P.L Subject Matter

Paradise Lost
Subject matter

Paradise Lost is an epic account of the Fall of Man. Milton begins his poem by invoking the aid of the (Holy) Spirit for his task, and sets forth the purpose of his song: "that ... I may assert the Eternal Providence and justify the ways of God to man".

The poem then depicts Satan and his fallen angels, already expelled from heaven and burning in the fire, as they start to talk among themselves. The rest of Books I and II, are then recounted from the perspective of Satan and his minions. Satan goes on to tell how those of Hell deliberated with him as to whether or not they should war with those in heaven yet again and attempt to overthrow it. Once agreed upon, Satan struggles through Chaos from Heaven to Hell. Traditional Christians may argue that this is an unbiblical ability according to the Gospel of Luke chapter 16 in the story of the rich man and Lazarus, "…between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence" Perhaps the ability to transfer from one immaterial place to another differs between composites of form and matter or soul and body (humans) and pure spirit. However, this is not even an issue in this context, even though Hell is a state of mind, "the hell within him; for within him Hell he brings, and round about him, nor from Hell one step, no more than from himself, can fly by change of place".

Later on in the poem, Satan goes on to introduce Death and Sin. Sin was birthed from the head of Satan, an allusion to the birth of the Greek god Athena. Sin is half beautiful woman and half serpent, the lower portion of her body destroyed after giving birth to Death. Hell-hounds are attached to the waist of Sin, constantly running in and out of her being re-birthed and devouring Sin's body. In book 4, Adam and Eve are introduced for the first time. Milton’s idea of marriage is very much influenced in this section. Their relationship is one of inequality, but not a relation of domination or hierarchy. There is a mutual friendship between the two and they also model the ideal ruler and subject. For Milton, this marriage is a political ideal just as much as it is a personal ideal. Satan also describes their personalities. Eve is described as a "'coy', flirtatious, beautiful, sex object that Adam is overwhelmed by" or "Too much of Ornament"; Adam is seen as more of an intellectual. Though there is no sin within paradise, Adam and Eve have an argument about the care of the land. Eve thinks the garden is growing too fast and that the two should split up while working to cover more ground, thus accomplishing more. Adam disagrees and says that time is not an issue for them, therefore they were meant to enjoy their work and not rush it. This disagreement would begin the stirring up their hearts, making them more vulnerable to the temptation that was to come. Adam consents to Eve’s wishes and they split up during their work. Satan, as the serpent in the garden, made ready to fool Eve through the process of reduction.

In the last three chapters after the Fall, the Son of God intercedes for Adam and Eve and the Father accepts. However, he commands the angel Michael to ban Adam and Eve from the garden. In doing so, Michael gives Adam a vision of the Flood, and life and death of Christ, revealing to him the way of redemption. Adam and Eve’s lives carry on but they are driven out from the Garden of Eden.

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