"Taught by the Heavenly Muse": typology and Milton's prophetic voice in Paradise Lost and Paradise Regained

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Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University


Most critics have taken a traditional approach toward typological images in John Milton's poetry, but my study departs from previous criticism. I have noticed that there are actually three different systems of typology working simultaneously. Milton's typology is not the literal Medieval use but the "spirit of typological interpretation." First, we find the conventional definition of Biblical typology. The second and third systems depart from tradition to "things unattempted yet in Prose or Rhyme": bold experiments in typology. We find what I call Milton's invented Biblical typology, and a third and most interesting use for typology in the poems--what I call Milton's invented extra-Biblical typology. Milton invents types for actions in the New Testament that have no Old Testament connection, and he invents extra-Biblical types based upon typical patterns in the Bible. In this way, Paradise Lost functions as an "Old Testament" concealed: Paradise Regained functions as a "New Testament" where the Old is revealed. Furthermore, Milton's bold experiments in typology are entirely compatible with his perception of himself as Prophet. For this reason, these invented types are not mere parallels: the bare bones of his types are based upon Scriptural information; but as part of his prophetic vocation, Milton adds flesh to those bones to create a living poem with a message that implements and elaborates upon Scripture.