Paradise Lost As An Epic Essay

1650 words - 7 pages


Discuss Paradise lost as an epic

Name: Cheshta Arora
Roll no: 0443

The word epic is, in a strict sense used for works that incorporate following characteristics: a long verse narrative on a serious subject, told in a formal and elevated style, and centered on a heroic or quasi-divine figure on whose actions depends the fate of a tribe, a nation, or (in the instance of John Milton’s Paradise Lost ) the human race. The epic as a genre is usually associated with poetry called epic poetry or a heroic poem. Any poem can be heroic, but the epic is separated from other heroic narratives through its magnitude and style. In simplest terms, epics are very long and written in a ...view middle of the document...

Paradise lost is an epic poem composed in the year 1667 by John Milton. Like other renaissance poems, Milton’s Paradise Lost incorporates many different thematic and structural elements from a great many literary genres and modes. It also contains a myriad of specific allusions to major literary texts and exemplary works. Barbara Kiefer Lewalski in her essay ‘The genres of paradise lost’ notes that Paradise Lost’s closest structural affinities are to Virgil’s Aeneid, and that it undertakes in some fashion to define classical heroism in Christian terms. While reading it seems that paradise lost adopts many major elements from other epics like from Homer’s Iliad a tragic epic subject, from Odyssey Satan’s wiles and Craft , from Hesiods Theogeny many aspects of the war between good and evil angels etc.
It seems that Milton was certainly familiar with the classical Homeric epics of the Iliad and the Odyssey, as well as Virgil’s Aeneid. Milton also knew Dante’s Divine Comedy, which, while not technically an epic, has many epic characteristics. Thus ,Milton came to the epic form with the standard conventions associated with an epic, but he also had his own epic in mind.

Milton introduced a complete spectrum of literary forms and genres in Paradise Lost to match the renaissance notion of epic as a compendium of subjects, forms, and styles. Paradise lost incorporates different elements within itself: lyric poetry, including the pastoral mode, as in the descriptions of Paradise, the conversations between the unfallen Adam and Eve, and their joyful prayers to God in the Garden (PL 4.589-735). There are also elements of tragedy, as in Book 9 when Milton, preparing his readers for the fall, writes, "I now must change / Those Notes to Tragic," and continues throughout the book to employ tragic conventions, as when he apostrophizes Eve (PL 9.404-411) and describes the earth's response to the eating of the fruit (PL 9.782-4 and9.1000-4). Throughout the poem, Milton makes use of soliloquy, another tragic convention. In addition, even the ten-book structure of the 1667 edition, according to John Leonard, "might owe something to English tragedy, forming five dramatic acts of two books each". In fact, Milton's first attempts to write the story of man's fall took the form of a tragedy that he later rejected in favor of epic. Scott Elledge writes that Milton favored tragedy because of its "affective and curative powers," which are no less present in Paradise Lost than in his more formal tragedy, Samson Agonistes (Introduction to PL xxvi). As Barbara Lewalski writes, the incorporation of multiple genres into the poem invites us "to identify certain patterns and certain poems as subtexts for portions of Milton's poem, and then to attend to the completion or transformation of those allusive patterns as the poem proceeds" (20).
Paradise Lost contains many classical and Renaissance epic features such as: its theme resolves around common epic subjects like war,...

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