Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Post-Colonial Paradise Lost Pre-write

The Motherland and her dependent colonial offspring
by William-Adolphe Bouguereau
Thesis Statement:
Although Milton's Of Reformation and Paradise Lost still share many similarities with other works under postcolonial criticism, they ultimately condemn colonialization and predict the eventual dissolution of the English Empire.

Parallels between colonial history and Paradise Lost, Satan and colonizers both:
  • Oppose higher power and cause a civil war
  • Move across expanse to new, beautiful land
  • Encounter beautiful, unintelligent, indigenous people
  • Cause the downfall of the indigenous with words
  • Return as conqueror
  • NEW TWIST (main difference from many other works under postcolonial criticism): Satan (colonizer) is punished

Quotes showing Milton's prediction in Of Reformation:

"In all these things hath the Kingdome been of late sorely weakened, and chiefly by the Prelates. What numbers of faithful and freeborn Englishmen and good Christians have been constrained to forsake their dearest home, their friends, and kindred, whom nothing but the wide Ocean, and the savage deserts of America could hide and shelter from the fury of the Bishops."

"First, let any man consider, that if any prince shall suffer under him a commission of authority to be exercised, till all the land groan and cry out, as against a whip of scorpions, whether this be not likely to lessen, and keel the affections of the subject. Next, what numbers of faithful and freeborn Englishmen, and good Christians, have been constrained to forsake their dearest home, their friends and kindred, whom nothing but the wide ocean, and the savage deserts of America, could hide and shelter from the fury of the bishops? O sir, if we could but see the shape of our dear mother England, as poets are wont to give a personal form to what they please, how would she appear, think ye, but in a mourning weed, with ashes upon her head, and tears abundantly flowing from her eyes to behold so many of her children exposed at once, and thrust from things of dearest necessity, because their conscience could not assent to things which the bishops thought indifferent? What more binding than conscience? What more free than indifferency? Cruel then must that indifferency needs be, that shall violate the strict necessity of conscience; merciless and inhuman that free choice and liberty that shall break asunder the bonds of religion! Let the astrologer be dismayed at the portentous blaze of comets, and impressions in the air, as foretelling troubles and changes to states: I shall believe there cannot be a more ill-boding sign to a nation (God turn the omen from us!) than when the inhabitants, to avoid insufferable grievances at home, are enforced by heaps to forsake their native country."

"I know not what drift the prelates had, whose brokers they were to prepare, and supple us either for a foreign invasion or domestic oppression: but this I am sure, they took the ready way to despoil us both of manhood and grace at once"

"But they contrary, that by the impairing and diminution of the true faith, the distresses and servitude of their country, aspire to high dignity, rule, and promotion here, after a shameful end in this life, (which God grant them,) shall be thrown down eternally into the darkest and deepest gulf of hell, where, under the despiteful control, the trample and spurn of all the other damned, that in the anguish of their torture, shall have no other ease than to exercise a raving and bestial tyranny over them as their slaves and negroes, they shall remain in that plight for ever, the basest, the lowermost, the most dejected, most underfoot, and downtrodden vassals of perdition."


  1. I like this concept and think it'll work out for a great paper. As far as structure, would you plan on following the parallels chronologically through the Paradise Lost narrative? I think that would make it easiest to follow. I think the weakest part of the parallel would be the punishment of the oppressors solely for the purpose of colonization. In other words, would Milton feel that a righteous, upright king has a right to spread his civilization, especially if that civilization is grounded in Christianity? It seems from the quotes as if most colonization Milton opposed involved people fleeing their lands as a result of false religion being domineering. Or is colonization anti-Christian altogether? Just some thoughts.

  2. I never thought to compare Paradise Lost to colonialism, but I'm really liking the connections that you're making. Something to consider would to get some historical context of MIlton and maybe what's going on as far as colonization during his time. I think that would really make the paper stronger.

  3. Oliver Cromwell before the Civil War considered abandoning England for America. Viewing Archbishop Laud's "innovations in religion" with abhorrence, he told Clarendon in 1641 that if the Grand Remonstrance had not passed "he would have sold all he had the next morning and never have seen England more."
    Didn't Milton have a hand in drafting the Grand Remonstrance?