Humanism in John Milton's Paradise Lost

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Humanism as the specific system of views had been forming for centuries, absorbing various approaches to the issue of man. As a rule, humanism is defined in terms of several essential meanings. One of these meanings of humanism is the movement of educated people united by the interest in antiquity which was formed in the Renaissance mainly in Italy. Besides, humanism is understood as a special type of philosophical ideology, in the centre of which there is man as an individual with his goals and aspirations, with abilities and inclinations that are typical of his nature. Another meaning of humanism is humanity as a basic principle of man’s attitude to man. Humanism during the Renaissance, despite its opposition to medieval religious ideology, is its successor in many aspects since antiquity and Christianity, despite their ideological contradictions, comprised a range of some similar features, the most important of which was the view that humans are more important than anything else. That is why humanists did not idealise a ‘natural’ man, not enlightened with knowledge and not brought up morally, seeing in man only an opportunity of becoming a ‘real’ man. It meant the affirmation of necessity of man’s improvement and necessity of a certain moral and social ideal. As it is generally known, the appearance and assertion of the term ‘humanism’ is connected with the Renaissance although the ideas of humanity and justice which are the essential points of this notion had been developing since the ancient times. Therefore, the literature written around the time of the Renaissance contains the ideas of humanism. Moreover, the authors who wrote already during the 17th century and represented the Neoclassicism proceeded with the ideas of humanism. John Milton, who grew out of the Renaissance and classical tradition, was one of such authors. He was the greatest Puritan poet and the first English revolutionary poet in the 17th century. Milton’s ‘Paradise Lost’, written during the last stage of his life and being one of the poet’s greatest creations, covers the ideas of humanism most deeply and widely. Since the admiration and significance of antiquity are ones of the essential concepts of humanism, it appears that this ideology is revealed in ‘Paradise Lost’ by imitating epic style of Greek and Roman poets. Starting the epic poem from the invocation of a Muse: ‘Sing, Heavenly Muse...’, ‘Say, Muse, their names then known...’, Milton follows the tradition of the ancient. It is worthy of note that Homer invokes a Muse in ‘The Iliad’, inclining to tell about one of the most important episodes of the Trojan War. Virgil did the same when he started the narration about Aeneas’s adventures. In addition, Milton follows the epic tradition when he starts the narration from a certain dramatic moment in the middle of the plot, and then, later, returns to the beginning of the action and leads it to the end. The events that happened at the beginning (the creation of the World and the War on Heaven) and the events that happened at the end (after humans were drown away from Eden) are told by the angles Raphael and Michael. The very action of the epic is concentrated on ‘Man’s first disobedience’. Besides, the concept of humanism which emphasizes the importance of man who is essentially good and beautiful is displayed in ‘Paradise Lost’ by the images of the main characters Adam and Eve. The reader first sees these protagonists in the Garden of Eden. At this place, life proceeds according to the special laws which rule before man’s Fall. It reminds ancient myths about the Golden Age of mankind. In Paradise, an eternal spring reigns, the birds are singing, the flowers are blossoming luxuriantly and the trees yield fruits. There are no poison snakes, roses with thorns or predatory animals. In Eden, everything is full of paradisiacal harmony, and man as the crown of the creation is the main part of this harmony. To convey the image of harmony subtly,...
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