Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)





Milton’s use of the free will doctrine in his poetry reveals its importance in his theology. Free will is also an integral part of the meaning of the three biblical narratives—-Paradise Lost, Paradise Fegained, and Samson Agonisfea—which are dealt with here, alt! ough different aspects of free will are central to each. The primary purpose of this study is to provide evidence of Milton's theological stance regarding free will in the three poems as well as in the relevant prose writings, particularly in Christian Doctrine, Milton's work of systematic theology.

A secondary purvose of this study is to trace the function of the will which, according to Milton, is free, yet ""mutable."" One aspect of the mutable nature of the will is that it reflects a process of growth, and in all three poems, there is dynamic growth in the exercise of free will. Adas and Eve’s education in developing responsibility both before and after the Fall enables them to respond creatively to God's providential love, and therefore, to their own potential for renewal and growth through regeneration. In Paradise 'Regained, Christ's exercise of free will reveals his growth in knowledge about himself as both human and divine, the exemplar of how all men should face and handle trials and temptations. Saason, too, exercises his freedom to choose- combined with his declaration of trust in God, Samson's decision to obey the ""rousing motions” within him signals the beginning of the restoration of his free will.

In all three poems, Milton’s concept of free will figures prominently, though in various stages, as part of a process of growth. The central characters in each poem encounter choices that must be made; in some instances, choices are made to control the free will, but in others, passions are allowed to usurp reason and free will. Throughout these poems and his Christian Doctrine, Milton shows how all created beings exercise ft adorn of choice and also how they must bear the responsibility for the choices they make.