Certain elements of “Paradise Lost” are evident that Milton was a poet of the renaissance and the poem falls in the class of renaissance epic. The term renaissance refers to rebirth. Milton is one of those writers, who stopped following the tradition and resurged English literature. Renaissance started in Italy and soon expanded over the world. When the Englishmen began trading with the Arabs, they found Greece literature, and then started reading it. The revival of learning and then using it in writing was the period of the renaissance. Lust for knowledge, not only with respect to literature but also to science and other fields was increased.
John Milton was a man of letters and was well aware of the elements of the renaissance. He did not keep these elements with him but also tried his best to explain them in his literary work. Milton was a puritan and had a religious mind but he was familiar with Greece myths, therefore, he tried to combine both these things in his great epic poem. Thus, definitely, we can state that “Paradise Lost” is the best epic poem that covers all the elements of the renaissance.
There are certain elements of the renaissance that we should discuss before discussing Paradise Lost as an epic poem of the renaissance. The elements are as under:
Elements of Renaissance:
Lust for Knowledge Epic Element of Renaissance Found in Paradise Lost:
The first and prominent element of the renaissance is the lust for knowledge. People, especially writers, had quenched their thirst for knowledge and tried their best to gain more and more information. Not only in literature but also in other fields of life, the experience of concerned persons was enhanced. Milton was not different from them, he in his poem, described elements of the renaissance, not directly but indirectly.
For the sack of explanation, it is necessary to mention here that the fall of man, the theme of his epic poem “Paradise Lost”, is directly concerned with the elements of the renaissance. We know, Satan tempted Eve to eat the forbidden fruit. The reason he explained to Eve for eating the fruit of the 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. The lust for knowledge thus became the reason for the fall of man from paradise.
Exploration Makes Paradise Lost Epic Poem of Renaissance:
The second element of the renaissance is exploration. It is about the journey to know what is unknown. Milton covered this element in the shape of Satan’s character. Satan wanted to know what was unknown to him. For instance, when he was informed that God has created a world for humans, he discussed it with his commanders and suggested that they should explore the world in order to create their new plans. He flew from hell and went directly to find the world. His lust for exploration is also evident that the poem contains an important element of the renaissance that makes it the best epic poem.
The revival of Greek Myths:
The revival of Greek myths is also another component of the renaissance. Milton was not only a religious person but also used to study Greek mythology. He practised the same in his epic poem. In “Paradise Lost”, a lot of Greece gods have been mentioned. Even in the very first line of the poem, the invocation to muses, reveals that Milton tried to revive Greece mythology. Milton invited his readers to refresh their knowledge of Greek mythologies. Moreover, Greece cities have also been described in detail by him in his poem. Thus, it is also crystal clear that as Greek mythology has been revived in “Paradise Lost”, therefore, the same is a renaissance epic.
Enhancement in Scientific Knowledge
The most important impact of the renaissance was an enhancement in scientific knowledge. In every field, scientific knowledge was at its peak, therefore, literature was also affected by scientific notations. This knowledge not only invented new mechanisms but also removed the superstition beliefs of the people. Milton, although exaggerated the characters and scenes in his poem yet no superstition belief is available in the poem. The story, as well as the theme, is well known to everyone, no matter from which religion or nation he belongs 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 substantiating superstition factors in his poem. In addition, scientific inventions, as well as superstition beliefs, are also obvious that Milton’s epic poem “Paradise Lost” has renaissance elements in it.
Wisdom and Individualism:
Wisdom and individualism are also other factors of the renaissance. Satan applied his wisdom while fighting with God. He chose a path, which would start an indirect war, therefore, instead of directly fighting with God, he tempted Eve to eat the forbidden fruit. He has given importance to his own thoughts, giving rise to the major element of the renaissance in “Paradise Lost”. For instance, he said if they (Satan and his comrades) would remain in hell, they would outlast 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.”Satan in Paradise Lost
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..”Satan addresses to his companions in paradise Lost
Lust for Power Strengthens Paradise Lost as a Renaissance Epic:
Lust for power is also another feature of the 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 the key factor of the renaissance, which too is present in the poem and enough to prove that the poem is affected by elements of the renaissance.
Last but not 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 affected by all the elements of the renaissance. Its marks can be found in this great literary work. The prominent features of the renaissance have been discussed but in addition to these elements, there are some other factors such as humanism, love for art, democracy and Hellenism. It does not matter that either John Milton has 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.