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Epic Characteristics of Miltons Masterwork Paradise Lost By Dani pic Characteristics of Miltons Masterwork Paradise Lost is one of the finest examples of the epic tradition in all of literature In composing this extraordinary work John Milton was for the most part following in the manner of epic poets of past centuries Barbara Lewalski notes that Paradise Lost is an epic whose closest structural affinities are to Virgils Aeneid she continues however to state that we now recognize as well the influence of epic traditions and the presence of epic features other than Virgilian Among the poems Homeric elements are its Iliadic subject the death and woe resulting from an act of disobedience the portrayal of Satan as an Archillean hero motivated by a sense of injured merit and also as an Odyssean hero of wiles and craft the description of Satans perilous Odyssey to find a new homeland and the battle scenes in heaven The poem also incorporates a Hesiodic gigantomachy numerous Ovidian metamorphoses an Ariostan Paradise of Fools and Spenserian allegorical figures Sin and Death 3 There were changes however as John M Steadman makes clear The regularity with which Milton frequently conforms to principles of epic structure make his occasional but nevertheless fundamental variations on the epic tradition all the more striking by contrast The most important departures from epic decorum--the rejection of a martial theme and the choice of an argument that emphasizes the heros transgression and defeat instead of celebrating his virtues and triumphs--are paradoxically conditioned by concern for the ethical and religious decorum of the epic genre On the whole Milton has retained the formal motifs and devices of the heroic poem but has invested them with Christian matter and meaning In this sense his epic is something of a pseudomorph--retaining the form of classical epic but replacing its values and contents
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