Rebellion in Paradise Lost

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17th Century English Literature

Discuss the ideas of rebellion and authority in Paradise Lost by John Milton and George Herbert’s Denial and The Collar.
Paradise Lost was published for the first time in 1667, whereas Herbert’s two poems were published in 1633. This period was called the Restoration. It started in England in 1660 under King Charles II, who restored the monarchy in England, Scotland and Ireland. The literature at that time was dominated by Christian writings and praises to God. However, this period followed the discoveries of Galilee, Copernic and other mathematicians and physicians, who disturbed many people’s faith to God and created an opposition between Reason and Creation. Literature reflected those doubts and many poets and authors questioned Christianity. John Milton was a Presbyterian, and therefore was for the removal of all priests in the churches. He also despised the corruption of the Catholic Church and his views gradually drew him further from the Catholics. George Herbert became a priest at the age of 37. He preached and wrote poetry. The Temple, his collection of poems which includes Denial and The Collar, is an instrument reflecting the author’s need to redefine his relationship to God.

Those three works are centered on man’s submission to God and challenge its legitimacy. In a first part, we are going to emphasize on the characters’ rebellion against God. Then, we will focus on their resolution, the authors’ message and the historical context.

The Collar and Denial were written in 1633 as part of Herbert’s major collection of poems, The Temple. Denial narrates the story of a believer, who turns away from God. God did not listen to him, nor did he answer his requests: “ Thy silent ears ”. The speaker is as a result in spiritual desolation, and feels frustration over God’s seemingly abandonment. The state of rebellion against faith is seen through the rhymes. At first, disorder reigns in the speaker’s head, therefore...
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