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Between Worlds

Between Worlds: The Rhetorical Universe of Paradise Lost

Copyright Date: 2008
Pages: 360
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  • Book Info
    Between Worlds
    Book Description:

    William Pallister analyses the rhetorical methods that Milton uses throughout the poem and examines the effects of the three distinct rhetorical registers observed in each of the poem's major settings.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-8744-8
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Notes on the Text
    (pp. ix-2)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 3-12)

    In January of 49 BC Julius Caesar, enacting one of the most famous events in history, crosses the Rubicon, a violation of senatorial decree that precipitates the series of events leading to the battle of Pharsalus and the extinction of the Roman republic. Once on the river’s south bank, Caesar as portrayed in Lucan’sBellum Civiledelivers one of the poem’s many apostrophes: ‘Here I abandon peace and desecrated law; / Fortune, it is you I follow’ (I. 225–6). Caesar rises in Fortune’s favour as Pompey falls, pressing on to military victory and imperial power (Fortune eventually abandons him,...

  6. 1 Contingency, Probability, and Free Will
    (pp. 13-32)

    In order to approach the subject of rhetoric inParadise Lost, it is first necessary to establish the standing of Milton’s epic cosmos, especially the created world of man, in relation to the basic rhetorical principles of contingency and probability. Initially, we must narrow the context in which they, and rhetoric as a whole, will be treated in the four chapters that analyse the poem. To do so we must refer to the principle, first recorded in Aristotle’sOn Rhetoric, that rhetoric is divisible into three kinds, distinguished by their purpose in relation to the orator’s audience: the political or...

  7. 2 Milton’s Classical Rhetoricians
    (pp. 33-50)

    Exchanging ancient wisdom for modern novelty was held by many to be a dubious enterprise. Though challenged from several quarters, classical authority, along with the humanist beliefs and practices that sustained it, continued to thrive during the seventeenth century.¹ It exerted considerable influence on writers such as Milton, whose attitude concerning a variety of topics remained anchored in thebonae litterae, the writings of ancient Greece and Rome. When he listed the most valuable writers on rhetoric to be studied in the scheme of his ideal curriculum, he included none of the many pedagogical texts that had been published in...

  8. 3 Milton’s Forerunners: Renaissance Rhetoric
    (pp. 51-74)

    The premium put on a knowledge ofelocutiocan hardly be overemphasized. The bias towards it in Milton’s education tract is representative of Renaissance humanism as a whole, which embraced mastery of speech as an ornament in letters and in life. Although Milton proposes a rhetorical curriculum whose principle texts combine to present the art in its organic entirety – as it was, in fact, taught and applied across Europe – his basing half of it in authors who deal almost exclusively with style reflects the priorities not only of his age but of centuries past, when verbal techniques of diction, syntax,...

  9. 4 Milton’s Concept of Rhetoric
    (pp. 75-96)

    What is it to love the truth? In one of hundreds of such cases, John Foxe reports the testimony of five Protestant martyrs who ‘refused to recant and deny the received and infallible truth’ before their Marian inquisitors in the spring of 1557. ‘“My lord,”’ Henry Ramsey asks Bishop Bonner, ‘“will you have me go from the truth that I am in? I say unto you, that my opinions be the very truth, which I will stand unto, and not go from them: and I say unto you further, that there are two churches upon the earth, and we, ”meaning...

  10. 5 The Voice of God: Rhetoric and Religion
    (pp. 97-121)

    The principles of rhetoric, universally taught in early modern Europe, were both widely used in literary practice and often discussed in terms of the theories behind their use. What was rhetoric, and what did it mean for the understanding and performance of a given discipline? How was it, and how should it, be employed? One context that generated a significant body of discussion on these points was religion. In the homiletic and exegetical tracts that sprang from the polemical atmosphere of the Reformation, rhetoric was continually cited as a matter of theological import. Since late antiquity, when the Church Fathers...

