Study Guide (download in Word)

In medias res Chart (download in Word)

Important Terms and Concepts (download in Word)

Implicit behind every question—why does it matter?  Why is it important to the poem? How in each instance in Milton justifying God’s ways to man? Very little of this is directly Scriptural, or reflects Biblical literalism.  Why does this matter (or not) for readers of the poem?

line  Book 1
1-26  Milton’s opening invocation. What does he say his purpose is, especially at lines 25-26?
26-82  What is the first thing we see?  Why?
84-125  Who is the first being to speak? Why? What does he say? What does Milton mean to tell us about him?
128  Who is the other being?  What does he say?
157-91  What is the response to this?
209-20  One of the most controversial passages in the poem.  Why do you suppose this is?
331-75  Who or what does Milton describe in this passage? What’s the significance of line 365, “Got them new names”?

line Book 2
1-10  How does this passage “say it all” about Satan?
11  What is the purpose of this speech?
51  What does Moloch say?
119  Belial? What’s his deal?
229  Mammon is supposed to be a happy medium—why does what he says appeal to the other damned spirits?
310  How does Beëlzebub work as Satan’s setup man?
430  Satan seems Hitlerian at this point. Why?
629-885  One of the most disgusting passages in English literature, without question.  Surely Milton knew this would be the effect he created. Why make things like this?

line  Book 3
1       Why begin with light?
60-65  Father and Son—why does the Son sit at the Father’s right hand?  Why is the Son not named any further?
80-134  What are the Father’s tone and attitude? What does he say?
144--  How does the Son answer him?  What is his tone?
167--  How does the Father reply to this?
235   What does the Son offer to do?  Compare Satan, 2.465-66
523-25  Where is Satan at this point?  What is he experiencing?
590-742  What happens here?  Who’s Uriel?  What is the importance of lines 681-89?

line   Book 4
13-30  How does Milton depict Satan’s psychology?  Why does Milton do it this way?
32-113   One of the great soliloquies in English literature.  What does Satan say to himself?
180  How does Satan enter Eden?
285-340  Our first look at Adam and Eve—through the eyes of Satan.  Why?
How does Milton portray the sexes?
358  What is Satan’s reaction to what he sees?
411-92  Adam and Eve’s first conversation. What do they say to each other?
493-523  How does Satan react to this?
635-37  What do you think of Eve’s comment to Adam about their relationship?
736-75  Here is Milton’s editorial on marital sexual relations.  Why does he say these things?
796--  What animal does Satan turn into?  What does he do?  Who catches him?  What confrontation occurs?  What is its nature?

line    Book 5
4     Why is Eve’s first reaction to her dream physiological?
12-13   How could you use these lines to interpret Adam and Eve’s relationship?
28-94   What specific elements in Eve’s dream bespeak Satan’s manipulative attempts at mind-control?  Why are they so upsetting to her, psychologically speaking?  What does psychology (admittedly anachronistic for Milton) say about dreams and dreaming?


115-20  What do you make of this part of Adam’s response?
Why does God send Raphael (pronounced ray-phee-el) to warn Adam about the evil that awaits them?  What is this angel’s nature?
Note:  the in medias res convention is fully in operation here in this angel’s speeches to Adam—through flashbacks, this narration fills in the beginning of the story in the middle of the epic
772-907  What does Raphael account to Adam at this point?  Who is Abdiel and why is his behavior important?

line    Book 6
722-912  What does Raphael recount here to Adam?

line    Book 7
277-519  What does Raphael recount here?

line   Book 8
249  Adam recounts his creation to Raphael.  What does Milton depict as typically human about him?
295, 315  What else, apparently, do human beings need?
357  The beginning of Adam’s colloquy with God.  What does Adam want?
369  What is God’s response?
398  Why is the Almighty “not displeased”?
412  How does Adam follow up his argument?
438  God explains why he questioned and challenged Adam.  What does Milton seem to think about God’s opinion of humankind?
452-559  One of the most beautiful passages in English literature. What is it, exactly, that Adam is trying to describe to Raphael, an angel, especially at line 528?
561  Raphael responds with “contracted brow.” Why?  What paradox or complication does Milton create here? 595  Adam responds. How are we supposed to react as he defends himself to an angel who has no mortal desires?

