“Paradise Lost” As a Renaissance Epic
Certain elements of “Paradise Lost” are evident that Milton was a renaissance poet and it is a renaissance epic. The term renaissance refers to rebirth. Milton is one of those writers, who stopped following the tradition and resurged the English literature. Renaissance was started in Italy and soon spread over the worlds. When the Englishmen started trading with the Arabs, they find Greece literature, and then started reading it.The revival of learning and then to use it in writing was the period of renaissance. The lust for knowledge, not only with regard to literature but also to science and other fields was increased. John Milton was man of letters and was well aware with the elements of renaissance. He did not keep these elements with him but also tried his best to explain in his literary work. Milton was a puritan and had a religious mind but he has knowledge regarding Greece myths, therefore, he tried to combine both these things in his great epic poem. In this situation, definitely, “Paradise Lost”can also be included in the list of renaissance literary work.
The first and prominent element of renaissance is the lust for knowledge. People, especially writers, had increased their thrust to gain more and more knowledge. Not only in literature but also in other fields of life, the knowledge of concerned persons was enhanced. Milton was not different from them, he in his poem, described elements of renaissance, not directly but indirectly. For the sack of explanation, it is necessary to mention here that fall of man, the theme of the epic poem, is directly concerned with the element of renaissance. We know, Satan tempted Eve to eat the forbidden fruit. The reason he explained to Eve for eating the fruit of forbidden tree was that if she would succeed in eating the same, she could boost her knowledge. Gaining knowledge was the only reason that Eve became ready to eat the fruit, even knowing that the same is forbidden by the almighty God. The lust for knowledge became the reason of fall of man from the paradise.
The second element of renaissance is exploration, the journey to know what is unknown. This element has been presented by the writer in shape of Satan’s character. Satan wanted to know which was unknown to him. For instance, when he was informed that God has created a world for humans, he discussed with his commanders and suggested that they should have explored the world in order to create their new plans. He flew from the hell and went directly to find the world. His lust for exploration is also evident that “Paradise Lost” has element of renaissance in it.
Revival of Greek myths is also another component of renaissance. Milton was not only a religious person but also used to study the Greek mythology. He used the same in his epic poem. In “Paradise Lost”, a lot of Greece gods has been mentioned. Even in the very first lines of the poem, the invocation to muses, reveals that Milton tried to revive the Greece mythology in “paradise Lost”. Milton has invited the readers, to fresh their mind again regarding Greek mythologies.Moreover, Greece cities has also been described in detail by Milton in his poem. Thus, it is also crystal clear that as the Greek mythology has been revived in “Paradise Lost”, therefore, the same is a renaissance epic.
The most important impact of renaissance was enhancement in scientific knowledge. In every filed, scientific knowledge was at its peak, therefore, literature was also effected by the scientific notations. This knowledge did not only invented new mechanisms but also removed superstition beliefs of the people. Milton, although exaggerated the characters and scenes in his poem, yet no superstition belief could be found in it. The story as well as the theme is well known to everyone, no matter from which religion he belonged to. It is true that where there is religion, there must be superstition beliefs but the knowledge of people was improved and Milton has prevented to substantiate superstition factors in his poem. In this backdrop, scientific inventions as well as superstition beliefs are also obvious that Milton’s “Paradise Lost” has renaissance elements in it.
Wisdom and individualism is also another factor of renaissance. Satan used his wisdom to fight with God. He chose a path, which would start an indirect war, therefore, instead of directly fighting with the God, he tempted Eve to eat the forbidden fruit. He has given importance to his own thoughts, giving rise to the element of renaissance. For instance, he said if they would remain in hell,they would remain there forever but if they fight, they could regain their lost respect in form of paradise. A part of his speech is worth mentioning here. He says:-
“Awake, arise or be forever fall’n.”
Similarly, he very shrewdly, by using his wisdom took steps. For instance, he shouted:-
“The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven..”
Lust for power is also another feature of renaissance, which is too noticeable. Real power was in the hands of God but Satan also wanted the same. He wanted it by hook or crook. He tried everything but was helpless in front of Him. Lust for beauty is also key factor of renaissance, which is also available in the poem and enough to prove that “Paradise Lost” is a poem, effected by renaissance elements.
At last but not the least, Milton’s Paradise Lost is full of renaissance elements. It was the time of rebirth, when the poem was written, therefore, the writer was totally effected by all the elements of renaissance. Its marks can be found in this great literary work. The prominent features of renaissance has been discussed but in addition to these elements, there are some other factor such as humanism, love for art, democracy and Hellenism.It does not matter that either Milton have deliberately used these elements or unintentionally they have been mentioned by the poet but there is no doubt that this poem is definitely a renaissance epic.