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Heroic epic

● a ​ heroic narrative about the past that comprises an integrated picture of the
life of a people and represents the harmonious unity of a certain ​heroic ​world
and its ​epic heroes​.
● Features:
○ The ​hero is outstanding. They might be important, and historically or
legendarily significant.
○ The setting is large. It covers many nations, or the known world.
○ The action is made of deeds of great valour or requiring superhuman
○ Supernatural forces—gods, angels, demons—insert themselves in the
○ It is written in a very special style (​verse​as opposed to ​prose​).
○ The poet tries to remain objective.
○ Epic poems are believed to be supernatural and real by the hero and
the ​villain
○ It starts with the theme or subject of the story.
○ Main characters give extended formal speeches.
○ Use of the epic simile.
○ Heavy use of repetition or stock phrases.
○ It presents the heroic ideals such as courage, honour, sacrifice,
patriotism and kindness.


Milton's English

Paradise Lost is generally agreed to be our greatest epic, even the greatest work of
literature written in the English language. Given this, it is rather strange to find a
benign strain of criticism which denies the very Englishness of this epic. From as
early as the eighteenth century when Samuel Johnson concluded that Milton 'wrote
no language', to the twentieth century when T.S. Eliot claimed that Milton 'did
damage to the English language' and F.R. Leavis asserted that 'Milton had
renounced the English language', the language of Paradise Lost has been embroiled
in controversy.
Milton's Multilingualism

Although one can safely conclude that Milton did write in the English tongue (to be
more precise, the early modern English of the Renaissance), different languages
resonate throughout this epic. Biographers postulate that Milton knew as many as
ten languages, among them Latin, Greek, Italian, Dutch and even Hebrew. Given
this range of linguistic knowledge, it is hardly surprising to find a high level of
awareness with regard to the etymology (i.e. the linguistic origins) of the words he
used. But before we consider how he manipulated the senses in which he used his
words, we must make a foray into biblical realms in order to understand how Milton
viewed language.
The Word

At the beginning of the Book of John, we find the famous formulation: 'In the
beginning was the Word and the Word was with God, and the Word was God' (1:1).
In Christian theology, this 'Word' is the creative power of God and is usually equated
with the Son. In ​Paradise Lost​, Milton makes this association explicit; Milton's God
addresses and names the Son 'My word, my wisdom, and effectual might' (III.170)
and later the 'omnific Word' (VII.217).​2 ​When God addresses the Son, God's words
become the Word and take effect:

And thou my Word, begotten Son, by thee

This I perform, speak thou, and be it done…

So spake the almighty, and to what he spake

His Word, the filial Godhead, gave effect. (VII.164-75)

There is a theory of language called Speech Act Theory which identifies certain
types of utterance (speech acts) that perform actions rather than simply saying or
describing something. The words God speaks at the Creation are the ultimate and
original speech act; as narrated in Genesis and ​Paradise Lost​, God only has to
speak and the words come into effect:

And God said, 'Let there be light'; and there was light…

(Genesis, 1:3)

Let there be light, said God, and forthwith light

Ethereal, first of things, quintessence pure

Sprung from the deep… (VII.243)

Milton inverts the arrangement of the identification of the voice and the spoken words
themselves, thus absorbing God's voice entirely into the poetic lines. 'Sprung' is an
inverted iamb, mirroring the initial inverted foot of 'Let there be…' to assert a metrical
alignment that parallels the semantic and tangible fulfilment. In both the Bible and
Paradise Lost​, the coordinating conjunction 'and' asserts the success of this speech
act, as God only has to say the words for their substance to be realised. Twice in
Book VII, we encounter 'He named' (252, 274), as a synonym for 'he created'. God's
naming of the world, then, is equivalent to its creation, as the very naming of things
initiates their existence as realities.

Milton writes in Book 5: "Deep malice thence conceiving and disdain" (666). What he
means is that they were "conceiving" "deep malice" and "disdain." However Milton
sandwiches the participle (a verbal form ending in "ing") "conceiving" in between its
two objects, "deep malice" and "disdain." As another example, take the very first
sentence of the poem (which is sixteen lines longs!). There, he delays the main verb
for nearly six lines. What Milton means is "Sing Muse of man's first disobedience,
and the fruit of that Forbidden Tree," but he inverts the order and starts with "Of
man's first disobedience, and the Fruit/ Of that Forbidden Tree […]," finally arriving at
"sing" in line 6.


- The epic is written in English.

- The use of English by Milton was different than the other poets and authors,
to the point they said his work was damaging for English language
- Some lines from ​Paradise Lost are in close similarity to the original biblical
verses - As the God speaks his word comes into effect, just as it happened in
Bible. Milton mentions the creation of light in his work, based on the Biblical
day one of creation of the world.
- Paradise Lost ​is written in blank verse, as opposed to Shakespeare, who
wrote his works mainly in iambic pentameter.
- Milton writes in a very elevated, allusive, and dense style.
- Milton used different languages throughout his work, he knew Latin, Greek,
Italian, Dutch and even Hebrew. It makes absolute sense that his work would
be written in many languages and additions from other languages besides
English in his work.
- He use and expands many references to the Bible by his own metaphors.

Summary of Book 9
Interpretation - verses: 680-732

Satan’s argument that knowledge is good because knowing what is good and evil
makes it easier to do what is good wrongfully assumes that knowledge is always
good. This flaw in his argument is the theological thrust of this book: though the
intellect is powerful and god-like, obeying God is a higher priority than feeding the
intellect. Milton believes that one cannot first obey reason and then obey God; rather
one must trust God and then trust reason.