Notes on Milton's PL

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Invocation: Lines 1-47

These lines tell us not only that this book will describe the fateful fall of Mankind, but also Milton's methods of composition and his reasons for this subject. We know from other sources that he had been considering writing an epic fo much of his life. His draft of PL was written as a tragedy, though he soon reverted to a poetic form (the notes of line 6 suggest the chanted epics of Homer which he refers in 14-16. In what ways are the events he now describes tragic, and would you say the whole story ended tragically for Mankind?

Satan searches out a way into Eden: Lines 48-98

Both the narrative and the symbolsim here tell us about Satan's character and methods. In spite of being fearless and determined, he chooses darkness and obscurity, repeatedly circles thw world to find a suitableb disguise, and enters Paradise involved in rising mist. Why are such methods so dangerously successful? In spite of his cunning, he cannot restraint his bursting passion; does this make you sympathise with him?

Satan's first soliloquy and entry into the serpent: Lines 99-101

This speech gives us considerable insight into Satan's convoluted logic, lies and self-contradictions, but it also conveys a wretchedness and loneliness which might provoke our pity. His claims include the following: 

  • The earth is to be preferred to Heaven
  • That he is doomed never to find refuge or peace
  • That Mankind has been granted the favours rightly due to himself and his fellow rebels
  • That he is now forced to diminish his rightfyl glory even more by disguishing himself as a snake.

What do these claims revel about his character? Do you find him self-pitying, truthful, tragic?

102 What kind of god would make his second character (the universe) worse than his first (Heaven)?

103-6 Although Milton had met Galileio and knew about his evidence for a solar system (in which earth and other planets orbit the sun), he is assuming here and elsewhere in the poem that the planets and even the stars (other heavens.. lamps) orbit and sustain to the earth.

Eve proposes dividing their labours but Adam objects: Lines 192-259

This is the first conversation between Adam and Eve in Book 9 and the only one when both are unfallen. It is because Satan will find Eve alone that she will fall (or so we are led to suppose); the conversation here is therefore crucial. How is Adam persuaded to let Eve work alone?  Milton seems to have believed that in general a man held the image of God in his Reason more than a woman, there were cases when a woman can be superior in nature to her husband and that then the wiser should govern the less wise courteous to the other (in contrast to later exchanges between them) does this quarrel sow the seeds for Eve's later susceptibility to Satan's flattery? Can Adam's consent even be said to anticipate his Fall?

Eve begins the conservation…


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