ABSTRACT

Milton's view of the traditional in literature is usually deduced from a handful of orthodox statements on style and genre. In fact, Milton's attitude ought to be deduced from the whole range of his poetry and prose. In the prose, where Milton continually comments on problems of language, he steadily condemns unthinking use of authority. His hostility to the merely traditional ought to give us freedom to treat the poetry with emphasis on its own coherence rather than on consistency with the precepts and models of tradition. In treating the War in Heaven, we ought to allow the possibility of comedy when the local texture urges it on us and we might even see the episode as a part of a continuous organic metaphor in the middle of the poem, a great “bodily” disturbance which ends with the evacuation of evil from Heaven. Milton never avoids the challenging of good by evil, in his ideas, in his symbolic structures, in his very style.

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