In this paper, I argue that Milton envisions a long view of education in which continual encounters with evil allow created beings to prove themselves and gradually approach a state like God’s—a state marked by constant righteous habits and by a dilation of subjective time with increased access to past and future knowledge. I discuss the roles of opposition in Miltonic education, illustrating how non-examples may result in apophatic revelation about the divine. Acts of rebellion in Paradise Lost demonstrate, however, that the timetable for introducing opposition proves complex, since created beings, the devil among them, act on their own initiative and tinker with the orchestration of Heaven’s agenda. Obedient beings, meanwhile, begin to approach God’s own course of time as they solidify holy habits and respond with constancy to persistent, recurring evils. By establishing a contrast of temporalities experienced between the wise faithful who grow toward God in reason and the foolish fallen who move against him at every turn, Milton’s epic poem suggests a spectrum model of Christian time—intricately ordered for those nearing God and utterly disorganized for those who distance themselves from him. I argue that in Milton’s work, those who obey develop toward the stability of eternity, participating in both cyclical and linear wholes: as the righteous obey with ever more precision, their lives revolve around their King more perfectly even as he marks a sure course onward. Those who oppose God, meanwhile, become subject to extremely chaotic and volatile experiences of time that resist organization into meaningful trajectories. My conclusion analyzes the way these claims might upset some constructions of Miltonic education in existing scholarship and outlines principles for ongoing improvement to the ways educators approach questions of challenge, assessment, repetition, and habit formation.



College and Department

Humanities; English



Date Submitted


Document Type





John Milton, Early Modern England, Areopagitica, Paradise Lost, education, maturity, telos, error, evil, habit, virtue, time, temporality