An epic is a long narrative poem in a lofty style, set in a remote time and place, and dealing with heroic characters and deeds important in the legends and history of a nation or race. Paradise Lost is an epic of art, an immortal creation of Milton’s imagination and genius. It has the following characteristics. (1) Sublimity of subject matter and style, (2) universality of theme, (3) unity of action (4) beginning, middle and an end (5) invocation to God (6) council of war and speeches of elaborate length, (7) extensive use of epic similes, metaphors, and classical allusions, (8) grand style, (9) human interest, and (10) a moral tone.
Paradise Lost has sublimity both in its subject matter and style. It has a unity of action and design. It says of the disobedience (fall) of Man and its consequences, followed by his redemption. Thus it has a beginning, middle and an end. At the same time like other epics it begins in the middle of the action. Paradise Lost opens with the usual epic invocation ‘Sing Heavenly Muse’. This invocation is a kind of Christian prayer to the Holy Spirit read by the Christians into the second verse of Genesis. The poet calls upon the Holy Spirit to raise and support him in his noble venture of writing an epic, higher than classical epics and help him ‘justify the ways of God to men’.
Milton has introduced supernatural machinery in Paradise Lost in his own way. We find the loyal angels under the command of God and Satan with other fallen angels in Hell. Adam, who represents the human race, is a true hero, although we do not much of his activities in Book-1. In Book-1, Satan by virtue of his leadership qualities stands very prominent. Apart from Adam and Satan, God himself is a character in Paradise Lost. He is present in the poem from the beginning to the end. The supremacy of God’s power is admitted even by Satan.
Again Paradise Lost contains plenty of epic similes, metaphors, and classical allusions. It also displays catalogs, speeches and council of war. The setting of the epic is very vast, i.e. cosmic. It includes Heaven, Earth and Hell.
To sum up, Milton deserves appreciation for creating an epic which excels classical epics in its sublimity of the theme and style, in universality, in human interest, in its enduring appeal, in its moral tone and what not. Milton triumphs over all the poets both modern and ancient in the technique of writing epic.