Paradise Lost and The White Devil AO4 and AO3


Paradise Lost and The White Devil



The White Devil: Published 1612

Paradise Lost: Published 1667


Background to John Webster

Webster came from a prosperous family of coach makers. He went to one of the best schools in England.

He may have entered the Middle Temple in 1598, which could be the reason for the importance for law in his plays.


The Reformation and the Renaissance were important influences on his works; secular drama against the Church and civil authorities were more popular.


The Real Vittoria

A recent aristocratic Italian sex scandal.

The duke suffered from a leg ulcer.


Background to John Milton

He was born in 1608.

He travelled around Italy, and began to plan writing the first epic poem in English, being inspired by classical epics such as Homer’s Odyssey.

First marriage was to Mary Powell who subsequently deserted him. 2nd and 3rd marriages were far happier and more equal.

By 1652, he was completely blind.

1660 – After the Restoration, Milton had to go into hiding to escape execution.

Milton originally conceived Paradise Lost as a verse play, after writing Satan’s soliloquy. 

Other works


·       Wrote a series of pamphlets calling for more leniency in the Church’s position on divorce, such as a Doctrine of Discipline and Divorce, where he argues that any sort of incompatibility – sexual or mental – is justified grounds for divorce.

·       He wrote ‘who can be ignorant that woman was created for man, and not man for woman?’

·       In 1648, he wrote pamphlets welcoming the new Parliament and the Inter Regnum.

·       He was one of few pamphlet writers who justified the regicide of Charles I, such as Of the Tenure of Kings and Magistrates, saying that he wasn’t fit to lead his subjects because he didn’t possess superior faculties or virtues. This was treasonous. 

He wrote ‘Comus’ ‘Lycidas’ and other poems, honing his skills at writing narrative, and lyrical poetry.


·       He believed that poetry should glorify God, promote religious values and help people become better Christians.

·       He championed the absolute freedom of the individual, perhaps because he had been so often betrayed by institutions which he trusted. He believed in religious toleration and the individual’s right to think and act independently.

·       He believed power corrupts humans, and distrusted anyone who claimed power over anyone else.

·       Milton didn’t believe in fate or predestination, it’s all about free will and choices.

·       Milton was a Presbyterian, who didn’t believe in bishops. Milton gradually called for the removal of all priests, to whom he referred to as ‘hirelings’. Catholic influence

·       Milton believed the fragmentation of the church was healthy self-examination. It was all about the individual Christian. Individual conscience was a much more powerful tool in interpreting the Word of God than the example of the church.

·       Milton saw humankind as


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