Literature and the Individual in Early Modern Masterpieces

Topics: Epic poetry, John Milton, Homer Pages: 5 (983 words) Published: May 23, 2015


Literature and the Individual in Early Modern Masterpieces
ENG 106
April 27, 2015
Literature and the Individual in Early Modern Masterpieces
In the early modern masterpieces, John Milton was known for his unique ability to write in multiple languages and multiple styles of literature. One of his most famous pieces of literature was Paradise Lost. Milton was a man of deep faith, most specifically the Protestant faith. It was because of his faith that he had no fear of expressing his views on religion and the individual; he did this even when they were not in line with what was the popular view. Today we can see that Milton had a significant influence on the American mindset in his day, in ours, and he will continue to influence those in the future. Earlier Works

Milton was very educated in a wide range of subjects, to include philosophy and theology. It was his educated background that allowed him to respond to the earlier works of literature. Milton took the opportunity to meet other great writers of the day, writers like Galileo. He chose to focus on political and religious writings that would help the Puritan Reformation, of which he was a supporter. He had strongly held beliefs and outlooks on politics and religion and encouraged others to accept these same beliefs. It was this quality of his work that gives Milton’s work its classical authority, which can be seen when seen in the same light as earlier authors like Homer, Virgil, and Shakespeare. While Milton’s focus was on Puritan writings, he did publish a poem that was in Shakespeare’s Fourth Folio (Damrosch & Pike, 2008). It was in this poem, the English version of the epic poem, that he made references to earlier authors like Homer and Virgil, references that were included in his most famous work, Paradise Lost considered one of the most influential pieces of literature that Milton penned. Paradise Lost is an epic poem, like the Iliad and the Aeneid which tell a story about godlike heroes and villains. John Milton follows the three prominent traits that make up the classically epic poem; asking for a muse to inspire his writing, having supernatural warfare, and engaging a character in a dark voyage. Milton writes, “Of my Celestial Patroness, who deigns her nightly visitation unimplor’d, and dictates to me slumb’ring, or inspires” (Damrosch & Pike, 2008, pg. 1772). Like earlier writers, Milton petitions the muse and asks for her to come to him while he sleeps and inspire his words. Literary Qualities

It was Milton’s deep religious beliefs that molded the literary qualities of his work. He proudly stood up for his beliefs, not changing to the match the beliefs of the unjust rulers of his day, the monarchy. He believed in individualism, so much so that after the death of King Charles he published works that expressed his views on the right of the people to remove and punish those who ruled with tyranny. This led to his being put on trial and imprisoned, later to be released and ordered to pay a huge fine. Milton’s strong Protestant beliefs and individualism influenced his theological beliefs, which influenced his writing of Paradise Lost. Paradise lost was a representation of the Puritans, their belief in purity and truth in a corrupt society (Parry, 2008). He was not afraid to question his faith and ask the difficult and probing questions that so many in his day were afraid to ask. Another literary quality of Milton’s Paradise Lost was his invention of over 600 new words, just as Shakespeare’s creation of more than 2000 words and expressions (Crace, 2008). The words he created were regular words that were given new and different meanings. It was his knowledge of many different languages that helped him to create new words, giving readers a new perspective on the world around them. By creating new words, he was also able to bring a new perspective to literature, both his own and that of others (Crace, 2008).

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