Home Page Romantic Lit. & the ArtsMilton & the 17th Century
 





Study Questions for Journal Assignment

 

En 348†††††††† Revised March 10th, 2001 2001

Prof. S. Gottlieb

Due: March 29th and April 12th

 

Milton based Paradise Lost on a relatively small collection of readings from the Bible. However, it is the case that Milton also adapted material from the Church Fathers (biblical glosses and commentaries), the Jewish Kabbalah (mystical stories interpreting the Torah, or Jewish laws, including the Pentateuch, or first five books of the Old Testament), medieval and classical epic, and other poetry and prose texts. However, the extent of his original contribution to all prior sources is enormous. The sum total of Miltonís achievement is that he raises many fundamental questions about how we live and how we think about our lives.

 

For your next writing project, keep a journal of discrete, dated entries responding to the following questions, and others that emerge from class discussions, concerning Paradise Lost.Beginning March 20th, I will ask you to exchange your journals and to discuss the entries in groups of four students. Each journal entry should be dated, and the total number of pages should reach at least ten by the time we have finished our class work on this epic. Each entry of one or more unified paragraphs, small or large, should be revised for clarity and edited for style and correctness. Successful journals will present a variety of entries, some based on theme and philosophy, some based on close reading of the text, some based on well-documented ideas from select critics in our text. One key to successful entries is succinctness. The journal should be submitted twice as a stapled, word-processed document.

 

       Paradise Lost is an epic. But who is the hero? Is it Adam? Eve? The pair? Satan? Raphael? God? Jesus?

 

       Examine the heroism of Satan in Books One and Two. Can you find ways in which Miltonís narrative voice undercuts Satanís heroism?

 

       Examine two individual fallen angels in Books One and Two for their specific good and evil qualities. Why do you think Milton included so much information about these angels?

 

       Examine the nature and meaning of Satanís successes, and/or failures as you read beyond Books One and Two.

 

       Examine carefully the relationship to Satan of the characters, Sin and Death. What are the implications of this relationship and of their resemblance to the holy trinity?

 

       Some critics have found Miltonís God boring. Examine Godís character as presented in Book Three and form your own judgment concerning his role in Paradise Lost.

 

       Miltonís God is omniscient. Does that circumscribe Adamís or Eveís free will? Did God create a flawed free will? For this and the following question, read III:1-135 at least.

 

       Does the existence of free will, if it exists, cause evil? Do you agree with Godís defense, in Book Three, of his creation of ďsufficientĒ humans?

 

       God allows Satan to rebel. What do you think are the implications of Satanís existence in Paradise Lost? Is Satan wiser than the other angels?

       Put in another way, can there be good without evil? If not, either in Eden or after Eden, is it the case that Even and Adam must commit evil?

 

       What are Adamís strengths? What are his flaws in Eden? After Eden? See Books Four and Five for your study of Adam and Eve before the Fall.

 

       Is Eve subservient to Adam? In what ways is she so?

 

       What does Eden represent before the Falls of Adam and Eve?

 

       In what ways is Eve, as a creation, different from Adam? What are her negative attributes in Eden? After Eden? Does she have positive qualities and abilities that Adam does not have? Books Four and Five.

 

       In what ways is the Fall of humankind a bad thing? A good thing? Ė Felix Culpa (Latin), thought by some to be a central paradox in Paradox Lost (just kidding), means Ďfortunate fall.í Book Nine.

 

       How many falls are there in Paradise Lost? Why do you think Milton structure so many falls, perhaps thousands by the time you read Books Ten and Eleven, into his epic?

 

       Assess the role and the limitations of Raphaelís teachings in Books Five through Eight.

 

       What are the roles of the good angels, excepting the Archangels, in Paradise Lost? Book Three

 

       There are many kinds of evil that cannot be seen by Satan, by Eve, by Adam, and even by the angels (See III:681-85). Why cannot these evils be seen? How do the cloaked features of evil help us to define what evil is? Is goodness more obvious than evil? If so, why?

 

       What do you think is the function of Book Six, the War in Heaven, within the whole of Paradise Lost?

 

       What do you think is the function of Book Seven, the Creation of the Universe, within the whole of Paradise Lost?

 

       Write a paragraphsummarizing Joseph Summersí view of patterns in Paradise Lost? Then, assess the value of Summersí view in your understanding one theme or character in this epic.

 

       Do the same for another critical essay of your choice, in our text, but an essay written within the past thirty years.

 Last modified: 2/3/2003
Maintained by Stephen Gottlieb. E-mail ... Prof. Emeritus Stephen A. Gottlieb