Term of Award

Spring 2006

Degree Name

Master of Arts in English (M.A.)

Document Type and Release Option

Thesis (open access)

Department

Department of Literature and Philosophy

Committee Chair

Candy B.K. Schille

Committee Member 1

David Dudley

Committee Member 2

Julia Griffin

Abstract

Ever since Dryden published his opera The state of innocence, critics have speculated about his reasons for making a stage adaptation of Milton's Paradise lost. The fact that Dryden worked for Milton in Cromwell's government may have been a factor. Dryden's Puritan indoctrination during childhood, followed by influences from a royalist schoolmaster in his teenage years, makes the answer to the question somewhat more complex, as does the fact that the play, its source a Puritan epic adapted by an Anglican royalist poet, is dedicated to the Catholic bride of James, Duke of York and brother to Charles II. Throughout the two works, theological, sociological, and political differences abound, but it is Dryden's stage characters that are the primary vehicles through which he portrays his divergence from Milton's epic. Lucifer, the ultimate evil, is in rebellion against Christ the King, and, while Adam ponders the dilemma of free will versus preordination, the ever-narcissistic Eve traipses through the garden toward her meeting with the serpent. This meeting, being both preordained and a result of Eve's (and Lucifer's) free will, brings about the fall of Man. Thus, Dryden and Milton take the Old Testament story and transform it into a vehicle for their own political, social, and theological agendas.

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