“Liberty of Disobedience”, can we say that the one is more important than the other to the author of Paradise Lost?
John Milton was, from the very beginning of his active life, independent in his character. He was by nature a rebel and that is why he could not adjust himself to the strict discipline of the university. He was an apostle of liberty. Thus, unconsciously, he puts into the mouth of Satan, who incongruous though it may appear reflects a great deal of the ideals and aspirations of Milton. “It is in the passage where Satan speaks of the joy of independence and of the hatred which he bears to the tyranny of Heaven’s Ruler, that he reaches the most commanding heights of eloquence:
The mind is its own place, and in itself
Can make a Heaven of hell, a Hell of Heav’n
What matter where, if I am still the same,
And what I should, all but less than he
Whom thunder hath made greater? Here at least
We shall be free; the Almighty hath not built
Here for his envy, will not drive us hence
The reason for this, as contained in the above verses; Milton was the champion of popular liberty. He lost his eyesight while fighting against oppression in England. Milton put all his sentiments into the mind of Satan who is the greatest character of Paradise Lost. So we can say that Satan is basically a projection of Milton’s own self. If we make a comparison between Milton and Satan, we find that as Milton opposed the autocracy of King Charles I, Satan defied the authority of God and rebelled against him. It seems Milton himself speaks when Satan says:
What though the field be lost
All is not lost; the unconquerable will…
And courage never to submit or yield
Reasonableness of Religion
Dr. Johnson says that Milton’s purpose in “Paradise Lost” is to show the necessity and reasonableness of religion and the necessity of obedience to the Divine Law, Addison agrees with him and remarks that the moral of the epic is universal and it teaches us that. “
“The obedience to the will of God makes men happy, and that disobedience makes them miserable”. Coleridge also agrees that Milton deals with the origin of evil as well as the combat between good and evil and thus makes Paradise Lost a book of deep moral instruction to mankind. Green law holds the view that the theme of Paradise Lost is not man’s obedience to God but to temperance and reason. He says that the Fall of Man is due to his deviation from reason and tendency towards passion, especially sensual passion.
Temperance and Reason are the virtues of a godly man. To follow them is to follow God. In other words, to follow them is to obey the Divine Laws. By defying or disobeying His laws, man forfeits God’s benevolence. The case of Satan’s fall is quite different from man’s. In Book I, this ruined archangel becomes. The advocate of freedom and liberty but man’s disobedience came to the causes of his expulsion from Paradise and imposition of woeful life in the world.
Paradise Lost is a complex work of art in which so many of them have been woven together. The central theme is described in the first few opening lines of these. In which besides invocation, the Fall of Man has been stated due to his disobedience to the Will of God.
Of man’s first disobedience, and the fruit
Of that Forbidden Tree, whose mortal taste
Brought death into the world, and all our woe
With the loss of Eden, till one greater Man
Restore us, and regain the blissful seat,
Sing Heavenly Muse.
Theme of Freedom
There is also the theme of Freedom and Independence. Satan has been shown quite energetic and his energy is expressed in his rebellion against the Powerful God. Milton gives vent to his pride and republicism:
What though the filled be lost? (Li, 105-106)
Fallen Cherub to be weak is miserable
Doing or suffering! (Li., 57-56)
The mind is its own place and in itself
Can make a Heaven of Hell, a Hell of Heaven (Li., 254-255)
Awake, arise, or before ever fallen (Li., 330)
Better to reign in Hell than serve in Heaven (Li., 263)
The verses mentioned above guide us to know the value of freedom and independence at all costs. Milton through these lines stirs our imagination that it is better to rule in hell where you feel full freedom than in heaven where you do not feel free at all. You have to act according to the will of some autocrat: But at the same time we are guided to obey the Omnipresent and Omnipresent God because the obedience to the will of God makes us happy, and disobedience makes the man miserable.
In short, Milton has explained fully well the value of liberty and freedom and has also projected the importance of obedience to the will of God. Both are equally important and Milton has succeeded in highlighting their individual importance in his books (1 to 9). Milton has explained the value of liberty through the eloquence words of Satan and has described the drawbacks in disobeying God.
Ultimately we come to this conclusion that “Paradise Lost” is also the story of Paradise Found. Man is brought back into obedience and love. Satan loses paradise forever because he is wedded to evil, disobedience, hatred, and pride. It is because of these morals in the story that Milton succeeds in answering the purpose with which he composed his epic. He surely justifies the ways of God to man.