Last Updated on July 29, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1469
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 Milton touching on a human reality? Is “universal reproach” harder to bear than “violence”? Give examples from the poem to support your opinion.
1. When the Son reaches the gates of Heaven, he hears melodious music and sees the beauty of its “golden hinges.” Contrast this image to that of the gates of Hell in Book II. Explain the symbolism inherent in these images. What does the music symbolize? What do the golden hinges symbolize? In what way are the grating hinges of the gates of Hell symbolic of Satan’s fall? Cite examples from the poem to support your answer.
2. Milton describes Adam’s craving for knowledge with the metaphors of thirst and hunger. Explain these metaphors. How do they relate to knowledge? How is temperence associated with the acquisition of knowledge? What is the difference between wisdom and folly in relation to knowledge? Support your answer with the use of examples from the poem.
1. Adam and the sun have somewhat of a symbiotic relationship. Describe their mutual give and take in the first moments of Adam’s life. What does the sun do for Adam? What does Adam provide for the sun? Why does he personify the sun and call on him before the other elements of nature? Give examples from the poem to support your argument.
2. Milton implies that Adam’s passion for Eve has led him to exalt her above her position in the scale of nature. Apply this seventeenth-century idea to our modern-day society. Is man representative of reason? Is woman symbolic of passion? To support your idea use examples from the poem.
1. The poet is changing his “notes to tragic” in Book IX. Explain how the fall of Adam and Eve is a classical tragedy. What tragic choices do each of them make and how does it affect the catastrophe? How does the reader feel purged after he/she has read the epic poem? Cite examples from the poem to explain your answer.
2. Images of light and darkness represent contrasts of good and evil in Book IX. Describe Satan in his world of evil. How are the images of darkness symbolic of Satan’s travels for the past seven days? Explain the images of darkness. Explain the images of light in Paradise. Support your answer with examples from the poem.
1. The Son pronounces judgment on the Serpent, telling him that the Woman’s “seed shall bruise thy head, thou bruise his heel.” Explicate this passage in the light of Eve’s descendants. According to the prophecy, what will happen to Satan and his evil powers? What part will Jesus play in the fulfillment of the prophecy? Cite examples from the epic to support your answer.
2. In his soliloquy Adam struggles with his doubts about death. Compare his fears to those of Shakespeare’s Hamlet in his famous soliloquy beginning “To be or not to be.” What do both Adam and Hamlet have in common concerning death? Is the mystery of death unique only to them? In what way is it a universally human mystery? How does Adam resolve his problem? Use examples from the epic to support your view.
1. It has been suggested that Books XI and XII are unnecessary to the structure of Paradise Lost. Explain the function of Book XI. How can it be seen as an integral part of the theme? In what way does it contribute to the characterization of Adam? How does it help us to understand Adam’s development? How does it prepare Adam for his expulsion from Paradise? Cite examples from the poem to explain your answer.
2. Milton is fond of the idea of “one just man” who stands for his beliefs against a hostile world. Discuss this idea in the light of Noah and Enoch. Are their stories applicable to today’s world? How can their experiences be applied to modern society? Do we still see people who stand alone in the face of opposition? Give examples from the poem to support your view.
1. Adam feels that his fall has created an even better Paradise than the one that was lost. Explain the “fortunate fall.” Is Adam’s fall really fortunate? What price has been paid for this so-called “fortunate fall”? Explain your answer with examples from the poem.
2. Adam makes the statement that “to obey is best.” Explicate this passage in the light of Adam’s development. Why does Michael call this the sum of Adam’s wisdom? Support your answer with examples from the epic.
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