Suggested Essay Topics
1. Satan is often seen as an attractive character in Paradise Lost. In what way could he be perceived as attractive? Discuss Milton’s involvement with the character of Satan. Does he identify with Satan? What statement is Milton making about the fallen archangel? Cite examples from the poem to support your answer.
2. Milton declares that his poem will pursue “Things unattempted yet in prose or rhyme.” Discuss these words in light of the subject matter of the poem. Why did Milton consider his poem superior to those of Homer and Virgil? Discuss the superiority of his subject matter. Use examples from the poem to support your ideas.
1. Commentators have compared the debate in the devilish council to sessions of the Council of State in Milton’s day. In what way do Moloch, Belial, Mammon, and Beelzebub portray human characteristics? Compare and contrast their points of view. Do they all have one common goal? Support your answer with examples from the poem.
2. Satan volunteers to go on a journey that entails innumerable hazards. What can he hope to gain from this supposed act of self-sacrifice? How is this act typical of his character? Why does he choose to go alone? Why would another volunteer spoil his plan? Give examples from the poem to support your view.
1. The poet begins Book III with an invocation to “holy Light.” In what way is God symbolic of light? How is light the very essence of God? Was light created by God? Has it existed from the beginning? In what way is the “holy Light” symbolically significant to the Son? To the angels? To Man? Cite examples from the poem to support your views.
2. The Son offers to go down to Earth to die for Man’s sin. Compare and contrast this with the call for volunteers in the infernal consultation in Hell. How do Satan and the Son compare as volunteers in a dangerous mission? Contrast their motives. What do each of them hope to gain? Do each of them offer hope? Support your argument with examples from the poem.
1. Milton first intended to use Satan’s soliloquy in a dramatic presentation of Paradise Lost. Discuss the dramatic characterization in Satan’s speech. In what ways do his words characterize Satan? What do we learn about Satan that we have not known thus far in the poem? Does his speech elicit our sympathy? Does it turn us against him? Cite examples from the poem to explain your answer.
2. God forbade Adam and Eve to eat the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge. Explain the symbolism inherent in God’s prohibition. What would happen if they ate the fruit? How would it make them “Equal with Gods”? Give examples from the poem to support your argument.
1. Eve’s dream can be seen as a foreshadowing of the fate of mankind. Compare her dream to the temptation and fall in Book IX. What is the symbolism in her temptation to become a goddess. In what way is her flight through the air symbolic of her exalted state of mind after she indulges in the forbidden act? How does she feel about her act of sin when she is awakened by Adam? How does Adam comfort her? Cite examples from the poem to support your argument.
2. Abdiel could be considered a prototype for those who stand alone in their beliefs in the face of a hostile crowd. Compare Abdiel to a person you know in public life. In what way are people like Abdiel an asset to society? Why does no one stand by Abdiel? Do they think he is wrong? Are they afraid of the consequences? Support your argument with examples from the poem.
1. Satan proposes the idea of freedom in Book VI. Discuss the reason why he does not live up to his noble idea. Does he think freedom and equality should be given to everyone? Whose power does he intend to usurp in the name of freedom? Why does Abdiel accuse him of lacking freedom? Cite examples from the poem to prove your point.
2. In the war in Heaven, the angels are unduly concerned with the ridicule of the opposing army. Discuss this idea in relationship to the human race. Was...
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