Paradise Lost Study Guide
Paradise Lost: Chapter Summaries
Paradise Lost: Themes
Paradise Lost: Characters
Paradise Lost: Analysis
Paradise Lost: Critical Essays
Paradise Lost: eText
Paradise Lost: Quotes
Paradise Lost: Multiple-Choice Quizzes
Paradise Lost: Questions & Answers
Paradise Lost: Introduction
Paradise Lost: Biography of John Milton
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.