By analyzing John Milton’s Paradise Lost, it is plain to see it is a fine example of epic poetry. For the most part, John Milton follows the three main guidelines that construct an epic poem. By beginning in a formal way, having supernatural warfare, and engaging a character in a dark voyage, John Milton clearly uses classical epic characteristics. In traditional epic poetry, the poet asks a muse to speak through him. In the very beginning, Milton invokes a muse to inspire and instruct him.
I thence invoke thy aid to my adventurous song/…instruct me, for Thou know’st” (Book 1 ll 13-19). Though the muse gives him his motivation, it is not only the muse that distinguishes his knowledge of the supernatural world. There is a separate affiliation between the poet and the muse. Instead of the heavenly muse speaking through Milton, he uses her more as guidance. It is plain to see that the muse was Milton’s divine inspiration that made Paradise Lost the creation it became. The question of the dark voyage is easily answered by Satan’s many journeys.
The vast scopes of settings range from Heaven to Hell to Earth. As a punishment for Satan’s disloyalty to God, he is banished to the fiery flames of Hell. To receive his revenge, he escapes Hell in the search of Earth. There he can hurt God through His human creations which he has heard about. “Since the first break of dawn, the Fiend,/ Mere serpent in appearance, forth was come,/ And on his quest, where likeliest he might find the only two of mankind, but in them/ The whole included race, his purposed prey” (Book 9 ll 1-5).
Because Satan embarks on this journey, it is evident to see the connection to the epic element of a dark voyage. In Paradise Lost, the epic characteristic of warfare is a main event. There is a supernatural war fought between the forces Satan and the forces of God. Satan is willing to give up all peace, love, joy, and beauty to overcome God and gain all His power. Because of Satan’s involvement in this war, he and his followers will be surrounded by war, violence, hate and rage for eternity.
Satan loses the first battle as he challenges God’s sovereign rule and his punishment is banishment to Hell along with all his followers. Since Satan first began the war, he will be forced to continue in it for all time. Unmistakably there is a continuous battle between good and evil as should be in epic poetry. John Milton writes Paradise Lost as a well written epic poem. The technique in his writing illustrates the main elements of epic literature. Obviously, John Milton uses the key elements throughout his poem to convey an epic poem.