This is the first monograph-length study of the importance of Orpheus in Milton's conception of himself as an agonistic poet. It is one of the first monographs on Milton to make sustained use of Bakhtinian theory, specifically its concepts of author, hero and answerability. Without excluding a range of important classical sources, such as Statius's Birthday Ode to Lucan, this study argues-singularly in recent criticism-for the significant influence of Virgil. In Milton's writing (from prose to poetry), Orpheus functions as one of a number of heroes (masks, personae) by whom Milton creates an identity for himself as author. Orpheus in particular offers Milton a model (reflection) of the poet who fails, and yet turns that failure into a sign of his own identity as the faithful singer, the civilizer of men.