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Milton’s Paradise Lost, in its epic form, opens with an invocation which has now become famous. In lines
1-26, which form a prologue to the poem, Milton states the theme of his poem and prays to a Muse to
inspire him. Homer’s Iliad begins with a similar invocation. Virgil began his Aeneid in the same way. The
theme of Paradise Lost is stated in the very first lines. Milton is going to write

Of man’s first disobedience, and the fruit

Of that forbidden tree whose mortal taste
Brought death into the world……………..

And he is going to try to “assert Eternal Providence” i-e, seek God’s care and justify the ways of God to

The emphasis is going to be on “Man” and nor Satan. The subject is clearly the Christian one, taken from
the Genesis. It is appropriate that Milton invokes a Muse who lives higher than Mount Olympus. The
Heavenly Muse of Milton lives on the Mount Sinai, sacred place associated with Moses the Prophet. Just
as the classical Muse was requested to guide the poet, the Heavenly Muse is invoked by Milton to lead
him. His subject is of higher order—it deals with the very history of mankind as expressed in the Bible.
Whereas, the classical epics, there had been a national hero as its subject. The poet hopes that with the
help of the Heavenly Muse he will be able to deal with the problem of justifying the ways of God to men.
In the first twenty- six lines, Milton has united three moods—classical, Hebrew and Puritan. The
comprehensive nature of his task is indicated and his rank is established as an epic poet higher than the
classical models.

It is characteristic of Milton to have begun Paradise Lost correctly with an invocation to the Muse in true
classical tradition. Milton leads up to the climax of the invocation by his eloquent language and intensity.
The prologue to Paradise lost states the subject and requests for divine guidance. The style of the
prologue in its imaginative power and its verse music performs another vital function. These twenty-six
lines are constructed to give rise to the feeling that some highly important thing is about to begin.

Milton follows the classical model not only in form and device. He uses a grammatical structure which is
typically derived from Latin. The first scene for instance, goes on until line 6 before the construction
becomes clear with the verb “Sing”. Milton uses devices perfectly suited to keep the flow of the passage.
Its beginning is forcible, simple but large. The sense is then developed, extended and qualified in a great
variety of ways, by the subordination of clauses, skilful use of conjunctions, prepositions and relative
pronouns. Normal English word order is reversed so that the object of the opening sentence may be
placed at the very beginning. Thus the theme of the poem gets an important place.
The prologue has a power and sublimity. T.S Eliot calls the quality “a breathless leap”. Milton brings in
all the things he is going to deal with – disobedience, death, loss of Eden, and restoration through “One
greater Man”—before he brings in the verb. There is wonderful agreement between syntax and

The climax is simple in grandeur. The placing of the pauses, rise and fall of emotions and the humble
tone of appeal to have his darkness lighted and the final powerful simplicity of the concluding remarks of
his purpose—all this represent poetic art of high order. Milton is going to write about the fall of Man and
the first act in this epic is the fall of Satan who takes his revenge on God by deceiving man into folly and
The theme of Paradise Lost is clearly stated in the opening lines. In lines 1-26, we are told that Milton is
going to deal with Man’s first disobedience and the consequences of his tasting the fruit of the forbidden
tree. Milton’s purpose is to assert “Eternal Providence” and justify the ways of God to man. The subject
is Biblical, and thus Milton considers it to be more elevated than the subjects dealt with by the other
classical epic writers. He invoked the Heavenly Muse to inspire him so that his poem rises above the
Mount Olympus, and so that he may be successful in his undertaking, the like of which had yet not been
attempted in prose or poetry.
In lines 27-44, Milton talks of the prime cause of man’s fall. “Who first reduced them to that foul revolt?”
he asks and answers that it was “The internal serpent” Satan, driven by hate, envy and revenge, who had
deceived Eve, the mother of Mankind. Satan’s boastful pride had urged him to start an impious war in
Heaven. When he failed in attempt, he was driven out of Heaven along with his followers and thrown
down to bottomless Hell.
In typical epic fashion, Milton begins the poem in the middle of the story. He begins by describing the
state of fallen angels. They have fallen from Heaven and are lying on the fiery lake of Hell. Except for
Satan, the fallen angels are miserable crowd. Beelzebub says that they are swallowed up in endless
misery. They lie crawling and flat on the fiery lake. They are mean and lost, full of amazement on their
horrible change.
They feel guilt when Satan is criticizing and threatens them. Milton now uses a series of similes to
indicate their confusion, their large number and their essential evil. They are compared to locusts and
barbarians. But they have not lost their god-like shapes. It reminds us of their glory that has been lost.
Their names have been blotted out from the heavenly Book of life.
Their looks are down cast and damp. But, they cheer up on seeing Satan self confident and courageous.
He drives away their despair and fear. The fallen angels get busy on urging by Satan. Trumpets are
blown, his “mighty standard” is raised and ten thousand banners rise into the air along with large
number of spears. The fallen angels stand in military formation. They slowly present a picture of unity.
Once again Milton gives a series of similes to emphasize the size, vastness and power of Satan’s forces.
But at the same time, we are not allowed to forget their weakened glory. Milton achieves this effect by
comparing them to huge trees struck by lightning. Satan’s voice, echoing in the hollow deeps of Hell, has
however, revived them. They raise their flaming swords to confirm his words. Then, Milton gives the list
of devils showing all the wickedness which these devils represent.
The fallen angels are huge in number. But the impression of their strength and dignity is slowly degraded
by the end of the Book I. Towards the end, we are told how, in order to keep all of them in
pandemonium, these angels reduced themselves to the smallest size. Now they look like dwarfs, a swarm
of bees. Thus there is created an impression of the ridiculous. The impression of their grandeur is short-
lived, and their activity is exposed for the evil intentions acting behind it.

