About the Composition
Originally, Milton wrote Paradise Lost in ten books, subsequently rearranged in twelve books, and first printed in 1667. Paradise Lost, as an epic has indebted to Bible and a range of great epics as sources of information: Milton used the Bible, the book of Genesis, Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey, Virgil’s Aeneid, and the stories in Greco-Roman mythology. Milton made a little additional change into his original text: he added to the first edition an ‘Argument’, summarizing the contents of each book, and a defensive argument of his choice of verse.
What is an epic poem?
The essential qualities that establish morality
The historical framework and the future destiny of a nation and so on.
God the Father: God the Father is portrayed as just but merciful.
God the Son: God the Son volunteers to redeem humanity by becoming human and enduring suffering and death.
Satan or Lucifer: Powerful and proud angel who leads an unsuccessful rebellion against God and suffers eternal damnation. To gain revenge, he devises a plan to corrupt God’s newly created beings, Adam and Eve. However, Nowadays, he is expounded as hero, appreciation always favours him for his undefeatable will. His strength can be determined by his assertion ‘it would be better to rule in hell than to serve in heaven.’
Beelzebub, Mammon, Belial, Moloch: Powerful leaders in Satan’s army.
Sin: Daughter of Satan
Death: Son of Satan
Some Other Angels and Devils
Milton has used some classical epic conventions are the following:
i. The invocation of the muse, in which a writer requests divine help in composing his work.
ii. Telling a story with which reader or listeners are already familiar. Many great writers, including Shakespeare – frequently told stories already known to the public. Thus, in such stories, there were no unexpected plot twists, no surprise endings.
iii. Beginning the story in the middle, a literary convention known by its Latin term in media res (in middle of things).
iv. Announcing for introducing a list of characters who play a major role in the story. They may speak at some length about how to resolve a problem.
v. Use of dramatic irony: Dramatic irony is a literary device in which a character in a story fails to see or understand what is obvious to the audience reader.
In the book first, we have the acquaintances with the zenith of the story. Paradise Lost does not start from the beginning; it begins from the middle of the story. We come to know that the Adam and Eve have been exiled from the Garden of Eden; the exile is given as punishment for eating the fruit of knowledge. Thus, the fall of man is predestined for his disobedience. Poet asserts his message very strongly ‘justify the ways of God to men’. Here we see a burning lake, in the lake, lying defeated archangel Satan, with Beelzebub, his second in command and many rebellious angels. A Pandemonium, the palace of Satan is built from where he introduces the angels.
A meeting of the council is convened for the debates whether another battle for the recovery of heaven should be hazarded. Each of members opined concerning the battle; Moloch is recommending for an open war, Belial and Mammon recommending Peace in order to avoid worse torment. Ultimately, Beelzebub comes with a resolution that announced the creation of another world ‘the happy seat/ of some new race called a man’ is better of the alternatives of revenge. Satan decides to visit the earth alone, passes through hell – gates, the gates were guarded by sin and death.
In book third as characteristics of a typical epic, Milton appeals celestial light to illumine his (referring to his own blindness) ‘ever-during dark’. He describes the God (as we find in On His Blindness). Satan comes on the outer convex of the universe, ‘a Limbo large and broad, since called/The paradise of Fools’. He spots a stair going up to heaven, descends to the sun, disguises himself as ‘a stripling cherub’, and in this shape is directed to earth by Uriel, where he reaches on mount Niphates in Armenia.
This time Satan was confused about his further steps, resolves ‘evil be thou my good’ and visits the garden of Eden, where he came to know all about the Adam and Eve and overhears the conversation about forbidden Tree of Knowledge. Satan decides to persuade them to disobey the prohibition and insists to eat the Fruit of Knowledge. However, Satan was discovered by guarding Ithuriel and Zephon; he squats like a toad near the ear of Eve and expelled from the garden by their commander Gabriel.
With the continuation of Book IV, Book V begins stating how Adam and Eve enjoin the disobedience. God sends Raphael to warn them. They discuss reason, free will, and predestination. Raphael, at Adam’s request, realized them that Satan is inspired by hatred and newly anointed Messiah. Satan inspired his legions to revolt; resisted only by Abdiel.
Raphael goes on his narrative, speaks how the fight takes place between Michael and Gabriel and Satan. After prolonged dithery battles, God himself alone attacked the hosts of Satan, drives them to the brink of heaven. He compelled them to go through the chaotic circumstances.
