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In Paradise Lost, Milton imagines a cosmos at odds with orthodox theology, making a heretical departure that parallels his reluctance to dwell on the Crucifixion and his Arian Christology. Belief in a plurality of worlds threatens the integrity of the Trinity: it exalts the omnipotence of the creator, while it limits the significance of the redeemer. In effect, it produces a tension best resolved by Milton’s position that the Father and the Son are two distinct beings—the former uncreated, infinite, and immutable and the latter created, finite, and changeable. This distinction enables Milton to fashion a theory of salvation that transforms Christ’s sacrifice from a singular, traumatic event to an ethical decision that other created beings can emulate. These heterodox views constitute the theological underpinnings of his radical republicanism, which embraces an idea of human dignity and agency antithetical to the tyrannical politics of torture and blood sacrifice.

Original Citation

Chaplin, Gregory. (2010). Beyond sacrifice: Milton and the atonement. PMLA, 125(2), 354-369.