Milton’s Paradise Lost essay

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Question 1

Compare Satan to Three Other Kings (Beowulf, King Arthur and King Lear)

The main character of Milton’s Paradise Lost is Satan, who seems to differ from the typical epic hero in literature. However, Satan is considered to be a protagonist of the poem, and he possesses all heroic qualities such as nobility, dignity and determination. Satan struggles to overcome his weakness and succeeded in corrupting humankind. Comparing Satan, who wanted to be the King of Heaven, but instead became the King of Hell, to three other kings in English literature (Beowulf, King Arthur, and King Lear) is rather difficult, but one may find some similarities and differences in these characters.

The first difference is that almost all mentioned kings served for good and exemplified the traits of the perfect epic heroes while Satan’s character is far from being the readers’ object of admiration.  Thus, Beowulf is a reliable king, great warrior and among his main traits are strength, courage and bravery. At the same time Beowulf, as well as Satan, embodies those traits, which were dictated by the so-called Germanic code: loyalty and pride.

As for me, pride is the trait which is similar to all the kings (may be except King Arthur) to a certain extent. For example, King Lear is eager to be treated as a king and enjoy such a noble title, but at the same time he does not want to fulfill his obligations of governing for the good.

Another aspect in terms of which one may compare Satan to three other kings we have encountered this semester is character development through the story. Thus, Satan changes greatly from the first part of Paradise Lost to his final appearance in the poem. In the beginning, he appears as a strong fallen-angel of colossal stature. As the plot development, he degrades and once a powerful angel he becomes blinded to God’s grace hero, who will not be able to reconcile his existence with his eternal fate. Beowulf changes over his life as well. At the beginning, he appears as a great warrior, develops as a king and finally dies as warrior, which makes us see a kind of the same character degradation. We may say that both Satan and Beowulf do not realize their degradation and mistakes. King Lear, in his turn, realizes his weaknesses and becomes caring and humble person. However, King Lear does not emerge as better king in the end of the play.

In this way, Satan, Beowulf, King Lear and King Arthur’s characters have something in common as all of them are depicted as leaders and possess heroic qualities. At the same time, everything is different (time, context and characters themselves), and such a comparison is not an easy thing to do.

Question 2

Comparing Milton’s Epic With the Literature of Previous Eras

John Milton, is considered to be a Renaissance writer, created a well-known epic poem Paradise Lost, which possess not only specific features of Milton’s epic, but some features, which were taken from the previous periods of English literature, namely from the Old English period, the Middle English period, Shakespearean era and the 17th Century.

One of the main peculiarities of Milton’s style was the “companionship” with the greatest writers and literary works of the past. Writing Paradise Lost, he paid great attention not only to the content of the work but also to its form, diction, rhythm and language in general and enjoyed the experience of the previous eras. The Milton’s style of  epic is great due to its fullness of sound, compactness, fitness of words and pauses, a grasp of the main idea, weight of march and many other characteristics. At the same time, all words are plain, familiar and stand in their natural order.

As it was mentioned, Milton used the heritage of the previous eras. Thus, during the Old English period many epic poems were created (for example, Beowulf). Speaking about the time of Milton’s life, it is needful to mention that epic poems were not very popular and Milton was the first who put the problems of this time (religion and Christianity) in the form of the epic poem, which was popular in the Old English period. The influence of the Old English Genesis is also rather obvious in Paradise Lost.

Moreover, it goes without saying that Milton was influenced by the Middle English literature, which was famous for allegory, tales of adventure, Chaucer’s work and Arthurian legends. Latter was represented by the portrayal of heroes and their features, which might have served as examples for Milton’s Satan and other characters.

Shakespearean era was presented by the life and work of William Shakespeare. Furthermore, now scholars compare Milton and Shakespeare in terms of their significance and importance for English literature. In fact, when Milton began to write his poems and other writings England was still affected by Shakespeare’s plays and Milton was affected by them as well. As for me, it is not right to compare these to writers as each of them were unique and played really important role in the literature in general.

Thus, John Milton had his individual style, which is presented in all his works (including Paradise Lost). However, this style was created under the influence of the past and literature of the previous eras. John Milton’s epic has features of the Old English period, Milton’s characters have the features of those created in the Middle English literature, and finally the significance and greatness of Milton’s life and work can be compared to Shakespeare’s ones. Milton himself told that his style was grounded on the “companionship” with the greatest people of the past, and this fact is proved by his literary works and their splendor.

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