Paradise Regained Questions

John Milton’s Poetry



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1. Compare the invocation in Paradise Regained 1.1-17 (“I who erewhile the happy Garden sung …”) to the invocation in Paradise Lost 1.1-26 (“Of Man’s First Disobedience, and the Fruit / Of that Forbidden Tree …”): what similarities and differences do you find, both in terms of substance and of style or attitude towards the subject announced?

2. In Paradise Regained 1.18-32 (“Now had the great Proclaimer with a voice …”), Jesus is immersed by John the Baptist and then proclaimed “beloved Son” by God, just as in Matthew 3:13-17. Then from 1.33-129 (“That heard the Adversary …”), the focus shifts to Satan, the adversary who will tempt Jesus in the wilderness. By now we will have finished studying Paradise Lost, which offers a rather full representation of Satan. So far, how does the Satan of the present shorter epic compare to the one we came to know in the longer work? What seems different? What seems constant? You might want to focus on the introduction to Satan all the way back in the first Book of Paradise Lost since that would allow you to compare our first look at the same figure in both epics. (Considering the narrator’s attitude towards Satan would also be useful as a component of your response, especially if you are presenting on this question.)

3. In Paradise Regained 1.130-81 (“Gabriel, this day by proof thou shalt behold …”), God explains to the angel Gabriel why he is about to allow Jesus to be tempted by Satan. What justification does he offer for doing this? To what extent is God’s approach in the present epic similar to the one he took in allowing Job to be subjected to so much tribulation? (See Job 1-2. Once you’ve addressed any similarities you find, what are the key differences, in consideration of the greatly different status of Job and Jesus?

4. In Paradise Regained 1.182-293 (“So they in Heav’n their Odes and Vigils tun’d….”), Jesus meditates on how to begin his career as mankind’s savior, and his thoughts take him up to the point where he is led by the Spirit of God into the desert wilderness and must now abide there for forty days before the temptation proper begins. How does he delineate his own life so far, including his coming-to-consciousness of the status and responsibilities he now understands belong to him? To what extent does he seem like a divine figure at this point? What human qualities or limitations does he manifest? What difficulties would be presented, both in aesthetic terms and in Milton’s theological terms, if Jesus were to seem solely divine at this point?

5. In Paradise Regained 1.294-320 (“So spake our Morning Star then in his rise …”), Jesus abides deep in the wilderness for forty days, only experiencing hunger at the close of that traditional period. Then, from 1.321-36 (“Sir, what ill chance hath brought thee to this place …”), Satan presents himself to Jesus in a fraudulent manner. This isn’t yet the temptation proper, but what can we infer about Satan’s approach to his mission at this point? Why, with reference back to the council he has already held from 1.44-129 (“O ancient Powers of Air and this wide world …”) to explain his approach to the bad angels, does he start off with a disguise rather than launching right into the temptation? How does Jesus respond to this initial gambit on Satan’s part, at 1.335-36 (“To whom the Son of God. Who brought me hither …”)?

6. In Paradise Regained 1.337-56 (“By Miracle he may, replied the Swain …”), Satan offers up the first of three phases in the temptation: he suggests that Jesus ought to perform a miracle; namely, why not turn stones into bread? (See Luke 3-4 for the biblical account). Why does he make this specific request: what would Jesus be doing if he were to oblige Satan and transform rocks into bread? How does Jesus answer this devious stratagem, and what does his response show that he understands about himself?

7. In Paradise Regained 1.357-464 (“Whom thus answer’d th’ Arch Fiend now undisguis’d….”), Satan is forced to shift tactics when he realizes that his first temptation of Jesus has failed miserably. What tack does he adopt now? What image of himself and his past career does he try to present, and how, consequent to that presentation, does Jesus tear down the image that Satan has tried to build up? Finally, how does the cessation of pagan oracles figure in the argument between these two opponents?

