Shakespeare’s great prodigy/era peer John Milton’s poem Paradise Lost is about the Fall of Man — the temptation of Adam and Eve by the fallen angel Satan and their expulsion from the Garden of Eden. Milton’s purpose, stated in Book I, is to “justify the ways of God to men.” But unlike Martin Luther freestyler Shakespeare, my guy Milton huli auz (turns upside down) via irony/reverse psychology God’s Wrath as most desirable especially among the least of men, those who get pounded on by carnal outcomes tempted via Satan — God’s Wrath cleanses us of our vile nature, provided we surrender unconditionally to God!

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http://www.bing.com/images/search?q=images+milton+paradise+lost&qpvt=images+milton+paradise+lost&FORM=IGRE#view=detail&id=A901B3501B911EF49C605150146807B2D62A70C0&selectedIndex=40

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http://www.bing.com/images/search?q=images+milton+paradise+lost&qpvt=images+milton+paradise+lost&FORM=IGRE#view=detail&id=A8FB43937EC9DFC683200F51B58C9EBCE282FFF3&selectedIndex=34

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http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paradise_lost#Idolatry

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Milton’s first criticism of idolatry focuses on the practice of constructing temples and other buildings to serve as places of worship. In Book XI of Paradise Lost, Adam tries to atone for his sins by offering to build altars to worship God. In response, the angel Michael explains that Adam does not need to build physical objects to experience the presence of God.   Joseph Lyle points to this example, explaining “When Milton objects to architecture, it is not a quality inherent in buildings themselves he finds offensive, but rather their tendency to act as convenient loci to which idolatry, over time, will inevitably adhere.”   Even if the idea is pure in nature, Milton still believes that it will unavoidably lead to idolatry simply because of the nature of humans. Instead of placing their thoughts and beliefs into God, as they should, humans tend to turn to erected objects and falsely invest their faith. While Adam attempts to build an altar to God, critics note Eve is similarly guilty of idolatry, but in a different manner. Harding believes Eve’s narcissism and obsession with herself constitutes idolatry.     Specifically, Harding claims that “… under the serpent’s influence, Eve’s idolatry and self-deification foreshadow the errors into which her ‘Sons’ will stray.”   Much like Adam, Eve falsely places her faith into herself, the Tree of Knowledge, and to some extent, the Serpent, all of which do not compare to the ideal nature of God.

Furthermore, Milton makes his views on idolatry more explicit with the creation of Pandemonium and the exemplary allusion to Solomon’s temple. In the beginning of Paradise Lost, as well as throughout the poem, there are several references to the rise and eventual fall of Solomon’s temple. Critics elucidate that “Solomon’s temple provides an explicit demonstration of how an artefact moves from its genesis in devotional practice to an idolatrous end.”  This example, out of the many presented, conveys Milton’s views on the dangers of idolatry distinctly. Even if one builds a structure in the name of God, even the best of intentions can become immoral. In addition, critics have drawn parallels between both Pandemonium and Saint Peter’s Basilica, and the Pantheon. The majority of these similarities revolve around a structural likeness, but as Lyle explains, they play a greater role. By linking Saint Peter’s Basilica and the Pantheon to Pandemonium—an ideally false structure, the two famous buildings take on a false meaning.    This comparison best represents Milton’s Protestant views, as it rejects both the purely Catholic perspective and the Pagan perspective.

In addition to rejecting Catholicism, Milton revolted against the idea of a monarch ruling by divine right. He saw the practice as idolatrous. Barbara Lewalski concludes that the theme of idolatry in Paradise Lost “is an exaggerated version of the idolatry Milton had long associated with the Stuart ideology of divine kingship.” In the opinion of Milton, any object, human or non-human, that receives special attention befitting of God, is considered idolatrous.

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https://curtisnarimatsu.wordpress.com/2013/05/16/john-miltons-quintessential-irony-in-paradise-lost-for-example-the-downfall-of-adam-and-eve-and-the-introduction-of-sin-and-death-into-the-human-condition-are-interpreted-from-a-providential-per/

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John Milton’s quintessential irony:  In Paradise Lost, for example, the downfall of Adam and Eve and the introduction of sin and death into the human condition are interpreted from a providential perspective. From this vantage point, the deity is not vengeful but merciful, not misguided or blind but instrumental in humankind’s ultimate triumph.  Milton’s work differs significantly from the epic traditon of Greco-Roman antiquity, the Middle Ages, and the Renaissance. Earlier epics developed ideas of heroism that celebrate martial valor, intense passions such as wrath or revenge, and cunning resourcefulness. If indeed such traits of epic heroism are retained by Milton , they tend to be embodied in Satan. In other words, Milton uses the epic form simultaneously as a critique of an earlier tradition of heroism and as a means of advancing a new idea of Christian heroism for which the crucial virtues are faith, patience, and fortitude. Undoubtedly, this idea of heroism was influenced by Milton’s personal experience with adversity and by his public service as a polemicist and an opponent of Stuart absolutism and the episcopacy of the Church of England. Under attack from his adversaries, Milton , from his perspective, was the advocate of a righteous cause that failed. The triumph of his adversaries, his solitude after the Restoration, and his struggle to understand how and why, under the sufferance of Providence, evil seemingly prevailed—and other questions—presumably impelled him to modify an earlier plan to compose a British epic on Arthur.  —  The Poetry Foundation

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http://www.poetryfoundation.org/bio/john-milton

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At the same time, however, one may acknowledge that some traditional traits of epic heroism are embodied in characters such as the Son.

