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ENL 3230
British Literature 1616-1780

Class 6

Sep. 15: Milton, Paradise Lost, pages 1817-2044

Reading Assignment:

    John Milton: selections from Paradise Lost 1667, 1674

    Book Four: (Satan enters Paradise; Adam and Eve)

      ll 1-775

    Book Five: (Eve's Dream>

      ll 1-135

Also read the headnotes to each book for a statement of the "argument." Read the notes provided on the handout for a summary.

DUE: Weekly Post #3 Group A

The readings for today reflect, perhaps, the best known of the biblical stories that Milton adapted, the creation of Adam and Eve. For this reason, it is particularly interesting to compare the selections from Genesis with Milton's text. See Paradise Lost for excerpts from both the King James Bible and a modern bible to compare.

Reading Notes and Discussion Questions:

As you read the poetry, always aim for comprehension first. Milton's diction and epic similes can sometimes lead the mind away from the narrative he is developing. You need to pay careful attention to what Milton is doing in every line.


How does Milton characterize Adam and Eve through their speech? What is Adam like? What is Eve like? In particular, what does Eve's memory of her birth suggest?

How does Satan react to Adam and Eve's love? What is the allegorical signficance of this?

Note Milton's description of the domestic bliss of Adam and Eve. In particular pay attention to the lovely lines of Eve: 635-658. These lines can be read alone as a love poem. Note how this exemplifies the different forms of poetry incorporated into the epic.

Milton's description of their connubial love is quite famous -- compare this description of sex with what follows after the Fall in book nine. What argument does Milton make in favor of wedded love?

Consider the last lines I asked you to read in Book IV: "Sleep on / Blest pair; and O yet happiest if ye seek / No happier state, and know to know no more" (773-775).

What does the poet's admonition suggest about the state of bliss /paradise? How might this relate to God's prohibition on the Tree of Knowledge? Given that the purported knowledge to be gained is that between good and evil, what does this prohibition (and admonition) have to do with Geoffrey's question regarding the presence of evil (ie. why does God allow evil to exist in paradise? Or at all for that matter?)?

Eve's dream in Book Five is important in terms of the action of the poem and the characterization of both Adam and Eve. What does the dream portend? Why does it upset Adam so much? What is his reaction? And what does his reaction tell us about his character?

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