Paradise Lost



John Milton was born in London on December 9, 1608. He was the son of a successful Protestant merchant, and was provided with an excellent education that included the opportunity to travel widely throughout Europe. He was fluent in a number of classical as well as modern languages, including Greek, Latin, Hebrew, Aramaic, Spanish, Italian, French and Dutch. In 1625, he began his attendance at Cambridge University with the intention of becoming a clergyman in the Church of England, but was disillusioned by what he considered the arrogance and ignorance of his fellow students. He decided that his true calling was to serve God and his country as an author and poet.

Inspired by Roman poets of antiquity, and particularly Virgil, Milton aspired to create a great epic poem in the English language. He considered two other distinctly British topics for his epic—the story of King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table, and the military exploits of the general Oliver Cromwell—before settling on the Biblical story of Adam and Eve and their fall from God’s grace through disobedience. Milton was politically active throughout his life, and was outspoken in his beliefs against monarchy. After the execution of King Charles in 1648, Milton wrote pamphlets in support of the new parliament. Milton suffered from degenerative eyesight; his blindness became total in 1652. In spite of this, he worked as a civil servant under Cromwell’s protectorate, which governed Britain from 1653 to 1658. When Cromwell died and the monarchy was restored, Milton was forced into hiding because of his well-known political beliefs. During this time, he worked on Paradise Lost, which was finally published in 1667.

To situate Paradise Lost in its proper context, it is useful to understand Milton’s views on religion. Milton lived during a time when the Church of England had been split into several sects. Milton was a Presbyterian, and in time he took the Presbyterian idea that bishops should be abolished one step further and called for the abolition of all...

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Essays About Paradise Lost