8. In Paradise Regained 1.465-502 (“So spake our Savior; but the subtle Fiend …”), Satan makes his final remarks in the first book and is answered by Jesus. How does Satan try to undercut the justice of God’s order that Milton spent so much effort demonstrating in Paradise Lost? How does Jesus in turn undercut him? Finally, what pattern of rhetoric and response do you find has been established in this first book?


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View Summary of Book Two

9. In Paradise Regained 2.1-57 (“Meanwhile the new-baptiz’d, who yet remain’d …”), the narrator tells us that Jesus’ first disciples, Andrew and his brother Simon (aka Simon Peter) are anxious when he doesn’t return after his baptism. How does the narrator represent their particular construction of who Jesus is and what he is supposed to accomplish? How should we interpret the gap between what we have already heard from Jesus himself and what we now hear from Andrew and Simon? How well do these disciples seem to understand the master to whom they have devoted their lives?

10. In Paradise Regained 2.58-104 (“Thus they out of their plaints new hope resume …”), the narrator shifts to the perspective of Mary, Jesus’ mother. What does she make of her son’s absence, and how does she deal with the emotional conflict it arouses in her? How does Mary construe her own role and burden as the mother of the Son of God? Finally, since we have heard from some of Jesus’ disciples and his mother now, what do their anxieties and thoughts, taken together, add to our understanding of Jesus?

11. In Paradise Regained 2.105-46 (“Thus Mary pondering oft …”), we are given a split picture of Jesus meditating on the start of his career as Messiah and Satan returning to his Council in the Air. What figure does Satan cut now as he reports back to his followers about the first phase of the temptation? How does this “figure” differ from the impression he generally made in Paradise Lost, especially in that epic’s grand council scenes, like the one at the beginning of Book 2?

12. In Paradise Regained 2.147-234 (“So spake th’ old Serpent doubting …”), Belial pipes up with some counsel of his own. What does this bad angel suggest as the next move against Jesus? What fundamental mistake is he making with regard to the nature of his enemy? How does Satan handle the situation after Belial speaks? How, too, might the plan that Satan immediately substitutes for Belial’s advice be construed as in part an ironic undermining of his own logic as a tempter?

13. In Paradise Regained 2.245-318 (“Where will this end? four times ten days I have pass’d …”), the talk is all about the basic human need for sustenance. How does Jesus reflect on and deal with his own hunger pangs? What does his Scripture-laden dream do for him in this regard? How does Satan “spin” this basic need into a trap that he thinks Jesus might fall into? In responding, attend to Satan’s employment of Scriptural references. Finally, how does Jesus undermine Satan’s spin?

14. In Paradise Regained 2.319-91 (“Tell me, if Food were now before thee set …”), Satan, in spite of the stern rebuke Jesus has already offered him on the matter of hunger, forges right ahead to the unveiling of the second of three temptations*: a delightful banquet of the sort that most of us would find irresistible. What is it about the presentation of this banquet (including both its aesthetics and the accompanying words) that Satan evidently thinks is going to get the job done in spite of Jesus’ open contempt for him and everything he has said up to now? And again, how does Jesus undermine Satan’s attempt? (*Note: to be precise, critic John T. Shawcross suggests, we should say that the second temptation, with its emphasis on concupiscentia oculorum or “lust of the eyes,” stretches back to 2.121 and unfolds all the way through 4.364; see Shawcross’ “Milton’s Paradise Regain’d and the Second Temptation,” ANQ 21 no2 34-41 Spr 2008.)

15. In Paradise Regained 2.392-486 (“To whom thus answer’d Satan malcontent …”), Satan shifts tactics, and in so doing manages to sound like Iago advising the foolish suitor Roderigo in Othello 1.3: “Put money in thy purse.” Money is the gateway to success in all great endeavors, suggests the tempter. What logic does Jesus advance against Satan’s claim about the imperative of riches and the relative insignificance of virtue? Finally, this second temptation scene is not difficult to parse just in terms of its content, so what else is Milton relying on to generate some degree of dramatic effect? In other words, what’s the source of any pleasure that readers might get from this sort of exchange between Satan and his divine opponent?


