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Paradise Lost

John Milton

Type of Work

..Paradise Lost is an epic poem whichlike the epic poems of Homer, Dante, Vergil, and Goethetells a story about momentous events while incorporating grand themes that are timeless and universal.

Date Completed

.......Milton completed the first version of Paradise Lost in 1667.

It consisted of 10 books.

In 1668 and 1669, he added an introductory comment about the verse form and a special section with summaries of each book. In 1674, he published the final version of the epic, in which he divided Books 7 and 10 into two books each. The completed work thus had 12 books instead of 10. He also placed each summary at the beginning of the book it summarized.


.......Milton used the Bible, Homer's Iliad and Odyssey, Vergil's Aeneid, and the stories in Greco-Roman mythology as sources of information and as writing models. The Bible's Book of Genesis is the main source for his retelling of the story of creation and the first humans, Adam and Eve.

.......The settings are heaven, hell, the firmament (Chaos), and earth.


God the Father, God the Son:

Two of the three divine persons making up the all-powerful Godhead, the single deity that created and rules all that exists outside of itself.

The third divine person, the Holy Spirit, does not play a role in Paradise Lost.

God the Father is portrayed as just but merciful, condemning the defiant and unrepentant rebel angels but permitting redemption of the repentant Adam and Eve. God the Son volunteers to redeem them by becoming human and enduring suffering and death.


Satan (Lucifer, Archfiend): Powerful and prideful angel who, with legions of supporters, leads an unsuccessful rebellion against God and suffers eternal damnation. To gain revenge, he devises a plan to corrupt God's newly created beings, Adam and Eve, through deceit.

Modern readers often admire him for his steely defiance. He would rather rule in hell, he says, than serve in heaven. It was not Milton's intent, however, to create an admirable character; rather his intent was to create a character of colossal hatredloathsome, execrable, incurably remorseless.


Adam and Eve: The first human beings, created by God to fill the void that resulted when God cast Satan and his supporters out of the celestial realm. Adam and Eve live on the planet earth in utter happiness in a special garden where spring is the only season and love and godly living prevail. Though they have all that they want and need, cunning Satan tells them they can have knowledge and status beyond their reach if only they eat of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge.

Eve can become a goddess, he says. Vanity overtakes her. She eats. Adam reluctantly does the same.


Gabriel, Raphael, Michael, Uriel: Powerful and fearless angels on the side of God.

Beelzebub, Mammon, Belial, Moloch: Powerful leaders in Satan's army. In a great council in hell, each of them speaks his mind on what policy devilkind should follow after losing paradise. Should they make new war? Should they make peace?


Ithuriel, Zephron: Angels who expel Satan from the Garden of Eden with the help of a sign from God. Satan returns to the garden later to complete his devious enterprise.

Mulciber: Fallen angel who designs hell's capital city and seat of government, Pandemonium. In ancient Roman mythology, Mulciber is another name for Vulcan (Greek: Hephaestus), god of fire and the forge. As a blacksmith, he kept shop in burning mountains (volcanoes).


Sin: Daughter of Satan.

She was born from his head in the manner of Athena, Greek goddess of wisdom and war, who sprang from the forehead of Zeus, king of the gods.

Death: Son of Satan and Sin

Milton's Solar System

.......In describing the planets and other celestial bodies, Milton models Gods creation on the Ptolemaic design (also called the geocentric design) rather than the Copernican design (also called the heliocentric design). . Milton was aware of the Copernican theory, but he used the Ptolemaic designeither because he believed it was the more credible theory or because he believed it would better serve his literary purpose.

In Paradise Lost, Adam inquires about the movements of celestial bodiesin particular, whether earth orbits the sun or vice versain his conversation with the archangel Raphael, but Raphael gives no definite answer. Raphael may have been speaking for Milton.

Style and Verse Format

Milton wrote Paradise Lost in dignified, lofty, melodic English free of any colloquialisms and slang that would have limited the work's timeliness and universality. The format, Milton says in an introductory note, is "English heroic verse without rhyme"in other words, blank verse, the same verse form used by Shakespeare in his plays. ...

Style and Verse Format

.......Milton's strong religious faith infuses the poem with sincerity and moral purpose, but he does not allow his enthusiasm for his subject to overtake control of his writing. Though Milton frequently uses obscure allusions to mythology and history, as well as occasional difficult words and phrases, his language is never deliberately affected or ostentatious.

Style and Verse Format

What is more, it does not preach and does not take the reader on circumlocutory expeditions.

Like a symphony composermighty Beethoven, for exampleMilton is always in control, tempering his creative genius with his technical discipline.