In the very beginning of this book, Milton requests Urania to help him to be surrounded by the audience so he could get the inspiration. It is one of the characteristics of an epic, which the poet has used. He also expresses his grievances for his fallen days. Milton requests, ‘fit audience find, though few’. Raphael continues his narratives with God’s decision for the creation of a new world. He describes the creation of another world, took six days and night. A man was the last creation and a renewed warning to Adam that the death would be as the penalty for disobeying the God’s providence: eating of the fruit of the tree of knowledge.
Adam and Eve, having been resided, in the newly created world, he was filled with quests to know more about the recent creation. The discussion between Raphael and Adam and Eve took place. They have had a long talk, quenches the thrusts concerning the motions of celestial bodies, the answer was very doubtful, because those times it was not clear, and decline to decide. Adam asks Raphael regarding the relations between sexes. However, Raphael departs with a final warning ‘ take heed last passion sway/They judgement, Raphael departs.’
Milton compares the quality of his epic poem with the great classical authors – Homer and Vergil. Further, he proceeds with the entry of Satan into the body of a Serpent and persuades the Eve, despite Adam’s warning. Adam soon realized that she would become the part of betrayal and will suffer from her free will. However, Adam resolves to undergo the consequence of it. He says:
Consort with thee, the death is to me as life.
So forcible within my heart I feel
The bond of nature draw me to my own”
Compromisingly, After all, he made up his mind, eats the fruit. They lost their innocent being, now induced to rational attitude into their conscious being. They found themselves naked, covered their nakedness, fall to the mutual accusation.
Just after creating the world of Adam and Eve, God sends his Son to Judge their present state. They greet him with guilt and shame and are not happy for what they had committed. Son of God, after hearing their confession concludes that Sin and Death will come to this world, and there is a broad highway leads to the hell. For Satan, Adam and Eve’s disobedience of prohibition and creation of new world considers as his victory. He returns to hell and announces his victory. During the moment of triumph, they changed into serpents chewing the ashes. Adam comes to know that in him ‘all posterity stands cursed’ at first meets Eve and despairs, she wants mercy from Son of God.
The Son of God is looking at their repentance, decides to act as arbitrate God decrees that they must leave the Paradise. He sends the Michael to execute his command. The judgement befall on them; will have to leave the happy blessing place Garden of Eden. Eve regrets and Adam requests not to banish from ‘bright appearances’. However, Michael assures them that God is omnipresent. But, later on, he states that Death and miseries of mankind is inevitable and this world will end with flood.
Michael relates the subsequent history of Old Testament. He describes the incarnation of Messiah, Death, resurrection, and ascension, which Adam tends to become happy from his own sin. Michael also prophesies that the corrupt church will remain until the second coming. Meanwhile, during these revelations, Eve has been comforted by a dream foretell ‘some great good’. In the end, everything is resolved and assured that they may possess ‘a paradise within’ that will be happier, far better than lost one.
Some Important Extracts from the Text
Of man’s First Disobedience, and the Fruit,
Of that Forbidden Tree, whose mortal taste
Brought Death into the world, and all our woe,
With loss of Eden, till one greater Man
Restore us, and regain the blissful
Seat, sing Meav’nly Muse… (book 1, 1 – 6)
Better to reign in hell, than to serve in heav’n. (book 1, 263)
The mind is its own place, and in itself,
Can make a heav’n of hell, a hell of heav’n. (book 1, 254-255)
God explains that he created man
“Sufficient to have stood, but free to fall” (book 3, 99)
Till thou return into the ground, for thou out
Of the ground wast taken: know thy birth,
for dust thou art, and shalt to dust return. ( book 10, 206-208)
To thy husband’s will thine shall submit,
He over thee shall rule. (book 10, 195-196)
The world was before them, where to choose
Their place of rest, and Providence their guide:
They hand in hand with wandering steps and slow,
Through Eden took their solitary way. ( Book 10, 1537-1540)
… add faith, Add, Patience,
Temperance, and Love,
By name to come called Charity, the soul
Of all the rest: then wilt though not be loth
To leave this Paradise, but shalt possess
A paradise within thee, happier for. (Book 12. 575-587)
About the Prescribed Authors
Paraphrases of the poems