Shelley and John Milton

Sophia Letendre

Mrs Gordon

English 12

15 May 2019

Paradise Lost Essay

Shelley’s argument about Milton’s perception of Lucifer and God is nevertheless defended by his analysis. In Paradise Lost, by John Milton, his purpose is to justify the ways of God to men by telling a story about the battle between an angel cast out from Heaven by God in a 10 book series. Percy Shelley wrote the A Defense of Poetry 1821, in response to another author, Thomas Love Peacock, for his writing The Four Ages of Poetry.

Shelley’s purpose for his essay is to defend his belief about the importance of poetry in human life. He defends his belief about bettering the life of humanity by using John Milton’s poem, Paradise Lost, by calling Milton a “genius” (Shelley L22) for rejecting the common belief of Lucifer wanting to be superior to God. I agree with Shelley, because in Paradise Lost, Lucifer did not ask God for higher power but equal power.

This is important in the refutation of popular beliefs and debates of the time period.

Shelley begins explains the underlying motives of Milton as a poet that writes with unpopular opinions and a “disguised” cloak. He states, “The distorted notions of invisible things which Dante and his rival Milton have idealized are merely the mask and mantle in which these great poets walk through eternity enveloped and disguised. Their “distorted notions of invisible things” means their pushed out of shape beliefs about religion that Milton unrealistically guards are being hidden beneath the surface.

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Milton questions and is focused on a higher figure that is beyond his mental capacity, but chooses to write about two conflicting powers that causes clamor between common believers. Shelley explains, “Nothing can exceed the energy and magnificence of the character of Satan as expressed in Paradise Lost” (Shelley L9-10). He describes the character of Lucifer as being in a presence of great vitality and intensity. He says, “It is a mistake to suppose that he could ever have been intended for the popular personification of evil” (Shelley L10-11). He doesn’t say the Devil is good for this or better than God, but also very powerful in telling the moral of the story. The term “personification” is confident wording for calling out others who have misinterpreted Shelley’s point. Shelley does not quite think Lucifer’s character was meant to be the ultimate form of evil, but oppositely a force of great resilience and character. Shelley points out that Milton’s Devil is form of morality because he did not give up when tortured for his stubbornness to comply with God not giving him equal power. Lucifer “perseveres” despite being intensely frustrated and getting the cold shoulder from God. The Devil knows God is adamant about his status of power, but does not give up. Shelley defends Milton for violating popular creed to asserting “no superiority of moral virtue to his God over his Devil” (Shelley L20-21). The reason why he praises Milton for being inspirational is simply because of his will and courage to reject common beliefs about Lucifer connecting to morality and evil. Shelley interprets God and Lucifer for not being superior to one another, but an example for the big picture for the future. Shelley wants to make a point that poetry is important and the rejection of the status quo is vital to inspiring change and future achievements in human kind.

I personally agree with Shelley’s interpretation and thesis on his essay. A person’s morality and outward appearance is not easily determined. A person can be looked upon as evil for being different, and good for accepting the same beliefs as anyone else. What Lucifer did might of been wrong, but his adamance of God’s word kept him alive. Milton’s story was meant to include and make his country come together in time of separation. Milton’s story was controversial for stepping out of a comfortable and non-questionable topic, but deemed being a “genius” by Shelley and for good reason connecting to modern times of crises.

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Shelley and John Milton. (2019, Dec 05). Retrieved from

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