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26 votes
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Was Paradise Lost the first major work of literature to give "sympathy for the devil"?

As asked, the question is difficult to answer. Several premises are open to question: What constitutes a "major work"? What is your definition of "sympathy" in this context? ...
verbose's user avatar
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16 votes

What is an epic and why is there “only one epic in English Language so far”?

Since Milton is often discussed in the context of Renaissance literature, I'll quote the definition of "epic" from The Renaissance (edited by Marion Wynne-Davies, Bloomsbury Guides to ...
Tsundoku's user avatar
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9 votes

Meaning of a passage in Milton's Sonnet 21

Milton is asking his friend Cyriack Skinner to take a brief break from studious pursuits. The opening stanza introduces Skinner, whose grandfather was the celebrated jurist Edward Coke, Chief Justice ...
verbose's user avatar
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9 votes
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"That Christ deny’d divorce to his own", what does Milton mean here in this phrase from "The Doctrine & Discipline of Divorce"?

By his own, Milton means the apostles. The context of both Matthew and Mark makes this clear. The Pharisees ask Jesus about divorce. Jesus replies that given what Moses said, divorce cannot be ...
verbose's user avatar
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9 votes
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What might Milton mean by "the work of male and female" in his "The Doctrine & Discipline of Divorce"?

By “the work of male and female”, Milton means procreation (the generation of children), and by association, sexual intercourse. In this passage Milton explains that an advocate of divorce must expect ...
Gareth Rees's user avatar
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8 votes

Why aren't God's pronouns capitalized in Paradise Lost?

Reverential capitalization has never been a constant in English language works, and it's newer than you think. John Milton, born as the final touches were being made on the King James Version, may not ...
Laurel's user avatar
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8 votes
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Satan's motivation in Paradise Lost

Milton says a couple of times that Satan’s motives were envy (of Jesus, whom God nepotistically promoted above him) and pride: Th’infernal Serpent; he it was, whose guile Stird up with Envy and ...
Gareth Rees's user avatar
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7 votes
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Did Milton invoking the Muse imply that he didn't want to rely on the Bible?

TL;DR: No. It’s true that Milton was opposed to biblical literalism, and it’s also true that in Paradise Lost he used a scheme in which figures from Classical mythology, including the Muse, were ...
Gareth Rees's user avatar
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7 votes
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What passage of the Book of Malachi does Milton refer to in chapter VI, book I of "The Doctrine & Discipline of Divorce"?

Malachi is a short book, and there is only one passage which is directly about divorce, 2:13-16, with 2:16 being the key text here. Milton cites John Calvin's translation, given in his commentary on ...
alexg's user avatar
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7 votes

Is Keats' swan with "neck of arched snow" an allusion to Milton's "swan with arched neck"?

Keats’ debt to Milton in these lines was well observed. But Keats was not the only poet to borrow from Milton’s description of the swan! Borrowing from Milton Phil Robinson discussed Milton’s swan and ...
Gareth Rees's user avatar
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6 votes

In "Paradise Lost", how can a fleet of ships "hang in the clouds"?

Wordsworth thought that the phrase was a leap of pure imagination: Here is the full strength of the imagination involved in the word, hangs, and exerted upon the whole image: First, the Fleet, an ...
Gareth Rees's user avatar
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5 votes
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What do these two segments mean in Milton's "On Shakespeare"?

First question: the meaning of "what". "What" used in the sense of "why" or "for what" was not unusual in Early Modern English. E. A. Abbott gives several ...
Tsundoku's user avatar
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5 votes
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What is the "manhood of a Roman recovery" in John Milton's Areopagitica?

"Areopagitica" (1644) was written to argue against the Licensing Order of the previous year, which required that works had to be pre-approved by a censor before they could be printed. Some ...
verbose's user avatar
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5 votes

Which traits of Milton's Lucifer from "Paradise Lost" did Neil Gaiman carry to "The Sandman"?

Neil Gaiman described his concept for Season of Mists, the Sandman story which introduces Lucifer as a major character, in these terms: The story was inspired loosely by something the Abbé Mugnier ...
gilles's user avatar
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5 votes

Source of Milton's idea that God tilted the Earth's axis after the fall of man

The notion is that in the Garden of Eden, the original pre-Lapsarian world, there were no seasons but an eternal springtime. Then at a later date, God introduced the seasons as part of a general ...
Stuart F's user avatar
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4 votes
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What is meant by "the crotchet of the law" in chapter VIII of Milton's "The Doctrine & Discipline of Divorce"?

