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John Milton: Excerpts from Areopagitica,
Cavalier, roundhead, epic, Puritan interregnum, periodic
sentence, in medias res, invocation of the muse
What was the Licensing Act of 1643 and why did John Milton
oppose it? What problem did John Milton have with his education
while he was at Cambridge? In 1654, what physical affliction
affected John Milton but did not stop him from making poetry?
Lecture or Handouts: During
the time John Milton lived, what two religious groups were
trying to kill each other in warfare? What is the name of
the general who established temporarily the commonwealth
and drove the monarch and his supporters into exile? The
Licensing Act of 1643 is in some ways similar to what famous
list of banned books from the medieval period? What did
John Milton mean by claiming, "One tongue is enough
for any woman"? What political body is the intended
audience of Areopagitica?
How many books are there in the original
Paradise Lost? List and explain the features of
the classical epic that Milton employs in Paradise Lost.
What happens to the bodies of Satan and his followers as
the story of Paradise Lost progresses and the longer
they struggle against God? How is that change symbolic?
Rather than being a common Hebrew name, what does the word
Adam mean in Hebrew?
Identify the Following Primary
Characters from Paradise Lost
Milton's Muse (who is his muse in Paradise Lost?)
Beelzebub, Satan, Azazel, Mammon, Mulciber, Adam, Eve, Michael
(Be aware more generally of minor characters
such as Moloch, Chemos, Baalim, Ashtaroth, Astoreth, Astarte,
Thammuz, Adonis, Dagon, Osiris, Isis, Orus, Belial)
Explain the Significance of
the Following Items in Milton's Poetry and/or Prose:
The legend of Osiris's dismemberment in
Areopagitica. Pandemonium. The Licensing Act of
- Why is censoring a book worse than killing a man, according
to Milton? Explain his logic.
- According to Milton, what part of reason is killed when
a book is destroyed?
- What myth is Donne alluding to when he mentions "those
fabulous dragon's teeth . . . [that] may chance to spring
up armed men?
- What is Milton's counter-argument to those who quote
King Solomon's statement that "much reading is a
weariness to the flesh," and hence people shouldn't
read too much?
- What is Milton's counter-argument to those people who
point approvingly to the story of St. Paul's converts
who burnt their books of Ephesian witchcraft after converting
to Christianity as an argument in favor of censorship?
- What Biblical parable of Jesus does Milton allude to
when he refers to good and evil "growing up together"
in the "field of this world"? What conclusion
does he draw about those people who want to uproot the
- What is Milton's argument about freedom and knowing
good or evil? How does he make a connection between freedom
and Adam's first sin and the need for freedom of the press?
- What is the significance or meaning of Milton's comparison
between truth and a streaming fountain (as opposed to
a motionless pool)?
- According to Milton, why or how does truth become a
"heresy" if a person only believes things because
his pastor or his government tells him so? Why does Milton
find that dangerous?
- What is the legend about Osiris's death in Egyptian
mythology? How does Milton connnect this myth to the idea
of recovering truth?
- According to Milton, what three things always accompany
the desire to learn?
Passages for Identification in Areopagitica
A. He who kills a man
kills a reasonable creature, God's image; but he who destroys
a good book, kills reason itself, kills the image of God,
as it were, in the eye.
B. Good and evil we knowin
the field of this world grow up together almost inseparably;
and the knowledge of good is so involved and interwoven
with the knowledge of evil, and in so many cunning resemblences
hardly to be discerned.
C. Truth is compared in
scripture to a streaming fountain; if her waters flow not
in perpetual progression, they sicken into a muddy pool
of conformity and tradition.
D. The sad friends of
Truth, such as durst appear, imitating the careful search
that Isis made for the mangled body of Osiris, went up and
down gathering up limb by limb still as they could find
them. We have not found them all.
E. Where there is much
desire to learn, there of necessity will be much arguing,
much writing, many opinions; for opinion in good men is
but knowledge in the making.
- Paradise Lost Book
- What does the title of Paradise Lost refer
to? (What event or biblical story?)
- In the opening lines of Paradise Lost, what
does Milton say the theme of his work is?
