Introduction to Paradise Lost

Paradise Lost is an epic poem by John Milton. It is considered Milton’s magnum opus, and it is widely regarded as one of the most influential works in all of English literature. The poem was originally published in 1667, but it was later revised to include additional explanatory text before each section. Paradise Lost is a biblical epic, and it recounts both the banishment of Satan from heaven and the fall of man. Milton’s complex characterization of both God and Satan have been the subject of great analysis, and the work as a whole has had a major impact on art, literature, and film since its publication. It has influenced numerous notable works, including Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, Phillip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy, and Neil Gaiman's Sandman comics.

Paradise Lost is a fundamentally religious text, and it deals with many of the themes presented in the Christian Bible. Notions of justice, free will, and piety dominate the narrative, especially with regards to Adam and Eve’s punishment for eating from the Tree of Knowledge. Many critics find Milton’s vision of Satan to be the most compelling feature of the poem: rather than an incarnation of pure evil, Satan is depicted as a sympathetic—if not always morally righteous—character. He famously declares that it is “better to reign in Hell than serve in Heaven,” highlighting the intense desire for freedom and power that motivates his character in the poem. God, meanwhile, is portrayed as an all-powerful but also somewhat aloof character, who interacts with the world through his Son, who, it is implied, will later be reborn as Jesus Christ. The relationship between these three figures, and their battle for the fate of humanity, has profoundly informed contemporary views of biblical events and philosophies.

A Brief Biography of John Milton

John Milton (1608–1674) was an English poet who gained worldwide fame and influenced generations of writers. Though he died more than a hundred years before its inception, John Milton is considered one of the forefathers of the Romantic period. His seminal work, the epic poem Paradise Lost, influenced Romantic and gothic writers such as Mary Shelley, whose novel Frankenstein even features a quotation from Milton’s masterpiece. Throughout his life, he had strong opinions about government, religion, education, and society, and his pamphlet campaigns on these matters led to his incarceration and nearly cost him his life. Though Paradise Lost is a reflection of the failure of the Commonwealth period that Milton supported so ardently, it succeeded in catalyzing two centuries of English poetry.

Frequently Asked Questions about Paradise Lost

Paradise Lost

As part of his plot to corrupt humankind, Satan disguises himself as a serpent and attempts to persuade Eve to eat the forbidden fruit of the Tree of Knowledge. Satan uses a wide variety of tricks...

Latest answer posted October 20, 2020, 11:14 am (UTC)

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Paradise Lost

While perhaps not intended as such by John Milton, Paradise Lost has been read as a political allegory by those seeking to link the events of the story with Milton's own political views. The war in...

Latest answer posted October 21, 2020, 12:14 pm (UTC)

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Paradise Lost

There is some controversy about the Biblical authority for Satan's name in heaven. Some people argue that, while he was still an angel, it was Lucifer, pointing to Isaiah 14.12: How art thou...

Latest answer posted October 21, 2020, 12:03 pm (UTC)

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Paradise Lost

So long as Christianity has existed, the question has been asked by believers and non-believers alike: Why does a loving God allow bad things to happen? An answer to this question by a Christian...

Latest answer posted October 21, 2020, 12:02 pm (UTC)

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Paradise Lost

There are two chief messages in the Adam and Eve story. The first is that humans pay a very high price for disobeying God. It is wrong to use free will and reason against God's commands, as Adam...

Latest answer posted October 21, 2020, 11:48 am (UTC)

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Paradise Lost

It would be something of an overstatement to argue that Paradise Lost is a thoroughgoing satire or political allegory. Nonetheless, there are undoubtedly certain satirical and allegorical elements...

Latest answer posted October 21, 2020, 11:46 am (UTC)

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Paradise Lost

If there were a single work of literature in which one might think there would be no argument about the antagonist, it is Paradise Lost. The antagonist in the poem is, after all, the common enemy...

Latest answer posted October 21, 2020, 11:34 am (UTC)

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Paradise Lost

Paradise Lost is an epic poem. An epic poem is long, takes as its subject a larger than life hero and settings, uses elevated language, has supernatural elements, is vast in scope, and has an...

Latest answer posted October 21, 2020, 11:33 am (UTC)

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Paradise Lost

An epic is a long story narrating the adventures of a heroic figure. Oftentimes, this hero is related to the overall fate of a nation or culture, such as in The Epic of Gilgamesh, The Iliad and The...

Latest answer posted October 21, 2020, 11:31 am (UTC)

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Paradise Lost

In the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve had everything they could ever want. They lived in a true paradise in which, thanks to God, they wanted for nothing. Life was calm, blissful, and entirely free...

Latest answer posted October 21, 2020, 11:23 am (UTC)

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Paradise Lost

Whether you think Paradise Lost is a true story or not will depend on your own religious belief. People who are not Christian will regard it as fiction, while Christians will generally be divided...

Latest answer posted October 21, 2020, 11:20 am (UTC)

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Paradise Lost

John Milton's ten-thousand-line epic poem in blank verse, Paradise Lost, was first published in 1667 in an edition of ten books. The poem explores Adam and Eve's temptation by Satan, and their...

Latest answer posted October 20, 2020, 4:00 pm (UTC)

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Paradise Lost

Scholars and readers have debated who the hero of Paradise Lost is for centuries. Satan is a common candidate. After all, his rebellion against God is the inciting incident and the poem follows him...

Latest answer posted October 20, 2020, 11:26 am (UTC)

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Paradise Lost

Michael is the angel who leads Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden in Book XI, after Adam and Eve have prayed to God for forgiveness. At this point, God chooses Michael as his messenger to tell a...

Latest answer posted October 21, 2020, 12:19 pm (UTC)

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Paradise Lost

According to Milton in Paradise Lost, sin entered the world the very moment that Eve took a bite of the forbidden fruit from the Tree of Knowledge. Prior to this fateful event, there was neither...

Latest answer posted October 21, 2020, 12:24 pm (UTC)

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Paradise Lost

The first lines of Book I of John Milton's epic poem, Paradise Lost, refer to "the fruit / Of that Forbidden Tree whose mortal taste / Brought death into the World and all our woe..." Adam tells...

Latest answer posted October 21, 2020, 1:03 pm (UTC)

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Paradise Lost

To address this question about John Milton's Paradise Lost, take a close look at Milton's life and the ideas that appear in his work. First, it is worth noting that Milton was considered a...

Latest answer posted October 21, 2020, 1:53 pm (UTC)

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Paradise Lost

The phrase “It's pandemonium in here!” is now associated with scenes of chaos, but many people might not know that the word derives from Milton's Paradise Lost. Toward the end of Book I of the epic...

Latest answer posted October 21, 2020, 3:26 pm (UTC)

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Paradise Lost

In Book II of John Milton’s Paradise Lost, Belial is introduced as the fairest angel to fall from heaven. This means he is the most handsome and attractive one. He is also described as coming...

Latest answer posted October 21, 2020, 3:29 pm (UTC)

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Paradise Lost

Before John Milton wrote Paradise Lost, the ranks of Modern English language literature lacked an epic poem to rank with the Old English epic Beowulf or the works of ancient Greek authors such as...

Latest answer posted October 21, 2020, 5:52 pm (UTC)

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Summary