Milton, Satan and Revolution

So it’s at this point – this is after the revolution has failed that Milton begins to write his epic poem: it’s at this point that Milton chooses to write an epic, not on a nationalist theme as Virgil had done or as Spenser had done. There was simply no nation worth writing about. All of Milton’s labors in the cause of liberating England from the tyranny of monarchy had in some way – could be construed as having been useless. All of Milton’s expectations that England might actually be transformed, and they were glorious expectations, into something like a Puritan utopia or even a Puritan paradise – all of that had been destroyed. It’s at this point that Milton chose for the subject of his epic poem the subject of the tragedy that he’d been contemplating for so many years. The epic was going to treat the Fall, the Fall of Adam and Eve from their blissful state in Eden, but also the fall of the rebel angels after their failed revolution. There’s a continual analogy running through Paradise Lost, and it’s a very troubling one, that associates the paradise that man lost with the utopian government that England lost. Of course, perhaps even more troubling is the satanic parallel as well. You’ll want to think about why Milton seems so aggressively to invite the association of the failure of the just revolution of the Puritans, and of course that’s how he would see it, with the failure of the unjust revolution of the rebel angels under the guidance of Satan.

Professor John Rogers
Yale Open Courses
Lecture 9 – Paradise Lost, Book I