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The Legal EpicParadise Lost and the Early Modern Law$
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Alison A. Chapman

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780226435138

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: September 2017

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226435275.001.0001

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The Traitors of Heaven and Earth

The Traitors of Heaven and Earth

(p.65) 3 The Traitors of Heaven and Earth
The Legal Epic

Alison A. Chapman

University of Chicago Press

This chapter argues that Milton taps contemporary early modern debates about the nature of treason for his depiction of sin in Paradise Lost. Political upheavals in the middle of the seventeenth century, including the English Civil War, had put the definition of treason under immense pressure. In prose works such as Eikonoklastes, A Defense of the English People, and Brief Notes upon a Late Sermon, Milton champions an emerging idea of treason as an attack on the law rather than as an attack on the king. This definition of treason informs his treatment of both Adam and Eve's and Satan's rebellion in Paradise Lost. Milton's reliance on an impersonal idea of treason has important stakes for how he depicts God. Milton shows Heaven to be a thoroughly legal order, and the chapter discusses what this legality says about the nature of God.

Keywords:   treason, English Civil War, Eikonoklastes, Defense of the English People, Brief Notes upon a Late Sermon, Adam and Eve, Satan, God, traitors

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