Written And Composed By:

Prof. A.R. Somroo
M.A. English, M.A. Education.
Cell Phone: 03339971417.

Milton's Satan has been a controversial character. Misreading of the character has led people to admire
Satan as an unqualified hero. But such a misreading fails to take into account the fact that Satan is
essentially the personification of evil. He may have certain heroic qualities – determination, self-
confidence, patience, ability to support tired wills. But these very qualities lose much of their grandeur
when seen in context of the intention and the circumstances that cause these qualities to appear. If we
admire Satan, we are attesting the misery and suffering that he and his followers have to bear in the Hell.
We are also approving of his lies and deception, his propaganda against God, and his pride which urges
him to picture himself as the future ruler of Heaven. If we admire Satan, we are showing an approval of a
world full of evil and falseness.

Milton shows a clear picture of the misery into which Satan and his followers have fallen. Satan has been
fallen "head-long flaming" from Heaven to "bottomless perdition". On recovering his senses, he is
tortured by the thought of "lost happiness and lasting pain". Satan himself is fully aware of the glory he
and his companions have lost. Only "sights of woe" meet his eye and it is a place where "peace and rest
can never dwell" and where "hope never comes". The disorder of the place is evident in the fact that
flame exists there without light and darkness is "visible" only to show the misery. The conditions in Hell
are experienced by Satan only as a result of the impious war raised in Heaven.

The very first speech of Satan has an ironical quality while it reduces Satan's stature. He invents a
justification for the rebellion. He says that it expressed his fixed mind and dislike for God. Revenge and
immortal hate are going to be his motto and no moral standards can allow one to admire Satan for it. His
speeches are full of pride and ego. He even claims that God had feared Satan's strength. This is mere
nonsense. Satan falsifies both the past and the present. He is obstinate and proud. He proposes eternal
war with Omnipotent God. It speaks of an illogical mind whose wishful thinking has blinded it to reality.

Satan has determined to always do evil in order to negate the will of God. If God would work well out of
evil, Satan would bring evil out of good. Satan's empire obviously will be full of evil and misery; and if we
admire him we are giving our consent to the creation of such an empire. The illogicality and wishful
thinking mark Satan's motivating his followers to continue their war, knowing God's power. Critics have
called this "courage", but, it is a foolish courage.

