Satan and Astronomical Signs
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If the configuring of space and time in Paradise Lost demands a contextual reading, this is even more imperative with regard to the references to variable celestial phenomena that Milton works into his text at strategic points in the epic. In depicting space, time, and celestial movement, he is concerned with the larger picture, however innovative that might be. Even the specifics of celestial movement, such as the moving sunbeams, the dark cone of night, or the various signs of the zodiac, deal with regular cosmic events. But, in Paradise Lost, Milton also sets up a structure of astronomical signs comprising such variable celestial phenomena as new stars and comets. It is not unusual to find references to stars and comets in an early modern text. There would be many motivating factors to explain their presence. Astrology, astronomy, navigation, and a range of other contemporary activities relied on a reading of stellar positions as well as variable celestial occurrences. That Paradise Lost, too, is a text with many references to such celestial phenomena is therefore not intrinsically remarkable. The special significance of these images emerges only when the specific contemporary debates are identified and related to references in the text.
KeywordsSeventeenth Century Early Modern Period Paradise Lost Stellar Position Ironic Commentary
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