Presents new and authoritative essays by internationally respected Milton scholars Explains how and why Milton’s works established their central place in the English literary canon Structured chronologically around Milton’s major works Also includes a select bibliography and a chronology detailing Milton’s life and works alongside relevant world events Ideal as a first critical work on Milton
Milton's works are crowded with political figures—kings, counselors, senators, soldiers, and envoys—all engaged in a comparable variety of public acts—debate, decree, diplomacy, and warfare—in a manner similar to those who exercised power on the world stage during his time in public office. Traditionally, scholars have cited this imagery for two purposes: first, to support studies of the poet's political allegiances as reflected in his prose and his life; and, second, to demonstrate that his works are sympathetic to certain ideological positions popular in present times.
Fallon argues that Paradise Lost is not a political testament, however, and to read its lines as a critique of allegiances and ideologies outside the work is limit the range and scope of critical inquiry and to miss the larger purpose of the political imagery within the poem. That imagery, the author proposes, like that of all Milton's later works, serves to illuminate the spiritual message, a vision of the human soul caught up in the struggle between vast metaphysical forces of good and evil. Fallon seeks to enlarge the range of critical inquiry by assessing the influence of personal and historical events upon art, asking, as he puts it, "not what the poetry says about the events, but what the events say about the poetry." Divided Empire probes, not Milton's judgment on his sources, but the use he made of them.