Paradise Lost Questions

John Milton’s Poetry

Copyright © 2013 Alfred J. Drake. All rights reserved.

Edition: Paradise Lost, Books 1-12 (pp. 206-469 in John Milton: Complete Poems and Major Prose, ed. Merritt Y. Hughes. Indianapolis and Cambridge: Hackett Publishing, 1957, repr. 2003. ISBN-13: 978-0872206786).

PARADISE LOST (1667/1674)

Of Interest: see Guides Index Page


Books 1-2 correspond to Books 11-12: Permanent fall of Satan vs. fortunate fall of Adam and Eve.

Books 3-4 correspond to Books 9-10: God’s prophecies; Satan’s enterprising trips and temptations; focus on dialogue between Adam and Eve; explanation of relations between heaven and earth.

Books 5-6 correspond to Books 7-8: Books 5-8 make up a separable, yet combined, block. Adam and Eve are instructed about events in heaven and about their place in the created order. The whole block 5-8 concerns the War in Heaven and its consequences. Christ appears as a warrior in 5-6; he appears as the Word in 7-8.

(Thanks to Prof. Emeritus Harold Toliver of UC Irvine for this structural note.)


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View Argument and Summary for Book One

1. Examine the narrator’s invocation from Paradise Lost 1.1-26 (“Of Man’s First Disobedience …”) and his epic question and answer from 1.27-49 (“Say first, for Heav’n hides nothing from thy view …”). What is the source of the narrator’s authority? What kind of persona is established when we put the invocations, the question, and the answer together? How does this poet-narrator compare to, say, the epic narrator of Homer’s Iliad or Odyssey, Virgil’s narrator in The Aeneid, Dante’s Pilgrim in The Inferno from The Divine Comedy or Spenser’s narrator in The Faerie Queene, if you are familiar with those works?

2. Consider the purpose of Paradise Lost 1.50-83 (“Nine times the Space that measures Day and Night …”) immediately following the invocation, question and answer. For example, in these lines the narrator begins to let us into Satan’s perspective on his fall and his new surroundings, suggests in part the proper attitude to take towards that perspective (including Satan’s sensory perceptions and emotions) and begins the task of describing the grand scenes that this poem of cosmic scale must help us imagine. So what is Satan’s perspective, what attitude towards that approach is the narrator modeling for us, and what strategies is he introducing to convey the epic’s outsized imagery and scope?

3. Examine the first speech that Satan makes, the one he makes only to his arch-lieutenant Beëlzebub (Paradise Lost 1.84-124, “If thou beest hee …”), followed by the narrator’s brief gloss on the speech once it has concluded (1.125-27, “So spake th’ Apostate Angel …”). What image is Satan trying to project at this point? What narrative is he already beginning to spin about the War in Heaven and the defeat of the rebellious angels as well as the present situation going forwards?

4. Examine Beëlzebub’s response (Paradise Lost 1.128-55, “O Prince, O Chief of many Throned Powers …”) to Satan’s initial speech: what is this fallen angel’s view of the rebels’ predicament, and how does it differ from the one Satan has just offered? Does Beëlzebub know something Satan doesn’t, or does he admit something that Satan will not admit? Explain.

5. Consider Satan’s counter-response (Paradise Lost 1.157-91, “”Fall’n Cherub …”) to Beëlzebub’s words. How does he show himself to be a skilled rhetorician even at this early point? Skill notwithstanding, Satan’s argument is clearly very flawed. What serious error/s in judgment or logic does he commit?

6. After Satan’s response to Beëlzebub, we are treated to the narrator’s first “observer” simile (Paradise Lost 1.200-10, “or that Sea-beast / Leviathan …“), as Geoffrey Hartman has called them. Actually, it is a series of similes from 1.192ff, but the main one is of the observer type: it figures a Norwegian boat captain who moors beside Leviathan, mistaking the beast for an island. Examine this simile as closely as you can: why are such similes central to the task of Milton and his narrator in describing heavenly things that really can’t be described or fully “taken in” from a fallen human perspective? Furthermore, why do you think it’s so important to Milton to undertake this seemingly impossible task? (Especially if you are doing a presentation on this question, you might find it worthwhile to have a look at the following thoughtful essay: John Rogers on the Miltonic Simile.

7. After the narrator’s simile comes what may well be the very first elegiac utterance (Paradise Lost 1. 242-50, “Is this the Region, this the Soil …”), and it comes directly from the lips of Satan during his reflections in company with Beëlzebub that stretch from 1.242-70. Milton obviously enjoys bringing us these “firsts,” but what purpose or purposes does this one serve? What resolution does this elegiac moment allow Satan to reach, and what do we learn about his predicament and attitude thereby?

8. Soon, yet another of the narrator’s extended series of similes occurs (Paradise Lost 1.283-313 “He scarce had ceas’t …”). Again, how do these similes — especially the observer simile reference “the Tuscan Artist” Galileo (1.288) — dramatize the situation in which the narrator finds himself as well as our own difficulties as readers grappling with the distance (in time, space, and understanding) between ourselves and the great personages and events being set before us?

9. Read Satan’s speech to his entire host from Paradise Lost 1.315-30 (a call to order, or an exordium if you prefer, beginning “Princes, Potentates …”) and then from 1.622-62 (“O Myriads of immortal Spirits, O Powers …”). This speech in part serves to offer a revisionist history of the rebel angels’ fall. What are the main features and assumptions that drive this revisionist history? In what ways is Satan’s version in error? Moreover, what is his plan going forwards, and what seems to be his rationale for it?

10. What purpose is served by the lengthy name-dropping or “catalog” section that stretches from Paradise Lost 1.376-522? (“Say, Muse, thir Names then known …”) that follows a remarkable simile-laden description of their arising at Satan’s command from 1.331-75 (“They heard, and were abasht …”). As for the preparatory description, what does it add to our understanding of the current scene? In responding, consider that it is also a flash-forward with regard to the pagan religions’ role in human history.

11. In Paradise Lost 1.522-621 (“but with looks / Downcast and damp …”), the narrator offers us an extended description of the fallen host as it responds to Satan’s call to “Awake, arise, or be for ever fall’n” (1.330). What sense of that host’s size and qualities does this section encourage, and what feelings and thoughts are attributed to Satan as he views this grand army? Moreover, how does the entire description work by way of comparison to the mortal armies and assemblies to which epic poets such as Homer will one day pay tribute?

12. In Paradise Lost 1.670-751 (“There stood a Hill not far …”), with Satan’s magnificent oratory having generated its desired effect, a subset of the bad angels follow Mammon to a gold-bearing hill from which they get the raw materials to build Pandemonium, which they now do. Clearly, this description aims an ethical barb at the pomp and circumstance of history’s human princes and its revelers in great wealth. What grounds does Milton’s narrator find for thus belittling our pretensions regarding earthly permanence and splendor?

13. Examine Paradise Lost 1.752-98 (“Meanwhile the winged Heralds …”) and especially 1.777-98 (“Behold a wonder! …”) wherein the Infernal Council assembles. How is Milton’s narrator having some fun at the bad angels’ expense here at the end of the first book? Consider the narrator’s description of the devils’ physical qualities and the way he characterizes their “great consult”: what is he suggesting about the degree of reality one can attribute to such beings, and how does this suggestion encourage us to reflect on the earlier descriptions in Book 1?


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View Argument and Summary for Book Two

14. The “great consult” that was assembled at the end of the first book is now in session. In Paradise Lost 2.11-42 (“Powers and Dominions …”), what initial picture of Satan do we get from the narrator? What is Satan’s opening strategy as an orator, and why does he most likely adopt it, given the audience he faces?

15. Moloch speaks next, from 2.43-105 of Paradise Lost (“He ceas’d …”). We know that Moloch is hotheaded even for a devil, which no doubt has much to do with the fact that he advises an immediate resumption of material war against God. But what rationale does he offer for that plan? Why does he think there’s no point doing anything else?

16. Belial, a suave and graceful if dishonest fallen angel, rises up and succeeds Moloch from 2.108-225 of Paradise Lost (“On th’other side up rose / Belial …“). Clearly, Belial wants no part of further war, but what exactly does he set forth by way of argument for avoiding it? What is erroneous about his thinking? Nevertheless, how is he appealing to what we might suppose to be the sensibilities of his audience in offering such counsel as he does?

17. Mammon, to whom we were introduced in Book 1 as the architect of the Infernal City, gets his chance to address the council right after Belial, from 2.229-83 of Paradise Lost (“Either to disinthrone the King of Heav’n …”). What advice does he offer? To what extent does he agree with what Belial has just said, and wherein do the two bad angels’ views differ? Furthermore, what inferences about the quality of Mammon’s logic might we draw from his statement that the devils should “seek / Our own good from ourselves, and from our own / Live to ourselves” (2.252-54)?

18. After Mammon, next to speak in council is politician-like Beëlzebub, whose pitch runs from 2.310-416 of Paradise Lost (“Thrones and Imperial Powers …”). Why does he determine that it’s pointless to continue debating whether to wage war or seek peace? Since that seems to him the case, Beëlzebub promotes Satan’s program of maintaining a divided or rival empire against God (Satan uses this language later, in Book 4.110-11: “Evil be thou my Good; by thee at least / Divided Empire with Heav’n’s King I hold …,” but it’s implicit in his earlier speeches, as when he boasts to Beëlzebub at 1.105-06, “What though the field be lost? / All is not lost …”). Why might Beëlzebub think that’s possible, in spite of the unlimited powers of such a foe? Furthermore, how exactly are the devils supposed to pursue the goal of establishing and maintaining a rival empire: what’s the plan of action to do that?

19. Finally, Satan steps in after Beëlzebub’s speech has culminated in an affirmative vote, and caps off the council proceedings from 2.426-67 of Paradise Lost (“till at last /Satan …“). How does Satan here (in league with Beëlzebub, see 4.417-26) show himself a master actor and politician in the way he manages his own image and actions? We know that “delivery” (displaying suitable emotions, gestures and timing while speaking) is one of the five canons of classical oratory: there’s more to rhetoric than logic. In responding, therefore, consider the performance-oriented aspects of Satan’s brief speech in addition to the ideas he sets forth.

