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John Milton's Paradise Lost as an Epic Poem: Analytical Essay

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They create blockbusters ‘It was a dazzling, cool day in April, and the timepiece stood striking thirteen', they bring metaphors 'Whole world is a stage and all the guys and girls are simply players’, they frame sarcasm and irony ‘Cool, breezy and raining? I like Dutch climate!’. In all of these cases, it is clear-cut that they are not actually presenting the truth, rather just a closely relatable idea. Often there are huge dissimilarity between the occurrence and narration. However, when some represent ethically unpleasant action, others are associated with artwork and poetry. (Emar Maier)

How historically accurate is Shakespeare's story? For centuries, the clans had been waging war on each other. Shakespeare's ‘Macbeth’, written nearly 400 years ago, is widely accepted as one of his great tragedies and rated alongside ‘Hamlet’, ‘King Lear’ and 'Julius Caesar'. But how historically correct is it?

It is generally accepted that Shakespeare wrote the play Macbeth sometime between 1604 and 1606, when there was a new king on the throne, King James I and VI of Scotland. Shakespeare would have gained approval for a Scottish play from the new King. Especially one with witches in it, for it was well known that the King was interested in witches, witchcraft and the supernatural (in 1597 James had written a book on spirits and witchcraft called ‘Demonologies’).

Shakespeare appears to deliberately mix fact and fiction in the play. Apparently using Holinshed's ‘Chronicles of England, Scotland and Ireland’ (1587) as his source, Shakespeare sets the battle between Duncan and Macbeth in 1040 at Birnam Hill in Perthshire, rather than near Elgin where it actually took place. In the play Macbeth dies at Dunsinane whereas in reality it was at Lumphanan where he was defeated and killed in 1057.

Shakespeare's play takes place over a year whereas in reality, Macbeth ruled for 17 years. As for the personalities of the two main characters, Duncan and Macbeth, again Shakespeare's portrayal is not historically correct. In the play Duncan is portrayed as a strong, wise and elderly king whereas in reality he was a young, weak and ineffective ruler. Shakespeare's Macbeth has virtually no legitimate claim to the throne whereas the real Macbeth had a respectable claim through his mother's side - indeed both Macbeth and his wife were descended from Kenneth MacAlpin. Shakespeare also gives Macbeth the title ‘Thane of Glamis’ but in fact Glamis was not known as a thanage in the 11th century. In Shakespeare's play, MacBeth's friend Banquo is shown as a noble and loyal man, resisting evil, a contrast to the character of Macbeth. In Holinshed's ‘Chronicles’ however, Banquo is shown as exactly the opposite: he is an accomplice in MacBeth's murder of Duncan. The new king, James I and VI of Scotland, claimed ancestry from Banquo through the Stewart line of kings. To have shown Banquo as a murderer of kings would not have pleased James! Indeed there is debate as to whether or not Banquo actually existed at all in history.

All in all, the confusing mix of fact and fiction which runs through the play is bewildering. (Ben Johnson)

A poem is no longer solely for a rebuke,

a story is no longer only for a heated discussion,

the job of poems and stories on a person is no longer with the useful aid of logic, wisdom,

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but with the aid of the way of their capability to delight, to provoke, to captivate, to attract,

perhaps so means Philip Pullman in his introduction to John Milton's Paradise Lost.

Paradise Lost is an epic poem in blank verse by the 17th-century English poet John Milton (1608-1674). Although John Milton's epic stays one of the celebrated prominent retelling of the Christian story, how far this work that has mesmerized writers through the generations different from actual biblical account. Milton's poem tells the story of the Fall; of Satan's banishment from heaven for leading an insurrection towards God and of his revenge in corrupting Adam and Eve, then consequently all humans, by way of tempting them to consume the fruit of the tree of understanding of good and evil.

Unlike the Biblical account of the fall in the Book of Genesis, with his epic poem, Paradise Lost, John Milton adds a lot of detail about the complete story of Man, the beginning of Satan, his rise and Man's Fall. Although the ideas for Paradise Lost came from a few pages in the Book of Genesis, Milton's account kept readers wondering what was going to happen next. Because he was going against the church already with Paradise Lost, it was more intriguing for him to take the same ideas in the Bible and extend them into more detail, making Satan look like the Hero and succeeding at what he wanted to do.