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Surely wrath and martial effectiveness are manifested in the War in Heaven, but Milton more emphatically affirms that the greater triumph of the Son is his voluntary humiliation on behalf of humankind.

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Accordingly, faith, patience, and fortitude are the crucial virtues to be exercised by the Son in his redemptive ministry, which he has agreed to undertake because of meekness, filial obedience, and boundless love for humankind.

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http://books.google.com/books?id=JqWhS7oWMI4C&pg=PA125&lpg=PA125&dq=milton’s+irony&source=bl&ots=xcePmY9ytA&sig=vKkncOyksUq1uyhtZPFdVK5NytY&hl=en&sa=X&ei=w1CVUf3SMKHViwL4q4CIDg&ved=0CEcQ6AEwBQ#v=onepage&q=milton’s%20irony&f=false

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http://press.princeton.edu/chapters/s7063.html

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THE PREDICAMENT OF MILTON’S IRONY

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Caught as we are between possibility and mortality, irony remains a quintessentially human expression that, without platitudes, conveys the perplexity of our condition.

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This is especially the case when irony is taken to the extremes of absurdity or extenuation, since these manage to ridicule that most fundamental of human dogmas,

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namely, our pretension to something grander and finer than mere animal existence.

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For even as irony expresses the rueful if distinctive impulse to reflection or consciousness of ourselves as creatures, our very attempts at that perspective tend to leave us lost in Swiftian loathing at the unangelic thing we find, in terror of what looks like our own bestial futility.

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Of course, absurdity has always inspired such revulsion at our creatural nature, designed as it is to deliver us from the rational delusion of human preeminence.

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Yet more tacitly or more insidiously, so do the endless placating, temporizing, casuistical rounds we make in the opposite direction, invoking ‘mere humanity’ to excuse our seemingly invariable failure to improve ourselves.

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I mean the unctuous irony of rationalization, when we devote all our ingenuity to the task of avoiding thoughtfulness, and whose point is how we debase and betray our peculiar intelligence in thus refusing responsibility for what we have made of human being.

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But intelligence, however it is expressed, remains our obligation as creatures, and the one quality capable of rendering this existence meaningful, memorable, artistic in the ancient sense.

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And for the most part, we invoke irony both more kindly and scrupulously to assess just this intelligence, in the desire to better if not transcend human nature as we find it, and at the same time to acknowledge the finitude of the creature on which human vanity appears doomed to founder.

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That is why irony and drama show such an entire affinity for each other, because drama is the mode of representation most completely capturing not just the sense but the intimate sensation of this tension integral to human being–between our aspirations and our actualities.

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When Aristotle says that epic, like tragedy, is a mimesis or imitation of an action, he is distinguishing this dimensionality that attends any populated, diversified account of our experience: it is the genius of drama as an expressive mode to imagine and depict the human predicament much like we undergo it, projected as the perpetually latent meaning that fugurative persons must encounter and negotiate–forever latent because forever contingent upon the humanly inevident and incalculable train of motive and circumstance. For no matter how resolute or pointed, drama makes for an uneasy, restless literature just as irony does an uneasy, restless meaning.

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These observations may seem entirely superfluous to Paradise Lost, which is not a drama, at least in the conventional sense, and whose idiom is explicitly cast as a justification, which we generally take to mean a positive assertion of truth–God’s ways being truth, as Milton reminds us.

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Understandably, then, critics both friendly and hostile to what his speaker relates about the loss of Eden and all our woe have supposed the poem to be anything but dramatic or ironical, incapable of surprise or self-criticism.

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With ever more sophistication and nuance, they have tended instead to read it as symbolic and propositional–a poetic tractate if you will; and it is this supposition which ensures that there isn’t much middle ground of opinion where Milton is concerned, with the readers of the poem either vindicating or condemning what it more or less figuratively asserts, and loving or hating its author accordingly.

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Without seeking to exonerate Milton of what he says there (although it will inevitably appear that way), I would like to show that Paradise Lost is both dramatic and ironical in some perhaps surprising and self-conscious ways.

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Yet I also want to suggest that this is why there are, broadly speaking, two Miltons to be found in Milton studies and why people tend to evolve such exclusive and opposed ideas of them.

