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Home » » Essay on Milton written to the common man as other works from The Spectator? Why was Paradise Lost of such importance in that period?
Addison wrote to enlighten and entertain an intended audience that was forming out of middle class enhancing their taste and culture. They could not comprehend or appreciate the mystery, the passion, the wildness or the pathos of ancient epic. They were only charmed by the rhetoric and polish of the language. Addison, a reformer of the taste of his age, with the greatest critical effort in the series of Saturday papers, elaborates the canons of Aristotle, Longinus and Le Bossu for the general readers and praises Paradise Lost by them to enable the commoners to have an insight into the moral depth, spiritual superiority and the great emotion of life. Although erudition in classical literature, critical theory, and knowledge in Holy Scripture is mandatory for understanding Milton's Paradise Lost, Addison clearly discusses them in simple  straightforward language minding the common man inciting an interest that successfully 'made Milton a universal favourite'. Addison opens his essay making it clear that he will judge Paradise Lost by the rules of epic poetry set down by neo- aristotelian critics and practiced by Homer and Virgil. Here he explains his theories in terms of common man pointing that a perfect plot should possess three qualities of its action its singleness, completeness and greatness. He successfully breaks the poem up into these parts and compares it with The iliad and The Aeneid. He concludes that Paradise Lost has a more perfect action than the others being compared. According to Addison, Paradise Lost .gives us.........a   pleasure of the greatest variety, and of the greatest simplicity". Addison praises the plot of Paradise Lost highly in easy language and  highlights its importance above The iliad and The Aeneid. He points out that, to maintain the singleness of the action, Homer and virgil open their actions in the middle of the story. Milton closely imitates these two great poets and opens his Paradise Lost with an infernal council plotting the Fall of Man. He describes the preceding events later by way of episode. Here, although Addison refers to several events in Greek myth and Roman legend, he carefully ignores that common man needs a sound knowledge in classical learning to understand the epics. He then clarifies Aristotle's second theory regarding complete action  consisting of a beginning, middle, and an end. Just as in homer's iliad and Virgil's Aeneid, the parts of Paradise Lost are described in the most distinct manner, and grow out of one another. in the most natural method. Addison finds Milton superior to other epic poets in regard to the compactness of his plot. Addison also feels that Paradise Lost excels in the greatness category as "it does not determine the fate of single persons or nations, but of a whole species." Similarly, in regard to its length, Paradise Lost appears outstanding above The iliad and The Aeneid. Addison concludes the essay saying that since Paradise Lost is built on the contents of Holy Scripture, Milton had less freedom and had to be very cautious in expanding and diversifying the plot with episodes that do not offend the religious authority. Thus we may easily deduce that although his essay underscores the importance of an education in classical literature it simultaneously presents a critical analysis that could be appreciated by common man as for the case of other essays from. The Spectator without such an education. His aim was to gather up the best ideas of his time, put them within the reach of the ordinary readers and infuse literary curiosity. His attempt succeeded. Inquiry was awakened and comprehension expanded.


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