Incendiaryrose's Reviews > Paradise Lost

Paradise Lost by John Milton
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U 50x66
's review
Apr 24, 2008

it was ok
bookshelves: finished-classics
Read in April, 2008

I hope no fan of Milton ever reads this review. And if you are a fan of Milton, go find one of many other reviews that will be a little better to your liking.

Had I read this book with the perspective of a student, or perhaps even as a potential instructor, I suspect my view of the twelve-book poem would have been far more favorable. As it was, I did not. Rather I read it as myself, a person who is rather sarcastic and critical of most things, but especially continuity errors.

I found myself stumbling not on the poetry, but on such things as the lengthy description of the pantheon of pandemonium being made with mined gold, wrought with comments on greed and how all those who look for such riches are doomed. This is impressed rather heavily, to be followed by the sun being made with gold and precious gems, heaven being full of similar wealth, and even Christ's chariot of 'sparkles dire' is studded with precious stones and capped with a sapphire throne (book six, line 750 starts you off on the description of the chariot).

Were I reading this as a student, I could probably make excuses for the different standards of wealth. I could probably even attempt to justify why Adam and Eve seem to gain absolutely nothing from eating the fruit of knowledge. Adam says often beforehand how working in the garden is good. They are told of Satan's presence in the garden and recognize this as being something to fear. Thus, they know of good and evil. After the fruit, the only alteration is a lustful interlude, to be followed by argument over it. Another angelic intervention where they are told everything to come, and they wander away in sorrowful hope. The Angels are thus the ones who are conveyors of knowledge, not the fruit of knowledge. And so, with Milton, it might as well be the Fruit of Lust and Damnation.

As it stands, and as I have read it, Paradise Lost was not what I would call an enjoyable work. I find no great epiphanies in it, or divine inspiration. I find a great deal of misogyny and even more references to classical myths that, if I didn't know it was perfectly fine in Milton's time to interweave Christianity and Greco-Roman myth, I would find a bit off. In total, it read like a rather bad biblical fanfiction with heavy crossover.

That being said, Paradise Lost is still a good work to read. For even if it strains my patience and sarcasm, it also gives an excellent perspective on quite a few quotes and characterizations that were to come after. In a way, the book is less important than what people have done with it over the years.
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Comments (showing 1-4 of 4) (4 new)

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Jake “bad Biblical fan fiction” That line made me chuckle. I’d never thought of that angle. Nicely quipped!
Milton isn’t for everyone. Way to not submissively follow prevailing literary sentiments. Though I loved Paradise Lost, I found your observations interesting, and you gave me some food for thought.
By way of rebuttal, part of the popularity of this poem is that many readers regard it as more interesting and compelling than the Biblical version (which many of these same readers regard as “bad fiction”). True or not, the Biblical version is one of many pre-Milton versions. I believe Milton was just taking his turn, and happened to be a better poet than most. If you haven’t, try reading Lord Byron’s Cain and see how it pales compared to Milton’s epic.
You might also consider that ‘interweaving Greco-Roman myth with Christianity’ was a-okay all the way back to the first century AD. But let’s not get started on the Gospels.

Raven Loweframe You have a point - several in fact. Even though I really liked the poem - I have to admit that some elements did not sat well with me. And certainly, I would not have come to like it as I do without having to study it.

Although I think that the knowledge between God and Evil is tricky, even in the poem. Your comment prompts me to ask whether or not there is a difference between the knowledge that is imposed on Adam and Eve (I mean, they are told that Satan is evil, and thus should be feared). But Eve herself end up just like Sin, so this knowledge can be 'forgotten'. Contrary to the knowledge given by the tree, which I believe would be all encompassing.

Perhaps the thing with riches is a commentary on what can be called greed depending on who is concerned. Everything that Satan does HAS to be bad in some way - but the chariot is no problem. I have no clue what scholars make of it. But it might as well be a way for Milton to show his readers that riches is riches. And one is bound to think it's perfectly fine so long it belongs to the good ones.

I think I am rambling but your review actually made me want to go back to the poem and discuss it with others.

As for what you say at the end of your review, I think it's almost normal. Take Shakespeare: when he was alive, Marlowe was more successful - until he died. And it's only over time that Shakespeare became this monument of English literature, leaving all his contemporaries in the shadows - or nearly.

Matthew Bargas As it stands, and as I have read it, "Paradise Lost was not what I would call an enjoyable work" I agree. I kept asking myself "what the hell is he talking about?" (pun intended) through most of the work. It was too wordy and hard to follow. The story could easily have had the same content with much less wording.

message 4: by Yumna (last edited Dec 09, 2014 10:55PM) (new)

Yumna I couldn't help but give a hearty laugh at "In total, it read like a rather bad biblical fanfiction with heavy crossover". That's a wonderful way to put it.

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