line         Book 9          The central book, a little epic, even tragedy, in itself.  Note these passages:
1-47        Milton’s fourth invocation.
48—        Satan’s metamorphosis.
99—        Satan’s soliloquy.
204—      Who speaks first, for the first time, and why?
226—      What is the reaction by the other person, and why?
273—      Some would consider this behavior dishonest, some would not.
350-58    Some would say that this is the central passage of the epic, its delta, and would compare it with 2.550-51, 3.99-106, 5.235, 6.42, 10.9, and 12.84-90.
378-410   Eve’s departure.
531—     The temptation begins.   What is Satan’s technique?  In order to accomplish his objective, what must he appeal to in Eve?  What reactions does he expect?  How does he plan to combat them?
679-732   Satan’s baker’s dozen of arguments, difficult enough for a fallen person to withstand.
780—      See how Milton depicts Adam and Eve as they fall.

line         Book 10
1-228      The Father sends the Son to judge Adam and Eve
443-570   The metamorphosis of Satan and the rebel angels.
740-845   Adam’s soliloquy, which defines him, broadly, as the hero.
865-935   Does Milton approve of Adam’s words to Eve?  Does he approve of Eve’s words to Adam?
1029-55   Adam’s conclusions.

line         Book 11
162-80    Does Milton approve of what Eve says?
line         Book 12
540-649  On what note does Milton conclude?  Who are the two speakers?  Who gets the last word?


Here’s a rudimentary chart of the chronological narrative of Milton’s epic.  The “real time” of the story is naturally continuous (unbroken), from Satan on the burning lake (Book 1) to Michael expelling Adam and Eve from Paradise (Book 12).  Milton presents his chronology in a fragmented way. He employs “historical time” (antecedent action) through the narrations of various speakers, with occasional interruptions in his objective, third-person epic voice.  In the manner of his predecessors Homer and Virgil, the basic structure is in medias res:  the epic begins in the middle of the story; the middle of the epic recounts the beginning of the story.

Book       Event [and Speaker, if necessary]

5              Son created, Father installs him:  “him who disobeys / Me disobeys” (611-12)  [Raphael to Adam]
5              Satan’s rage at Father’s choice of the Son over him; Abdiel’s stand  [Raphael to Adam]
2              Sin is born from Satan’s head; horror in Heaven; creation of Death [Sin to Satan]
6              Three days of war in Heaven; rebel angels vanquished by Son  [Raphael to Adam]
6              Expulsion of rebel angels [Raphael to Adam]
7              Creation of the earth [Raphael to Adam]

8              Creation of Adam and Eve  [Adam to Raphael]
1              Satan and minions on burning lake; release; arrival at Pandemonium
2              Council at Pandemonium; Moloch, Belial, Mammon; Satan anoints himself to destroy Man
2               Satan encounters Sin, Death, Chaos; released from Hell
3              Father communes with Son about Man’s free will
3               Son chosen to redeem Man
3               Satan finds way to earth with help of Uriel
4               Satan doubts himself
4               Adam and Eve seen and heard for first time
5               Eve’s dream of disobedience
4               Gabriel discovers Satan as a toad at Eve’s ear; angels scare him off
5               Eve recounts dream
5               God sends Raphael to warn Adam and Eve
8               Raphael departs
9               Eve separates herself from Adam
9               Temptation and Fall of Adam and Eve
10             Son judges Adam and Eve
10             Satan and rebel angels punished; metamorphosis into serpents
11             Adam and Eve repent; Son demonstrates prevenient grace
11             Michael gives Adam vision of the future
12             More future; Michael expels Adam and Eve from Paradise to their “solitary way.” top

