Books I and II – Language, Form and Structure

Books I and II – Language, Form and Structure

Figurative Language- Milton uses a variety of similes to try and describe how immense Satan himself is such as that Satan is as large as, ‘that Sea-beast [ 200 ]/ Leviathan, which God of all his works/ Created hugest that swim th’ Ocean stream.’

He also uses comparison to show his own political allegiance. When Satan gives his speech to his army in book 1, the enthusiastic reaction of the troops is described, ‘As when Bands / Of Pioners with Spade and Pickax arm’d/ Forerun the Royal Camp, to trench a Field,/ Or cast a Rampart.’ He is comparing it with the Republican army of the English civil war.

Description of place is key to understanding the magnitude of Satan’s crimes, his future suffering, evil and God’s might. There are several references to infinity, vastness and intangible concepts such as the dark and the ‘hollow deep of hell’. This type of description can be linked to Romantic and gothic writing from the late eighteenth century, as it is an example of the Sublime.

It is also notable because it describes a huge amount of nothing, demonstrating the divide between God and Satan and the enormous loss and emptiness that Satan and his rebels now suffer. Its size means it will never be filled.

The Argument- At the start of each book Milton outlines what is to follow in the poem. In the first book he outlines the general purpose of the entire poem ‘man’s disobedience and the loss thereupon of Paradise’. Each argument is meant to explain the action in the poem to make it clear for the reader. Originally they were not included but Milton’s publisher asked him to write a summary for each of the twelve books in the poem.

The narrator- The narrator is the readers guide to events in the poem offering both descriptions of events as well as interpretation of them and his opinion. The narrator asks Muse for inspiration; Muse was a goddess who inspired creativity in artists and poets. However he also wants to be given divine inspiration so that he can portray the subject at hand correctly, in defense of Providence (God).

The narrator speaks sometimes in the first person, however the lengthy descriptions in book one and two are mainly in the style of an omniscient narrator looking upon events. Often the narrator offers his opinion by using figurative language rather than breaking the narrative to interject.

Voice- In book one Satan, Beelzebub and the narrator are the voices that speak. In book two Satan holds a counsel to decide how they should proceed and we hear several voices. Each voice uses different imagery and language that reflects the character and proposition of the fiend within a debate.

Moloc– Is for ‘open war,’ and, ‘if not Victory then revenge.’ His language is aggressive and violent and he justifies his idea by saying that now God has cast them out they have nothing to lose. Milton uses pathetic fallacy to show how deadly the army will be. Heaven will see ‘Infernal Thunder, and for Lightning see/ Black fire’.

Belial– Speaks with ‘words cloath’d in reasons garb’. Uses rhetorical questions to unpick Moloc’s plan and make his listeners think about how bad their punishments might get if they attack again. He then argues that it is pointless because heaven will drive them out, and so they might as well not do anything, ‘better these then worse/ By my advice’ he says. He provides a long list showing that their punishments have already worsened and it might be better to stay put.

Mammon– Argues for ‘hard liberty’ rather than the ‘servile pomp’ of heaven. He puts forward the idea that they can make their own kingdom and is scornful of the ways of heaven, persuading the listeners by making hell sound reasonable compared to the ‘warbl’d hymns’ and ‘forc’t hallelujahs’.

Beezlebub– He and Satan have already discussed what they are going to do. He summarises the other ideas and dismisses them, persuading the rebels that Satan’s idea -to corrupt man -is the best way to have revenge.

Epic structure– The poem contains much of the same content and structural features of classical epic poetry and makes constant references to classical myths and gods. The twelve books, the battle, a journey where Satan is presented with challenges, the formal debates and conversations, are all features that can be found in poetry such as Homer’s Illiad and Odyssey or Virgil’s Aeneid. However Milton sets it in a universe before man and on an even grander scale that his classical counterparts.