Study Questions: Paradise Lost


Book I


General Suggestion: Read a section of the poem (10-30 lines), then read the

footnotes for that section, then read the section again. Your goal is to

make Milton's poetry read like a novel!


1. Compare the opening of Paradise Lost with the opening of whatever epic(s)

you read last term. How is it similar? How different? In the rest of Book I

what other epic characteristics to you see?


2. Of the first six lines of Paradise Lost, which move most swiftly, which

most slowly? How does Milton control the speed of the verse?


3. In the famous description of Satan being cast out of heaven (44 ff.), how

does Milton manipulate the sounds of words to create the impression of

power, speed, and violence?


4. What does Milton mean by "darkness visible"? (63)


5. William Blake considered Satan the unintentional hero of Paradise Lost.

When he first appears, do you like him? Why or why not?


6. What do we learn from the description of Satan's shield and spear? (284



7. What is brilliant about Satan's command to his troops, "Awake, arise, or

be forever fall'n." (330)


8. What do we learn from the epic similes comparing Satan's troops to (1)

sleeping sentries (331), and (2) locusts (341)


9. Is Satan manipulative when he speaks to his troops? (619-661)


10. Would Pandemonium be a good place to live?




Book II


1. What does Satan think makes his authority legitimate and protects him

from the kind of rebellion God faced? (ll. 12-43)


2. Can you paraphrase the lines starting "Me though just right" (18) and

ending "Yielded with full consent"? (24) Caution: this is tough. Unravel the



3. In Satan's war council, who gives the best advice: Moloch, Belial, or



4. If you think of him as an epic hero, what is most heroic about Satan?

(ll. 430-465)


5. Why does Milton interrupt his narrative with a passionate aside about

human conflict? (ll. 496-504)


6. How do the fallen angels pass time while Satan is gone on his scouting

expedition? (ll. 522 ff.)


7. How can both these lines be considered iambic pentameter?


O'er many a frozen, many a fiery alp,


Rocks, caves, lakes, fens, bogs, dens, and shades of death. (620-621)


8. Who are the two sentries at the gates of hell? What relationship do they

bear to Satan? (ll. 650-814 ) See if you can unravel the allegorical





Book III


1. Why does Book III begin with an invocation to Light? (49-52)


2. According to God, whose fault is it that Adam and Eve fell? (95-99)


3. Why does God insist that his creations be free? (103-111)


4. Why do you think that even before he introduces Adam and Eve as

characters Milton gives us Christ's decision to become human?


5. What will land you in the Limbo of Vanities? (443-498)


6. Why is Satan able to deceive Uriel, the "sharpest-sighted spirit" of

heaven? (681-689)




Book IV


1. What makes Satan most miserable? (37-109)


2. Why is the Tree of Knowledge beside the Tree of Life? Why is the fruit

forbidden? (220-222)


3. If you could rewrite Paradise Lost, how would you change the description

of Adam and Eve? (285-299)


4. What is the purpose of labor in Eden? (285-299)


5. What is Satan's first reaction to seeing Adam and Eve? (358-392)


6. Does the birth of Eve embody or challenge conventional gender

distinctions? (449-491)


7. How does Satan justify to himself his decision to subvert Eden? (512-527)


8. How does Satan, caught whispering in Eve's ear, justify to Gabriel his

presence in Eden? (885-901)




Book V


1. Does Eve's dream indicate that she has already fallen before the fall?



2. If Raphael, the "Sociable Spirit," is sent by God to warn Adam and Eve

and give them knowledge of Satan's evil, exactly what knowledge is forbidden

to them? (451-467, 545-557)


3. If God is such a fan of freedom (530-535), why is He so obsessed by

obedience? (493-503)


What do you think Raphael means by obedience?


4. How does Raphael solve the problems faced by all epic poets? (562-576)


5. Who do you sympathize with most, Satan or Abdiel? Whose arguments are

most convincing?




6. What new signs of epic activity do you recognize in Book V?




Book VI


1. Abdiel, the angel who defies Satan, asks, "wherefore should not strength

and might/ There fail where virtue fails?" 116-117 Can you answer this



2. What seems to be Milton's attitude toward democracy? 147-149


3. Do you agree with Abdiel that serving a worthy master would make you

free, while serving an unwise one would enslave you? 178-179


4. What special problems does Milton encounter, telling about a battle in

which the


Angels can't really be wounded? 316-353


5. In his war council, how does Satan, the spin doctor, make the best of a

bad situation? 418-436


6. How does armor prove disadvantageous to angels? 584-598


7. Why does God allow the destructive force of cannon and avalanche to be

unleashed? 669-699


8. Why does the son of God confront the rebel angels alone (except for the



9. Why is Raphael telling Adam and Eve all this?




Book VII


1. What kind of knowledge is it proper for Adam to seek and know? 111-130


2. What is God's original plan for man? 154-161


3. Why is the creation given to us as told by Raphael to Adam, instead of by

Milton to us?


