Some Notes on Milton’s Paradise Lost British Novel to Film Dr. M. Connor
Introduction • The poem was immediately recognized as a masterpiece. • Dryden is one of the first to critically approach the poem in his Apology for Heroic Poetry and Poetic License
Book one, from the beginning • Latinate structure makes the poem difficult for us to read • The first sentence is 16 lines long • The first verb doesn’t come till the beginning of line six, “sing”.
Invocation to the Muse • Milton formats the poem as a traditional epic • His “Muse” is the Christian Holy Spirit (Holy Ghost) • But he also uses pagan names and trappings. • But this is always a Christian poem
The poem’s purpose • Given in lines 24-25: • I may assert Eternal Providence • And justify the ways of God to men • That is the “main point” or “thesis” of the poem
Introduction to Satan • In the next part of the poem, we are introduced to what has happened--Satan’s revolt. • We learn that Satan and the other fallen angels have undergone and physical change, as well. • We also meet Hell’s “#2” Beelzebub
Devils’ “life goal” • In lines 120ff, we learn of what the devils vow to do: • We may with more successful hope resolve • To wage by force or guile eternal war, • Irreconcilable to our grand Foe, • Who now triumphs, and in th’ excess of joy • Sole reigning holds the tyranny of Heaven
Illogical devils • The devils know that God is omnipotent, yet they still tried to overpower him. See ll 130-3 • ...in dreadful deeds • Fearless, endangered Heaven’s perpetual king • (my emphasis)
See themselves as gods • In line 138, they refer to themselves as “gods” and this is something they continue throughout the poem. • This vanity is one of the reasons they are in trouble in the first place.
Repeat the evil plan • Lines 159-60, repeat the vow to cause bad • To do aught good never will be our task, • But ever to do ill our sole delight.
We “see” Hell • In the lines following line 175, the weather starts to clear and through Satan’s eyes we “see” Hell for the first time. • What follows is a long descriptive passage
Description of Satan • In the lines following 192, we also “see” Satan. • He’s large. A rood is 6-8 meters and he’s “many a rood”. • Also winged, as befits a former angel. • Long descriptive passage
Famous lines • From line 252ff, very famous section. We learn that Satan has: • A mind not to be changed by place or time. • The mind is its own place, and in itself • Can make a Heaven of Hell, a Hell of Heaven • This ties in very much with the theme of Free Will
Satan’s paradox • From line 258ff we see the paradox Satan sets up: He’s free in Hell, a prison: • Here at least • We shall be free; the Almighty hath not built • Here for his envy, will not drive us hence. • Here we may reign secure; and in my choice • To reign is worth ambition, though in Hell: • Better to reign in Hell than serve in Heaven.
Beautiful speech • In lines 315 to the end of the section we read, Satan gives a beautiful speech trying to rouse the fallen angels to action. • His final line in that section: • Awake, arise or be forever fallen! • Is quite awe-inspiring. We can see why the angels/devils will follow him.
Book two • Again, the section we read starts with beautiful images. • In lines 304 ff we again see beautiful sentiments, but in Milton’s universe, they are false. • As much as we are attracted to Satan and his words, we have to remember that he is the Arch-Enemy
Man is the key to hurting God • From lines 345 on, Satan talks about how Man is the key to hurting God. • From 358 on, Satan describes how Man is the weakness in God’s “armor”. • This place may lie exposed, • The utmost border of his kingdom, left • To their defense who hold it;
Introduce the idea of seduction • In line 367, Satan declares that if he can’t force Man to betray God, he may be able to “seduce” him. • This may make God abolish Man, causing God pain, as Man is currently His favorite creature.
“Synod of gods” • From line 389 on, we see Satan spinning out a long fantasy about what may happen. • In here, we see Satan at his seductive best. • Around 468ff, we also see him being quite Machiavellian in his approach to leadership
Sets up parallel to Jesus • In line 826ff, Satan says he will sacrifice himself “one for all” • This echoes Jesus’s sacrifice of himself to Death so that Man may live.
Free Will • In lines 98ff, God explains why He gave free will to Man, even though it will lead to Man’s fall. • Not free, what proof could they have given sincere • Of true allegiance, constant faith or love.
Foreknowledge is not Destiny • Lines 117ff, God explains that His foreknowledge is different from predestination: • Foreknowledge had no influence on their fault, • Which had no less proved certain unforeknown.
Avoiding The Fall • In lines 124ff, God explains that to avoid the Fall of Man, He would have to change Man’s nature. • He has decreed that they have Free Will, so he will not change that: • they themselves ordained their fall (128)
Satan vs. Man • God explains that Satan fell through his own pride, so he has no special Grace. • But Man will fall through Satan’s temptation, so God will offer Grace. • Lines 170ff, God explains His Grace and how it will help
Book four: Satan in Paradise • The section we reads starts with a soliloquy by Satan in which he rails against his fate. • Beautiful poetry • We pity him • He feels regrets
Pride • Satan knows that the Sin of Pride is his downfall • Till pride and worse ambition threw me down • Warring in Heaven against Heaven’s matchless King! • Ah, wherefore? He deserved no such return • From me, who created what I was • In that bright eminence, and with his good • Upbraided none; (ll 40-46)
“Myself am Hell” • In the passage starting around line 69 shows that Satan is still proud. Too proud. • He knows he could have God’s mercy, yet he rejects it. • All he has to do is submit to God’s will and he could be reinstated in Heaven, and he refuses.
No hope means no fear • In line line 108, Satan gives up hope for redemption, and this frees him to do all evil. • All good to me is lost; • Evil, be thou my good: by thee at least • Divided empire with Heaven’s king I hold • (ll 109-111)
Satan blames God • Satan never takes responsibility for his own actions. • His temptation of Man is God’s fault. • Thank him who puts me, loath, to this revenge • On you, who wrong me not, for him who wronged. • Lines 386-87