.......With a good dictionary and an annotated text, a first-time reader of Milton can easily follow and understand the story while developing an appreciation for the exquisite writing.

Epic Conventions

In Paradise Lost, Milton used the classical epic conventionsliterary practices, rules, or devices established by Homer that became commonplace in epic poetry. Some of these practices were also used in other genres of literature.

Among the classical conventions Milton used are the following:

.......(1) The invocation of the muse, in which a writer requests divine help in composing his work.

Among the classical conventions Milton used are the following:

.......(2) Telling a story with which readers or listeners are already familiar; they know the characters, the plot, and the outcome.

Most of the great writers of the ancient worldas well as many great writers in later times, including Shakespeare frequently told stories already known to the public. Thus, in such stories, there were no unexpected plot twists, no surprise endings. If this sounds strange to you, the modern reader and theatergoer, consider that many of the most popular motion pictures today are about stories already known to the public.

Examples are The Passion of the Christ, Titanic, The Ten Commandments, Troy, Spartacus, Pearl Harbor, and Gettysburg.

Among the classical conventions Milton used are the following:

.......(3) Beginning the story in the middle, a literary convention known by its Latin term in media res (in the middle of things).

Such a convention allows a writer to begin his story at an exciting part, then flash back to fill the reader in on details leading up to that exciting part.

Among the classical conventions Milton used are the following:

.......(4) Announcing or introducing a list of characters who play a major role in the story.

They may speak at some length about how to resolve a problem (as the followers of Satan do early in Paradise Lost).

Among the classical conventions Milton used are the following:

.......(5) Conflict in the celestial realm.

Divine beings fight and scheme against one another in the epics of Homer and Vergil, and they do so in Paradise Lost on a grand scale, with Satan and his forces opposing God and his forces.

Among the classical conventions Milton used are the following:

.......(6) Use of dramatic irony. Dramatic irony is a literary device in which a character in a story fails to see or understand what is obvious to the audience or readers.

Dramatic irony appears frequently in the plays of the ancient Greeks. For example, in Oedipux Rex, by Sophocles, dramatic irony occurs when Oedipus fails to realize what the audience knowsthat he married his own mother. In Paradise Lost, dramatic irony occurs when Adam and Eve happily go about daily life in the Garden of Eden unaware that they will succumb to the devil's temptation and suffer the loss of Paradise. Dramatic irony also occurs when Satan and his followers fail to understand that it is impossible ultimately to thwart or circumvent divine will and justice.

Main Theme

In Book 1 of Paradise Lost, Milton reveals the central theme of the work: to justify the ways of God to man.

Justify here means to explain and defend, and ultimately to vindicate, Gods course of action in dealing with Adam and Eve after they succumbed to the temptation of Satan and ate forbidden fruit.

Other Themes:

Inordinate pride: It leads to Satan's downfall and his continuing defiance of God. Envy: Arising from Satan's pride, it makes him jealous of God the Son, who is the favorite of God the Father.

Revenge: It motivates Satan to corrupt Adam and Eve and thereby subvert God's plans.
Vanity: It leads Eve to believeunder the temptation of Satan that she can become godlike.

Other Themes

Deceit: Satan appears in many disguises and tells many lies during his mission to trick Adam and Eve.

Infidelity: Adam betrays God by siding with Eve and eating the forbidden fruit. Unbridled pursuit of knowledge: It leads Adam and Eve to seek knowledge beyond their ken, knowledge that will make them godlike.

Other Themes

Volition: Angels and humans alike possess free will, enabling them to make decisions.

Satan freely chooses to rebel against God, and Adam and Eve freely choose to eat forbidden fruit. The consequences of their actions are their own fault, not God's. Milton uses this theme to help support the central theme, "to justify the ways of God to man."

Other Themes

Disobedience: All sins are acts of disobedience against God, impairing or cutting off the sinner's relationship with God.

Adam and Eve and all of the devils disobey God through their sins.

Loyalty: Loyalty to God and his ways are necessary for eternal salvation.

Loyalty requires obedience. All of the good angels exhibit loyalty.

Other Themes

Repentance: Even though Adam and Eve have disobeyed God, their repentance makes them eligible for eventual salvation. Hope: At the end of Paradise Lost, Adam and Eve enter the imperfect world with hope; they can yet attain eternal salvation. Redemption: Through the suffering and death of the Son of God, sinful man can reconcile himself with God if he is sincerely sorry for his sins.


The climax, or turning point, of Paradise Lost occurs when Adam and Eve succumb to Satan's temptations and eat the forbidden fruit. This act of disobedience results in their downfall and eviction from Paradise.