Do you see any similarities between this story and Darwin's theory of

evolution? 225-518






1. What are the effects on Adam of gaining the knowledge Raphael has given

him in Books V, VI, and VII? 5-38


2. How much of Raphael's discourse has Eve heard? When does she leave? Why?


Is she making a bad decision? 39-63


3. Why do you think Milton has Adam tell the story of his creation here,

now, rather than earlier, when Eve did in Book IV? 203- 333


4. Why is Adam not completely satisfied with paradise? 354-368


5. Why does God give Adam a hard time when he asks for a companion? 369-375


6. From Adam's request, what insights do you get into his relationship with

Eve? 379-397


7. From Adam's description of Eve, do we see her as inferior or equal to

him? 471-490


8. Compare and contrast Adam's and Eve's versions of her first reaction to

him. 500-520


9. Is Adam's summary of Eve's attractions ambivalent? 521-56




Book IX


1. In what ways is the opening of Book IX anti-epic? 1-48


2. Are any of Satan's grievances against God valid? 99-178


3. Is anything wrong with Eve's logic as she argues for greater efficiency

through separate labor? 205-225 For testing virtue? 323-342 For eating the

forbidden fruit? 745-779


4. What in Adam's attempts to convince Eve not to go off alone strike you as



What strikes you as patriarchal? 226-318, 343-369 Why does Adam give in?



5. What are the initial effects of Even on Satan, when he sees her alone?



6. Why does Milton use three different epic similes to describe Satan as

city dweller (445-454), one who fears to interrupt (510), or one who steers

a ship (514)?


7. What in Satan's words appeal to Eve's reason? her ambition? What should

put her on her guard? 531-549


8. Would you be persuaded by the arguments that Satan makes to Eve? 684-733


9. What are the effects on Eve of eating the fruit? 786-833


10. How many lies can you catch Eve making to Adam in her first speech to

him after she has eaten? 856-885


11. Is Adam right or wrong to decide to die with Eve? 904-916 Is his logic

persuasive? 921-959 Is Adam "fondly overcome with female charm"? 999


12. Do you agree with Eve that Adam would not have been able to see through

the serpent's arguments? 1144-1152


13. In the contest to cast blame after the fall, who is most convincing,

Adam or Eve? 1134-1174




Book X


1. Does Adam give to the "Sovran Presence" a satisfactory explanation of

what he has just done? 125-143


2. How is Eve's punishment to be different from life in pre-lapsarian

Paradise? 193-7


3. What is the significance of the enormous bridge constructed by Death?

298-305; 368-372; 391-193


4. How does sound reinforce meaning in the reaction Satan gets from his

troops? 504-509


What is most important about his metamorphosis? 511-521


5. Do you agree with Adam's rebuke to God for creating "terms too hard" in

Paradise? 743-755


6. Do you think Adam gives accurate explanations of the fall? 140, 880, 897


7. How does Eve hope to cheat Death of his expected victories? 989-990,

1000. Why doesn't Adam go along with this plan? 1028-1040. What makes Adam

and Eve willing to continue living?




Book XI (1-369)


1. Why does God insist that after the fall humans be mortal, rather than

immortal? 56-58


2. Why does Adam (like Aeneas) get to view the future, even though he isn't

omniscient, like God? What is the purpose of Michael's stories?




Book XII (270-307, 375-648)


1. What is most important to Milton about the life and crucifion of Christ?



2. What do you think is the state of mind of Adam and Eve as they leave

paradise? 640-650




General Questions


1. Does Milton succeed in justifying the ways of God to man? What do you

think he means by "justify"?


2. Who do you think bears the most blame for the fall of man, according to

Milton: Satan? Eve? Adam? God? Other?


3. If Aphra Behn had written Paradise Lost, how would the story have

changed? What if Chaucer had written it? Shakespeare? What if you wrote it?


4. Is Milton's Satan a tragic hero? an epic hero? What would be the



5. If you could be God, would you create humans less free? If not, why not?

If so, what would you keep them from doing?


6. What constitutes a "good way of life," according to Milton? How do his

criteria differ from Shakespeare's in I Henry IV, Behn's in The Rover, or

Chaucer's in the Canterbury Tales? Are there any aspects of the good life

that they all seem to agree on? Are there any aspects that they seem

confused about?