- What muse does Milton invoke as his inspiration?
- What, according to the end of the first paragraph stanza,
is Milton's mission or purpose in writing this poem?
- The opening of the poem takes place after what rebellion
or war? What is the setting?
- How long have the characters being lying vanquished
in the fiery gulf since their participation in the war?
- Describe some of the features of hell (either in terms
of landscape or general imagery) EXCEPT FOR FIRE
that are visible to the demons.
- What demon is floating alongside Satan in the fiery
lake at the beginning of the poem?
- What change of battle plan does Satan propose to Beelzebub
as part of their struggle against God? If they can't attack
God directly, what should the demons do, according to
- Why is Beelzebub reluctant to continue the fight? What
does he fear might happen if they continue to war against
- Where does Satan redirect Beelzebub to continue their
discussion in greater comfort?
- Describe Satan's size as he floats in the fiery water.
What are some of the epic similes used to illustrate his
bulk in lines 200-225? What images imply his huge size
when his weaponry and armor is discussed in lines 282-300?
- In the catalog of demons, several of the listed demons
appear in the Old Testament as foreign gods. One is Dagon.
What is the story of Dagon in 1 Samuel 5:2?
- Which demon is assigned the task of standard bearer
and carries Satan's imperial ensign into battle on top
of a glittering staff? This ensign or battle-standard
is emblazed with "gems and golden luster" and
its image is like "a meteor streaming to the wind"
in lines 336-39. Why is the symbol of a falling star an
appropriate battle-standard for Satan's armies?
- When Satan calls out to the army, they immediately form
ranks "in perfect phalanx to the Dorian mood."
What ancient culture are these demonic soldiers imitating
in their martial display of helmets, shields, and spears?
(I.e., in what earlier literature did we find fighters
dressed like this for combat?) How does this connect to
the genre of Paradise Lost, or how is it an homage
to the original literary works that inspired Milton?
- In lines 571-90, what is Satan's first emotional reaction
to seeing this huge show of support and obedience?
- Where does Satan have scars on his body? What was the
source of these scars according to that line discussing
- In lines 604-08, what is Satan's second emotional reaction
to seeing his men's loyalty?
- Satan tries three times to give a speech to his troops,
but three times, he stops. What interrupts him or prevents
- When Satan speaks to the fallen troops, in lines 640-43,
who does he blame for "tempting" him and the
other angels into rebellion? What did this being do (or
perhaps--not do) that supposedly tricked or tempted
"our attempt [at rebellion], and wrought our fall"?
- When Satan ends his opening address to the army, what
physical display do the soldiers make to show their support
of Satan and their defiance of God?
- What building material does Mammon suggest the demons
should use to build a new city in hell? Where do they
find or extract this material?
- Who is the demonic architect that designs the walls,
towers, battlements, and gates of hell?
- At the end of book 1, what do the demons do to their
bodies in order to fit inside the buildings and meeting
places they have built?
- Paradise Lost Book
- At the opening of the Book IX excerpt,
Satan is no longer in hell. What is the setting now?
- Contrast Satan's initial question and
Eve's response with the same versions in the Bible. In
what way has Eve changed or added to God's original commandment?
- What proof does Satan offer to Eve that
she can defy God, touch the fruit, and still live? (i.e.,
who else does the serpent claim has touched and tasted
the fruit before her?)
- Why or how does Satan say knowledge
of Good and Evil will help Eve (if Evil is real)?
- What does Satan claim is God's motivation
in withholding the fruit in lines 703-04?
- In lines 710-14, Satan argues that if
she dies, that death is limited only what "proportion"
(i.e., part) of her? Once that part has died, what "part"
will Eve put on?
- In lines 781 onward, Eve bites into
the fruit. How does the earth and nature react? How does
this connect to the Renaissance idea of the Chain of Being?
- In lines 825-33, Eve resolves to share
the fruit with Adam. What is her stated motivation for
- What is Adam's emotional reaction to
Eve's trespass (lines 889-95)?