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It is telling, I think, that we never get so exercised over what we presume to be Shakespeare’s notion of things (unless we are George Steiner or Wittgenstein). But then, Shakespeare’s meanings are dramatical and, as such, too oblique and manifold to give indelible offense. But Milton and his poem have been offending someone or other for more than three hundred years.

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Needless to say, this project of arguing Milton’s irony is by no means incidental to yet one more reading of Paradise Lost, which I will give in a somewhat episodic fashion, the better to explain how the dramatic and ironical aspects of the poem are created not so much despite, but because we know the outcome of the story.

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For irony

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not only causes there to be two Miltons;

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it is the reason that there are two Gods in Milton’s poem–

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one tedious and repellant,

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the other unremittingly if only vicariously delightful,

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and both the source, or rather the occasion,

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of some extraordinary poetry.

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In relating the two   – Milton with Milton’s God –   I am of course enlisting William Empson, without whose book I could not proceed.    

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For as one admiring critic has described Empson’s place in Milton studies, his offense was “to take seriously and to force us to take seriously the idea that Milton truly thought that God’s ways needed justifying, that this was a hard, not an easy thing to do, and that a case could also be made for the other side.”   And Empson’s triumph, like his Milton’s, was “a triumph of the will, a work of extraordinarily perverse dedication”–”to try to keep us from thinking that Satan’s grandeur can be easily dismissed, or that God’s goodness can be easily cleared.”

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I would like to take up our understanding of Milton where Empson left off–with the uneasy significance of Paradise Lost and that perdurable human need to justify God’s ways–and will begin by stating the obvious: that we usually undertake to justify something only when we suffer an injustice, by which I mean an incoherence, a challenge or conflict in our experience of the world. For whether or not they go by that name, our religious commitments tend to respond not to our ease but to our difficulties with things, on those occasions when the ordinary would seem to behave not just extraordinarily but wrongly–defying reasonable expectation and eluding that mastery of our circumstances to which we presume.

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Crises like these make us fearful but also reflective, self-conscious, moving us to pursue the justification, the right conceiving or ordering of such experiences, precisely because we cannot as creatures tolerate the uneasiness left in their wake.

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So rather like Lord Macaulay’s Francis Bacon, or Hugo von Hofmannsthal’s Lord Chandos, we make an enduring scandal of the discovery that the familiar remains unknown or perhaps unknowable at its core, because we dearly want to assume that human expectation and human understanding are one and the same, when they are not.

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Indeed, our human predicament is chronic, ineluctable surprise at the discrepancy between these dimensions of our experience, which we are obliged daily to witness as

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expectation outstrips understanding  even in the smallest things.

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This aspect of being human is what irony enacts for us.

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And while there is something really wonderful and hopeful about the fact that we are always learning what we do not know,

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yet as thinking and time-bound creatures, we are unable to leave our existence to what feels like chance.

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So we worry it endlessly, which is why we are also religious.

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http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Temptation_of_Christ#Is_it_a_parable.3F

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http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paradise_Regained

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Paradise Regained is a poem by the English poet John Milton, published in 1671. It is connected by name to his earlier and more famous epic poem Paradise Lost, with which it shares similar theological themes. It deals with the subject of the temptation of Christ.

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The poem was composed in Milton’s cottage in Chalfont St Giles in Buckinghamshire, and was based on the Gospel of Luke‘s version of the temptation of Christ. Paradise Regained is four books in length, in contrast with Paradise Lost‘s twelve.

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One of the major concepts emphasized throughout Paradise Regained is the play on reversals. As implied by its title, Milton sets out to reverse the “loss” of Paradise. Thus, antonyms are often found next to each other throughout the poem, reinforcing the idea that everything that was lost in the first epic is going to be regained by the end of the mini-epic.

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Additionally, this work focuses on the idea of “hunger,” both in a literal and in a spiritual sense. After wandering in the wilderness for forty days, Jesus is starved of both food and the Word of God. Satan, too blind to see any non-literal meanings of the term, offers Christ food and various other temptations, but Jesus continually denies him.

 

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http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paradise_lost#Interpretation_and_criticism

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https://curtisnarimatsu.wordpress.com/2013/05/10/irony-can-include-paradox-and-paradox-can-include-irony/

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41 Responses to Shakespeare’s great prodigy/era peer John Milton’s poem Paradise Lost is about the Fall of Man — the temptation of Adam and Eve by the fallen angel Satan and their expulsion from the Garden of Eden. Milton’s purpose, stated in Book I, is to “justify the ways of God to men.” But unlike Martin Luther freestyler Shakespeare, my guy Milton huli auz (turns upside down) via irony/reverse psychology God’s Wrath as most desirable especially among the least of men, those who get pounded on by carnal outcomes tempted via Satan — God’s Wrath cleanses us of our vile nature, provided we surrender unconditionally to God!

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