Books I and II – Context

Books I and II – Context

Religion– The primary theme of the poem is religion. This is something which concerned Milton greatly and during his lifetime there was considerable controversy over the subject. Charles I wanted to bring in high Anglican worship in Protestant churches, which made the ceremonial aspects and hierarchy of the church similar to Catholicism. Some people thought this was due to his marriage to a French woman, because the French were Catholic.

The English Civil War- In 1649 King Charles I was beheaded by Oliver Cromwell’s Republicans. This was the result of a civil war in England between Royalists, who supported the king, and Republican’s, who wanted a parliament to be called regularly, so the voice of the people could be heard.

Milton wrote extensively in support of the Republican’s and urging the removal of a tyrannical monarch. Some people think that in a way, Satan and his rebels represent the rebels in the war. However, their argument in the council in book II could be seen as satirical, mocking the lengthy arguments had in parliament and the fact that Satan dismisses all arguments in favour of his own idea, thus he can be read as representing Charles I’s disregard for parliament before his death.

Milton’s political writing– Milton wrote extensively on a variety of subjects from the divine right of kings to divorce. He put forward clever arguments that he often justified through his readings of the Bible. His style of writing in these could be said to be poetic, however it is also true that the structure of Paradise Lost and the rhetoric of the characters, is similar to the arguments in his political writing.