- In lines 904-16, Adam states he cannot
live without Eve and he will not be parted either in bliss
or woe. What is Milton implying about Adam's motivation
in eating the fruit? How is this motivation "better"
or "worse" than the motivation Milton gives
- In lines 939-50, Adam tries to rationalize
his way out of punishment. What does he find unthinkable
- In line 999, what trait of Eve overcomes
Adam's better judgment?
- Paradise Lost Book
- At the opening of the Book XII, whom
is Adam addressing?
- What question does Adam want answered
at the opening of Book XII?
- In line 290, what is the primary limitation
to law? (i.e., what can it do and what can't law do?)
- What future events does Michael explain
to Adam? (List one or two)
- Though the Angel warns Adam he must
leave "this Paradise" and enter the harsh world
in lines 586-88, where will humanity find a "happier
- Adam is informed of the future by speaking
face-to-face with an angel. How is Eve informed of the
- With what event does Book Book XII end?
How is that ending a new beginning?
Quotations for Identification from Paradise Lost
(Be able to identify what work these quotations come from,
what the author is, what character (if any) is speaking,
and briefly comment upon the quotations significance or
importance in the work:
A: Of man's first disobedience, and the
fruit / Of that forbidden tree, whose mortal taste / Brought
death into the world, and all our woe, / With loss of Eden,
til one greater Man / Restore us, and regain the blissful
seat, / Sing heavenly Muse. . . .What in me is dark / Illumine,
what is low raise and support; / That to the highth of this
great argument / I may assert eternal providence, / And
justify the ways of God to men.
B: "All is not lost; the unconquerable
will, / And study of revenge, immortal hate, / And courage
never to submit or yield: And what is else not to be overcome?
/ That glory never shall his wrath or might / Extort form
C: "Fallen Cherub, to be weak is
miserable. / Doing or suffering: but ofthis be sure, / To
do aught good never will be our task, / But ever to do ill
our sole delight, / As being contrary to his high will /
Whom we resist."
D: "The mind is its own place, and
in itself / Can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven.
What [does it] matter where, if I be still the same?"
E: "Here we may reign secure, and
in my choice / To reign is worth ambition, though in hell:
/ Better to reign in hell than serve in heaven."
F. For spirits when they please / Can
either sx assume, or both; so soft / And uncompounded is
their essence pure, / Not tied or manacled with joint or
limb, / Nor founded on the brittle strength of bones.
G. . . . But his face / Deep scars of
thunder had intrenched, and care / Sat on his faded cheek,
but under brows / Of dauntless courage, and considerate
pride/ Waiting revenge. Cruel his eyes, but cast signs of
remorse and passion to behold / The fellows of his crime,
the followers rather / (Far other once beheld in bliss),
condemned / For ever now to have their lot in pain.
H. "How can I live without thee,
how forgo / Thy sweet converse and love so dearly joined,
/ To live again in these wild woods forlorn? / Should God
create another Eve, and I / Another rib afford, yet loss
of thee / Would never from my heart; no, no! I feel / The
link of nature draw me: flesh of flesh, / Bone of my bone,
thou art, and from they state / Mine never shall be parted,
bliss or woe."
I. "Nor can I think that God, Creator
wise, /Through threatening, will in earnest so destroy /
Us his prime creatures, dignified so high, / Set over all
his works, which in our fall, / For us created, needs with
us must fail, /, Dependent made; so God shall uncreate /
Be frustrate, do, undo, and labor lose, / Not well conceived
J. "Then wilt thou not be loth /
To leave this Paradise, but shalt possess / A Paradise within
thee, happier far."
K. . . . whereat / In either hand, the
hastening angel caught / Our lingering parents, and to the
eastern gate / Led them direct, and down the cliff as fast/
To the subjected plain; then disappeared. / They looking
back, all the eastern side beheld / Of paradise, so late
their happy seaat, /Waved over by that flaming brand, the
gate / With dreadful faces thronged and fiery arms./ Some
natural tears they dropped, but wiped them soon; / The world
was all before them, where to choose, /Their place of rest,
and Providence their guide. / They hand in hand with wandering
steps and slow, / Through Eden took their solitary way.