Milton’s Paradise Lost was published in 1667. From his earliest youth, Milton had determined to write a great epic. At first, the story of King Arthur came into his mind. But with the deepening of his religious view, he turned from this secular theme to the Biblical narrative of the fall of man.
This epic poem Paradise Lost may be roughly divided into three parts:
The first part deals with rebellion of the angels and their strife with God.
The second part depicts the creation of mankind.
The third part concerns with the plot of Satan against man.
The main interest of Paradise Lost is centered in Satan. It is an epic of art based upon the classical conventions. The vast and vague dimensions of the poet’s universe, in which supernatural beings pass between Earth and Heaven, between Chaos and Hell, all these baffle the imagination. Above all, the figure of Satan is the dominating character. His character is conceived magnificently.
The Theme of the poem:
The theme of Paradise Lost as an epic poem holds universal human interest. The poem concerns itself with the fortunes not of an empire but of the whole human race. It concerns with the event of plucking the apple in the history of the race which has molded all its destinies.
The scene of the action is universal space.
The time represented is Eternity.
The characters are God and his creatures.
The poem comes in twelve books:
Book I: It deals with the Fall of Man; the disobedience of Adam and Eve which became the cause for their exile from the carefree Garden of Eden and ultimately brought death and suffering in the world. It also depicts the Satan’s defeated armies.
Book II: It depicts the fallen angels making plot against God. They decide to attack God indirectly. Satan makes his journey through space.
Book III: Satan continues his voyage and lands on Mount Niphates.
Book IV: The description of Garden of Eden. Satan comes to know that God has forbidden Adam and Even to eat the apple from the Tree of knowledge. Satan therefore, decides to tempt Eve in her dream to disobey God’s warning.
Book V to VIII: Eve reveals her dream to Adam. God foresees the trouble and so sends Raphael to prevent them from disobeying God. Raphael talks about a new World of human beings and the structure of the universe.
Book IX: Satan takes the form of serpent and tempts Eve to eat the apple. Eve and Adam eventually both fall in the trap of Satan and disobey God. They become aware of the sexuality and being ashamed of it, they quarrel with each other.
Book X: God send his Son to justify Adam and Eve and save them from the destruction. Sin and Death both enter in the Garden. Satan returns to Hell to rejoice his victory.
Book XI and XII: The Son persuades God not to destroy Adam and Eve. God therefore decides to drive them out from the Eden and this task is assigned to Michael. Michael makes both of them realize God’s vision and intention, and the world of mankind. They are told to lead their life in the imperfect world until the second coming of the Son of God.