Here is the introduction paragraph to my short essay that I just posted a link to on Google+. A link to it can also be found here.
John Milton was a staunch advocate of liberty in all it’s forms, whether he was talking about literacy, divorce, or monarchy, and as such it is always intriguing to look at Milton’s involvement in the English Civil War and the Interregnum and how those experiences affected his later works, especially his masterpiece Paradise Lost. While Roland Barthes would argue that “the author is dead,” I believe that one key looking at Paradise Lost is to consider Oliver Cromwell. An examination of Paradise Lost shows that Cromwell served as partial inspiration for Milton's portrayal of Satan, in that Cromwell was the head of a democratically inspired rebellion against the monarchy that ultimately failed within Milton's lifetime. Also, while Satan uses republican ideals to inspire his fellow angels (and later demons), he ends up distorting those values to become a dictator; this is analogous to Cromwell leading a democratic civil war against the English king, only to set himself up as the “protector.”