Duncan Baxter

Old Member (1972)

Duncan Baxter has spent his working life in education. He has worked as a headmaster and education consultant, and has written widely on education issues and on teaching literature, particularly Milton.

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Paradise Lost – A Drama of Unintended Consequences

Paradise Lost – A Drama of Unintended Consequences

Publisher: Matador

Publication date: February 2017

Duncan Baxter chose to write Paradise Lost – A Drama of Unintended Consequences in order to share
his love of John Milton’s work. “On being introduced to Milton’s poetry at school I was immediately
captivated by his erudition and the variety and beauty of his sweeping verse,” explains Duncan.

In an accessible exploration of one of the more testing Renaissance poems, first published in 1667,
the reader is taken on a journey through Milton’s re-telling of the Genesis account of mankind’s
Fall to reveal how he explores issues which confront the spiritual yearning of every generation.

Using approachable language, general readers and students are guided through Milton’s moral maze,
to explore the power of human love and ambition to challenge obedience to God, the limitations
inherent in human powers of reasoning and the doubtful reality of God’s grant of free will to

Whilst Milton had supreme control over the form and structure of the poem, it was his decision to
portray the protagonists as fully human characters, utilising dialogue and soliloquy in the form of
a verse drama, which caused his characters to ‘turn against’ their creator. By putting forward
convincing alternative arguments to God’s self justification which chime with our own thoughts and
experiences the protagonists appear not to cooperate with their creator’s intention, leading to
unplanned and unexpected outcomes. Instead of justifying ‘the ways of God to men’, Milton put such
a strong case on behalf of mankind that he ‘justifies the ways of men to God’.

“The more I read, it became clear to me that here was a complex and divided personality at work,
whose poetry should be more widely read; it is this conviction which informed my teaching and
this book,” observes Duncan.