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View Summary of Book Three

16. In Paradise Regained 3.1-107 (“So spake the Son of God, and Satan stood …”), Satan comes back at Jesus regarding the issue of earthly power, and receives a by now typically dismissive response. What classical notion of glory does Satan set forth by way of claiming Jesus isn’t measuring up to the great things expected of him? How does Jesus counter this gambit on Satan’s part? On what basis does he reject the idea that glory is something a person of superior abilities should seek? What does this rejection have to do with Jesus’ conception of the public, or what we moderns would call public opinion? Finally, if you are familiar with Plato’s notions about the distance between ordinary reality and Truth, how does Jesus’ response somewhat resemble that conception?

17. In Paradise Regained 3.108-44 (“To whom the Tempter murmuring thus replied….”), Satan, not satisfied to leave behind his claims about the value of temporal glory, insists that God is the biggest glory-seeker a person could ever imagine, and is in turn answered by Jesus. On what basis does Satan make his claim? How does it lead us to recall the Satanic mindset we encountered in the numerous soliloquys of Paradise Lost? (For example, see Paradise Lost 4.32-113, “O thou that with surpassing Glory crown’d …”.) How does Jesus then redefine the true nature of God’s glory and set forth the proper reason why God’s creatures ought to glorify Him?

18. In Paradise Regained 3.145-80 (“So spake the Son of God; and here again …”), Satan the first ingrate is momentarily stricken with guilt by Jesus’ latest rebuke, but soon he recovers his poise and recalibrates his argument as an appeal to Jesus to act now and thereby achieve the political liberation of a suffering Israel. Satan’s tack hardly seems convincing on the merits since Jesus has already inwardly rejected worldly power during his solitary meditations (See Paradise Regained 1.215-26, “… victorious deeds / Flam’d in my heart, heroic acts …”). Granted, Satan doesn’t know that, but Milton does and we do. So what should we see as the real danger in what the tempter is up to here? Why might he think he has any chance of success in crafting this kind of appeal? Then from 3.181-202 (“”), on what grounds does Jesus crush this latest appeal?

19. In Paradise Regained 3.203-50 (“To whom the Tempter inly rackt replied….”), we get perhaps our best look this epic affords into the dark recesses of Satan’s being, even as he is making another verbal pitch to Jesus. How does Satan turn what he represents as his own despairing interiority into another phase of his temptation of Jesus? To what extent do you find Satan’s representation of that interiority credible? Explain why you think as you do.

20. In Paradise Regained 3.251-385 (“With that {such power was giv’n him then} he took …”), Satan transports the Son of God to a mountain where the two of them may behold the then-current Parthian Empire. This is a very concentrated moment of the second temptation, as in Luke 4: Jesus will behold “all the kingdoms of the world, in the twinkling of an eye.” Follow out the technique involved in the way Satan unveils this temptation: how does he combine the visual, narratival and rhetorical aspects of it in a manner that might seem compelling to many people?

21. In Paradise Regained 3.386-443 (“To whom our Savior answer’d thus unmov’d….”), Jesus all but eviscerates his tempter. So how does he deal with the offer Satan has just made, which as we know from Luke 4:6-7 amounts to “All this power will I give thee, and the glory of those kingdoms … / If thou therefore wilt worship me, they shall be all thine”? How does Milton’s Jesus interpret the Scriptures to take apart Satan’s construction of Israel and redefine his relationship to the people of that kingdom?


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View Summary of Book Four

22. In Paradise Regained 4.1-24 (“Perplex’d and troubl’d at his bad success …”), we are told that Satan finds it impossible to give up what seems by now to be a losing battle. Still, forging ahead, he transports Jesus to the western side of the mountain they have been standing on, and then, from 4.44-108 (“The City which thou seest …”), continues the second temptation with an appeal to stand up and take possession of the world’s kingdoms. Describe the finely telescopic view of Rome that he offers the Son of God as well as the main rhetorical pitch he makes this time: what is currently going on in Roman politics, and why is Rome itself supposedly so vital to Jesus’ prospects for fulfilling his mission?

