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Epic RomanceHomer to Milton$
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Colin Burrow

Print publication date: 1993

Print ISBN-13: 9780198117940

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198117940.001.0001

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(p.244) 8 Milton
Epic Romance

Colin Burrow

Oxford University Press

Each stage of John Milton's private musings moves with a drifting certainty towards the next stage of his deliberations, and the whole process seems to point towards an Arthurian romance. However, a hard look at other passages in Milton's early writings where he actually envisages the subject-matter of earlier romance narratives—love, pitiful digressions, warriors leaving or not leaving ladies, heroes succumbing to love—indicates that he had little affection for the materials of romance. Homeric compassion leaves not a trace on Milton's view of the scene. And not civic virtue, nor martial furor keeps Hector fighting; but shame is the spur. Milton avoids the sentimental revision of Homer, and sidesteps the galloping rush of ‘piety’ towards ‘pity’ by yoking it with justice. However, the qualities with which he replaces these tender passions are alien to romance narrative forms.

Keywords:   John Milton, romance, romance narratives, love, shame, Homer, compassion, Hector, piety, pity

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