In John Milton’s ‘Paradise Lost’ death is a central theme and idea, depicted from the very first lines as something that is synonymous with breaking the law of God. Death in Milton from the very first is about separation from God, breaking from God, being banished from…
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Death is that relentless time passing, causing everything to decay. It is the transience of things, of all that is mortal and born in time. Time devours everything (Shakespeare). Death is also a sad force that cannot be stopped, not by anything on earth (Shakespeare (b)):
Since neither brass nor stone nor earth nor the limitless ocean is strong enough to resist the sad force of mortality, how can beauty possibly resist death’s rage when beauty is no stronger than a flower? How could your beauty, which is as fragile as the sweet breath of summer, hold out against the destructive assaults of time when neither invulnerable rocks nor gates of steel are strong enough to resist its decaying power? (Shakespeare (b))
Yet, in the midst of this grave and gloomy image of death as the incessant work of time, there is also an aspect of death that transcends the destruction, and that is the beauty of the beloved as immortalized in the poetry, according to Shakespeare (Shakespeare (c)):
Despite death and ignorant enmity, you shall continue on. All those generations to come, down to the weary end of time, will devote space to praising you. So until Judgment Day, when you are raised up, you will live in this poetry, and in the eyes of lovers who read this. (Shakespeare (c))
In Christopher Marlowe’s ‘The Tragical History of Dr. Faustus’ again we see the same themes about death being, in essence, something that is of man’s making, through the decisions that he makes to either go with the good in him, or in the case of Dr. Faustus, to sign away his soul to the devil in exchange for his worldly ambitions and desires. Where in Milton the cause of the death in metaphorical terms was the disobedience by Adam and Eve of the express command of God, in Dr. Faustus by Marlowe there is the sense of the key protagonist willing to risk all, even his soul, for the sake of a worldly career and knowledge of a dubious magic that would not save him in the end. Knowledge
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