Fall of Man in John Milton’s Epic Poem, Paradise Lost

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Paradise Lost, John Milton’s epic poem about the fall of man and the loss of Eden, is a subtly politically charged writing that reflects his own personal struggles and political viewpoints during 17th century England. There are many similarities between his epic poem and the despair and disappointment experienced during the reign of Charles I and the English Civil War. Through this poem, and with attention paid to the historical context with which it was written, Milton not only produces a great work of English literature, but also the seed for a discussion on civil disobedience and civil war. During the reign of Charles I, the people of England were divided into two groups due to their opinions on how the country should be run: The Royalists, and the Parliamentarians. The Royalists were those people who supported Charles I and his successor, while the Parliamentarians were those who supported the idea that Parliament should have a larger role in government affairs. Milton was a Parliamentarian and was an outspoken enemy of Charles I, having written numerous essays and pamphlets regarding his ideas as to how the government should be run, and “In one very famous pamphlet, he actually defended Parliament's right to behead the king should the king be found inadequate.” Charles I was seen as a corrupt and incompetent ruler, and “the Parliamentarians were fed up with their king and wanted Parliament to play a more important role in English politics and government.” This belief was held because of the unethical and tyrannical behavior of ruler Charles I. During his reign, he violated the liberties of his people and acted with hypocrisy and a general disregard for his subjects. Examples of his abuse of power in... ... middle of paper ... ...war.” The reason civil war is such a predominant aspect of Paradise Lost is a direct result of Milton and the Parliamentarians living through the English Civil War, and the emphasis in Paradise Lost that the reason for war is Satan’s resentment toward God mirrors the people’s resentment toward Charles I, which led to the English Civil War. In conclusion, Paradise Lost can be seen through a historically contextual lens that allows us to see the parallels between Milton’s life and experiences during the reign of Charles I, and the predominant themes in his epic poem. Many of the themes in Paradise Lost, from the broader situational occurrences to the behavior of individual character’s and their attitudes toward the situations in which they find themselves can be seen as directly influenced by Milton’s time as a Parliamentarian in 17th century England.

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