Milton’s Paradise Lost

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This essay-like commentary is aimed at discussing how John Milton’s Paradise Lost (1667) conforms to the genre of Epic or Heroic Poetry. In order to achieve that first they will be enlightened the similarities of this work, in both form and content, with the general characteristics of the genre. Afterwards, a closer look will be provided to the way Milton’s work incorporates and adapts the elements that the classical period and Old English added to Epic. Finally, a conclusion will be determined.
Genre of Epic Poetry
Epic poems are characterised for being narrative, meaning they primarily tell a story. They were usually associated to societies who fought, so it denoted some sort of prestige. That is the case of Paradise Lost, as for Milton the Biblical story of the temptation of Adam and Eve by Satan, the fall from Heaven, and Christ’s redemption was true, and so he put it in the epic form.
Since Paradise Lost is an epic, the reader is instinctively drawn to the search of deeds typical of a heroic figure that could be either legendary or based on real historic personages. However, Milton displays several characters that could perform that role, as all of them prove their heroic courage by accomplishing deeds of great valour. Satan is portrayed as a rebellious lord displaying energy and drive. That contrasts with the fact that he is the enemy of God and mankind, as his name in Hebrew indicates; ‘adversary’ (Loewenstein, 1993, p.58). In turn, God’s Son is the expected hero, responding to the admirable quality of classical heroes (Bradford, 2001, p.98), who redeems the world God had created from sin and sacrifices himself for mankind. Similarly, Adam and Eve heroically face the struggle of living in a fallen world infested by sin.

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... content, plus it encapsulates and recalls the traditions of the epic in ancient times while introducing at the same time his own view and the one of his period, the Renaissance. Actually, it is considered one of the greatest epics because of astronomical magnitude of the story, scope, settings, characters and impact.

Works Cited

Neo English Word Press (2014) "Paradise Lost": A Classical Epic. Available at: (Accessed 29 March 2014)
Loewenstein, D. (1993). Milton "Paradise Lost". Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
Fowler, A. (ed.) (1971) Paradise lost. Harlow: Longman
Burkhardt, M. S (1997) John Milton's Paradise Lost. New York: Macmillan
Weston, P. (1990) John Milton, Paradise lost. Harmondsworth: Penguin
Bradford, R. (2001) The complete critical guide to John Milton. London: Routledge

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