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Milton's grand style

Milton's style in Paradise Lost is called grand style, because it bears an unmistakable stamp of majesty and beauty of epic style. Milton has chosen a lofty theme for his epic but what has made the poem great is not the story but the incomparable elevation of the style, the shaping spirit of imagination and the mere majesty of the music.

The following are the characteristics of Milton's grand style.

(a) Sublimity: 

Milton has employed in Paradise Lost a learned style, full of classical allusions and diction. He deals with a great and eternal subject - the fall and redemption of man, and of the ways of God to men. That is why he has chosen a style which is characterised by dignity and stateliness.

(b) High seriousness: 

High seriousness marks both Milton's character and poetry. His tone through the whole epic is sombre and serious, because he deals with lofty things like Heaven, Hell, God, angels, and Adam and Eve, the grandparents of mankind.

(c) Superb imagination with high craftsmanship:

Milton's imagination creates a world of Heaven and Hell which could only have been possible with the superb imagination and artistic perfection that he has.

(d) Suggestive power:

The effect of Milton's poetry has been produced not by what it expresses, but by what it suggests. The imagination of the poet conjures many beautiful and suggestive pictures, such as the depiction of Satan who symbolises Evil in its extreme form.

(e) Autobiographical elements:

Milton's poetry is the reflection of his own life and philosophy. In Paradise Lost, we see Milton, the hater of women, the critic of autocratic Government and the lover of liberty. Milton's spirit of rebellion against the so-called divine and autocratic king, and love for liberty are put forth in the mouth of Satan.

(f) Love for classicism: 

As a great scholar in classical learning, Milton shows his classical bent of mind in (i) his choice of classical form- the epic, (ii) The use of epic similes, (iii) The fondness for classical allusions (iv) dignity of classical turn, and (v) choice of classical diction and syntax.

(g) The use of proper names and allusions:

Milton explores all the treasures of literature and various other branches of literature for his allusions. Myths, legends, historical, literary and scientific facts, as well as classical and Biblical allusions are found in abundance in Paradise Lost.

(h) Epic similes:

In Milton's hand, the similes develop into elaborate pictures which undoubtedly contribute to the effect of the sublimity of style.

(i) Use of blank-verse:

Milton is a consummate artist of English blank-verse. It is characterised by varied movement and the placing of pauses majestic in its flowing cadence, stern in its beauty and lofty in tone, incomparable in its dignity. The introduction of verse paragraph in English poetry is Milton's greatest achievement.

(j) Verse-music:

The solemn and sonorous quality of the verse music contributes to the grand style of Paradise Lost.

(k) Unusual structure of sentences:

Milton arranges his word-order in his own way to gain the maximum effect. This violation of the normal English word-order, the variety of feet, of movement, of musical sounds are carefully and systematically employed in order to achieve different kinds of emotional pitch to effect continuity and integration in the weaving of the epic design.

To sum up, the sublimity of Milton's style in Paradise Lost is marked in the lofty tone, rhetorical eloquence, the solemn and sonorous quality of his verse music along with the loftiness of the theme.


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