20. The narrator describes the Council’s concluding assent and ceremonies from 2.466-520 of Paradise Lost (“Thus saying rose / The Monarch, and prevented all reply …”). How does he balance the need to endow Satan with epic grandeur with the need to maintain clarity about his true moral standing? In responding, note also the “Miltonic aside” in this segment, in which the narrator moralizes against fallen human disunity from lines 2.496-505 (“O shame to men! …”).

21. In Paradise Lost 2.521-628 (“Thence more at ease …”), the breakup of the Infernal Council gives way to the narrator’s compelling description of the dispersion and distribution of the fallen angels in Hell. What do the devils do? Characterize the behavior of the different bands as they follow their inclinations: what drives them to do these things, and how much respect does the narrator appear to grant the resultant activities (athletics, war games, epic poetry, philosophy, etc.)? How do some of these descriptions serve as a gloss on later human activities and interests?

22. From 2.570-628 of Paradise Lost (“Another part in Squadrons …”), we encounter a sub-section of the narrator’s description of the fallen angels’ scattering in bands; in this sub-section, the narrator deals with the topography of Hell that unfolds to the adventurous bad angels, a topography that includes the ancient rivers of Hades: Styx, Acheron, Cocytus, Phlegethon, and Lethe. In this passage, how does the narrator describe this strange landscape and outline the sufferings of the damned that will occur long after the original events now being described?

23. Satan makes his way towards the Gates of Hell from 2.629-48 Paradise Lost (“Meanwhile the Adversary …”), and when he arrives, we are treated at length from 2.648-870 (“Before the Gates there sat …” through “Thy daughter and thy darling, without end”) to the remarkable — and rather Spenserian, given its grotesque allegorical quality — encounter between Satan and his unacknowledged daughter/lover Sin and their son, Death. The encounter’s mechanics have been more or less set forth in my outline of Book 2 (see link towards the top of this book’s questions), so concentrate instead on its dramatic and psychological significance: through what psychological stages does Satan have to travel to acknowledge (to the extent that he does, anyway) the consequences of his own previous acts? Moreover, for their part, what do Sin and Death appear to want? What is this allegorical drama perhaps suggesting to us about the nature of sin, whether Satan or a fallen human being is committing it?

24. In Paradise Lost 2.871-927 (“Thus saying, from her side the fatal Key …”), the narrator images the opening of Hell’s Gates and then points us towards the wild prospect before the eyes of Sin, Death, and Satan. What is to be found in this “dark / Illimitable Ocean” (2.891-92)? What is going on there, and what significance might the place and its activities have by way of explaining “where things stand” in the epic at this point? Finally, what figure does Satan cut as he prepares to wing his way into this strange realm?

25. In Paradise Lost 2.927-50 (“At last his Sail-broad Vans / He spreads for flight …”), how does the narrator represent Satan’s plunge and progress through the abyss he must travel? Based on the representational strategy you find, what seems to be the narrator’s attitude towards Satan at this point? How much dignity is afforded Satan as he undertakes what is without doubt a bold epic exploit on the order of those carried out by the Sumerian Gilgamesh, Homer’s Odysseus, Virgil’s Aeneas, Spenser’s Redcrosse Knight or Dante’s Pilgrim?

26. In Paradise Lost 2.951-1009 (“At length a universal hubbub wild …”), the narrator encapsulates the encounter between Satan and Chaos on his throne, wherein they strike a bargain that will let Satan find his way first towards Heaven’s environs, and eventually to earth. First, how does Milton represent the weird, paradoxical state of affairs that Satan finds when he nears the throne of Chaos? Second, what is the affinity of interest between these two characters? In what ways might it make sense to say they differ? If you are presenting, do a bit of research online regarding the ancient concept and personification of Chaos, and fold what you discover into your responses.

27. In Paradise Lost 2.1010-55 (“He ceas’d; and Satan stay’d not to reply …”), the narrator describes Satan’s continued flight through the “wild expanse” (2.1014) of Chaos’ realm to calmer space; he is making his way towards Heaven’s environs. How does the topographical imaging here (an attempt to help us picture what Satan himself sees) effectively cap off the action of Book 2, which has traced the progression of Satan’s plans from the council stage to an epic crossing through dangerous regions in preparation for what we know will be a bold attempt on mankind?


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View Argument and Summary for Book Three

28. In Paradise Lost 3.1-55 (“Hail holy Light …”), the narrator for the second time invokes his muse, this time by the title, “Holy Light” (this term may refer to the Son, though the passage is much argued) and offers a moving statement of his own Milton-like predicament, that of a man once sighted who has now gone blind. But more particularly, how does this narrator situate himself with regard to God and his own task as an epic poet? How does he enlist the great contrasts at work here (darkness and light, blindness and inward sight) in the service of his poetic goal?

29. In Paradise Lost 3.56-79 (“Now had th’ Almighty Father …”), the narrator tries to give us a sense of God’s unlimited vision. He does this under the aegis of the longstanding theological concept of “accommodation,” whereby a poet or sermonist (or indeed the Bible itself, which frequently uses figurative language, parables, and the like) may help us grapple with things beyond human capacities by means of imagery, character description, and so forth. So what kind of tableau do we get here: what’s the scene as the Father and Son commune? What’s going on around them? What does God see?

30. In Paradise Lost 3.80-143 (“Only begotten Son …”), the narrator imaginatively eavesdrops on God’s conversation with the Son, wherein first Satan is pointed out as he prepares to make his way from the “Precincts of light / Directly towards the new created World” (3.88-89) where he will successfully corrupt the first humans, and then a theological outline and justification of events is given. What is that outline, and how does it supposedly justify God’s rightness through the whole affair? In terms of the narrator’s attempt to represent the unrepresentable, what sort of personality does God seem to have? Is it an attractive one, or is it somehow troubling? Explain the reasoning behind your response on this matter.

31. Follow the dialogue between the Son and God in Paradise Lost 3.144-216 (“O Father, gracious was that word …”) as well as the narrator’s characterization of the pause for a reply to God’s question to all the Heavenly Host, 3.217-26 (“He ask’d, but all the Heav’nly Choir stood mute …”). Based on what you have read in Book 3 so far, how do you understand the relationship between God the Father and the Son?

32. Follow the continued dialogue between the Son and God from 3.227-343 of Paradise Lost (“Father, thy word is past …”). We know that the Son accepts the need for the Incarnation: he will take on the form of fallen humankind and make himself answerable for their sins. How does the rest of the story go, when you piece it together between what the Son declares will happen and what the Father adds to that understanding?

33. Again with regard to Paradise Lost 3.227-343 (“Father, thy word is past …”), how does God and the Son’s manner of conversing with each other and relating to those around them starkly contrast the talk and comportment we have been hearing from Satan and his fallen host? What are the main points of contrast, as you find them?

34. In Paradise Lost 3.344-417 (“No sooner had th’ Almighty ceas’t …”), the obedient angels sing hosannas to the Son to celebrate God’s exaltation of him, and they praise the Father. What are the basic terms of their praise? But more particularly, what does Heaven look and feel like: how does Milton try to convey a sense of this ethereal place? In addition, how does the narrator situate himself with regard to the angels who have formed themselves into a heavenly choir?

35. In Paradise Lost 3.418-590 (“Meanwhile upon the firm opacous Globe …”), Satan lands on the created universe’s outer shell (by “world,” Milton often apparently means “created universe” or “cosmos,” not just the earth) and then makes his way to the Sun. First, have a look at these topological sketches: The Ptolemaic System and Ankle Soup’s Diagram) and perhaps a few others that you may find on the Internet. Then try to explain, in your own words, how you envision the universe Milton’s narrator is describing. (If you’re a good sketch artist, you might even draw a diagram as part of your response to this question.)

36. Again with regard to Paradise Lost 3.418-590 (“Meanwhile upon the firm opacous Globe …”), consider the text’s strategy of representation: how does the narrator try to give us some perspective on such a vast region as the created universe, and how much understanding of it does he grant Satan, who is after all the character viewing it and making his way through it? Moreover, aside from understanding or simple perception, what is Satan’s attitude towards the strange and wondrous things that he sees?

37. In Paradise Lost 3.591-735 (“The place he found beyond expression bright …”), the narrator offers us a remarkable gloss on the appearance and alchemy-like powers of the sun as well as an account of the meeting between Satan and the angel Uriel, the latter himself providing us with his own eyewitness account of the created universe. How does Satan manage to deceive this good angel and get the directions he must have if he is to corrupt humankind? Furthermore, on the basis of your reading of the disguise Satan adopts and rhetorical strategy he employs, why (beyond his target’s naiveté) does this subterfuge work?


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View Argument and Summary for Book Four

38. In Paradise Lost 4.1-113 (“O for that warning voice …”), the narrator briefly prepares us for Satan’s revealing soliloquy, and then we hear the bad angel himself. First, what is the basic dramatic purpose of such a speech — why should we be hearing it at this point? Then examine the soliloquy: by what process of feeling and logic does Satan arrive at his resolution “Evil be thou my Good” (4.110)? How does he set forth the nature of God’s rule as well as the real cause and consequences of his own rebellion against that rule?

39. In Paradise Lost 4.114-30 (“Thus while he spake …”), Uriel scans the mercurial emotions that show in Satan’s face, and realizes that the visitor is in fact one of the bad angels. From 4.131-93 (“So on he fares …”), Satan reaches Eden’s border and jumps the wall into Eden proper, disdaining the gate set up to keep the likes of him out. What does the environment look like at this point? Try to sketch the basic topography of Paradise and what immediately lies beyond it, i.e. the area through which Satan seems to travel to find his way into Paradise.

40. In Paradise Lost 4.194-287 (“Thence up he flew …”), Satan, disguised as a cormorant, alights on the Tree of Life and views the Garden of Eden. What is in this Garden? What does it look like, and what seems to be the narrator’s strategy for representing the Garden, both in terms of physical description and classical/historical allusion? What qualities are emphasized most? What do you find the most appealing aspect of the narrator’s account of this Garden, and why?

41. In Paradise Lost 4.288-324 (“Two of far nobler shape …”), Satan beholds Adam and Eve, and the narrator offers a splendid (though biased in favor of the male, as we moderns can’t help but notice) portrait of the first couple. How are Adam and Eve described in terms of their physical appearance, and how does the narrator use those descriptions to tease out the proper relationship between the two, and between them and God? What are those relationships, as you understand them based on your reading of this passage and perhaps other sections of the epic? Furthermore, if you are presenting on this question, what does the “Miltonic aside” from 4.312-18 (“Nor those mysterious parts were then conceal’d …”) add to your understanding of the description?

