Milton writes Paradise Lost in the tradition of a classic epic poem. All epic poems contain some common features. Milton follows this outline with great precision and style. His poem uses the guidelines of an epic poem and elaborates upon them to make his poem one of the most popular epics written. In his poem, Milton uses the key points of an epic poem when he traditionally invokes a muse to speak through him, includes great deeds of valor, long speeches, and a list of the protagonists
Milton follows the tradition of epic poetry when he asks a muse to speak through him. It is clear that for Milton it is the poet’s submission to the voice of his muse, to divine inspiration, which ultimately distinguishes the soaring creation of Paradise Lost from an insulting speculation of what happens in the Garden of Eden. Milton does not, however, present the hymn of a heavenly muse as his only defense against presuming too much. Through the book, he remains sensitive to the relationship between himself as poet and his center of attention. While he insists on the honest intentions of what he undertakes, he never neglects to expose the satanic aspect of his poetic posture. In this way Milton differs a slightly from a traditional epic. Instead of speaking through Milton, the muse is more of a second person that inspires Milton. Never the less, Paradise Lost still follows the outline of a customary epic poem.
Another part of a traditional epic poem is that the hero must perform great deeds of valor to defeat the villain. Milton wants his readers to be forced to face the problem of Satan seeming invincible. Satan is, after all, an angel. He is a mighty angel that is removed from Heaven. In order for us to see the power of God, it is necessary that Satan also be powerful. It is important that Satan, a parody of God, is viewed as an eloquent, bold being; one that possesses superhuman strength, extraordinary martial prowess, and fortitude so that he can be a foil to show how great God is. In order for God to vanquish and control this awesome being, his characteristics must exceed the characteristics of Satan. Therefore, it emphasizes the great valor God possesses to successfully defeat Satan in their battle.
One of the last characteristics that this poem demonstrates that are typical of an epic poem is the long list of the protagonists that the plot involves accompanied by long speeches by the main characters. Milton dedicates a large portion of the first book of the series to a catalogue of the fallen angels. The numbers of angels that are listed are used to give the reader the notion of being overwhelmed by the mass number of villains. He also provides extended formal speeches by the main characters. It is on the basis of the eloquence and power of those speeches that much of the personality of the characters is shown. This listing of villains and long, profound speeches verifies that this poem fits every description of an epic poem.
When Milton writes Paradise Lost he uses a general outline that will categorize his poem as an epic poem. He elaborates on the general characteristics of an epic poem including the relationship between the muse and him. They are shown as two separate people with the muse as the higher being. Obviously, in spite of some adjustments and alterations, Milton undeniably uses classical epic traits. Milton builds his epic out of views of the past and uses every feature of epic poetry that can possibly be used.