Paradise Lost and Allegory of British Civil War

764 words | 3 page(s)

The epic poem Paradise Lost is the central literary work of the famous English author, thinker, and political figure John Milton. The poem was firstly published in 1667 and tells the story of the struggle between God and Satan that takes place in Paradise and Hell but then shifts to the history of Adam and Eve and the struggle between the good and the evil for their future. By the time of its appearance, the poem was considered the second most popular book (after the Bible) which not only showed the abstract conflict between God and Satan but allegorically demonstrated the political reality of England of that time.

Bearing evident resemblances to the political situation in England, the poem can be considered to be an allegory of the British Civil War. This idea is supported by several arguments that should be examined in detail. Firstly, the poem reflects the political ideas and commitments of the author. It should be mentioned that in times of British Civil War Milton supported Oliver Cromwell and revealed the corrupted nature of monarchism (Kilic 40). This idea is allegorically showed in the poem through the struggle of Satan against the tyranny of God. While the character of Satan serves as a composite image representing all fighters against tyranny (including Milton and Cromwell), Milton’s God represents the monarchical power, the king and its retinue represented by angels (Carey 30). Milton is willing to show the narrow-mindedness of king’s supporters who are only able to chorus with supreme power and lack individuality. Secondly, the poem possesses evident similarities to Milton’s political writings.

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Thus, in his work The Ready and Easy Way to Establish a Free Commonwealth, Milton argues that monarchical rule is unnatural and the tyranny of the sole sovereign is unacceptable for the ordinary people (“Paradise Lost: John Milton’s Politics” par. 2). According to him, rational and free people cannot agree to bear the power of one person who considers himself to be supreme but in fact possesses no distinctive features from other people. Milton argues that monarchy cannot be productive and is aimed at the satisfaction of wants of the king and his circle. In this respect, the poem resembles Milton’s political writings and demonstrates the nature of monarchy through the example of God and angels surrounding him (Summers 236). The author claims that only those who are not afraid of expressing their opinions and object against the decision of authorities are able to change the existing state of things and contribute to the establishment of a more rightful government. Thirdly, in the context of his poem, the author places the religious conflict that exists during the British Civil War (the conflict between Anglicans and Catholics against English Puritans) into a more sophisticated form (Roberts par. 6). Milton demonstrates the possibility of the existence of other religion aside from the accepted ones by the appearance of Pandemonium being the capital of Hell that contrasts to Heavens. By this allegory, the author who supports Puritans shows that there is a possibility for Puritanism to exist and flourish despite the already accepted religious paradigms (Anglicanism and Catholicism). Taking into account the context of the Civil War, the religious aspect of the conflict can be considered one of the most important and Milton greatly contributes to this struggle on the side of the Puritans headed by Cromwell.

To summarize, the poem Paradise Lost written by J. Milton can be considered to be an allegory of the British Civil War. The poem reflects the political ideas of Milton who supported Cromwell in his struggle against monarchy and depicted this opposition in Satan’s struggle against God’s tyranny. Moreover, the poem possesses similarities to Milton’s political writings, namely, the work The Ready and Easy Way to Establish a Free Commonwealth where the author argues that a monarchy is an unnatural form of political power that should be destroyed by free and reasonable people. Also, the poem demonstrates the religious conflict of the Civil War in the context of opposition between the Heavens and Hell and the author supports the idea of alternative religion for those unsatisfied with the existed religious paradigms.

  • Carey, John. The Essential Paradise Lost. Faber & Faber, 2017.
  • Kilic, Volkan. Milton’s Political Ideas and Paradise Lost as a Political Allegory. Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2018.
  • “Paradise Lost: John Milton’s Politics.” The Artifice, n. d., https://the-artifice.com/paradise-lost-john-milton-politics/. Accessed 6 November 2018.
  • Roberts, Gabriel. “Milton’s Political Context.” Darknefs Vifible, http://darknessvisible.christs.cam.ac.uk/politics.html. Accessed 6 November 2018.
  • Summers, Claude J. The English Civil Wars in the Literary Imagination. University of Missouri Press, 1999.

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