John Milton: A Complete Review of His Legacy

by Amy

John Milton, a renowned English poet and polemicist of the 17th century, is widely regarded as one of the greatest literary figures in history. His works, including the epic poem “Paradise Lost,” have had a profound impact on literature, philosophy, and political thought. This article delves into the life, works, and lasting legacy of John Milton, exploring the revolutionary ideas and enduring influence that define his contributions to the world of literature and beyond.

Early Life and Education

John Milton was born on December 9, 1608, in London, England, into a prosperous family. His father, John Milton Sr., was a scrivener, and his mother, Sarah Jeffrey, was a devoutly religious woman. From a young age, Milton showed exceptional intelligence and a keen interest in learning. He received his early education at St. Paul’s School in London, where he excelled in languages, literature, and classical studies.

In 1625, Milton entered Christ’s College, Cambridge, where he continued to pursue his academic passions. He was known for his voracious reading habits and deep engagement with the works of ancient Greek and Roman writers, as well as contemporary European thinkers. Milton’s intellectual curiosity and dedication to scholarship laid the foundation for his later literary achievements.

Literary Career

After completing his education at Cambridge, Milton embarked on a literary career that would establish him as a groundbreaking author and thinker. In 1632, he published his first major work, a collection of poems titled “Poems of Mr. John Milton, Both English and Latin.” This publication showcased Milton’s mastery of poetic form and language, earning him recognition as a rising talent in English literature.

Throughout the 1630s and early 1640s, Milton produced a series of influential prose works on various topics, including education, religion, and political theory. His essays and treatises, such as “Of Education” (1644) and “Areopagitica” (1644), reflected his progressive views on freedom of speech, individual liberty, and the pursuit of knowledge. Milton’s writings during this period established him as a leading voice of the English Renaissance and a champion of intellectual freedom.

Political Involvement and Controversies

In addition to his literary pursuits, John Milton was actively involved in the political and religious upheavals of his time. He supported the Parliamentarian cause during the English Civil War (1642-1651), advocating for republican government and the abolition of monarchy. Milton’s political beliefs were strongly influenced by his commitment to individual rights and his opposition to censorship and tyranny.

However, Milton’s political involvement also brought him into conflict with authorities and led to periods of personal hardship. In 1649, following the execution of King Charles I and the establishment of the Commonwealth under Oliver Cromwell, Milton was appointed as Secretary for Foreign Tongues, serving as a propagandist for the new government. His writings during this period, including defenses of regicide and attacks on censorship, sparked intense controversy and condemnation from royalists and conservative forces.

“Paradise Lost” and Later Works

Despite facing political and personal challenges, John Milton continued to write and publish prolifically. His most famous work, “Paradise Lost,” was published in 1667 and remains a monumental achievement in English literature. This epic poem, divided into twelve books, explores the biblical story of the Fall of Man, Satan’s rebellion, and humanity’s quest for redemption. Through richly evocative language, vivid imagery, and profound philosophical themes, Milton crafted a masterpiece that transcends its religious subject matter to offer timeless insights into human nature, morality, and the struggle between good and evil.

In the years following “Paradise Lost,” Milton produced other notable works, including “Paradise Regained” (1671), a sequel exploring the temptation of Christ, and “Samson Agonistes” (1671), a dramatic poem based on the biblical figure of Samson. These works further demonstrated Milton’s command of poetic form, intellectual depth, and thematic complexity.

Legacy and Influence

John Milton’s legacy endures as a beacon of intellectual and artistic achievement. His contributions to literature, philosophy, and political thought have left an indelible mark on Western culture and continue to resonate with readers and scholars worldwide. Milton’s exploration of themes such as freedom, morality, and the human condition remains relevant and compelling in the modern era.

In the realm of literature, Milton’s influence can be seen in the works of later poets and writers who were inspired by his epic vision and innovative use of language. Poets such as William Wordsworth, Percy Bysshe Shelley, and T.S. Eliot have acknowledged Milton’s impact on their own writing styles and thematic concerns. His emphasis on individualism, heroic struggle, and the power of language to convey complex ideas has shaped generations of literary creators.

Beyond literature, Milton’s ideas about politics, religion, and freedom of expression continue to inform contemporary debates and discussions. His defense of free speech in “Areopagitica” remains a foundational text in the advocacy for intellectual liberty and the open exchange of ideas. Milton’s vision of a society based on principles of reason, justice, and individual rights remains a source of inspiration for those who seek to create a more just and enlightened world.


In conclusion, John Milton stands as a towering figure in the history of literature and thought. His revolutionary ideas, groundbreaking works, and enduring legacy continue to inspire and provoke readers, writers, and thinkers across the globe. From his early education and literary aspirations to his profound impact on political and philosophical discourse, Milton’s life and works exemplify the power of human intellect, imagination, and moral conviction. As we reflect on his legacy, we are reminded of the timeless relevance and enduring significance of John Milton’s contributions to the world of ideas and letters.


When did John Milton go blind?

John Milton’s blindness began to develop in the early 1650s when he was in his late thirties. The exact date of when he completely lost his eyesight is uncertain, but by 1652, he was considered totally blind. Milton’s blindness was attributed to a combination of factors, including his strenuous reading habits, intense writing schedule, and possibly glaucoma or retinal detachment. Despite his blindness, Milton continued to dictate his works to scribes and composed some of his most famous poems, including “Paradise Lost,” through verbal composition.

Why did John Milton write Paradise Lost?

John Milton wrote “Paradise Lost” as an epic poem that aimed to explore profound theological and philosophical themes while also showcasing his poetic talent and mastery of language. The primary motivation behind writing “Paradise Lost” was to provide a literary account of the biblical story of the Fall of Man, based on Milton’s interpretation of scripture and his own theological beliefs.

Milton intended “Paradise Lost” to be a work of great moral and intellectual significance, addressing fundamental questions about human nature, free will, temptation, sin, and redemption. Through the character of Satan and his rebellion against God, Milton delved into themes of pride, ambition, and the consequences of disobedience. The portrayal of Adam and Eve’s expulsion from Eden and their subsequent struggles reflected Milton’s views on the human condition and the complexities of moral decision-making.

Furthermore, Milton wrote “Paradise Lost” during a tumultuous period in English history marked by political upheaval, religious controversies, and social change. The epic poem can also be seen as a reflection of Milton’s own political and religious convictions, advocating for principles of liberty, justice, and individual responsibility.

Overall, “Paradise Lost” represents Milton’s ambitious attempt to create a monumental work that would engage readers on multiple levels, intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually, while leaving a lasting impact on English literature and philosophical discourse.

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