Considered the greatest epic poem in English literature, John Milton’s monumental Paradise Lost, a twelve-book narrative poem written in iambic pentameter, tells the story
Of Man’s first disobedience and the fruitOf that forbidden tree whose mortal tasteBrought death into the World, and all our woe,With loss of Eden. . . .
Like classical epics of Greco-Roman antiquity, Paradise Lost opens in the midst of things (in medias res), at a central point of the action. In books 1 and 2, Satan and his peers have been defeated in the War in Heaven and, now in Hell, turn their vengeful thoughts toward another world, Earth, about to be created for some “new Race called Man.” As infernal deliverer of fallen angels, Satan, “author of evil,” promises to lead them out of Hell, thereby solidifying his hold on the throne of Hell. “Better to reign in Hell, than serve in Heaven,” Satan asserts, and he hopes to make God repent his act of creation. In escaping from Hell, Satan allies himself with his offspring, both Sin, the gatekeeper of Hell, and Death, in opposition to God. After voyaging through Chaos, the “unbottom’s infinite Abyss,” he deceives the archangel Uriel in order to discover the location of Paradise and then practices deception in tempting Eve.
Meanwhile, in book 3, in Heaven, where all measures of time—past, present, and future—coexist, God the Father, knowing that Satan will deceive Man, announces that Man, despite continual ingratitude and faithlessness, will find salvation. The Father ordains the Son’s incarnation and commands that he shall reign as universal king, “both God and Man.”
In book 4, Satan invades the “blissful solitude” of Adam and Eve in Eden, a paradoxical realm of “Eternal Spring” without decay. Satan learns from Adam and Eve that of all...
(The entire section is 821 words.)