Paradise Lost by John Milton Essay
Paradise Lost by John Milton
1 – ‘Language has the ability to make sin look attractive’ Tis Pity was published by John Ford in 1633 and is set in Italy, the heart of the Renassiance. John Milton published Paradise Lost in 1667, relatively soon after John Ford, and was the first epic poem to be written in blank verse. Both writers push the boundaries of literature by exploring untouched, taboo subjects: incest and The Fall of Man. During this period of time, soon after the Renassiance period, many artists and writers were challenging society by introducing a range of different styles and genres. This meant that Ford and Milton both intended to tempt controversy through their pieces of literature; yet, the seductive choice of language has instead caused an attractiveness to both texts. It is this attraction to the language, and utter skill behind these writer’s intentions, that has enabled both texts to withstand the test of time. In Book Nine of Paradise Lost, Milton begins to introduce Satan as the Serpent; however, he manages to draw the audience away from Satan’s intentions by presenting his physical beauty.
As the Serpent ‘Addressed his way’ towards Eve, with the desire to cause corruption, he moves ‘not with intended wave’. Instead, he towers ‘fould above fould a surging Maze’, with the colours of ‘Verdant Gold’. By giving the Serpent distinct characteristics, he is separating him from the other creatures in the Garden of Eden, therefore drawing Eve’s attention to his uniqueness. The repetition of ‘fould above fould’ gives the sense of an illusion, something which Eve’s eyesight is unable to comprehend; which is then reinforced by ‘surging Maze’, giving this illusion speed and power, causing a greater confusion on Eve’s behalf. The vivid description of ‘verdant Gold’ gives the Serpent a very rich colouring, thus reiterating his importance in the Garden. When Satan finally decides to confront Eve, he becomes ‘erect’, giving himself a sense of empowerment. This is when Milton’s narration confirms the beauty of his language, as he mentions how ‘pleasing was his shape / and lovely’. For an audience, this outside interpretation almost gives a sense of comfort, as they too are lost in his physical beauty. Finally, as the Serpent begins to speak, his ability to compliment and seduce enables him to make his way ‘into the heart of Eve’.
There are clear similarites between Satan in Paradise Lost and Vasques in Tis Pity: both have a masterful use of rhetoric. As Vasque attempts to gather information from Putana, he mentions how her – by proving themselves to be devoted to these women, they are appealing to their naivity and giving a false sense of trust. Their seductive use of language causes them to become ‘impassioned’, as they begin to realise their ability to attract these women. The absence and withdrawal of language in both texts is equally as attractive to an audience. In Paradise Lost Book Nine, the pivotal point when Eve eats the Forbidden Fruit is simply expressed in four words, ‘she plucked, she eat’. The use of these monosyllables reinforces how emphasis can be achieved through simplicity. Extending on this further, Milton’s constant elaboration and care to detail is deliberately dismissed here to send an even greater message to his audience: mankind cannot blame Eve for causing the Fall as she simply ‘ate’ the fruit. By refusing to focus on Eve’s decision to eat the Fruit, he is daringly challenging conventional views that women are the only cause of sin. John Ford in Tis Pity has a similar intention through his portrayal of Hippolyta; her refusal to be silenced goes against the view of women’s inferiority.
This is achieved in Act Two Scene two, as she powerfully enters with ‘Tis I;’. These two words are separate from the rest of her speech in order to hold suspense and give her a greater presence on stage. Ford’s intention is for the audience to immediately be drawn to her in preparation for her criticism towards Soranzo. As both Ford and Milton are so skilled in writing ‘attractively’ and deliberately trying to engage an audience, it is even more effective when they suddenly withdraw; the audience become responsible in using their own imagination, in attempt to understand the message these writers intend to express. In Tis Pity, the most effective use of language is through convincing an audience that Giovanni and Annabella have a natural, loving relationship. In Act One Scene Two, when Giovanni admits his love for Annabella and she responds evenly, he ends the scene with ‘After so many tears as we have wept, let’s learn to court in smiles, to kiss and sleep’.
Finally Giovanni is no longer impassioned, ‘I have too long suppressed the hidden flames’, and is instead able to appreciate the natural rawness of their love. Not only that, but by referring to their ability to ‘weep, smile, kiss and sleep’, he is expressing emotions which audiences are able to relate to; proving that their relationship isn’t as unnatural as first assumed. During this particular moment, the audience become so engaged in the text that they forget about the theme of incest and instead support the purity of their relationship. John Milton’s depiction of Satan creates a similar sense of curiosity into the ability to sympathise with him. This is highlighted when he observes Eve for the first time and becomes ‘of enmitie disarm’d/ of guile, of hate, of envie, of revenge’.
The repetition of ‘guile, hate, envie, revenge’ proves how Satan is gradually striped of his emotions associated with evil, and is instead left vulnerable through his admiration. The power of Eve’s beauty forces him to become ‘abstracted’ from his own evil, thus demonstrating the ability to respond humanely. During this moment, Milton is allowing the audience the opportunity to make their own viewpoint of Satan; isolated from the conventional, one-dimensial presentation of him. The beauty of both texts is not caused by convincing the audience that sin is ‘attractive’, but instead pushing them into sympathising, admiring and simply enjoying pieces of literature beyond expectation.