Dreams in "Paradise Lost" by John Milton

Dreams in "Paradise Lost" by John Milton
Since a plot of "Paradise Lost" is a biblical legend, the poem was numbered among the books of a pious nature, that can be viewed as a poetic presentation of the Bible. But Milton not just told the new interpretation of the biblican themes, and images, he just fully transformed them, showed from a new point of view.
When speaking about the biblical themes and images in the “Paradise Lost” it is important to point out the numerous dreams that the author used. John Milton’s use of dreams in the work evolves from a long tradition in epics and other literature. These dreams are of great importance for understanding and interpreting the plot, for understanding the characters and for understanding the author’s position of presentation the Bible themes.

There are several dreams in “Paradise Lost”:
- Jacob’s dream as Satan approaches Earth (III)
- Raphael advises Adam to “Dream not of other Worlds” (VIII)
- Adam’s dreams : one of Eden and one of Eve
- Eve’s dream of eating from the forbidden tree and Eve’s dream of the “Promis’d Seed” .

Let’s consider the dreams of Eva, and find out the meaning of her dreams. The first dream of Eva was about Satan, who as well as God can influence human dreams. The meaning of that dream is that Christians always believed that Satan and other demonic spirits could influence humans through dreams, he used dreams to encourage man to sin.
While Eve was sleeping, Satan caused her to dream of eating the forbidden fruit. Later Eve told Adam that she heard a “gentle voice, I thought it thine” (37) speaking to her:

Why sleep’st thou Eve? Now is the pleasant time,
The cool, the silent, save where silence yields
To the night-warbling Bird, that now awake
Tunes sweetest his love-labor’d song; now reigns
Full Orb’d the Moon, and with more pleasing light
Shadowy sets off the face of things; in vain,
If none regard; Heav’n wakes with all his eyes,
Whom to behold but thee, Nature’s desire,
In whose sight all things joy, with ravishment
Attracted by thy beauty still to gaze. (38-47)

So what did Milton mean by this temptation dream? The purpose was to show that God and Satan could influence Adam and Eve through dreams:
Evil into the mind of God or Man
May come and go, so unapprov’d, and leave
No spot or blame behind: Which gives me hope
That what in sleep thou didst abhor to dream
Waking thou never wilt consent to do. (117-21)

And Adam and Eve had to choose whether to follow God, whose dreams provided comfort and joy, or Satan, whose dreams brought nothing but “offense and trouble” (V, 34).

Eve’s first dream shows the power of Satan to attack our weakest points, Adam’s divine dreams show the goodness of God, the final dreams and visions of Adam and Eve show their ultimate triumph over Satan.

The dreams in “Paradise Lost” do not concern only the characters within it, but they are called to present the biblical themes, to show their meaning with a help of dreams. For example Milton used divine dreams of Adam as a method for communicating with God. Through the divine dream Milton showed something important, so the dreams bring readers closer to the truth, especially the final dream in “Paradise Lost”.

Ultimately, dreams can offer instruction, dreams provide visions from above, and enable humans to understand what is beyond them.

Works cited:

Milton, John. “Paradise Lost”. Oxford World’s Classics edition. Stephen Orgel and Jonathan Goldberg, eds. New York: Oxford University Press, 2004.

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