Paradise Regained Analysis
by John Milton

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Paradise Regained Analysis

Paradise Regained, by John Milton, is an epic narrative poem and a sequel to Paradise Lost, Milton’s most famous work. Whereas Paradise Lost focuses on Lucifer’s fall from Heaven and Adam and Eve’s fall from the Garden of Eden, Paradise Regained focuses on the temptation of Christ, as Satan tries to lead him into temptation, offering him worldly pleasures, such as wealth and riches.

Paradise Regained is much shorter than its predecessor and has much simpler language, which appears to reflect the simplicity of Jesus’ life and teachings. However, many scholars have examined Milton’s work in the context of his life and times, and based on the sociopolitical climate in the 1600s and Milton’s revolutionary political views, it has been widely suggested that both Paradise Lost and Paradise Regained are not so much spiritual epics as political satires. Milton was a political activist, and he went to prison for his avid republicanism and anti-monarchical views. He defended the idea of a free commonwealth, he wanted to obliterate the monarchy, and his early political writings stressed the importance of religious and civil freedoms. When the monarchy was restored to England in 1660 and Charles II took the crown, however, Milton was unable to express his views safely and landed in prison. Therefore, it is widely believed that Milton used his narrative poems to continue to express his views, but to express them in allegorical language. In doing so, he created not only a literary epic, but a satire of Tudor England.

The Poem

(Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

Jesus of Nazareth is baptized by John the Baptist. This rite is attended by Satan, the Adversary, cloaked in invisibility. Thunderstruck by the pronouncement from Heaven that Jesus is the beloved Son of God, Satan hastily assembles a council of his peers. They choose “their great Dictator” to attempt the overthrow of this new and terrible enemy. God, watching Satan set out on his evil mission, foretells the failure of the mission to the angel Gabriel. The angels sing a triumphant hymn.

Led by the Spirit, Jesus enters the desert and pursues holy meditations. In retrospect, he examines his life, considers his destiny, but does not wish for revelation of his future until God chooses to give it. For forty days he wanders unharmed through the perils of the desert; then for the first time he feels hunger. Just at that moment, he meets an aged man in rural clothing. The old man explains that he was present at the baptism, then expresses amazement at the lost and perilous situation of the wanderer. Jesus replies “Who brought me hither will bring me hence, no other Guide I seek.” The old man then suggests that if Jesus were really the Son of God, he should command the stones to become bread. In his refusal, Jesus asks, “Why dost thou then suggest to me distrust, knowing who I am, as I know who thou art?” At this discovery, Satan abandons his disguise and enters a dispute attempting self-justification. Overcome in the argument, he vanishes as night falls. The other newly baptized people and Mary the mother of Jesus are distressed at his absence, but do not allow themselves to despair.

Satan calls a fresh council of war. He dismisses Belial’s suggestion to “Set women in his eye and in his walk” and receives a vote of confidence for his own plan of using honor, glory, and popular praise combined with relief from the suffering of physical hunger.

Jesus dreams of the ravens who fed Elijah by Cherith’s Brook and of the angel who fed him in the desert. Awakening, he looks for a cottage, a sheepcote, or a herd, but finds nothing. Suddenly, Satan appears again in a new form, but does not attempt to conceal his identity. He discloses a table loaded with delicious food and invites Jesus to eat. Jesus refuses the food, not because the food itself is unlawful but because it is the offering of Satan. Disgruntled, Satan causes the food to vanish and returns to the attack, offering wealth with which to buy power. When this is declined as...

(The entire section is 1,851 words.)