Satan claims that he is equal to God in faculty of reason, but admits his inferiority in respect of force. He
tries to cover the fall to Hell by saying that the mind is capable of making a Heaven of Hell. It only means
that he will carry Hell wherever he goes. He grandly declares: "Better to reign in Hell than serve in
Heaven". The self importance is obvious—so long as Satan can be king-figure, it does not matter what he
rules over. It is foolish to think of freedom in such a dreadful place for freedom loses its meaning, yet
Satan leads his followers into false belief with: "Here at least we shall be free"

There is a sense of unreality about Satan's words, for it is not better to reign in Hell than serve in Heaven.
The speeches of Satan show a combination of Vanity, self deception and rebel rousing. Satan addresses
his followers as "Princes, potentates, flowers of Heaven"—which are absurd when we note that these
princes and warriors are lying mean and lost amazed at their hideous change. Satan reveals himself in
Book I of Paradise Lost as a cunning, malicious and evil being, all the more dangerous because his lies
are in deceptive rhetoric and his false propaganda springs from a powerful intellect. To admire him is
indeed; to give vote for the world of misery he is capable of creating.
"In writing Paradise Lost, Milton was of the Devil's party without
knowing it" Comment on the view.
It was William Blake who observed that Milton belonged to the Devil's party without knowing it. The
remark implies that Milton unconsciously glorified Satan, especially in Book I of Paradise Lost. This
point of view is typically of the Romantic spirit, and it makes Satan the real hero of Paradise Lost. The
Romantics admired undefeatable courage and love of freedom that Satan shows in Book I of Paradise
Lost. However one cannot admire these qualities as good in themselves, ignoring the moral values
connected with them.

Satan certainly possesses heroic qualities in Paradise Lost, but, if Milton glorified him, it is done
consciously. But knowingly or unknowingly, Milton is never on the side of the Devil. Satan was required
to be made of heroic dimensions to make him a fitting enemy of God and to impress on the reader the
dangerous power of evil. Furthermore, if Satan had been of less than ordinary stature, the deception of
the Mother of Mankind would lose its effectiveness. Above all, Milton was writing a special kind of epic-
an epic of cosmic proportions which required its characters to be impressive.

Satan can not, however be regarded the hero of the poem merely because he is cast in the heroic mould.
The courage, the determination, the philosophical statements, the love of freedom, all these qualities lose
their value when the purpose behind them becomes clear—and it is clear not merely in Milton's
commentaries, but in Satan's speeches also. One should not be deceived by showiness of Satan rhetoric.
Milton's presentation of Satan is in no way against his commentary. Satan is the negation of good. He
comes out in all his pride and evil. He wants to begin war against God by stealth, and sneaky way in
which he entered the Garden of Eden to harm the Adam and Eve, is proof of his deceit and evil.

The grandeur that Milton gives Satan is the fulfillment of an artistic requirement. But a villain is a villain
however powerfully he is portrayed. Even from Book I of Paradise Lost, Satan appears as the father of
lies, an arch-fiend and archangel ruined. He would have been a tragic hero if he had opposed the forces
of evil, but ironically he himself is the author of evil. The great qualities of Satan are meaningless because
of his inner corruption. As B.A Wright points out that Satan is the enemy of God and man. He must be
seen as a towering genius, but we can not forget that his genius is Satanic. All his virtues are in fact
corrupted by his situation. When we read Satan's speeches and understand their implications, we can not
attest the opinion that Milton belonged to the Devil's party, knowingly or unknowingly.

Written and Composed By:

Prof. A. R. Somroo
M.A. English, M.A. Education.
Cell Phone: 03339971417
The subject matter of poem—the Biblical account of God, angels, the fall of Man and justifying the ways
of God to men—was wholly believed in by Milton and puritan Englishmen of his time. But, people today
reject the theology of Paradise Lost. However, what has made the poem live is not the story…. But the
incomparable high style, the shaping spirit of imagination and the majesty of music.

A great style is difficult to define, but its outstanding qualities are sublimity of thought as well as
expression and compression.

Scholarly Style Full of Allusions:

The language of Paradise Lost is that of a scholar writing for scholars. A beautiful illustration of the
poet’s fondness for allusion is provided by his description of Satan’s forces, which dwarfed the mightiest
armies known to history or legend: “the giant brood” mentioned by Hesiod: “the heroic race” that fought
at Thebes and Troy, mentioned by Homer: the crusaders who fought the Muslims, mentioned in history.
The whole treasury of poetry and the whole storehouse of learning are at his command. He assumes that
they are also at the command of his reader and accordingly he loads every meaning of his verse with the
essence of myth and legend, historical, literary and scientific fact. Classical and Biblical allusions are of
course, the most abundant.