Milton is saying that it is legitimate for a true believer to divorce an unbeliever, whether or not the unbeliever tries to seduce the true believer away from the true faith. There are three possible ...
verbose's user avatar
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4 votes

What do these two segments mean in Milton's "On Shakespeare"?

Tsundoku in the other answer suggests that “bereaving” might be used in the sense “spoiling, impairing”, based on this entry in Onions: bereave (the commonest use is ‘to deprive’ a person of a thing, ...
Gareth Rees's user avatar
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4 votes
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Difficulty understanding the meaning of a line in Paradise Regained

Imagine I have decided to give up sugar. I might proclaim: I will resist temptation. For no dessert, however appetizing, shall I weaken my resolve. Something like that is going on here. Satan is ...
verbose's user avatar
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4 votes

What is an epic and why is there “only one epic in English Language so far”?

There are many epics in English besides Paradise Lost. Technically speaking, the "epic" is a narrative mode rather than a genre. What makes a narrative "epic" is a distinction ...
Roger Maioli's user avatar
4 votes
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Is John Milton's Lucifer a tragic hero?

In his introductory essay to the John Milton volume of 'Bloom's Critical Views' Harold Bloom called this question the most famous and vexing of critical problems concerning Paradise Lost, the Satanic ...
Kiteration's user avatar
4 votes

Meaning of "beauty stands in the admiration only of weak minds led captive" in "Paradise Regained"

The passage exploits multiple meanings of various words to make its statement that the power of beauty is dependent on the admiration of those it captivates. Stands means is held upright, in the usual ...
verbose's user avatar
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3 votes

Paradise Lost pagan gods

Related: Is John Milton's Lucifer a tragic hero? One interesting feature of Paradise Lost is that the demons are presented as multi-dimensional, complicated characters - likely even more so than ...
EJoshuaS - Stand with Ukraine's user avatar
3 votes

What are the "concurring signs" of which Satan speaks?

I think Francis Storr is correct when he says that Milton does not explain these “signs”: 831 By concurring signs. To judge by concurring signs. What these signs are is not intimated. Francis Storr, ...
Gareth Rees's user avatar
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3 votes

Prosodic features and rules for Miltonic verses?

The standard study of Milton's use of rhythm and meter is Robert Bridges' classic Milton's Prosody: With a Chapter on Accentual Verse and Notes. Revised Final Edition. Oxford: Clarendon, 1921. The ...
verbose's user avatar
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3 votes
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What can be meant by "an image of earth and fleam" in chapter V of Milton's "The Doctrine & Discipline of Divorce"?

I think Milton expresses the same emotional pattern of thought in Tetrachordon (1645) where, commenting on Matthew 5:32, he says (my emphasis): [His Wife. ] This word is not to be idle here, a meere ...
alexg's user avatar
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2 votes
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Did Satan feel genuine remorse for his actions and compassion for his subordinates?

Milton is using a couple of these attributes in senses that are now archaic. In “considerate Pride”, I think that it works best if we take “considerate” in the sense considerate, adj. 1. Marked by ...
Gareth Rees's user avatar
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2 votes
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What "unsinning weaknesses" are meant by Milton in chapter V of "The Doctrine & Discipline of Divorce"?

This is indeed a very difficult sentence to parse. Milton is enumerating the various reasons why a Christian law permitting divorce is necessary. He says that if a man is married to an uncongenial ...
verbose's user avatar
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2 votes
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What "easie curbs" of the flesh are meant by Milton in chapter IIII of "The Doctrine & Discipline of Divorce"?

Milton is arguing here that the true burning that drives human beings to marry is not lust but loneliness. He presents sexual desire as an excess: that which the plenteous body would joyfully give ...
verbose's user avatar
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2 votes
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Did John Milton ever mention Martin Luther directly or indirectly?

Milton commented on Luther's influence on him (from English Opinion of Luther, quoting Milton's An apology for Smectymnuus): John Milton confesses that he "had not examined through" Luther'...
Laurel's user avatar
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1 vote

Satan's motivation in Paradise Lost

Here's the relevant transcript from the Yale Milton Course. I guess Satan suffered from a sense of unfairness/injustice from the meritocratic breakdown of the Son's exultation (or maybe from loss of ...
Tom Huntington's user avatar

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