In Her Shape How Lovely: The Habit of Virtue in Paradise Lost*

Christian Leithart

Abstract


The English poet John Milton wrote his epic poem Paradise Lost in part as a way to train his audience in virtue. Throughout the poem, virtue appears in many different contexts, and nearly always, it is portrayed as a habit, acquired over time through meditation on the word of God. Each character in Paradise Lost and in Milton's shorter epic, Paradise Regained, grows or decreases in virtue depending on how they respond to various temptations. By representing both good and evil as accurately as possible, Milton’s poetry serves as an opportunity for his audience to experience the same thing as his characters, and so trains them to live truly virtuous lives.


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