42. In Paradise Lost 4.325-55 (“Under a tuft of shade …”), the narrator broadens the portrait of Adam and Eve to include their evening dinner and dalliance. What seems to be the connection between them and the rest of the creatures who inhabit the Garden of Eden? Lions, tigers, bears, lynxes and leopards aren’t noted nowadays for their friendliness to human beings. What, then, in the unfallen state of things, would have been the purpose of the sharp claws, fearsome fangs and tremendous strength of such creatures? In the beginning, what principle might have been uppermost in the supposed combination of such capacities with the beauty and grace we find in, say, a lion or a leopard?

43. In Paradise Lost 4.356-410 (“When Satan still in gaze …”), Satan in soliloquy sets forth his general plan to draw Adam and Eve to destruction, followed by their eventual offspring, and the narrator caps off this segment with a bitter gloss. What is Satan’s basic plan? How does he justify it to himself, and what emotions does the narrator ascribe to him throughout this section of the text? In responding, especially if you are presenting on this question, you might consider the reflections of another great scoundrel, Shakespeare’s Richard III, who says in 4.2 of King Richard III, “I am in / So far in blood that sin will pluck on sin: / Tear-falling pity dwells not in this eye” (see MIT’s online edition) How do Satan’s rationale and attitude here compare to that of Richard III?

44. In Paradise Lost 4.411-39 (“Sole partner and sole part of all these joys …”), Adam gently lectures Eve about their responsibilities as Eden’s sole human inhabitants. How does Adam seem to understand his and Eve’s situation with respect to God? What does he know at this point, so far as you can tell, about the Tree of Knowledge and about the “Death” that will overtake him and his mate if they should transgress and eat the fruit of that tree? How does this account compare to that of the Bible’s Genesis 2:8-9, 15-17 in terms of what it says, and what it doesn’t say?

45. In Paradise Lost 4.440-91 (“To whom thus Eve repli’d …”), Eve praises Adam’s wisdom and offers an account of her own first memories upon awakening to life (which Adam will later supplement with his own birth-recollections in Book 8.250-316, “For Man to tell how human Life began …”). This story is clearly indebted to Ovid’s tale of Narcissus and Echo in Metamorphoses Book III (see A. S. Kline’s translation in the Library of Virginia’s collection), so have a look at that version (in the online edition cited, it runs from lines 339-510) and set down your thoughts on how Eve’s story compares with, and differs from, that of the youth Narcissus, son of the naiad Liriope and the river-god Cephisus. Finally, as Milton would surely say, we read such tales with “fallen” eyes and are therefore apt to misinterpret them: so what saves Eve’s current story from imputing some degree of guilt to her even in her unfallen state?

46. In Paradise Lost 4.492-538 (“So spake our general Mother …”), Satan shows that he now has the information he needs to destroy the happiness of Adam and Eve: he will feed them an argument about the supposed unfairness of the “forbidden tree,” i.e. the Tree of Knowledge. What does Satan profess to think is so unfair and even absurd about God’s placing such a tree in front of Adam and Eve? Do you get the sense that he believes his own argument to some extent, or is it purely tactical? What’s your reason for thinking as you do? Finally, if you choose to present on this question, you might also consider the story told in the Bible’s Genesis 2-3 about the placing of the forbidden Tree in the Garden of Eden and the fall of Eve and Adam. How do you understand what this Tree represents?

47. In Paradise Lost 4.610-88 (“When Adam thus to Eve: Fair Consort …”), Adam and Eve engage in some evening conversation. Consider their mutual interaction , including both their respective linguistic styles and their way of relating to each other. There’s no doubt that they conform to the narrator’s earlier description (see 4.288-324, “Two of far nobler shape …”) of their personal qualities: Adam is made for “contemplation” and Eve for “softness” and “sweet attractive Grace.” Still, what more can be said about their differences and about the qualities that make their relationship one of complementarity rather than conflict? For example, what about Adam’s appreciation of industry and the heavens and Eve’s gift for poetical utterance, as in 4.639-56 (“With thee conversing I forget all time …”)?

48. In Paradise Lost 4.689-775 (“Thus talking hand in hand alone …”), Adam and Eve say their prayers and prepare to turn in for the evening, and then the narrator laments the degradation of the concept and practice of love since the first couple’s brief unfallen time together. What is the subject of their evening prayers, and what light does their manner of recital cast upon their relationship as a couple? Consider also the narrator’s “Miltonic aside,” which is at least in part about sexual love: why might Milton append such a gloss to his attractive portrait of Adam and Eve as they make their way to bed? What dogma is he rejecting, and what principle is he supporting in its place?

49. In Paradise Lost 4.776-819 (“Now had night measur’d …”), an angelic search is conducted, and sure enough, Satan is discovered in the Bower filling sleeping Eve’s ear with all sorts of bad thoughts and images. Caught, he resumes his former shape. What is the narratival function of this brief but striking passage, in consideration of the successful temptation of Eve that we know will come later, in Book 9? (Eve reveals to Adam the detailed content of her dream in Book 5.28-94 (“O sole in whom my thoughts find all repose …”), and it would be best to examine that passage before replying.) Moreover, consider the present passage in light of what you can find out about Renaissance psychology: the Renaissance Soul may prove useful, but you may find further material on the Internet valuable as well. What is Satan up to, in terms of psychological mechanics, so to speak?

50. In Paradise Lost 4.820-995 (“Back stepp’d those two fair Angels …”), Satan is compelled to identify himself, and does so scornfully. He and the archangel Gabriel trade barbs, and an ominous standoff ensues. Follow their rhetoric and logic as Satan defends his actions and motives and Gabriel tears them down. How exactly does Satan go about justifying his ways to his former colleagues, the angelic host that’s still loyal to God? On what grounds does Gabriel successfully undermine Satan’s claims and posturing?

51. In Paradise Lost 4.995-1015 (“… had not soon / Th’ Eternal to prevent such horrid fray …”), God breaks up the brewing fight between Satan and the good angels by sending down Golden scales that show Satan, at least for the time being, that his boasting is pointless. (The scales are similar to the ones in Homer’s Iliad Book 8, where Zeus weighs the fate of the Greek and Trojan armies; see the Perseus Project’s translation by A. T. Murray around Book 8.60-75, “But when….” How does this final episode in the fourth book alter our perception of the back-and-forth arguing we have just been hearing between Satan and Gabriel? How does God’s action also illuminate for us his true position with regard to the angelic hierarchy?


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View Argument and Summary for Book Five

52. In Paradise Lost 5.26-94 (“Such whispering wak’d her …”), Eve recounts to Adam (who has just awakened her in lines 1-25) the bad dream she had the previous night. We know that this dream is a kind of premonition, courtesy of Satan, of the temptation to which she will succumb in Book 9. How does the angel in the dream proceed with his temptation of Eve? What is the nature or matter of the temptation itself, and why does Eve give in to it? What happens when she does? In responding, you might consider something that’s been said before in various ways (by the critic René Girard, for example): desire itself may involve triangulation in that we often desire what others desire, and scorn what they do not desire. How might that insight figure in the success of the bad angel in Eve’s dream?

53. In Paradise Lost 5.95-135 (“Best Image of myself …”), Adam as Miltonic husband offers Eve some reassuring instruction about the source and meaning of her dream. What is his explanation of where this dream came from? What is his reason for thinking it isn’t much to worry about? In responding, you might consider the explanation’s grounding in Renaissance psychology: what problem, according to Adam, sometimes besets the faculty called “the Fancy”?

54. In Paradise Lost 5.136-208 (“So all was clear’d …”), Adam and Eve prepare for their work day and say their morning prayers (sometimes called “orisons”). What is the substance of those prayers, and what does the first couple’s style in saying them suggest about the quality of their relationship to each other and to God? What is the purpose of unfallen poetry, of which this orison is an instance? That is, what purpose does the morning prayer of Adam and Eve serve, beyond that of simple praise? How might it, for instance, help to satisfy Adam and Eve’s desire to know more about the universe, more about an “unspeakable” (5.156) God’s design?

55. In Paradise Lost 5.209-45 (“So pray’d they innocent …”), God, beholding Adam and Eve with pity, bids Raphael to fly down and visit them. The archangel is to give Adam a fair warning about the evil adversary who now stalks them. What does God say is the purpose of this warning? Then from 5.246-307 (“So spake th’ Eternal Father …”), the narrator describes Raphael’s magnificent flight and resumption of his usual form at the end of it. What do you understand to be the function of this description on the narrator’s part? Why, that is, should we be treated to any information about this flight and about Raphael’s splendid looks?

56. In Paradise Lost 5.211-19 (“On to thir morning’s rural work they haste …”), a subsection of the passage mentioned in the previous question, Adam and Eve set out to do their daily gardening. Clearly, tending the flowers and trees is an important activity in paradise. How is their gardening work described at this point? (Note the striking way in which the narrator describes the plants’ growth, and how that relates to the two people doing the tending.) What does the need to perform this activity suggest about the place Adam and Eve hold in the created order and about their responsibilities towards God and what he has created?

57. In Paradise Lost 5.308-61 (“Haste hither Eve …”), Adam and Eve prepare to host their angelic guest, whom they don’t yet know is Raphael but who has certainly impressed Adam at a distance. Consider the conversation between Adam and Eve in the first part of this block of verse, before Eve goes off to gather fruits and berries for lunch. How might this conversation be taken as a bit of humor on the narrator’s part, given what Adam and Eve say to each other and given the splendid site of the accommodation that Raphael is to enjoy? Next, what does the narrator’s description of Adam’s approach towards the visiting angel suggest about the right way (i.e. the unfallen way) to conceptualize things such as rank and ceremony?

58. In Paradise Lost 5.361-450 (“… Native of Heav’n, for other place …”), Raphael arrives, greetings are exchanged, and a meal is served. The angel seems quite impressed with his hosts. How is Eve described by the narrator, and how does Raphael greet her? How do you understand the purpose of the forward-facing allusion to Mary, Mother of Jesus (as mentioned in the text itself and in Hughes’ note to lines 385-88) in this passage descriptive of and addressed to unfallen Eve? What is the narrator perhaps suggesting about the significance of the present moment in which Raphael greets Eve?