Some Important Terms and Concepts for Paradise Lost

blank verse: unrhymed iambic pentameter, meter in which PL is written, and which Milton defends in “The Verse” paragraph that precedes the poem
epic: literary form from the ancient world, usually a long narrative poem that tells the story of a people, with a hero who performs great deeds
Homer, Odyssey, Iliad: ancient Greek epics, each in 24 books, neither widely read or known in original language until 16th c., or in English translation until the 18th c. by Pope (Iliad 1715-20)
Virgil, Aeneid: ancient Roman epic, very much in competition with Homer, 12 books, always known to the West, most often a school text in Latin, tr. by Dryden (1697)
Ovid, Metamorphoses: “alternative” epic, 15 books, taught the West its Greco-Roman mythology invocation: convention in which poet asks Muse for help in writing at beginning of epic
argument: means “summary” or “theme” in Milton’s time
Muse: classical personification of poetical inspiration
in medias res: lit. “in the middle of things,” where epic generally starts—i.e., the epic begins in the middle of the story; the middle of the epic recounts the beginning of the story.   The film Forrest Gump has almost precisely this structure
There were two eds. of PL in Milton’s lifetime, one in 10 books (1667), the other in the more Virgilian 12 books (1674).
Milton is almost completely blind by 1651.  Nevertheless he is Oliver Cromwell’s Secretary for Foreign Tongues and writes justifications for the regicide up until the eve of the Restoration. Marvell and Dryden work in the office with him.
typology: mode of Biblical interpretation which holds that the events of the New Testament—especially anything concerning the life, ministry, sayings, crucifixion, and resurrection of Jesus—are said to be foretold by the stories, sayings, and events of the Old Testament: e.g., Jonah and the whale, Abraham and Isaac, Isaiah’s prophecy about the Messiah, and whatnot
fortunate fall: perhaps the ultimate example of typology: the Fall in Eden is a good thing because it necessitated the entrance of Christ into history.  Without Adam’s disobedience, there is no need for a Christ, “Second Adam,” to redeem us from Original Sin
there were four accepted ways of reading the Bible, and it was alleged that any passage from Scripture could be read in all four of these methods: literal (historical); allegorical-typological (what you must believe); moral (what you must do); eschatological-anagogical (your future destination; mystical, four last things)
Grandmother Eve: conception of her that blames women exclusively for the Fall and thereby justifies their oppression and containment by men; Biblical justification said to be 1 Timothy 2.13-14: “For Adam was first formed, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression”
heresy: idea or concept in conflict with the orthodoxy of a religion
teleology: philosophy about rank and order in the universe
theology: study of religion
There were allegedly nine orders of angels, divided into three choirs: Seraphim, Cherubim, Thrones; Dominions, Virtues, Powers; Principalities, Archangels, Angels
Reformation: social and political as well as religious movement in Western Europe in the early 16th c. For nationalistic and economic as well as theological reasons, states formed national churches and broke with Rome in various degrees, so-called Protestants
Martin Luther: German reformer, father of the Reformation with his tripartite program: sola gratia (God’s Grace alone will save you, not an act of individual will); sola scriptura (Scripture, not doctrine); sola fide (faith over works)
John Calvin: French reformer with his colony in Geneva, extreme and ascetic type of Protestantism: mankind totally depraved, desperately in need of grace
predestination: most notorious Reformation doctrine—all foreknown in the mind of God eternally, especially one’s salvation or damnation
Henry VIII: once Defender of the Faith for the Pope against the Lutheran heresy, persecutor of Protestants, then architect of Reformation in England
Jacobus Arminius: theologian who disputed radical notions of reformers, argued that we have free will, standard position of Rome, argued by Erasmus v. Luther, known as Arminianism
John Knox: Scottish reformer, disciple and interpreter of Calvin for English-speaking people, crucial to reform movements in Church of England, father of Presbyterianism
Counter-Reformation: Rome’s response to Protestant heresy, its legal wing known as the Inquisition, its main order known as the Jesuits, whose founder was Ignatius Loyola (college roomate of François Rabelais and John Calvin at the University of Paris)
Puritans: name given to the reformers in England who felt that the Reformation had not gone far enough: often used derisively for the religiously obsessed who are also sexually repressed. There were many different types of “puritan.”
Archbishop William Laud: proponent of Arminianism, defender of episcopy (concept of a church hierarchy) v. presbytery (church run by a small group of elders), great persecutor of Puritans
Diggers, Levellers, and Ranters: radical English sects during the Commonwealth and Protectorate

Milton writes during a time of great scientific discovery, and his poem sometimes reflects a Renaissance sensibility during the so-called Enlightenment or Age of Reason
the triumph of Copernicanism and the concept of a heliocentric solar system, thanks to Galileo and the perfection of the telescope (Milton met him)
the importance of rationalism, via René Descartes
the inception of scientific method, empiricism (all knowledge derived from experience and close observation), which Francis Bacon advanced, important for such discoveries as Sir William Harvey’s De motu cordis (1628) on the circulation of the blood and the true function of the heart
John Locke’s theories about psychology (tabula rasa, the mind a blank slate at birth on which experience writes itself) and the social contract (a ruler can only rule effectively with the consent of the governed)
Thomas Hobbes’s pessimistic social theories in Leviathan (1651): nature and mankind in a state of war: “the life of man is poor, solitary, nasty, brutish, and short,” and therefore society will only behave when there is some power to “overawe them all.”
Charles II establishes the Royal Society in 1662, for the promulgation of such knowledge and intellect