What are some examples of the "grand style" Milton uses in Paradise Lost, particularly from Book I?
The so-called “grand style” of John Milton’s epic poem is the lofty, elevated, or non-colloquial phrasing he uses to add to the dignity of the poem and imply the importance of its subject matter. Milton deliberately chose this style to fit the grand or lofty topic he had chosen for his epic – nothing less than the fall of man and the justice of God’s response to that fall. A more colloquial or “everyday” style of language would not have seemed appropriate to such an inherently important plot and theme.
Several elements help contribute to the “grand style” in which Paradise Lost is written. They include the following:
- A tendency to write in long, often complicated sentences, so that readers cannot simply breeze through the poem but must ponder it carefully. A good example of such a sentence is the very first sentence of the poem, which goes on for 16 lines before the first period finally appears. Although the structure of this sentence is not especially difficult to follow, neither can that structure be called easy or instantly accessible. Milton’s sentences often flow on and on, adding a kind of majesty to the phrasing of the work.
- A tendency to allude, either overtly or indirectly, to the Bible and to classical literature. Since the Christian Bible and the Greek and Roman classics were among the most important texts of Milton’s culture, his habitual allusions to them instantly elevate the tone of his phrasing.
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