59. In Paradise Lost 5.451-505 (“Thus when with meats and drinks …”), when Adam wants to learn about “things above his world” (5.455), he begins by asking how it is that an angel seems to enjoy material food. This question leads Raphael, in a gloss very similar to contemporary C16-C17 notions about the Great Chain of Being and Man the Microcosm, to explain how the various ranks of creatures are nourished and how they are related to one another. What are the high points and major implications of the philosophical ideas just mentioned? In responding, you might want to have a look at the wiki guides the Great Chain of Being and the Renaissance Soul. Finally, what attitude is Raphael encouraging Adam to adopt towards his present place in the created order?

60. In Paradise Lost 5.506-18 (“To whom the Patriarch …”), Raphael’s warning about obedience in previous lines prompts further questioning from a surprised Adam. Then, after Raphael explains from 5.519-43 (“To whom the Angel….”) that angels, like humans, enjoy their happy state by free will, Adam has further questions from 5.544-60 (“To whom our great Progenitor….”), this time regarding the War in Heaven. Concentrate on Adam’s questions in this sequence spanning 5.506-60: why is Adam surprised to hear about the disobedience of the bad angels, and not long after receiving such news, what does he reveal about his state of mind by the way he frames his request for more information about the War in Heaven? Do Adam’s questions strike you as revealing any limitations in Milton’s representation of God’s perfect righteousness and sufficiency as a teacher with regard to the created order of things? Why or why not?

61. As mentioned in the previous question, in Paradise Lost 5.506-60 (“To whom the Patriarch …”), Raphael’s warning about obedience in previous lines prompts further questioning from Adam. Concentrate on the segment that follows from 5.561-672 (“Thus Adam made request …”), in which Raphael at first hesitates and then begins his narration of the War in Heaven, as Adam has asked him to do. Why does the archangel hesitate, and on what principle does he overcome that hesitation and proceed? How does Raphael describe God’s first Exaltation of the Son and the genesis of Lucifer or Satan’s decision to withhold his allegiance and transgress God’s order to obey the Son?

62. In Paradise Lost 5.673-742 (“Sleep’st thou, Companion dear …”), Raphael continues his narration, recounting how Satan drew Beëlzebub into a scheme to get all the legions under his (Satan’s) own command to head north to prepare “fit entertainment” (5.590) for the Son. Concentrate mainly on 5.711-42 (“Meanwhile th’ Eternal eye …”), in which God and the Son discuss their plans on the eve of what they know will be battle with Satan’s legions. What cues us in that this conversation should be taken as somewhat humorous rather than as a straightforward epic-military council and preparation? Moreover, how does the conversation between God and the Son contrast with that of Satan and Beëlzebub just above it?

63. In Paradise Lost 5.743-802 (“So spake the Son, but Satan …”), Raphael tells Adam how Satan, now ensconced in his opulent palace in the northern region of Heaven, stirs up envy and revenge in the angels who have followed him there. Follow this report on Satan’s rhetorical strategy: how does he manage to win them over? How does he characterize God the Father’s first exaltation of the Son? In particular, how does he define “freedom” and promote this alleged ideal to his hearers?

64. In Paradise Lost 5.803-907 (“Thus far his bold discourse …”), in Raphael’s continuation of his recounting about the rebellion in Heaven, the steadfast angel Abdiel decisively refutes Satan’s treasonous arguments to the host, earning praise from the narrator even though such a plain-spoken defense of God’s order falls on deaf ears. Follow the back-and-forth between Satan and Abdiel. What is Abdiel’s “first-round” counter-argument against Satan? How does Satan then try to shoot down Abdiel’s criticism, and what makes Abdiel’s dismissal of Satan’s claims about “self-authorship” so powerful? Finally, if you are presenting on this question, consider the following: some critics (Stanley Fish in How Milton Works makes the case very well) think of Abdiel’s standing-firm as paradigmatic of the proper Miltonic Christian response to those who would disrespect and disobey God. Why might that be the case, both with regard to Abdiel’s arguments and the way he reacts to the rejection of them by Satan and the rebellious legions?


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View Argument and Summary for Book Six

65. In Paradise Lost 6.1-55 (“All night the dreadless Angel unpursu’d …”), war preparations are already under way, and God orders Michael and Gabriel to lead the host into battle. How does Raphael describe the warm welcome the good angel Abdiel receives upon his return to Heaven at this book’s outset? What are the terms of the praise God accords Abdiel, and how might such praise point us towards the ideal of good conduct that reigns not only in Milton’s epic but perhaps also in some other works of his that we have studied?

66. In Paradise Lost 6.56-188 (“So spake the Sovran voice …”), the armies prepare for battle and Satan comes forward first in his chariot and then on foot. Concentrate on Raphael’s description of Satan as he appears to the gathering armies: what figure does the bad angel cut at this point? What are Abdiel’s private thoughts upon beholding Satan thus arrayed, and what is the substance of the argument that follows between these two? How does Abdiel undermine Satan’s epic grandeur, and how might this confrontation (even before the swordplay that follows) be an instance in which Milton is establishing strong boundaries between classical (pre-Christian) epic and the text’s Biblical framework for defining heroism and virtue?

67. In Paradise Lost 6.189-261 (“So saying, a noble stroke …”), Raphael relates the manner in which the War in Heaven started in earnest. How do you understand the symbolic charge or significance in the first blow struck ; namely, the one Abdiel levels against the helmet of Satan himself, which sends the latter reeling back ten angel-sized paces? After that remarkable event, how does the battle go up to the point at which Satan recognizes Michael and rushes on to confront him one-on-one?

68. In Paradise Lost 6.262-405 (“Author of evil, unknown till thy revolt …”), Michael and Satan trade barbs, and then come to blows. What is the main point of the taunt each makes against the other? How does the battle go, and how do things stand at the end of this first day of fighting? How does Raphael handle the difficulties of accommodating Adam’s sensibilities when it comes time to explain how an immortal like Satan could have been wounded in battle? How, according to Raphael, does angel physiology work? (If you are presenting on this topic, do some research and add what you can regarding this matter of angelic physiology and, more generally, the medieval/Renaissance concern known as angelology.)

69. Again with regard to Paradise Lost 6.262-405 (“Author of evil, unknown till thy revolt …”), a separate question: in what sense does this episode in which Michael and Satan argue and fight both emphasize and parody the classical epic militarist tradition in which Milton, himself an admiring reader of Homer and Virgil, was well versed? To what extent is Milton undermining by design the Homeric, Iliad-like quality of the description Raphael offers? If he is doing that, why so? In the service of what point about Satan and the nature of the War in Heaven might he proceed that way? In responding, consider among other things the fact that Raphael doesn’t spend a lot of time naming the warring angels catalog-style: what is Raphael’s explanation for this omission?

70. In Paradise Lost 6.406-523 (“Now Night her course began …”), the rebellious angels strategize during the night after the first day of the battle for Heaven. In Raphael’s recounting, how does Satan put some courage into his troops in the wake of such a difficult first encounter? What is the point of Nisroch’s relatively brief address, and how does Satan respond to it? Finally, we know that Satan has devised a new weapon: artillery. What does he expect will be the result of this invention, and how does he propose to build it?

71. In Paradise Lost 6.524-679 (“Now when fair Morn Orient …”), the second day of battle dawns, and Satan brings his initially hidden artillery into play. What is the immediate effect of this new weapon on the course of the War in Heaven? Aside from the artillery, what other “big new thing” has Satan introduced into the concept and practice of warfare? (Consider the fact that he precedes his artillery barrage with a bogus claim that he wants a truce.) For a moment, as Raphael describes the scene, Satan seems to have turned the day in his favor, and he and Belial even mock their enemies’ confusion. But what happens when the good angels adjust to the awful contingency that Satan’s artillery bombardment has presented to them? If we compare how the good angels have arrived at their new strategy with Satan’s devilish invention of cannon-shot and gunpowder, what insight into the nature of violence and warfare might we gain?

72. In Paradise Lost 6.680-745 (“Effulgence of my Glory, Son belov’d …”), God declares that the third day of battle belongs to the Son, who in turn glorifies the Father in the conversation that follows. Raphael takes care to provide Adam with God’s explanation of events thus far during the War in Heaven: why, then, has God allowed the battle to go on for two days (by heavenly reckoning, not earthly twenty-four hour periods)? What has been the point of this huge affair, the War in Heaven? Why didn’t God just whoop Satan at the outset and get it over with? When you combine what God the Father says with what the Son says in return, what theological arrangement emerges?

73. In Paradise Lost 6.746-800 (“So said, he o’er his Sceptre bowing, rose …”), the third day dawns, and the Son, armed with the “terrors” (6.735) of the Father, leaves his side and goes forth in the paternal Chariot, filling the rebel armies with despair, which they seem to think they can overcome with acts of reckless desperation in battle. Raphael describes the Chariot and its procession into battle with considerable care, so let’s attend to that. What does this magnificent conveyance look like, and what sorts of ceremony and preparation attend its movements towards the center of the action? In responding, compare Raphael’s description to what you find in Ezekiel 1:1-29. How much of that description does Milton incorporate or adapt to suit this high point in his epic’s revelation of the pageantry and power of the Godhead?

74. In Paradise Lost 6.801-92 (“Stand still in bright array ye Saints …”), Raphael narrates the utter rout of the bad angels by the sole power of the Son in the Father’s Chariot. How does Raphael describe the Son as he manifests fully the power that has been given to him? What does the Chariot look like and do at this point (as in the previous question, you can find the relevant Biblical description of the Chariot in Ezekiel 1:1-29). What happens during this last magnificent phase of the War in Heaven? That is, how does the Son vanquish Satan and the rebel armies, and what does he do afterwards? Finally, in what sense does Raphael’s entire account of this final phase aim to transcend and reinterpret the epic-quality violence that marked the first two days of battle?

75. In Paradise Lost 6.893-912 (“Thus measuring things in Heav’n …”), Raphael drives home the lesson of what he has been relating since Book 5: “remember, and fear to transgress” (6.912). Milton performs a dual representational task in Books 5-6: on the one hand, to reinforce for Adam the danger his foe represents to him and to Eve, Raphael must portray Satan as clever, devious and strong, a power to be reckoned with; on the other, Raphael must represent the rebel angel leader in such a way as to show the futility and absurdity of disrespecting and disobeying God. Part of the latter task involves also emphasizing the sheer power of God the Father and the Son, of course, but concentrate on the representation of Satan: in retrospect, what do you consider the most effective moments or “Satan-scenes” in this two-book unit, the ones that best convey the message Raphael says has been his main task to deliver?


