Milton and Freedom in Paradise Lost
The originality of Milton’s <i>Paradise Lost</i> lies in its ability to transform the predominantly secular spirit of Homer, Virgil, Boiardo, and other masters of literary epic into a theological subject outside of the tradition. Although <i>Paradise Lost</i> features familiar elements of epics preceding Milton’s age -- war, splendid nature, visions of the future, formidable journeys -- his subject, the Fall of Mankind or recounting of Genesis, transforms the traditional significance of these elements, giving his epic a new aesthetic appeal as well as (what Milton believed to be) a divine purpose. In recreating God’s divine scheme of Mankind’s destiny, Milton knows his readers are aware of Adam and Eve’s fall from the start, and thus he is able to pull the focus away from ends and redirect it toward teasing out some of the fundamental conflicts of Christian doctrine. With regard to these conflicts, Milton primarily addresses an idea that Christian theologians continue to debate: what freedom means in accordance with God’s divine framework. To depict the purpose of the epic -- to make his readers better Christians -- Milton sets up a struggle between two views of freedom. Between these visions of freedom...
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