and images. It is the opposite of stark. It is the opposite of modest. Instead, Milton struts his stuff, including his skill with language, his unabashed exuberance and sense of the importance of his subject, and his immense knowledge.

The poem is extraordinarily allusive. That means it references a vast number of other literary works. Milton was enormously well read and he weaves his knowledge into the rich stylistic tapestry of this grand work. 

Let's look at just one passage, in book 1, lines 65-83:

Regions of sorrow, doleful shades, where peace [65]

And rest can never dwell, hope never comes

That comes to all; but torture without end
Still urges, and a fiery Deluge, fed
With ever-burning Sulphur unconsum'd:
Such place Eternal Justice had prepar'd [70]
For those rebellious, here thir Prison ordain'd
In utter darkness, and thir portion set
As far remov'd from God and light of Heav'n
As from the Center thrice to th' utmost Pole.
O how unlike the place from whence they fell! [75]
There the companions of his fall, o'rewhelm'd
With Floods and Whirlwinds of tempestuous fire,
He soon discerns, and weltring by his side
One next himself in power, and next in crime,
Long after known in Palestine, and nam'd [80]
Beelzebub. To whom th' Arch-Enemy,
And thence in Heav'n call'd Satan, with bold words
Breaking the horrid silence thus began.

Milton describes hell, but he doesn't just say it is a place of fire and darkness: he gives an extended, richly imagined and unrestrained description of it: "a fiery Deluge," "ever burning sulphur unconsumed," "utter darkness," "floods and whirlwinds of tempestuous fire." This is an active, writhing place, full of motion, similar to a Baroque painting. The passage is also full of allusions. For example, "from the center thrice" alludes to the Ptolemaic cosmos, while Beelzebub is a deity whose name means "lord of the flies." Milton speaks in a voice of utter confidence as he introduces characters and, most importantly, grandly sets the stage for Satan's speech. 

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A primary feature of John Milton's style in Paradise Lost in particular is his use of enjambment: verses (lines) that have no end punctuation but are rolled over to the next verse that will contain punctuation, "Yet chains in Hell, not realms, expect: Mean while /  From me returned,..." Due to enjambment, Milton's punctuation may fall within the verse or at the end, "Thyself not free, but to thyself enthralled; /." Another interesting feature of Milton's punctuation is the frequency with which he uses the colon (:). Colons in poetry are not unknown, Goethe uses a well-placed colon here and there, but Milton gives the colon a place of punctuational honor that is uncommon.

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Milton's style is first of all epic; he is consciously writing an epic poem, modeling it after the great epics of the classical past.

His language used is Latinate; he considered writing the poem in Latin, and adapts many terms from Latin. This makes his style seem more formal, and makes many terms more complex than if drawing on more familiar English words.

It is written in blank verse, and iambic pentameter.

He uses many allusions to classical and exotic topics, adding weight and grandeur to the style.

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