John Milton and Paradise lost
John Milton was a Protestant and Humanist scholar who felt his poetic inspiration was a gift from God. Born in 1608 in a wealty Puritan family, Milton studied at Cambridge and also learnt Latin, Greek and Italian. His first works were the poems L'Allegro and Il Pensieroso, the pastoral elegy Lycidas and many sonnets, published between 1631 and 1637. He traveled a lot, but his support went to the new Commonwealth, indeed he was appointed secretary for foreign tongues in Cromwell's Council of State. His unfortunate love experience with the daughter of a Royalist caused the poet to justify divorce in a series of pamphlets. Later, he became blind, but blindness helped to stimulate his verbal richness. After the restoration of the monarchy in 1660, Milton and his writings were condemned, but the poet was later released from imprisonment. During these years he wrote his most important works: Paradise lost Paradise Regained and Samson Agonistes.
Paradise Lost tells the biblical story of Adam and Eve, with God and Lucifer. This last one is thrown out of Heaven because of his defeat in the war in Heaven.
Even if Milton knew the Copernican cosmology, he based his universe on the more traditional Ptolemaic system. Here, God sits on the throne surrounded by ten orders of angels. On the other hand, the chaothic realm of Hell. In the centre of the universe, God created the earth.
Inspired by God, he chosed the epic genre for his work, but he did it also to follow the epic conventions. All the characters remind of those created by Homer, but the figure of the epic hero was altereted because of the changing spirit of that age. Not a glory seeker like Achilles, but a more philosophical hero.
The main themes are: evil over mankind, the hope for redemption and the Divine Providence. Even if it looks strange, at the starting Milton describes Satan with many of the characteristics of the epic hero (such as leadership and courage). He put himself in that figure. As Satan escaped from Hell and attacked God's creation, as he was a rebel against the polithical and religious authority.
The style is elevated, with many Latinisms and a new kind of blank verse.