Utopia (1516) and Paradise Lost (1667): Politically subversive?


Utopia and Paradise Lost-Politcally subversive?


  • Negative depiction of the monarchy P1: "There is no place for philosophy in the council of kings." (Book 1-Raphael-Utopia: CENSORSHIP) "-he/Who now is sovereign can dispose and bid/What shall be right: farthest from him is best." (Satan-Book 1-Paradise Lost: SATAN=REASON GOD=TYRANNY)
  • Negative depiction of the monarchy P2: "-any king heaping up so much money as to impoverish his people" (Book 1-Raphael-King Henry VIII allusion-Utopia: GREED) "princely counsel in his face yet shone" (Narrator on Satan-Book 2-Paradise Lost: KINGSHIP + EVIL)


  • Views of monarchy are subjective: "sufficient to have stood; yet free to fall" (God on Satan-Book 3-Paradise Lost: SUBJECTIVITY/FREE WILL) "Don't give up the ship in a storm because you cannot hold back the winds: (More-Book 1: Utopia: RHETORIC vs. PHILOSOPHY + PERSUASION vs TRUTH)
  • Structural analysis: Giving the conservative character his name (More) is a distancing technique for his true views represented by Raphael. (CENSORSHIP) *paratexts (visit to Antwerp for King) (Utopia) In Heaven God is a just ruler: "merciful over all his works" (Book 12), in Hell he is a tyrant, the views shift due to context. (Paradise Lost) *However end of poem they are left to their "solitary way" with only "providence as their guide".

Overall comparison

Paradise Lost: Is politically subversive, because of its context (civil war 1642-1649/Glorious revolution 1688-1689 + Parliamentarian Milton who wrote the poem in hiding when monarchy was restored-he was eventually pardoned) and its negative discourse of power and absolute monarchy. Kingship is a socially constructed position. However, he also acknowledges both Heaven (Royalists) and Hell (Parliamentarians), he asks the reader to question authority fairly, and not to accept absolute monarchy without reason. (He equates Satan with reason and God with force, so his views are clear.) The importance of this period is the ability to question. Utopia: Is politically subversive because of its context (More's opposition to Henry's policies/divorce + his subsequent beheading 1535-dying words: "the king's good servant, but God's first") and its negative depiction of absolute monarchy: evils of private wealth, kingly ignorance and censorship of opposing views. His utopia had not absolute monarchy but it is also 'no where' (Greek). His condemnation of the monarchy is not as final as Milton's, for he sees the king as a necessary evil, in a corrupt world, for Utopia is a hope, not a truth. The real world needs a governing hand, and that hand is the king. He champions a better king, not no king at all. *ANALYSIS TECHNIQUES FOR PARADISE LOST:  4 Levels of Allegory: (1) Literal/Historical-The story’s conflict as metaphorical of historical conflicts.  (2) Allegorical/Tropological-Biblical references + allusions, (MAIN LEVEL). (3) Moral/Tropological-The present moral, not linked to historical/biblical conflicts but to the internal conflict in the reader, what does it instruct the reader do? (Question authority because of free will/subjectivity).  (4) Analogical/Eschatological-Treating the poem like a sacred text, it has ‘divine, prophetic, mystical and apocalyptic meanings,’ "-justify the ways of Gods to men" (Book 1 Milton). *Allegory is used to convey moral truths to the ‘deserving few’ like Jesus’ parables, he speaks in them to everyone who cannot understand these moral truths, but those few: “Blessed are your eyes, for they see: and your ears, for they hear”


Catt Robertson


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