"To Offer Salvation and Eternal Life Equally to All”: The New Purgatory in the Poetry of John Milton

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English Language and Literature


This project argues for the existence of a “New Purgatory” in the later poetic works of John Milton, particularly Paradise Lost and Samson Agonistes. Milton, it is argued, created a New Purgatory in order to preserve the important theological idea of purgation while avoiding the socially and politically untenable doctrines of the Catholic Church. The author outlines the ways in which Milton’s New Purgatory differentiates itself from the Catholic Purgatory through several distinct alterations: internalization, isolation, education, and antinomianism. Four of Milton’s best-known characters––Adam and Eve, Satan, and Samson––are shown to undergo distinctly purgatorial experiences which aid them in properly understanding the Miltonic God and their opportunities to achieve salvation. This project contributes to the larger body of Miltonic studies by revising previous, widely-accepted depictions of Milton as allegiant to a strict Puritan religious doctrine, analyzing the poet instead as possessing a complex personal theology comprised of many disparate influences.