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About this book

Paradise Lost is for many the greatest poem written in English. Composed late in the author's life, it deals with nothing less than the destiny of mankind.

This essential introductory guide:
• leads the reader into the epic poem through detailed analysis of key extracts, exploring Milton's original thought and style
• provides useful sections on 'Methods of Analysis' and 'Further Work' to aid independent study
• offers valuable information on Milton's life, times and literary legacy
• examines the development of critical opinion and discusses some recent critical views of the poem.

John Milton: Paradise Lost is ideal for anyone who is studying this complex and beautiful work for the first time. It will enable you to approach your own critical analysis of the poem with confidence.

Table of Contents

Analysing Paradise Lost

Frontmatter

1. Milton’s Conception in Paradise Lost

Abstract
The subject of this chapter is the four invocations distributed at significant points in the course of the poem. The first is the most important because it begins the whole poem. The second invocation introduces Books 3 and 4 in which Satan finds his way to Eden and discovers Adam and Eve. The third invocation introduces Raphael’s account of the Creation in Books 7 and 8. The fourth and final invocation changes the mood, heralding the Fall, which occupies the final four books of the poem.
Mike Edwards

2. The Epic Structure of Paradise Lost

Abstract
In this chapter we look at some of the features that define the epic nature of Milton’s poem. The general characteristics of classical epic have been widely documented, and you can find them listed in Appendix A. Here, beginning with Book 6, which deals with the war in heaven, we will focus on only a few of the general characteristics: Milton’s approach to the scale of his subject, including his use of epithets; his treatment of the chronology of his subject; and his use of devices such as the epic simile*.
Mike Edwards

3. God, His Son, and the Realms of Light

Abstract
In this chapter we begin by considering Milton’s treatment of God, his Son, the good angels, and their heavenly abode. The extracts we choose will touch on all these aspects of the celestial world Milton describes and will raise questions about the relationship between God and his Son, between God and Satan, between the Son and Satan, and, most pointedly, between God and his first created human beings. In presenting these elements in the poem, Milton faced a variety of difficulties, literary, moral, and theological.
Mike Edwards

4. Satan, the Rebel Angels, and their World of Darkness

Abstract
In this chapter our subject is Satan and other rebel angels in Paradise Lost. We will focus on Milton’s portrayal of Satan, the angels’ rebellion, their situation and their expectations, but will defer discussion of Satan’s temptation of Eve until Chapter 6.
Mike Edwards

5. Adam, Eve and their Perfect Paradise

Abstract
In this chapter we turn our attention to the protagonists of Milton’s epic drama. The paradise that is lost is theirs; and theirs is the responsibility for losing it. We will consider their ideal garden, their relationship with each other, and their relationship with God. Their loss of paradise we will defer until Chapter 6.
Mike Edwards

6. The Fall and its Aftermath

Abstract
With this chapter we come to the crux of the whole poem. As we saw in Chapter 1, Milton prepares the tragic climax of the poem with a lengthy proem to Book 9. Here, he says, he will speak of ‘foul distrust, and breach / Disloyal on the part of Man’ and ‘On the part of Heaven…Anger and just rebuke, and judgement given’ (9.6–10). Milton’s moral perspective appears at that point simple: Man commits sin; God punishes him. However, this simple perspective blurs when, immediately after the proem, Milton turns to Satan, just as he did in Book 1. Immediately after the invocation at the beginning of Book 9, the narrative picks up from the end of Book 4, where Gabriel expelled Satan from the Garden of Eden. Here Satan has a further tortured soliloquy in which to reaffirm his desperate purpose: once again, we view events from Satan’s — as it were, the wrong — perspective. Later in Book 9, we view events from the point of Eve, then from that of Adam, and the moral clarity of the invocation further loses definition. By the end of the poem, after Michael’s review of biblical history and his promise of future hope, the meaning of the Fall itself is far from clear.
Mike Edwards

The Context and the Critics

Frontmatter

7. Milton’s Life as it Relates to Paradise Lost

Abstract
In this chapter we will largely restrict ourselves to considering how Milton’s life was affected by the writing of Paradise Lost, and how the poem reflects his life. For a thumbnail picture of Milton’s life and times, you may wish to consult the brief chronologies available in the Fowler and Lewalski editions of the poem. A useful and compressed narrative appears in A Companion to Milton.1 There are many full biographies, among which Anna Beer’s Milton: Poet, Pamphleteer and Prophet is a very readable choice.2
Mike Edwards

8. The Context of Paradise Lost

Abstract
In this chapter we consider the influences that shaped Paradise Lost. The Renaissance period at the end of which the poem was written witnessed an extraordinary surge in human culture, taking in the arts, religion, science, politics, education and philosophy, all of which find expression in the poem. Finally we discuss the influence of the poem on later times.
Mike Edwards

9. Some Critical Approaches

Abstract
Paradise Lost, though always recognised since its first publication as an important work, has aroused divergent responses in its readers as to both its subject and its style. The vast field of criticism is equally diverse. In this chapter, we will concentrate on recent criticism after a brief review of earlier criticism.
Mike Edwards
Additional information