John Milton was born in 1608 in London into a highly educated family, so he had a great culture, and his first works were l’Allegro and il Penseroso. Then Milton went to the continent, in particular to Italy, and he stayed for almost 2 years. In these years he met Galileo and other Italians. Then he had to come back to England where the civil war was being waged, he was on the side of Puritans. He wrote Aeropagitica, in the book he advocated freedom of press and speech. He became the foreign secretary in new Commonwealth, and became the official defender of Cromwell’s republic, and in this period wrote a lot of pamphlets for republic. When the monarchy was restored, Milton lost his job, was imprisoned and, thanks to a friend, he was spared. He lost his political importance and he also became blind and, depending on others, he managed to produce his greatest works, belonged to the third period of his creative life (the first was the one based on Italian culture, and the second the political period).
His masterpiece is Paradise Lost, a great epic poem focused on original sin and the loss of Eden, written from 1655 to 1665 in 12 books. There are 2 characteristics of Milton: he dealt with biblical theme, because he was Puritan; and he had classical style, reminds as Greek tragedy. He also wrote Paradise Regained, the sequel-answer and Samson Agonistes, which is the tale of a blind hero who avenges himself by pulling down the temple on the heads of his enemies. Milton died in 1674.
Milton, the greatest writer of his age, devoted his entire work to the cause of Puritans. His masterpiece is Paradise Lost, which had a biblical matter, in fact he dealt with the loss of Paradise through eating the forbidden fruit. This poem followed the style of classical epic such as Aeneid or Ilyad; Milton’s inspiration came from Gerusalemme Liberata, by Tasso. We can found many elements drawn from the epic: for example the invocation to the Muse, the elevated subject matter, the description of the war which provokes the fall of the Angels; Satan himself was seen as an hero; there are also supernatural elements and magic shown by Satan; and also th1e tone is elevated and meter used is blank verse.
Satan is one of the most attractive characters: at the start, he is the epic hero, the incarnation of beauty fallen from grace, which fascinated the Romantics. But then he transform himself when he takes the form of a serpent to corrupts Adam and Eve for avenging on God, so he became a vile creature, not longer the hero of the first part, who fascinated Milton. It could be done a comparison between Dante, both described hell, but in different ways: for Dante hell is organized, and for Milton is a state of chaos. They are both caught up in their religious ideas; but speaking on politics, Dante talked about society on his time, whereas Milton talked mainly of the original sin. Finally, Dante used a simple language, which could be understood by everybody; Milton used an elevate tone.
There was an hierarchical ladder, where God is in the top, he incarnated love, justice, grace and intelligence. Then we find the Archangels, the Angels, the Man and in the end animals. God is the perfection, and animals are wild, dominated by instincts. Men are closest to animals, we are too curios, and that’s the reason why Eve could be tempted. They had the free will, they had the possibility of choosing so they became sinners.