[Milton-L] The War in Heaven

Carol Barton cbartonphd at earthlink.net
Sun Jul 9 14:59:13 EDT 2006


Mike, questions concerning the meaning, purpose, and efficacy of Book 6 of _Paradise Lost_ are standard fare in Milton courses, and have been the focus of a great deal of formal criticism. You should be able quite easily to locate and browse through as many as you like, in journals such as _The Milton Quarterly_ and _Milton Studies_. 

My own viewpoint is that Book 6 is (i) necessary, from an epic standpoint, following the lead of Milton's predecessors in the genre; and (ii) a subtle criticism of the classic Greco-Roman anthropormorphization of deity, presented respectfully by Raphael as an accomodation, but verging on the parodic, when the immortals start flinging mountains at one another like children in a sandbox hurling handfuls of sand. (What is the point of a terrestrial battle among eternal creatures who have no physical substance, and are incapable of mortal injury, being immortal? And how can any attempt to stage a battle against the only being who is definitively Almighty be anything but comic?) Milton plays it straight, I think, because he has to, given his cast--but this book also foreshadows Raphael's response to Adam's inquiries about the workings of the cosmos.

I hope that's helpful, as a start. (But again--it is only one of many interpretations of Milton's portrayal of the War in Heaven, and you really should investigate as many as you can, to be able to argue your own ultimate position effectively.)

Carol Barton 
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