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View Argument and Summary for Book Seven

76. In Paradise Lost 7.1-39 (“Descend from Heav’n Urania …“), Milton’s narrator makes his third of four invocations, naming Urania as his Muse. Who is this figure in Greek mythology, and why is she a good choice considering the subject Raphael will be covering throughout Books 7-8? Still, the narrator makes it clear that he really isn’t invoking the pagan muse-goddess but instead something more properly Christian. What or who, then, is he in fact calling upon to help him complete his high task? Moreover, what attitude towards the present part of the epic does the narrator take up, and how does it differ from the attitudes we find in his previous invocations (in Books 1 and 3)?

77. In Paradise Lost 7.40-108 (“Say Goddess, what ensu’d …”), Adam asks Raphael about the mechanics and timing of God’s creation of the universe (remember that the narrator often uses “world” to mean “universe,” not just earth). What is it that Adam apparently wants to know, why does he want to know it, and how does he approach putting the question to Raphael? As an aside, how does the narrator deal with Eve’s whereabouts at this point in the text?

78. In Paradise Lost 7.109-30 (“Thus Adam his illustrious Guest besought …”), Raphael says that he will gladly respond to Adam’s request, but first he tenders Adam some advice. What caution about the proper way for humans to seek and process knowledge does the angel offer before launching into his explanation? What does that advice suggest about the divine and angelic view of “the good life” for human beings?

79. In Paradise Lost 7.131-73 (“Know then, that after Lucifer …“), God the Father speaks to the Son about the impending creation of the universe. What explanation does the Father offer as the purpose of this undertaking? To what extent does God, in addressing the Son, answer the questions that Adam, were he privileged to put them so directly, might ask God as he asked Raphael: namely, why is he embarking on the creation at all, and why is he doing it just now?

80. In Paradise Lost 7.174-242 (“So spake th’ Almighty …”), the Son, as requested by God the Father and with due respect for the “accommodated” form of the narrative underscored by Raphael when he says, “Immediate are the Acts of God, more swift / Than time or motion, but …” (7.176-77; see 7.176-79), first wheels his Chariot out to the edge of Chaos and looks around, then begins the grand work of creation. To begin with, contrast this moment with Satan’s first view and experience of the Abyss in Book 2.890-950 (“Before thir eyes in sudden view appear …”) to bring out the contrast between the divine and Satanic modes of experience. Next, reflect on the initial “golden Compasses” and “brooding” phase of the creation-act: what does this account appear to emphasize about the quality and nature of the universe that is about to come into being?

81. In Paradise Lost 7.243-504 (“Let there be Light, said God …”), God makes everything but the first pair of human beings. This is a long stretch of text, so set down the order of creation-events in summary fashion. Then respond to the following question: based on the order in which things happen and on the relative importance those things are granted in the narrative, what insights might we draw about the new universe and the principles governing it?

82. Again with regard to Paradise Lost 7.243-504 (“Let there be Light, said God …”), in which God makes everything but the first pair of human beings, focus more narrowly on one or two creation-days and respond in more detail to the same question as just above: what insights might we draw about the new universe and the principles governing it? A few possibilities for your response: what is the relationship between Earth and the starry regions above it? Alternately, how might we describe the new planet as a functioning ecosystem?

83. In Paradise Lost 7.505-50 (“There wanted yet the Master work …”), Raphael explains what is still missing up to the present point on the sixth and final day of creation, and then, along with his own gloss on these events of great interest to his host, relates what God said as he made Adam and Eve. How is this “something missing” described: how does mankind round off God’s sublime act of creation, according to Raphael and then God himself? How closely does Raphael’s narration of the creation of Adam and Eve follow the account given in Genesis 1-2?

84. In Paradise Lost 7.551-630 (“Yet not till the Creator from his work …”), God returns to Heaven on the seventh day and looks down to behold all that He has made. Celestial music accompanies him. Towards evening, the Father and the Son sit side by side and the angels again sing to celebrate the six days of Creation. What specifically about the Creation are they praising in these songs at 7.565-73 (“Open, ye everlasting Gates, they sung …”) and 7.602-32 (“Great are thy works, Jehovah …“)? What promises are made on God’s behalf, and how do the angels weave into their hymns the ethical or moral dimension of the divine order?


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View Argument and Summary for Book Eight

85. In Paradise Lost 8.39-63 (“So spake our Sire …”), the narrator tells us that Eve, upon hearing Adam’s question from 8.1-38 (“The Angel ended …”) about the relationship between Earth and much larger stars up in the Firmament, decamps for the Garden of Eden to do some work there. The narrator explains that Eve is up to the task of understanding such things, but prefers to hear them from Adam, not Raphael. Aside from the obvious gender hierarchy, what principle is reinforced by such moments in the text? How is the distribution of understanding determined and how is it maintained? In responding, you might consider Eve’s attachment to the Earth — to its soil, its flowers, and so forth — in light of Renaissance ideas about the Great Chain of Being.

86. In Paradise Lost 8.64-178 (“And Raphael now to Adam’s doubt propos’d …”), Raphael responds to the pre-Copernican question Adam had posed in 8.1-38 (“The Angel ended …,” but see especially 8.15-38, “When I behold this goodly Frame …”): why has God set such massive stars as the sun moving around the Earth rather than the other way around? In his response, what advice does Raphael offer Adam about the proper way to regard the “Book of God” (8.67) that is the heavens and indeed the whole created universe? By inference, what is Raphael perhaps suggesting about the role of the sciences in mankind’s future?

87. In Paradise Lost 8.179-248 (“To whom thus Adam clear’d of doubt …”), Adam agrees with Raphael’s previous remarks about how to deal with his desire to know high things, and Raphael praises Adam and agrees to hear his host’s earliest recollections. How might this brief exchange be considered a model of conversation and understanding between beings of two respective orders, that of angel and man? Moreover, to what extent does this conversation resemble the ones between Adam and Eve, whom Milton’s narrator clearly places on different levels in some respects in spite of their common humanity and considerable potential for development?

88. In Paradise Lost 8.249-82 (“So spake the Godlike Power …”), Adam begins to tell the story he has offered to tell Raphael. What were Adam’s first moments like? What did he see, what did he do, and what did he assume from the outset? How does this phase of Adam’s recollections compare to the same phase in Eve’s remembrances of her coming-into-being and initial awareness at 4.440-65 (“To whom thus Eve repli’d …”)? (Her entire account spans 4.440-91.) What difference or differences between Adam and Eve quickly become apparent? What similarities appear as well?

89. In Paradise Lost 8.283-348 (“While thus I call’d …”), Adam continues his account of his first moments. What happens in this section of the account? Why, might we surmise, did the Creator place Adam in a state of sleep so soon after his birth? Why does he ask Adam to give names to his fellow creatures as his first real task? What’s in a name, by inference: how does naming the creatures around him help to orient Adam within his new home, Eden?

90. In Paradise Lost 8.349-451 (“As thus he spake …”), Adam explains what he still doesn’t find in any of the animals who share Eden with him, and he and God have an extended conversation about the matter. Consider the style and substance of this exchange as a model of dialogue between God and unfallen humanity. What is God up to here? That is, what is the Creator affectionately teasing Adam into realizing about himself, about his limitations, about his place in the created order?

91. Paradise Lost 8.249-451 (“So spake the Godlike Power …”) comprises all of Adam’s recollections about his earliest perceptions and experiences. Compare this account as a whole with the one given by Eve at 4.440-91 (“To whom thus Eve repli’d …”). Now that you have read both accounts, what insight do they offer into the qualities Adam and Eve have in common and the qualities that distinguish them from each other? In your response, consider also the nuances in the way the Creator interacts with them in accordance with his understanding of their needs and capacities: what does his treatment of them allow us to infer beyond the things that the two realize and report about themselves?

92. In Paradise Lost 8.452-520 (“Hee ended, or I heard no more …”), Adam recounts how the Creator put him into a trance and formed Eve from one of his ribs. How does Adam describe his initial thoughts and feelings about this new companion? How might his response be described as something like an unfallen “Petrarchan moment,” i.e. as reminding us of the feelings and attitudes of the Petrarchan lovers we find in sonnets by the Italian inventor of that form and his imitators? (You can find an online copy of the Canzoniere at’s Petrarch Page, among other places.) Moreover, what do you find to be the significance of the fact that God allows Adam to witness the creation of Eve, even if only through the operation of his “fancy” or imagination as he sleeps? For that matter, why does he experience Eve’s creation only through the haze or screen of imagination — why not directly?

93. Again with respect to Paradise Lost 8.452-520 (“Hee ended, or I heard no more …”), in which Adam recounts how the Creator put him into a trance and formed Eve from one of his ribs, how does Adam describe his successful attempt at wooing Eve once the Creator brings her to him after her initial solitary glimpse into a clear stream of water? How does Adam understand her nature and her needs as a newly created being? How does the encounter go, and what happens afterwards, once Eve accepts Adam as her husband? Finally, if you are presenting on this question, consider also how well Adam’s recollection here matches Eve’s recounting of the moment she met Adam and tried to flee (4.475-91, “… what could I do, / But follow straight …”). To what extent do these accounts match?

94. In Paradise Lost 8.521-94 (“Thus I have told thee all my State …”), Adam tacks on a few remarks after Eve’s account, admitting to Raphael how strongly the beautiful woman’s presence affects him. Raphael finds Adam’s remarks cause for concern. Explore both Adam’s praise of Eve and Raphael’s stern response to it: why is the former’s attitude potentially out of line, and how does the angel make plain to Adam the way he must regard Eve in future if he wants to stay out of trouble? Why does Raphael begin his lecture with the imperative, “Accuse not nature, she hath done her part” (8.561)? What advice does he go on to offer about managing the charm of physical beauty and the undeniable power of sexuality?

95. In Paradise Lost 8.595-643 (“To whom thus half abash’t …”), Adam, recoiling from the reception of his remarks about Eve’s powers of attraction, quickly revises them, but also asks Raphael what exactly angels do when it comes to sex. Raphael blushes a little at this rather personal question, but dishes on his fellow angels all the same. So how does he explain the mechanics of the angelic “urge to merge”? More seriously, what inferences might we make about human lovers’ combination of spiritual and physical communion by comparison to what the angels are here said to experience?

