John Milton



 

I. Biography:

1. A highly self-conscious poet: resemblance with Edmund Spenser (beginning with the pastoral and ending with the epic)
In his self positioning as a national bard: Speaking for the whole nation.

In his pursuit of the ideal poetic career: highly knowledgeable and linguistically versatile.

2. Coming from the background of wealthy bourgeoisie.

From the Anglican Church to Puritanism: with his growing sense of poetic mission Also from the orthodox to the heretical: showing contempt for the Anglican Church 3. Involvement in the Revolution: ending up as Latin Secretary to Cromwell’s Protectorate
Attack against prelacy and bishop; Defense of divorce; Defense of press freedom.

4. Personal Tragedies before and during the Restoration: unhappily married, impoverished, blind, ill, in loss of dear family members, but also a time of profuse poetic production.

II. Discussion of His Poetic Works (except for Paradise Lost)

1. Lycidas: One of the three greatest pastoral elegies in English literature, in memorial of a Cambridge contemporary, dealing with uncertainty of human endeavors (anxiety over mortality and poetic creativeness)
The Christian and Classical associations of the shepherd figure: Either as prophet and pastor OR as carefree figure of harmonious existence with Nature .

The Conventions of Pastoral Elegy: recollection of past friendship; questioning of a young, promising life cut short; procession of mourners; flower passage

2. Areopagitica: In defense of freedom of speech or press freedom

3. Public Sonnets: revolutionizing the Petrarchan tradition, on public and grand occasions

4. Paradise Regained: Jesus’ temptation by Satan in the Wilderness for forty days

5. Samson Agonistes: A classical closet tragedy, with resemblances between the Biblical hero and the author himself (Both PR and SA concern achievement of self-understanding and clear sense of mission)
6. Christian Doctrine: Denial of the Trinity; Insistence on Free Will; Inspiration of the Spirit over the Scriptures and Ten Commandments

III. Discussion of Paradise Lost:

1. The explicit purpose: “To justify the ways of God to men”

2. Plot Summary:

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