Suggestive Quality in Style:

In Milton’s poetry more is meant than meets the ear. He means more than what he says. As the poet’s
difficulty throughout the poem is to describe what can not be exactly described – Heaven, Chaos, Hell,
God, Angels, devil –he throws out a broad hint of their intended shapes and appearance and asks the
reader to imagine the rest. Satan’s huge figure, which no body can have an idea of, is described with a
few suggestive strokes: “head uplift above the wave”, “eyes that sprinkling blazed”, and other parts in
bulk as large. All other pictures in the poem are similarly suggested.

Unusual structure of sentences:

All the above discussion leads to the most marked characteristic of his style—its loftiness of tone. The
effect of tone is sum of several aspects of the above mentioned factors. Use of his own words, and his own
order of words, which often runs counter to the accepted English practice, are the other factors. In the
very first six lines of the poem we have an illustration of the complex involved sentence giving the effect
of what Eliot calls “the breathless leap”. The lines are deep, rich and powerful.
This brings us to the structure of his phrase and sentence. It is not the usual one. He arranges his words
in his own way to gain the maximum effect. He has made use of inverting the common English order of
noun and adjective. His most common practice is to place a noun between its two qualifying adjectives,
though the English idiom requires both to be placed before the noun: “the upright heart and pure”, “the
dismal situation waste and wild”.

A striking feature in Paradise Lost is Milton’s use of similes. These similes are expanded to draw
complete pictures. They add dignity to the narrative, and do not merely illustrate it.

Elevated Speeches:
The lofty tone is maintained in the speeches of Satan. One can not help noting the rhetorical eloquence
with which Satan encourages the fallen angels. The same sublimity of style marks all the descriptions in
the book.

The theme of Paradise Lost is great --fall of Man. Milton maintains a constant elevation and dignity of
Style corresponding to the greatness of theme. As a result the style is grand.
Paradise Regained and Samson Agonistes are comparatively more autobiographical than Paradise Lost.
Still, there is obvious autobiographical element in Paradise Lost. All the twelve books have
autobiographical element in them. In Book I itself, several aspects of Milton’s personality and views are
reflected. To Satan the rebel arch-angel he gives his own firmness of character and pride. Milton had a
spirit of rebel. He stood for freedom and was opposed to bondage which he identified with monarchy.
That is why he sided with parliamentarians. The heroic qualities of Satan reflect Milton’s own. When
Satan speaks of the mind being its own place and in itself capable of making “a Heaven of Hell, a Hell of
Heaven”, it seems to be Milton himself speaking. Satan’s “Better to reign in Hell than serve in Heaven”
seems to reflect Milton’s thoughts. But in his commentaries on Satan, we get the other side of Milton’s
character—his Christian hatred for the arch-fiend. His piety finds expression in the very first lines of the

Milton the Puritan:

Milton speaks with all the moral warmth of emotion at his command in the poem. The very choice of the
subject reflects his piety: “Of Man’s first disobedience…..”It is a Biblical theme and it was Milton’s pious
object to “justify the ways of God to men”. His rejecting the evil of Satan as the “infernal serpent” who
deceived the mother of mankind is genuine in its intensity. It is an expression of his indignation against
the forces of evil.

Classical Knowledge is made to serve Puritan Interests:

Milton’s classical scholarship is clear in Paradise Lost Book I. He refers to various characters famous in
classical mythology. But he identifies these characters with the fallen angels in the catalogue. The
catalogue reveals Milton’s contempt for the pagan creeds. It is Milton’s personal hatred for wealth and
greed of wealth which finds expression in the attack on Mammon who is associated with the love of gold.
Milton’s rejection of idolatry is inspired greatly by his Protestantism and rejection of corruptions in the
Roman Catholicism.

Milton’s Personal Belief in the Spiritual Values:

Milton’s personal belief in the spiritual values of life makes him speak out against man’s materialism. He
condemns man’s robbing the bowels Mother Earth to obtain gold and precious stones. His love of a
simple, noble and pure life comes out in his criticism of the luxurious life.

Paradise Lost reflects the personality of Milton as well as his views and feelings. Indeed, the epic has been
considered to be a “spiritual autobiography”. While the deep rooted egoism of Milton detracts from the
“Objective” nature of the work, it gives the poem a lyrical intensity and emotional continuity which can
not be condemned.

Written And Composed By:

Prof. A.R.Somroo
M.A. English, M.A. Education.
Cell Phone: 03339971417