Literary Features of the Age of Milton
The Age of Milton, typically referring to the 17th century, was a period of significant literary and cultural developments, with John Milton standing as one of its most prominent figures. Here are some key literary features of this era:
1. Epic Poetry:
The Age of Milton is particularly renowned for its epic poetry, and John Milton’s “Paradise Lost” stands as a towering achievement. Published in 1667, this epic recounts the biblical story of the fall of man, portraying Satan’s rebellion and Adam and Eve’s expulsion from Eden. Milton’s use of blank verse and the grandeur of his language contribute to the epic’s enduring impact.
2. Religious and Political Themes:
The 17th century was a time of intense religious and political upheaval, marked by events like the English Civil War and the execution of Charles I. Milton, a Puritan, reflected these tumultuous times in his works. “Paradise Lost” explores theological themes, and his prose works, such as “Areopagitica,” advocate for freedom of the press, addressing the political context of censorship.
3. Puritan Influence:
The Age of Milton is strongly associated with Puritanism, a religious and political movement that sought to purify the Church of England. Puritan ideals, including a strict moral code and a focus on individual conscience, influenced the literature of the time. Milton’s own Puritan convictions are evident in his writings, where he grapples with questions of sin, redemption, and divine providence.
4. Miltonic Style:
Milton’s writing style is characterized by its eloquence, complexity, and use of classical references. His mastery of blank verse, a form of unrhymed iambic pentameter, gives his works a majestic and rhythmic quality. The Miltonic style had a lasting impact on later poets and writers, influencing the development of English poetic tradition.
5. Prose Works:
In addition to his poetry, Milton was a prolific prose writer. His political tracts, including “The Tenure of Kings and Magistrates” and “Eikonoklastes,” engage with contemporary political debates. Milton’s prose is marked by its forceful argumentation and eloquent expression of republican and Puritan ideals.
6. Classical Allusions and Influences:
The Age of Milton witnessed a revival of interest in classical literature and culture. Milton, well-versed in classical languages and literature, incorporated numerous classical allusions into his works. This classical influence is evident in both the structure and themes of “Paradise Lost.”
7. Moral and Didactic Elements:
Many literary works of this era, influenced by Puritan ethics, contained moral and didactic elements. Writers sought to instruct and edify readers through their works. Milton’s emphasis on moral choices and the consequences of actions, as seen in “Paradise Lost,” reflects this didactic tradition.
In conclusion, the literary features of the Age of Milton are characterized by the dominance of epic poetry, exploration of religious and political themes, Puritan influence, Milton’s distinctive style, the interplay of classical elements, and a didactic focus. This period laid the groundwork for the Enlightenment and subsequent literary movements, leaving an enduring legacy in the annals of English literature.