Tragedy stresses on what is past and real and lays emphasis on convergent thinking; likewise Paradise Lost has no room for imaginative freeplay. It tends to be more information-gathering that explains Adam’s desire to gain more and more knowledge from the angel Raphael. However there is uncritical thinking as with Tragedies which is why Adam cannot weigh the possibility of man’ s Fall against his love for Eve. Emotional engagement is another feature of tragedy where the tragic heroes tend to respond with great passion be it hatred, lust, love, revenge.etc. Likewise Adam responds with insatiable lust after his action of devouring the forbidden apple. Tragic heroes are idealistic and attached values to abstract concepts such as Justice, Truth, Honour, Innocence that Adam gives preference to before the fall of Eve. The Finality of leading to inevitable consequences is there, but there is also the possibility of reversing the same through the resurrection of Christ. The Tragic tends to value human spirit that is quite often dualistic prizing the soul over the body.
There is preference for the familiar as with tragedies which is why Adam and Eve choose primarily not to violate the norms; the preference and norm is for known knowledge than unknown knowledge. It abides by the order and process of classical tragedies and the structure is logical with no loose ends. Characters in a tragedy are larger than life or superhuman. Likewise Adam is semi divine here, holds the distinction as the first of mankind and the father of the entire human race. Offending a tragic hero resulted in vengeance as with Hamlet Or Othello but I this case Adam is not revengeful, and Satan though obsessed with vengeance does not fit into the framework of a tragic hero. Tragedies are often male-dominated; so is the case of Paradise Lost where Eve is constructed from the ribs of Adam ,and he gains precedence in all scenes. Eve is not allowed to listen to the sound advices of the angels,as she is considered to be without intellect. The primary reason she eats the forbidden apple is to become like a Man. There is respect for Tradition in the typical tragedy. Here there is no tradition as there is no history and the world has just began ;and the hero has no personality as Adam and Eden have just been created.Tragedy follows rule-based ethics that is the results of disobeying the accepted order of things is stressed upon: Paradise Lost‘religiously’ adheres to in the form of God and his tenets. Also, the hero deals with unexceptional suffering and agony as with tragedies; and this state of despair is contrasted with his previous glory. We find the same in Paradise Lost where the hero is transported into earth characterized by death and suffering from Eden typified with immortality and never-ending bliss. There is the introduction of supernatural elements with reference to God, Satan and the angels. However, there is not no abnormal mental condition with as in Shakespearean tragedies like hallucinations, somnambulism, insanity.etc.
The prologue to Book IX says that the work must now take on a tragic tone, and that this acclaimed Christian epic is considered to be greater in stature than theIlliad and the Aeneid. Milton disagrees with the kind of heroism that staple tragedies deal with . He asserts that the heroism associated with Paradise Lost is higher than that of traditional tragedies as it not only pertains to an individual or a nation but the whole of the human race. In tragedies, the hero is characterized by ‘hamartia’ or tragic flaw that lead to his downfall. There is anagnorisis (knowledge of the true circumstances); and peripeteia (reversal of fortunes).The tragedy leaves us with a feeling of catharsis leading to pity for the protagonist and fear for spectator/reader. Here the ‘tragic flaw’ of Adam is that his love for Eve dominates over the dictates of God. This leads him to devour the apple that leads to his doom.Adam is is nowhere characterized by hubris or overbearing pride in oneself. He is neither typified with vengeance as with typical tragic heroes and archetypal militarism as with the warrior heroes of It does not abide by the three basic unities particularly the unity of time, and the setting that transmogrifies from Eden to earth. It does not include ‘the ekkylema’ or ‘a cart which was wheeled out at the end of a play, to display the aftermath of some great battle so bodies were often laid on it and brought out;the people are transfigured into human beings vulnerable to death, and the stage is set for procreation of the human race susceptible to death. The general feeling that tragedy leaves us with is a sense of waste that Paradise Lost does not leave us with. It rather leaves us with a positive streak of optimism that the paradise and Edenic glory will be regained. Tragic heroes approach problems in a set of binaries, but for Adam here the bad option leads not to an irreversible bad future but there is the positive streak of redemption. There is social isolation in Tragedies, the people and heroes of high stature are regarded as individuals. They are not linked to the society that they thrive in .For instance, Shakespeare’s King Lear deals with the fall of an individual and the ramifications on the nation are not dealt with. Edward Bond wrote Lear to signify that the actions of an individual at the seat of power has consequences on the society or kingdom also. So Paradise Lost does not deal with an individual only unlike the classic tragedies that generally portray the downfall of an individual ; the flaw of the protagonist here results in the doom of the whole of human race.
However, at the end of a tragedy there is the death of the hero with no hope of regeneration. In Paradise Lost, there is the hope of redemption in the form of the savior. Man is also given the opportunity to make amends for his sin. If there is a mistake, it is a felix cupla or happy mistake that leads to Adam’s downfall. Therefore, Paradise Lost is not a tragedy in the true sense of its conventions.
© Rukhaya MK 2012
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