96. In Paradise Lost 8.633-43 (“Be strong, live happy, and love …”), Raphael offers one last admonition to Adam, and his mission is completed; he is ready to depart for Heaven. How does he frame this polite but serious warning: what is the most important thing for Adam to remember going forwards? Moreover, as you look back on the sweep of Books 5-8, how well do you think Adam and Eve have been prepared for the danger that will soon confront them in the form of “that old serpent,” Satan, and his will to destroy all that was created good and remains so? Do they have all the information they need in a form they should understand?


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View Argument and Summary for Book Nine

97. In Paradise Lost 9.1-47 (“No more of talk where God or Angel Guest …”), the narrator makes his fourth and final invocation, in which he calls on Urania to help him do justice to a “higher Argument” (9.42) than the matter of war and chivalry that has filled many previous epics. How does he delineate this higher argument: what is it, and why is it more important than that of other epics? In addition, how is the narrator’s subject going to change in the final four books?

98. In Paradise Lost 9.1-47 (“No more of talk where God or Angel Guest …”) and with reference to the other three invocations (namely at the beginning of Books 1, 3, and 7), make a cumulative analysis of all the invocations: what sense have they provided us regarding the narrator as a kind of character in the text, of the nature and scope of his subject (including any refinements or adjustments you find in the description and treatment of that subject), and of the poetics and inspiration-theory whereby he claims to write as he does?

99. In Paradise Lost 9.48-96 (“The Sun was sunk …”), Satan, chased out of Paradise by Gabriel, circles Earth for seven nights, and on the eighth finds a re-entry point into Eden. The narrator takes care to tell us the details of the search that Satan makes before he finds the entry point, and describes the precise manner in which he makes that re-entry. Why do you think the narrator provides such details, in terms of narrative strategy? How do they perhaps modify our perception of the event and help us relate to it from a present-day perspective? Moreover, the narrator lets us in on Satan’s reason for choosing a serpent-form rather than that of some other creature. Why does Satan settle on a serpent, and not, say, an elephant or a tiger?

100. In Paradise Lost 9.97-178 (“Thus he resolv’d, but first from inward grief …”), a solitary Satan reflects upon the “hateful siege / Of contraries” (9.121-22) that is tearing at his very being. What does he appear to mean by this interesting phrase, and what does it tell us about his nature now that he has debased it by disobedience to God? In addition, follow up on Satan’s logic for the remainder of this stretch of text: since he is addressing himself on the verge of carrying out the fatal temptation of Adam and Eve, how does Satan assess his own present situation and his prospects? If he succeeds (which we know he will), what does he believe he will be accomplishing? Finally, we have come across such revealing moments before in Milton’s epic when Satan is about to take action: what’s the narrative effect or payoff of these soliloquys with regard to our understanding of the action and our feeling for it?

101. In Paradise Lost 9.179-204 (“So saying, through each Thicket …”), Satan finds a serpent and slips into that shape, while Adam and Eve rise early and say their morning prayers. From 9.205-69 (“Adam, well may we labor still …”), they have a bit of a disagreement about how the day’s gardening ought to go: Eve wants to do her share separately, by herself, and Adam isn’t happy with that plan. What is Eve’s rationale for wanting to stray from Adam’s side? Does she make a good case for working separately? Why or why not? How does Adam respond to Eve’s request: what concerns does he voice? Does he do so skillfully, or do you find his remarks somewhat lacking in finesse? Explain.

102. In Paradise Lost 9.270-317 (“To whom the Virgin Majesty of Eve …“), we find Adam and Eve engaging in round two of their mild disagreement over the division of labor in their gardening work. How does this second round of argumentation go? What is Eve’s emphasis now, and how has it changed from what we heard initially? How does Adam counter her position and her attitude? Again, does he do this well? Do you find his performance as a speaker convincing or unconvincing? Explain.

103. In Paradise Lost 9.318-75 (“So spake domestic Adam in his care …”), Adam and Eve go through a decisive third round in their argument about how to do the day’s gardening. As in the previous two questions, what is Eve’s reasoning this time? Consider her argument, which is mostly about what independence and freedom mean. Do you find it sound or defective? Whatever your response, why so? Moreover, what about Adam’s response? On what grounds does he finally give Eve his blessing to stray from his side, after so much effort to convince her not to do that? Has Adam actually changed his mind, or is he just caving? Explain why you think as you do on this point.

104. In Paradise Lost 9.376-84 (“So spake the Patriarch of Mankind …”), Eve prepares to set out on her own, undaunted by any danger and wrongly supposing that the enemy’s pride will prevent him from attacking a woman rather than Adam first. From 9.385-472 (“Thus saying, from her Husband’s hand …”), Eve does her gardening and Satan makes his way towards her. By what means does the narrator heighten the intensity and pathos of these moments, which we know are Eve’s last as an innocent being? What role does Satan himself play in this heightening effect, as he seeks and finds his mark? In responding, consider the effect innocent Eve has on Satan’s mood as he beholds the scene before him.

105. In Paradise Lost 9.473-531 (“Thoughts, whither have ye led me …”), Satan explains his reason for tempting Eve alone, and then snakes his way (though upright, not like modern serpents) right up to Eve. First of all, what is his rationale for picking on Eve first and alone? Next, what does he look like at this point, and how does he attract Eve’s attention? Consider also a few of the classical allusions to serpents the narrator weaves into his description: what quality or insight do they add to the portrait of the snake that wends his way towards his fateful encounter with Eve?

106. In Paradise Lost 9.532-48 (“Wonder not, sovran Mistress …”), Satan makes his first pitch to tempt Eve, and from 9.549-66 (“So gloz’d the Tempter …”), Eve reacts. How does Satan choose to open his performance, and why do you think he has made that choice, based on your own understanding of Eve thus far? How does Eve process this opening gambit? Furthermore, does this “proem” or preparatory part of the attempt seem facile, or do you find that it connects to the deeper grounds of temptation that soon develop during Satan’s encounter with Eve, or, for that matter, to potential spurs toward disobedience that we might infer from previous moments in Milton’s epic?

107. In Paradise Lost 9.567-612 (“To whom the guileful Tempter thus repli’d.…”), Satan uses Eve’s curiosity to begin making his pitch in earnest, which of course involves testimonial-style effusions about the life-transforming benefits he received upon eating his fill of the forbidden fruit. We know that Eve has been warned about a dangerous foe who wants to do her and Adam harm, so what is so appealing about Satan’s claims as to lead her to take them seriously? Analyze Satan’s argument and his manner of delivering it, that is, and explain why it’s compelling to Eve. In responding, you might consider this part of the argument as being rooted in an “appeal through the vehicle of character,” i.e. the sort of move we might expect not far from the beginning of a classical piece of oratory. (See the guide on Classical Rhetoric.)

108. In Paradise Lost 9.613-46 (“So talk’d the spirited sly Snake …”), Eve agrees to follow the serpent to the fatal Tree of Knowledge, making him very happy for the moment. Then, from 9.647-732 (“Serpent, we might have spar’d our coming hither …”) comes the main confrontation between Eve and the serpent. How does she at first deal with the fact that the serpent has led her to the one tree God has said she and Adam can’t enjoy? How does Satan immediately answer her concerns? Furthermore, it seems that Eve’s invocation of the punishment “death” gives Satan just the opening he needs to launch into his devastatingly effective main argument: so how does he make use of Eve’s mention of that term? As in the previous question, analyze Satan’s argument and his manner of delivering it. That is, explain why it’s compelling to Eve: what key claims or moments in this performance conduce to Satan’s successful suborning of Eve?

109. In Paradise Lost 9.733-79 (“He ended, and his words replete with guile …”), Eve pauses and reflects on what she has just heard from Satan in disguise. How does the narrator represent the operation of Eve’s faculties and her decision-making process under the influence of the subtle serpent? In other words, how does the narrative here give us a sense of the appeal that the forbidden fruit now has for Eve, and of the impact Satan’s words have had on her mind and spirit? Moreover, how, simply in logical terms, does she sum up the argument she has heard in favor of tasting “the Fruit / Of that Forbidden Tree,” as the narrator called it at the epic’s very beginning?

110. In Paradise Lost 9.780-833 (“So saying, her rash hand in evil hour …”), Eve finally reaches for the fruit, takes a bite, and then eats her fill. We are told that Earth itself “felt the wound” (9.782) inflicted by this dreadful choice and act. How does the narrator represent the change that comes over Eve once she has sinned? Reflect on her seeming intoxication and her distorted reasoning process: what expectations does she have now? How might her regard for the Tree itself be regarded as the first human instance of idolatry, which was of course a tendency that Puritans like Milton despised? (On this matter, see also 9.834-88, “So saying, from the Tree her step she turn’d ….”) What concerns wash over Eve now with regard to her yet-unknowing (i.e. unfallen) partner Adam? Finally, in what respects (and to what extent) do Eve’s reasoning and attitude now resemble those of Satan?

111. In Paradise Lost 9.834-55 (“So saying, from the Tree her step she turn’d …”), Adam anxiously awaits Eve for a while, then goes to greet her near the Tree of Knowledge, where he finds her looking anything but innocent. Then, from 9.856-85 (“Hast thou not wonder’d, Adam, at my stay?…”), Eve breaks the news to Adam regarding her transgression. How does she represent her actions: that is, what does she claim was her motive in eating the forbidden fruit? Is there any truth to what Eve says, or is she simply lying? In responding to the latter question, you might want to refer back briefly to Eve’s thoughts immediately after she has eaten the fruit (9.780-833, “So saying, her rash hand in evil hour …”) to see if what she says now matches what she thought before.

112. In Paradise Lost 9.886-989 (“Thus Eve with Count’nance blithe her story told …”), how does Adam react to the news that Eve has just given him? First, how does he process this information inwardly, and then what analysis of Eve’s sin and their prospects as a couple for the near future does he offer when he turns to address Eve directly? What insight about Adam’s present state of mind emerges when we put these two moments in the text together? (In responding, consider the heterogeneous quality of the reasons Adam gives for deciding to follow Eve’s lead and eat the forbidden fruit.) Finally, what about Eve’s counter-response to Adam’s analysis of what she has done? How does she defend herself from the implied reproach?

