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The Search for Order in Milton’s Paradise Lost and Boethius’ Consolation of Philosophy

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Title: The Search for Order in Milton’s Paradise Lost and Boethius’ Consolation of Philosophy
Authors: Kuribayashi, Laurie
Issue Date: 15 Jan 2014
Publisher: University of Hawaii at Manoa
Abstract: A great deal of scholarship has been devoted to the study of the philosophical and theological backgrounds of Milton’s Paradise Lost, but little or no attention has been paid to the possibility that Milton was influenced by one of the most popular philosophical works of the Middle Ages, the Consolation of Philosophy of Manlius Severinus Boethius, written in 524 A.D., or to the striking similarities between these two theodicies. Boethius is cited only twice, for instance, in the notes to Merritt Hughes’ standard edition of Milton’s work, and without any implication that Milton drew directly from the earlier author. The neglect is surprising in view of the considerable scholarship on Boethian influence upon Milton’s predecessors, but these studies concentrate their attention on the Middle Ages and stop well short of Milton. The neglect is even more suprising because of the great many concerns that Boethius and Milton have in common, and because Boethius provided precisely reasoned formulations for some of the very problems that Milton had to deal with in his "justification" of the "ways of God to men" (I,26). Drawing upon a great many earlier philosophers for his work--Richard Green, in his introduction to his translation, mentions Plato, Aristotle, Cicero, the Neoplatonists, Seneca, and St. Augustine as important sources for Boethius' ideas -- Boethius achieved an "expert synthesis of their traditional ethical doctrines." Admittedly Milton had direct access to the same works that Boethius drew upon. And Milton's restrictions were rather different, too, from those which Boethius set upon his own work; Boethius' analysis was based entirely ''on the power of natural reason without direct recourse to, or even mention of, Christian revelation; "while Milton's work is both an epic and a divine poem in which Chistian revelation and faith and grace are central. But Milton's work, like Boethius', is a synthesis of much thought and it corresponds in precise and important ways with Boethius'. A comparison between them is instructive.
Pages/Duration: 65 pages
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Appears in Collections:Honors Projects for English

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