Milton wrote paradise lost to prove the techniques of god to men. However, the superstar of the work is unfortunately not the God but Satan, the extremist and spiteful, yet heroic in a most disastrous fashion, as Blake placed Milton he is of the devils team without knowing it. Milton used to be of the devil's gang because he was pushed by a dark suspicion of illegitimate power, he helped the parliamentarians in opposition to Charles I and supported the king's execution for which he was imprisoned and detained following the restoration in 1660. Milton's inborn propensity for insurgency led him additionally to champion freedom of moral sense and speech. 'Give me the freedom to realize, to voice and to argue in liberty accordance to person's moral sense of right and wrong, viewed as acting as a guide to one's behavior', he wrote in Areopagitica one of the great polemics towards censorship. (Kenan Malik: From Milton to Pullman, the quest for truth is riddled with ambiguity)

God created the Son, the angels, Man, Heaven, Earth and everything else. Milton faced a difficult task with creating tension about would happen since God already knew. In Paradise Lost, God is almost emotionless or aloof; he embodies pure reason and pure justice, and every response he gives seems to be cold. In Genesis God is wise and known as the creator and is more the narrator of what is happening than in Milton's epic. Also He is referred to as Lord God, instead of God, like Milton refers to Him. So, in close the start and fall Man to summarize the creation and reason for human nature is ‘God gave Man free will, from Man’s free will, sin and death came into the world.'

Paradise Lost was about Adam and Eve, how they came to be created, the fall of Satan and his journey to get back at God by corrupting Adam and Eve. The main plot of this took place in God's creation called the Garden of Eden. Paradise Lost is similar to the book of Genesis because its story comes from the main pages of Genesis, chapters one through four. It is considered to be Milton's major work, and it helped solidify his reputation as one of the greatest English poets of his time. Most of all the poetry wrote by Milton contains his point of view of his faith. The reason that a lot of Milton's poetry contained his faith may have been influenced from his father. According to Jonathan Rosen, while a child, Milton's family was kicked out of the church due to Milton's father rejecting the Catholic faith in return for the acceptance of Protestantism (Rosen, 4). This taught Milton that if he believed something that he should tell everyone. This was unlike anyone during the time, since people of the time were punished for their beliefs, but Milton wanted to let everyone know how he felt about his faith. According to Myron Taylor, Milton was one of the first poets or writers to start expressing his freedom of speech and religion in the early days, when this type of freedom was unheard of (Taylor, 2). Milton felt so strong about his faith that he thought that it was worth every bit of his life to let everyone know how he felt. Milton was not too lazy to make his long poem rhyme: this was an artistic choice and even a political statement. The publisher was confused why he didn't use rhyme, so Milton wrote an introduction saying that good poetry doesn't have to, since rhyme is nothing ‘but the invention of a barbarous age’.

Paradise Lost begins with a prologue by Milton which states his purpose and an epic description of Satan who is depicted on his back with the other rebellious angels chained to the lake of fire. Genesis starts out saying ‘In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth, And God said, Let there be light and there was light and God separated the light from the dark’ (Genesis).

About the birth of Man and Woman, the Book of Genesis says, ‘Then Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living creature. And the Lord God planted a Garden of Eden, in the east and there he had put the man he had formed, the tree of life was in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil.’(Genesis) Milton's' version of the birth of Adam in Paradise Lost is somewhat similar to the book of Genesis, ‘The first human created by God from the dust of earth, who was created by God after the angels who rebelled were defeated’ (www.gradesaver.com). Similar in birth but Genesis did not mention much about the war between God and the angel nor a timeline of when the first man came to be. It was kind of like there was earth and now there is man in Genesis. In Paradise Lost it gave the back story of the war in Heaven and why God created man.

As for the second birth, I would like to examine the birth of Eve in the two books and the birth of Sin. It is an interesting fact that these are two women' one full human being and the other half human - half serpent. In the book of Genesis, God caused sleep to fall upon man, and while sleeping, he took one of Adam's ribs and made it into a woman and brought her to man, who later named her Eve. Her name is Eve because she was the mother of all ‘living’ In Paradise Lost, Eve is created from Adam's rib as his helper to maintain the Garden of Eden. Before the Fall, Eve was created to serve man. But Sin was created to help destroy man. Eve was presented as submissive to Adam and to an extent dependent on him. Their births are both from the body of who they are serving and yet both books go into depth about only one of how they came to be; Eve from the book of Genesis and Sin from Paradise Lost 'light vs. dark. Milton adds a lot of imagery to the relationship between Sin and Satan, which ultimately ends with the incestuous birth of Death. But Adam and Eve offspring, Cain and Abel, do not come until after the Fall of man and they are barely mentioned in Paradise Lost.

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John Milton’s Paradise Lost as an Epic Poem: Analytical Essay. (2022, December 27). Edubirdie. Retrieved March 1, 2024, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/john-miltons-paradise-lost-as-an-epic-poem-analytical-essay/
“John Milton’s Paradise Lost as an Epic Poem: Analytical Essay.” Edubirdie, 27 Dec. 2022, edubirdie.com/examples/john-miltons-paradise-lost-as-an-epic-poem-analytical-essay/
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John Milton’s Paradise Lost as an Epic Poem: Analytical Essay [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Dec 27 [cited 2024 Mar 1]. Available from: https://edubirdie.com/examples/john-miltons-paradise-lost-as-an-epic-poem-analytical-essay/
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