What Are the Epic Conventions in "Paradise Lost"?
The epic conventions in John Milton's "Paradise Lost" include the invocation of the muse in the beginning of story, the story beginning in the middle of the action, and the elevated style, subject matter and tone. Milton also uses epic similes to describe the events and characters of the story.
The muse that Milton refers to in the beginning of "Paradise Lost" is not the muse of previous classical epics. For example, the muse of Greek epics such as "Odysseus" was believed to be a goddess that controlled the power of storytelling. In comparison, the muse of "Paradise Lost" is the god of Christianity.
"Paradise Lost" begins "in medias res," or in the middle of the action. The opening book tells the story of the war between God and Satan. The plot of "Paradise Lost" begins after God cast Satan and his followers out of heaven.
Milton uses unrhymed iambic pentameter, or blank verse, to write his story. This style allows Milton to construct lengthy run-on sentences that allude to classical epic literature. Milton uses these lengthy sentence structures to hold the epic similes that he uses to describe the characters and places of "Paradise Lost." Epic similes are lengthy comparisons used to make a description more vivid. An example of an epic simile in "Paradise Lost" is when Milton compares the bodies of the fallen angels in hell to autumn leaves floating in the rivers and streams of the Italian town Vallombroso.