  11. 6 The Rhetoric of Heaven
    (pp. 122-150)

    When Milton approached the problem of putting words in the mouth of God, he turned to rhetoric as the formal basis of divine speech. Rhetoric was the universally accepted technical grid on which any written composition had to be mapped out, its interrelationship with poetry being a standard critical assumption during Milton’s lifetime. For Milton, however, the affinity between rhetoric and poetry was uncommonly close, given ‘what Religious, what glorious and magnificent use might be made of Poetry both in divine and humane things’ (YP, 2: 405–6). When Milton writes of poetry as ‘subsequent, or indeed rather precedent’ (YP,...

  12. 7 Satan and Rhetoric
    (pp. 151-173)

    Writing in 1563, Johan Wier enumerated the formidable attributes of the Devil, whose expulsion from heaven had left his powers virtually undiminished: ‘It is clear that he has abundant strength, extraordinary cunning, superhuman wisdom, the sharpest insight, supreme alertness, unmatched craft in contriving the most destructive tricks by means of highly plausible dissimulation, infinite malice, and a hatred towards mankind that is implacable and incurable.’¹ This was Satan as Renaissance theology inherited him from late antiquity and the Middle Ages. Wier’s description emphasizes that Satan was conceived above all as the great Adversary who worked ceaselessly to destroy mankind, and...

  13. 8 The Rhetoric of Hell
    (pp. 174-196)

    The impact of Satan’s rhetoric inParadise Lostmay be viewed in light of the extraordinary power that classical and Renaissance rhetoricians, including Milton, thought to be inherent in words. Rhetoric could arouse the emotions in order to move the minds of listeners, who could thereby be led – enchained, drawn along, enticed, incited, ruled over, according to some of the common descriptions – to accept a particular opinion or follow a suggested course of action. InParadise RegainedSatan refers to the ‘resistless eloquence’ of the Athenian orators (IV.28), and although Milton believed that even the most forcible eloquence could be...

  14. 9 Temptation and the Rhetoric of Paradise
    (pp. 197-221)

    All roads lead to the Garden of Eden, the hub of Milton’s rhetorical universe. Whenever Milton returns from his inspired depictions of heaven and hell to his ‘Native Element’ (PLVII. 16), the theological, dramatic, and discursive conditions exist for rhetoric to thrive on all levels. Paradise is the most completely rhetorical of the poem’s three settings, for it is here, on account of human free will, that Aristotelian contingency is most fully realized, with salutary results for the art of persuasion.

    Eden’s rhetorical energy is further intensified because it is the place where the three discourses of man, angel,...

  15. 10 Descending from Heaven: Anthropopathia and the Rhetoric of Paradise
    (pp. 222-240)

    Literature loves villains, and its most captivating ones are drawn from the original. Fiction holds up for our inspection the likes of Iago, Faustus, and Uriah Heep, who get their retributive comeuppance, as well as more recent representations of the satanic, who do not:Blood Meridiancloses unforgettably on the scene of Judge Holden presiding over the timeless dance of human depravity. But Satan stands outside the company of his literary progeny in one important respect: he was not, in the period under discussion, a fictional character. Most devout Europeans in the Renaissance believed that the Devil was real, and...

  16. Conclusion
    (pp. 241-254)

    Paradise Lostis the Grand Tour of English literature, a sweeping survey ofres cunctas, all things, as Milton’s friend Samuel Barrow wrote in one of the verse commendations prefacing the second edition of 1674. Despite all that the poem has to say about politics, religious controversy, gender, history, and any number of other subjects, every idea within its encyclopedic scope is both subordinate to an overarching poetic agenda and constitutive of an aesthetic achievement. Thus, like any other subject, rhetoric inParadise Lostis properly studied not for its own sake but as an idea-in-poetry, related to the form...

  17. Notes
    (pp. 255-286)
  18. Bibliography
    (pp. 287-302)
  19. Glossary of Rhetorical Figures and Tropes
    (pp. 303-306)
  20. Index
    (pp. 307-317)