Word-repetition as a technique emphasizing characterization and theme in Paradise Lost



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Previous stylistic studies have touched on the figures of word-repetition as an element of Milton's style, generally noting how the figures add emphasis to individual passages. However, a more concentrated study supported by tables reveals patterns by book and character. Numerous aspects of characterization and theme receive additional force from the incremental effect of the iterative schemes. The classical and biblical traditions suggest that the figures of repetition are especially appropriate as a means of decorating the speeches of God, the Son, and the unfallen angels. On the other hand, Milton structures the figures of word-repetition in Satan's speeches to help undercut Satan's attempts to sound reasonable. Several themes gain added emphasis by the recurring patterns of word-repetition. Word-repetition reinforces certain elements of Milton's Christology, including the ideas that the Father and the Son are separate but concurring spirits, and that mercy is a primary attribute of God. The figures aid in Milton's justification of the ways of God to man by stressing man's responsibility for his fallen condition, the wisdom of God in the creation of man with free will, and His generosity in the possibilities offered for redemption.