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Discuss the idea of good and evil in the poem of John Milton and Alexander Pope - Essay Example

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Your Name Name of of Professor Discuss the idea of good and evil in the poems of John Milton and Alexander Pope John Milton and Alexander Pope are two of the most famous poets in the history of English literature. Both of them created works that were distinctive in their own ways and gave turns to certain established forms or genres of literature, thus helping in the overall development of literature…
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Discuss the idea of good and evil in the poem of John Milton and Alexander Pope

Download file to see previous pages... Pope’s essays on man can be considered to have not as much radical potential as Milton’s epic; however, the importance of this lies in its understanding of the Augustan age’s ideas of good and evil. This paper shall argue that the ideas that are discussed in these works derive from a transitional phase in English history and look at them during the course of it. In Book 1of Paradise Lost, Milton introduces a list of the fallen angels and presents their leader, Satan. The book shows the fallen angels lying in Hell, in council. There is a description of the various pagan gods that Milton considers evil in the book and they are referred to in the same breath as the fallen angels. In the midst of this scene, one finds that the figure of Satan is presented not just as a devil but also as a revolutionary who has rebelled against God. His standing at the head of the group of devils, inciting a continuing war against the Christian god is in the vein of a revolutionary waging war against a tyrant. This can be seen in the following lines- For who can think submission? War then, war Open or understood, must be resolved! (Milton 22) It is in such instances that Milton’s project to “justify the ways of God to men” (4) fails and the fissures in such a project are made visible. Satan is however, also not considered as a figure that one must seek to emulate as he seeks to corrupt innocent beings in order to satisfy his own need for power. This can be seen in his desire to change the course of God’s plan for Adam and Eve. One can thus say that the ideas of good and evil are problematized in the work of Milton. Both are not seen as separate watertight categories but overlapping ones that often overlap. While this may not always be a conscious decision on the part of the writer, the subtextual tension between these two categories plays itself out for the ambivalence to be created. Many consider this to be tensions that Milton himself faced following the Restoration in England. Having once been a supporter of a republic, Milton later supported monarchy and this ambivalence in his own mind can be seen in the way he reacts to the challenges of portraying the character of Satan. In his sonnets, Milton engages with ideas of good and evil that are much less political, in a certain sense. For instance, in the first sonnet, he talks of how he as a poet is a servant of the Muse of the Nightingale and the idea of love- Whether the Muse, or Love call thee his mate, Both them I serve, and of their train am I (Milton). The role of a poet is thus, like the nightingale, to serve love and to love is what is to be considered good. This makes the idea of evil the opposite of love, or hate. The idea of serving an omniscient and omnipotent master as good can also be seen in the seventh sonnet where he says, It shall be still in strictest measure even To that same lot however mean or high, Toward which time leads me and the will of heaven. All is, if I have grace to use it so, As ever in my great taskmaster's eye (Milton). To obey the will of God is what he considers to be virtue or goodness, in this sonnet and this is similar to the philosophy of life that he expounds in Paradise Lost. Pope too, in his work Essays on Man, talks of the need to obey God. For him, questioning the word of God as ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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