23. In Paradise Regained 4.109-53 (“To whom the Son of God unmov’d replied….”), Jesus rebuts Satan’s argument about the significance and true qualities of Rome. How does he suggest that he knows more than enough about the great City, and how, in particular, does he parry the remarks Satan has made regarding Emperor Tiberius and the current political situation in Rome? Why wouldn’t it be a worthy goal to liberate the Roman people from a monarchy that has deteriorated from its auspicious beginnings under Augustus into a corrupt tyranny? Furthermore, what does Jesus imply about the kingdom that he himself will eventually inherit?

24. In Paradise Regained 4.154-94 (“To whom the Tempter impudent replied….”), Satan lays all his cards on the table with regard to the second temptation: on what condition will he offer all the world’s kingdoms to Jesus? How does Jesus respond to this stark offer of all the power in the world? Why does he find the offer outright ridiculous, and how does his response go beyond simple refutation and into other rhetorical territory?

25. In Paradise Regained 4.195-284 (“To whom the Fiend with fear abasht replied….”), Satan, sensing that his previous gambit has failed, now shifts to another line of thought still related to the second or “kingdoms” phase of the temptation. How does he describe the wonders of Greece, and what reasons does he suggest for its importance to Jesus, a man who will one day inherit a great kingdom (of whatever sort it may be)?

26. In Paradise Regained 4.285-364 (“To whom our Savior sagely thus replied….”), Jesus rebuts Satan’s argument about the value of the Greeks in considerable detail. Why do you suppose he spends so much time demolishing Satan with regard to this final modulation of the second or “kingdoms” temptation? Furthermore, how exactly does he undermine the description and points Satan has enlisted? Finally, some readers may view this detailed takedown of Greek arts and philosophy as something of a departure for Milton, even though we know that in Paradise Lost he invested considerable energy in “managing” his own admiration for the Greek and Roman classics and putting those works into their proper context, theologically speaking. What would be the likely basis for such a view, and do you agree or disagree with it? Why?

27. In Paradise Regained 4.365-498 (“So spake the Son of God; but Satan now …”), Satan, having concluded the second temptation, is more frustrated and enraged than ever thanks to his failure to make any progress. How does he now characterize Jesus’ path forward towards fulfillment of his mission? How do the nightmares and the tempest that Satan conjures up reinforce this characterization? At base, what is Satan trying to do to Jesus at this point? What is he suggesting that Jesus should do? And how does the latter dismiss any such suggestion, along with the entirety of the preceding second temptation itself?

28. In Paradise Regained 4.499-559 (“To whom the Fiend now swoln with rage …”), just as Satan and Jesus spent the middle part of this epic arguing about the nature of the kingdom the latter is to inherit and rule, so the beginning and the end of the epic are more directly concerned with arguments about the identity of Jesus as the Son of God. How is the third temptation now underway, then, designed to draw Jesus on to personal destruction or to a negation of his mission? If he were to cast himself down and miraculously survive unharmed, what mistake would he be making? Why might Satan think he has any chance of success in this third, and very stark, phase of the temptation of Christ?

29. In Paradise Regained 4.560-95 (“To whom thus Jesus. Also it is written …”), how does Jesus respond to the final temptation that Satan has offered him? What do the narrator’s allusions to classical mythology (Hercules or Alcides and Antaeus as well as the Sphinx and her destructive riddle) add to our understanding of what happens at this point: the fall of Satan rather than the Son of God? In addition, how does what follows soon thereafter, with the Son being set down by angels in a valley and then presented with a great feast, help to round off the epic as a whole, both structurally and thematically?

30. In Paradise Regained 4.596-639 (“True image of the Father …”), the angels sing in choir to praise Jesus as the “True Image of the Father” (4.596) and as the victor over Satan the tempter. In what sense has paradise been “regained” by means of this victory, within the framework of the present epic and of Paradise Lost, especially 12.553-87 (“”)? That is, what has Milton’s Jesus accomplished for mankind, even before he returns to his mother Mary’s house, thereafter to begin his ministry and the career that will lead to the Cross?

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.