113. In Paradise Lost 9.990-1133 (“So saying, she embrac’d him …”), Adam eats the forbidden fruit, and now both he and Eve enter their post-lapsarian or fallen phase of existence. Consider the sweep of events in this stretch of the epic: how have the consciousness and conduct of Adam and Eve been transformed by their first bad decision? In particular, how does the narrator capture the unhappy combination of self-awareness and self-delusion that becomes part of Adam and Eve’s way of looking at the world? Finally, one key alteration is that shame makes its entrance into human life. How does that concept go beyond a simple reference to what the narrator represents as now-guilty sexuality?

114. In Paradise Lost 9.1134-89 (“Would thou hadst heark’n’d to my words …”), we hear the first real argument between Adam and Eve, now that they have fallen and gone through the initial feelings pertinent to that alteration. What is the substance of their disagreement, and how is it like some of the “married folks” bickering one hears today? Does either partner have a better case than the other to make, or are Adam and Eve both equally dishonest and mistaken? Explain.

115. General question. In Paradise Lost Book 9, the narrator tells us from the outset that he must now cover material that is both closer to home and “tragic” in its consequences for humanity going forward. From 9.780 on (“So saying, her rash hand in evil hour …”), we are dealing with fallen Adam and Eve, not with the innocent beings we knew in earlier books. But then, Milton’s narrator is subject to the same consequences as everybody else: he is a fallen, mortal human being. How does the narrator, then, incorporate a sense of his own fallenness, his own limitations, into his account of the first sin? What attitude does he adopt in telling us about Adam and Eve’s bad decision and about the way they think, speak and act afterwards?


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View Argument and Summary for Book Ten

116. In Paradise Lost 10.1-102 (“Meanwhile the heinous and despiteful act …”), the narrator first aligns himself with divine justice and then offers a description of its mechanics now that the Fall has occurred. How will the Father and the Son proceed with their plan to render justice and yet show mercy? How does the Father explain to his loyal angels why what has just occurred is not to some extent a victory for Satan and a loss for the author of the Heavenly order of things?

117. In Paradise Lost 10.103-228 (“Where art thou Adam …“), the Son draws from Adam and Eve an account of why they have sinned, renders his judgment, shows compassion and then ascends back to Heaven. Compare this segment of Milton’s epic to the Bible’s account in Genesis 3:8-24. Milton’s text follows the Bible rather closely, but what explanations and extrapolations (mainly with regard to Adam and the Son) does the narrator supply, and what do they add to our perception of the Fall’s aftermath?

118. In Paradise Lost 10.229-324 (“Meanwhile ere thus was sinn’d …”), the narrator recounts the conversation between Sin and her son Death as the two guard the Gates of Hell and then build a bridge from Hell to Earth. What do we learn about these allegorical figures and their relationship if we regard their respective attitudes towards the new opportunity that Satan is busy creating for them? (10.585-609 would also be helpful in this regard: “Meanwhile in Paradise the hellish pair ….”) Furthermore, what is to be inferred from the manner in which they build the fatal bridge? In this light, you might recall that when the Son travelled over Chaos on his way to accomplish the creation tasks given him by God the Father, he simply silenced and stilled its roaring discord (7.216-20, “Silence, ye troubl’d waves …”); how, then, do our builders Sin and Death deal with this same region?

119. In Paradise Lost 10.325-409 (“And now thir way to Earth they had descri’d …”), Satan is making his way back to Hell to report on his successful temptation of Eve when he chances upon Sin and Death. Recall the first meeting between this unholy trinity of characters in Book 2.629-870 (“Meanwhile the Adversary of God and Man …”). What is different this time with respect to the way these characters recognize and treat one another? What do you believe accounts for any differences you may find in this regard?

120. In Paradise Lost 10.410-503 (“So saying he dismiss’d them …”), Satan returns to Hell in a manner that includes both stealth and theatrics. How does he bill to the rebel host his recent temptation of Eve and, through her, of Adam as well? How, as well, does he represent for his followers the punishment meted out to him by the Son, and in what sense is Satan’s management of information here characteristic of him as a political leader?

121. In Paradise Lost 10.504-84 (“So having said, a while he stood …”), Satan, putting in what will prove to be his final appearance in the epic, is stunned to find that his triumphant speech has turned into what we may see as an allegorical or emblematic representation of sin’s fundamental nature, its pattern and consequences. What, then, can we learn from reading this representation carefully? For example, what about the fact that Satan again takes on the form of a serpent, this time accompanied by his followers, and that together they all rise to pluck and eat what they think is the delicious forbidden fruit that Satan has boasted about using to pervert Eve and Adam? Why do they reach for the fruit even knowing, as the narrator says, that it is surely designed to bring them only “woe or shame” (10.555)? What is significant about the possibility, as legend has it, that they must repeat this transformation annually?

122. In Paradise Lost 10.585-640 (“Meanwhile in Paradise the hellish pair …”), we hear the perspectives of Sin and Death first and then God’s explanation of current and future events. How do Sin and Death, respectively, understand and look towards what lies immediately before them now that Satan has traduced Eve and Adam? How do those responses correspond with what you take to be their nature? Next, consider God’s remarks to the Son, both with an eye towards the way those remarks undermine the perspectives of Satan, Sin and Death and with attention to the particular manner in which God makes his case, including the language of pollution and purification. What’s the plan, and how does it ironize and destroy the one Satan and his ilk keep setting forth?/p>

123. In Paradise Lost 10.641-706 (“He ended, and the heav’nly audience loud / Sung Halleluiah …), we find the Earth transformed, and not for the better, while the heavens also undergo an adjustment. How does God alter the positioning and movement of the stars and planets, and to what effect? What is the implied rationale for effecting such harsh transformation, given that it is Adam and Eve, not “mother Earth” or the animal creation specifically, who have offended God? In responding, you might want to look back at the dual moments of the Fall, i.e. when first Eve (9.780-833, “So saying, her rash hand in evil hour …”) and then Adam (9.990-1133, “So saying, she embrac’d him …”) eat the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, and the narrator references the reaction of the natural world around them.

124. In Paradise Lost 10.706-844 (“… Thus began / Outrage from lifeless things …”), Adam realizes that nature itself has been degraded by his and Eve’s sinful conduct, and he tries to work out what’s to come, but is buffeted from one profound anxiety to the next by his tortured conscience. Through what troubled paces does he put himself? That is, what fears and complaints arise, and how does he try to quell them by means of rational argumentation? How successful is Adam in this latter endeavor, and to what extent does he settle in his mind the matter of his own guilt and of God’s justice in the face of what seems like inscrutable harshness?

125. In Paradise Lost 10.845-908 (“Thus Adam to himself lamented loud …”), Eve tries to comfort Adam, but he is in no mood yet to be comforted, and he turns on her viciously, denouncing her as a “Serpent” (10.867), at one point calling her a “fair defect / Of Nature” (10.891-92), and generally denouncing all future womankind by proxy. How do you interpret these accusations? How might the “defect / Of Nature” reproach in particular be said to call into question Adam’s understanding of what has gone wrong and his own responsibility for it?

126. In Paradise Lost 10.909-65 (“He added not, and from her turn’d …”), as a response to Adam’s misogynistic rant, Eve apologizes tearfully and without reserve, and Adam in turn responds in a different vein. How does his attitude change in response to Eve’s sorrow and contrition? What does he suggest here as the appropriate thing to do now that they’ve both sinned? How might we read this brief episode as a vital turning point in the narrative that takes us from the Fall and its immediate consequences towards reconciliation between Adam and Eve as well as newfound hope invested in a human future that’s bound to be difficult?

127. In Paradise Lost 10.966-1104 (“To whom thus Eve, recovering heart …”), we encounter a second wave in the conversation that helps to reconcile Adam and Eve to each other and to the future they will initiate together. How does Eve propose to Adam to deal with their lamentable new status as fallen human beings? What effect does Eve’s despairing suggestion have on Adam? Follow out his response to Eve from 10.1013-96 (“Eve, thy contempt of life …”): how does Adam now construe the present and the future? What does he point to by way of consolation, and what causes him to invest hope in the future?


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View Argument and Summary for Book Eleven

128. In Paradise Lost 11.1-21 (“Thus they in lowliest plight repentant stood …”), Adam and Eve’s prayers make their way up to God’s Throne in Heaven and are accepted. An interesting moment in this brief stretch of text occurs when the narrator alludes to Deucalion and Pyrrha of Greek and Roman legend. Refer to Ovid’s Metamorphoses 1: 313-415, which concerns how the above-named couple deal with a devastating flood not unlike the Biblical flood that spared only Noah and the denizens of his Ark, and draw what significance you can from Milton’s reference to this post-Biblical Greek myth: what does the story of Deucalion and Pyrrha add to our understanding of the prayerful moment that Milton’s Narrator is here describing?

129. In Paradise Lost 11.22-71 (“See Father, what first fruits on Earth …”), the Son again intercedes on behalf of Adam and Eve, reminding God (or rather us) of his commitment to take on humankind’s sins and pay the penalty himself. The Father accepts, but insists that Paradise is no longer the proper home of these sinful children of his. They have brought death into the world, and their chief hopes must lie in the life to come, not with the now-corrupted Earth. Why are we hearing this repetition of the Son’s offer and the Father’s theological lecture at this point? How are these things characteristic of Milton’s emplotment patterns and intellectual framework in the present epic? Explain with at least brief reference to earlier such moments therein.

130. In Paradise Lost 11.72-125 (“He ended, and the Son gave signal high …”), how does God describe and explain the present situation on Earth? What is the nature and manner of the mission that God now hands the Archangel Michael and his choice of ever-impressive Cherubim? Why is it so necessary that Adam and Eve be ejected without delay from the Garden of Eden? What may we take to be the primary function of the revelation that Adam is to be given with Michael’s aid? Why, by the way, isn’t Raphael (wonderful though that angel is) the appropriate choice to carry out this mission?

131. In Paradise Lost 11.126-237 (“He ceas’d; and th’ Archangelic Power prepar’d …”), Michael prepares for his trip to Earth as a reconciled Adam and Eve say their morning prayers; they then talk over the unpleasant signs wheeling around them in the sky and by land. How does Eve construe the present “post-lapsarian” (post-Fall) situation in which she and her husband find themselves? How does Adam interpret the changes and signs that appear in the natural world just now: the altered timing of day and night, an eagle chasing two peacocks, and a lion pursuing deer towards the East of Eden? Moreover, while Adam sees Michael about to descend from the Hill where he has alighted, he can’t see the Cherubim. What is the narrator’s explanation for that inability on Adam’s part?

