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THE WREATH, THE ROCK AND THE WINEPRESS: PASSION ICONOGRAPHY IN MILTON'S "PARADISE REGAIN'D"

Russell M. Hillier
Literature and Theology
Vol. 22, No. 4 (December 2008), pp. 387-405
Published by: Oxford University Press
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/23927320
Page Count: 19
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THE WREATH, THE ROCK AND THE WINEPRESS: PASSION ICONOGRAPHY IN MILTON'S "PARADISE REGAIN'D"
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Abstract

Readers of Paradise Regain'd have been perplexed by Milton's preference for the Gospel temptation narratives over the Passion narratives in describing the Son's regaining of Paradise. The article argues that, in explicitly laying down the pattern of a Christian hero in the character of the Messiah, Milton enriches his brief epic with a subtle Passion iconography. Milton's brief epic defines exemplary heroic martyrdom by re-appropriating and transfiguring the Messianic icons of the thorny wreath and the immovable rock from William Marshall's frontispiece to Eikon Basilike. Furthermore, in his winepress simile, Milton adopts a traditional conceit highly evocative of the Son's Passion within the Christian imaginary. Milton's treatment of the wreath, the rock and the winepress suggests that the atonement is of greater moment for Milton's theology, politics and poetry than some of his readers have supposed.

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