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Milton's Use of Classical Mythology in "Paradise Lost"

Jonathan H. Collett
PMLA
Vol. 85, No. 1 (Jan., 1970), pp. 88-96
DOI: 10.2307/1261434
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1261434
Page Count: 9
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Milton's Use of Classical Mythology in "Paradise Lost"
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Abstract

There are three categories of myth in "Paradise Lost," each of which is essential to the epic's proleptic structure: first, those myths identifying the pagan gods with the fallen angels; second, those myths used in comparisons with Eden, Adam, and Eve; finally, in Book XI, those myths that are types of the Old and New Testament revelation that Adam will receive. The first and third categories are evidences of God working in history, and these myths are consequently "fabled," set in story form by the pagans; the second group have no historical reality and are only "feigned," or fabricated. Milton uses these two words carefully. From another perspective, the first and second uses lead from the timelessness of prelapsarian existence to history. The third moves in reverse, from history to eternity, not of the world before the Fall but of the Christian glory to come.

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