The Practical Christ: An Analysis of Christ as Expressed in John Milton's Paradise Regained
The purpose of this thesis is to analyse the unique relationship between scripture and poetry.
This analysis is primarily conducted through an investigation into the figure of Christ as he appears in poetry outside of scripture, specifically in John Milton’s Paradise Regained. The poem is distinctive in its treatment and characterisation of Christ and therefore acts as a unique case study with which to study this relationship between scripture and poetry. The main argument of this thesis revolves around how Milton constructs Christ as a literary character at the centre of his chosen narrative. The first chapter discusses the Gospels and the scriptural sources that Milton elects to use for his poem. Having analysed the scriptural material and how Milton has chosen to adapt it, the second chapter develops this by investigating the charges of heresy that have been made against the poem. It is also in this chapter where Milton’s personal theology is analysed to provide greater understanding of how this theology is expressed within Paradise Regained. The final chapter focuses on the form and genre of the poem, demonstrating that the way in which Milton constructs Christ as a literary figure highlights the intricacies which poets are faced with when it comes to creating a poetic vision of Christ, thus ultimately asking: How does the poet reconcile the elements of scripture that cannot be ignored with their own artistic liberty? This thesis proposes that Milton is conscious of this conundrum and constructs his poem in such a way where this exact question is baked into the conflict between Christ and Satan. Paradise Regained is a poem that is concerned with scripture as a collective social and historical narrative and characterises Christ as a historian of this collective narrative. This is done, so as to best articulate the ways in which poetry can be utilised to comment and build upon how the reader may integrate scripture into their own lives and social narratives.