Satan presiding at the Infernal Council by John Martin [Public domain]
When you study at a great books college, you start to see the influence of the wonderful works you read well beyond the doors of your liberal arts university in Chicago. There’s one book in particular, though, which seems to have a special place in our modern cultural lexicon, and that book is Milton’s Paradise Lost. Read on to find out how students attending a liberal arts college in Chicago can make connections between this great work and the many others it inspired in today’s contemporary culture.
Great Works Influencing Great Works
Originally published in 1667, this classic epic poem has strongly influenced other great books over the years. These include:
- William Blake: Paradise Lost greatly influenced the works of William Blake, who lived a century after its publication. Much of Blake’s epic poetry, including Four Zoas and The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, is a retelling of Milton. Other times, as in the case of Milton: a Poem, it is a direct commentary on it.
- Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein: In the classic horror story published in 1810, Frankenstein’s monster is influenced by Book X of Paradise Lost. Also, Shelley quotes the work in the intro to her novel.
- Prometheus Unbound: In his lyrical drama, Percy Bysshe Shelley admits that his Prometheus is an attempt to revise Milton’s Satan.
Milton has also influenced more recent literary works such as The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie, Neil Gaiman’s Sandman and Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials.
Milton on Film and TV
Another place where Paradise Lost has shown up as inspiration is in the world of cinema and TV. Here are some prime examples:
- The Devil’s Advocate: Keanu Reeves’ character is named John Milton and Al Pacino’s famous quote from the film is: “It's better to reign in Hell than serve in Heaven.”
- Se7en: Milton’s tale is one of the main pieces of literature which inspires the serial killer in this thriller. References to it are sprinkled throughout.
- Star Trek: In the original series episode Space Seed, the villain Kahn asks Captain Kirk if he has ever read Milton. Kirk says he has and, as such, understands Kahn’s decision to be the ruler of a deserted planet instead of serve under the rules of Kirk’s world.
Paradise Lost in Music
Music, or at least some music, has always been inspired by the greats. Milton has inspired quite a few musicians over the past few decades:
- Cradle of Filth: The concept album Damnation for a Day from this British metal bands covers the rise and fall of Lucifer as depicted by Milton
- Nick Cave: There are Paradise Lost quotes in the songs Red Right Hand and Song of Joy
- Eminem: The popular rapper’s video “Rap God” includes images and text from Paradise Lost
Milton in Video Games
One of the more unexpected places to see references to a great book is in video games. In the case of Milton and Paradise Lost, though, there have been quite a few. These include:
- Marvel – Avenger’s Alliance: Paradise Lost is the name of one of the special powers of the characters Beast and Pestilence
- Mega Man X8: The full title of the game is Mega Man X8: Paradise Lost and there are several Christian motifs throughout the game.
- Fallout 3: There are excerpts from Milton in several levels of this game, and as a bonus, the character can read the book!
Does reading about the long-reaching influence of Paradise Lost inspire you to read, or re-read some Milton?