The epic genre has existed for centuries and it isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. However, as culture and values change so does the epic tradition. Milton played a large role in introducing the Christian worldview to the epic tradition through the epic poem Paradise Lost. Instead of continuing the tradition through humanistic values, Milton applies his faith to the epic genre and allows Christian values and truths to permeate through the text of Paradise Lost.
First of all, it is important to address that Milton’s Paradise Lost still contains many elements that define it as a member of the epic genre. It follows the story of a hero (or anti-hero), it involves warfare and elements of the supernatural, it begins in the midst of the action, with earlier events in the broader story brought back through flashbacks (Satan’s forces are defeated after the battle in heaven), and it expresses the ideals and values of a people group (Christians). He even invokes a muse though not the ones who inspired the traditional epics. Instead he calls upon the Holy Spirit to be his inspiration for the epic surrounding the events of the fall of humanity. Although Milton did not reject the epic genre he certainly reformed many of its characteristics in accordance with his Christian faith.
One of the main differences Milton introduces to the epic genre is how he presents the protagonist. Many readers and critics can’t seem to come to a consensus on who the protagonist of Paradise Lost is. Many would say that Satan is the protagonist as we closely follow his actions and thinking patterns throughout the poem. The epic begins in the depths of hell right after Satan and the fallen angels had been ...
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...s stated earlier; that in the traditional epic form the hero is defined by traits of bravery, courage, honor and victory but Milton’s reformed epic values freedom in Christ, love, humility and dependence in Christ. Milton’s faith caused these values to be placed above those of the traditional epic. Although the poem ends on a dark event the ending is still somewhat hopeful as Adam and Eve leave the garden hand in hand having acquired these virtues through their error.
In Paradise Lost, Milton displays the Christian worldview by integrating truths and values of his faith in place of humanistic values. Key elements such as the nature of the protagonist, the setting in which the epic takes place, and rudiments of the plot convey the fundamental aspects of Christianity. Milton took his worldview and applied it to a worldly genre, revolutionizing the epic tradition.
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