132. In Paradise Lost 11.238-92 (“He ended; and th’ Arch-Angel soon drew nigh …”), Michael meets with Adam. How does his manner differ from that of Raphael from the outset? Even so, how does Michael prove here that he is adept at following God’s instructions not to make matters more frightening for Adam and Eve than they already are? In particular, what is Eve’s greatest sorrow at this point, and how does Michael comfort her, thereby helping her to understand the basis of her own and Adam’s relative happiness going forward?

133. In Paradise Lost 11.293-369 (“Adam by this from the cold sudden damp …”), Michael continues his conversation with Adam. What does the latter say that he most regrets about his and Eve’s impending departure from Eden? Michael’s initial response is to say that God is everywhere, not just in Eden. But then he begins to “prep” Adam for the vision he is about to receive: how does Michael explain what this vision is and what it will do for Adam? Furthermore, how does this preparation for a vision implicitly form the second part of Michael’s response to Adam’s mention of his deepest regret?

134. In Paradise Lost 11.370-422 (“To whom thus Adam gratefully repli’d….”), Adam indicates that he is ready to ascend the Hill and receive his prophetic vision, and Michael purifies his eyes so that he may see. By what means does he do this, and what inferences can we draw from these methods with regard to the transformation that sin has wrought in Adam and Eve? Find out what you can about “euphrasy and rue,” but in addition to that, what’s the significance of the reference to the “well of life” (one possible source is Psalm 36. Are we dealing only with physical sight here, or something more than that? Explain.

135. In Paradise Lost 11.423-555 (“Adam, now ope thine eyes …”), Adam’s first glimpse of human history is a disturbing one: the story of Abel and his resentful, murderous brother Cain (see Genesis 4). Then, perhaps worse yet, when Adam concludes that he has finally seen that dreadful thing Death, Michael shows him still more varieties of it, in the form of diseases supposedly due to intemperate living. What is Adam’s reaction to this part of the vision, and how does Michael respond to his distress and concern? Do you think Adam seems sufficiently consoled by this confrontation with the fact of death and with its many forms? Why or why not?

136. In Paradise Lost 11.556-637 (“He look’d and saw a spacious Plain …”), Adam receives another installment of the vision granted him, and this time it’s that of events in Genesis 6, wherein godly men are corrupted by the lovely daughters of Cain. How does Adam interpret this future episode, and what lesson does Michael impart to him regarding not only his attitude towards women but also the complexities of human history after the Fall, and how to interpret those complexities?

137. In Paradise Lost 11.638-711 (“He look’d and saw wide Territory spread …”), Adam is shown yet another phase of history, one in which nothing seems to matter to men but military exploits and the fruits thereof. See Genesis 5:24 and Hebrews 11:5. What does Adam learn from this vision, and in particular what pattern of human relations is intimated by the role of the righteous man Enoch in it?

138. In Paradise Lost 11.712-839 (“He look’d, and saw the face of things quite chang’d …”), a period of “luxury and riot, feast and dance” (11.715) are next on the visionary menu, and when the situation becomes truly untenable, Noah steps up to play the role of the One Just Man and helps to save mankind and indeed the whole Earth from utter destruction. (See Genesis 6-9. How does Michael expound to a despairing Adam the meaning of the previous episode (11.638-711, “He look’d and saw wide Territory spread …”) combined with this one, up to the point where things stand at 11.839?

139. In Paradise Lost 11.840-901 (“He look’d, and saw the Ark hull on the flood …”), Adam and we learn the upshot of the story of Noah’s Ark as recounted in Genesis 6-9. Why should Adam take in stride a process of moral corruption that has led to the destruction of everything on the planet, except for Noah and the few people and many animals fortunate enough to board the Ark? How does the notion of the Rainbow Covenant figure in Adam’s renewed confidence that life is still worth living, in spite of all the disturbing future events he has been allowed to see?


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View Argument and Summary for Book Twelve

140. In Paradise Lost 12.1-12 (“As one who in his journey bates at Noon …”), Michael lets Adam know that he will be narrating, not showing, what remains of the human history he must convey. What basic reason does the archangel give for making this change? But since this epic has concerned itself rather intensively at times with the various sorts and levels of communication possible between humans and the divine, what more subtle reason might underlie Michael’s decision to turn from direct vision to words?

141. In Paradise Lost 12.13-101 (“This second source of Men …”), aside from shifting from vision to narration, Michael offers Adam the story of Nimrod the mighty hunter and tyrant, whom Milton, like many commentators, casts as the builder of the ill-fated Tower of Babel. Have a look not only at the recounting in Milton but also in Genesis 11:1-9. What was the Tower’s builder trying to do, and why did God choose the particular means of foiling it that he did? How does Adam respond to the story? How does Michael himself explain it, and why might Milton find it so important as to include the story at this point, near the end of Paradise Lost?

142. In Paradise Lost 12.101-269 (“… Witness th’ irreverent Son / Of him who built the Ark …”), Michael references Ham, the son of Noah who stole upon his drunken father naked and suffered his curse, and then the angel introduces Adam to the story of Abram/Abraham and his descendants along with the consequent difficult times of the Israelites in Egypt, to which Adam responds from 12.270-84 (“Here Adam interpos’d….”). How does Michael delineate the significance of Moses in this part of the story — in what way is that figure paradigmatic of or central to the vision of human greatness and limitations? See Exodus generally but in particular Exodus 14 and Exodus 24-27. What is Adam’s response to the things he has heard in this segment of Michael’s narration?

143. In Paradise Lost 12. 285-385 (“To whom thus Michael. Doubt not but that sin …“), after Adam expresses his surprise that God has seen fit to promulgate so many rules for the Israelites, Michael discusses the significance of such “Laws.” What is his explanation of their existence and true value, and how does he delineate the patterns of conduct that seem to drive post-lapsarian history (i.e. after the Fall)? In addition, how does the Archangel make use of Christian typology to help Adam understand the significance of the Messiah’s eventual coming and sacrifice on behalf of mankind? (See Milton & Typology and Renaissance Typology.) What effect does this news have on Adam?

144. In Paradise Lost 12.386-484 (“To whom thus Michael. Dream not of thir fight …”), Michael’s narration moves towards Christianity’s central icon, the Cross upon which Christ is crucified. How does he lead Adam to an appreciation of the necessity and ultimate significance of the act that is joined to the Cross itself as well as of the “End Things” he references in this highly eschatological verse passage? How does Adam react to this remarkable account?

145. In Paradise Lost 12.485-573 (“Be sure they will, said th’ Angel …”), Michael responds to Adam’s previous question about the means of keeping humanity on track after the Messiah returns to Heaven. The archangel here continues his delineation for Adam of the patterns of human history, this time right up to the end of that process. How might this passage near the end of Milton’s epic be taken as a reflection on the recent history of which he had been a part, as Secretary for Foreign Tongues in Oliver Cromwell’s reform-minded Puritan government and then as a man on the outs with much of English society when that government gave way to the Stuart Restoration in 1660? Moreover, what is the shape of the “End Times” as Michael describes them, and how does Adam process this information: what is his current understanding of his proper relationship to God, now that he has heard almost everything Michael came to tell him?

146. In Paradise Lost 12.574-605 (“To whom thus also th’ Angel last repli’d …”), how does Michael cap off the mission he has now carried out with respect to Adam and Eve? What is his final advice and final promise to his mortal listener? How is Adam expected to comport himself towards Eve in the wake of this conversation with Michael?

147. In Paradise Lost 12.606-23 (“He ended, and they both descend the Hill …”), we hear the final words from Eve that our narrator relates. What seems to be Eve’s state of mind as she departs the Garden that has been so close to her heart? Furthermore, take this opportunity to sum up your own thoughts on Eve as a central character that the narrator has been constructing and reflecting upon throughout the epic: above all, how do you read her current status and her state of understanding as she exits Eden? Has Milton, in his representation of Eve, failed to do justice to females generally (i.e. has he treated them as derivative and inferior beings), or is Eve a sufficiently developed and worthwhile character to escape such criticism either partly or entirely? Explain your reasons for responding as you do.

148. In Paradise Lost 12.624-49 (“So spake our Mother Eve …“), Michael takes Adam and Eve by the hand and leads them to the Eastern Gate of Paradise, then down the cliff and into the plain beyond. They take one final look at the Eden they loved and now must vacate (the advancing Cherubim and the flaming Sword of God right behind the first couple wouldn’t have it any other way). The final lines of Milton’s great epic have been much quoted: “The World was all before them, where to choose / Thir place of rest, and Providence thir guide: / They hand in hand with wand’ring steps and slow, / Through Eden took thir solitary way” (12.646-49). Consider these lines as something like the peroration or final remarks of a classical piece of rhetoric (in Milton’s time, after all, poetry was considered as allied with the arts of rhetoric; see the Classical Rhetoric Guide). With what feelings and thoughts, then, do such lines seem designed to leave us, now that we have “witnessed” not only high things like the War in Heaven and the conversations of God with his Son but also dreadfully human things such as the frailty of the first man and woman? What are we to take home from this epic?

149. Now that you have read Paradise Lost in its entirety, choose a couple of relatively brief passages that you found most compelling and use them to explore one or more of the following issues: a) the distinctions Milton makes between the divine (God and the angels), human, and Satanic modes of perceiving, thinking, and acting; b) the quality of the epic as a compelling narrative or story; c) the structural properties of the epic, following from the contrasts and connections made in the note at the beginning of the question set for this text — see “A Note on the Structure of Paradise Lost.

150. Now that you have read the whole of Paradise Lost, do you find that Milton has succeeded in his attempt to prove to mankind the rightness of God’s plan and actions, as he set out to do at the epic’s beginning? In his poem “Terence, This Is Stupid Stuff,” A.E. Housman bestows upon his speaker the immortal quip, “malt {i.e. beer} does more than Milton can, / To justify God’s ways to man.” Do you think Housman’s malt-happy speaker scores a point in favor of alcohol-derived oblivion, or do you find that the ethical/logical structure and the aesthetic qualities of Paradise Lost combine well enough to carry the day? Explain why you respond as you do.

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Edition: Milton, John. Complete Poems and Major Prose. Ed. Merritt Y. Hughes. Hackett: 2003. ISBN-13: 978-0872206786.

Copyright © 2013 Alfred J. Drake. All rights reserved.