Sex, Violence and Lust in John Milton's Paradise Lost

Essay by Brian NixUniversity, Bachelor'sC, January 1996

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There is no reason to apply modern theories to Milton if we do not care whether Milton remains alive. However, if we wish him to be more than a historical artifact, we must do more than just study him against the background of his time. We must reinterpret him in light of the germane thought of our own age.

-James Driscoll

The Unfolding God Of Jung and Milton

Images and allusions to sex and death are intermingled throughout John Milton's Paradise Lost . The character of Satan serves as not only an embodiment of death and sin, but also insatiated sexual lust. The combination of sex and lust has significant philosophical implications, especially in relation to themes of creation, destruction, and the nature of existence. Milton, in Paradise Lost, establishes that with sex, as with religion, he is of no particular hierarchical establishment. However, Milton does not want to be confused with the stereotypical puritan.

Milton the poet, seems to celebrate the ideal of sex; yet, he deplores concupiscence and warns against the evils of lust, insisting lust leads to sin, violence and death.

From the beginning, Satan, like fallen humanity, not only blames others; but also makes comic and grandiose reasons for his evil behavior. Yet, despite his reasoning to seek revenge against God, 'his true motivation for escaping from hell and perverting paradise is, at least partly, something more basic: Satan needs sex' (Daniel 26).

In the opening books of the poem, Satan is cast into a fiery hell that is not only is miserable, but devoid of sex. As Satan describes when he has escaped to Eden, in hell: 'neigh joy nor love, but fierce desire, / Among our other torments not the least, / Still unfulfilled with pain of longing pine' (Book IV, 509-11). The phallic...