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“Vaulted with fire”: The Thermodynamics of Infernal Justice in Book 1 of Paradise Lost

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image of Explorations in Renaissance Culture

Historians of science have noted that Milton’s figurative reference to the “spotty globe” of Satan’s massy shield identifies Milton as an adherent of the New Astronomy promoted by Galileo. Understood in light of the techniques of surveying employed by Galileo, the same shield also speaks to Galileo’s use of parallax, whereby the scientist made his drawings more precise by viewing alternately from the vantage of the heights of Fesole or the valley of the Arno. Milton mentions these places in his epic simile of Satan’s shield: the science behind Satan’s arms in Paradise Lost reveals that Milton’s deep commitment to liberty informs his imagination of how God structured the pains of hell.

Affiliations: 1: University of Puerto Rico,


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