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Thread: Paradise Lost: A good place to keep notes

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    Quack! Patito de Hule's Avatar
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    Paradise Lost: A good place to keep notes

    This seems to be a good place to keep notes as I read Paradise Lost. If you wish, feel free to comment.

    I will be reading from the Riverside Milton.

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    The first 83 lines are addressed to "The Muse" and constitute a prologue to the poem, setting forth the theme and stating the premises of the first book. The theme will be

    Of Man's first disobedience, and the fruit
    Of that forbidden tree

    The Riverside edition says "disobedience" will be the subject of the epic; "first" implies that there will be many more.

    The coming of one "greater man" is announced; he will restore us, sinful man, to Eden. (lines 4-5)

    The Muse whom the poet addresses is not identified here. Riverside suggests that Milton wants us to identify the Muse with the Godhead, but that he will later name the Muse Urania, the Muse of Astronomy. That seems appropriate since the poem is based on the Christian understanding of Jewish cosmology. From line 17, "And chiefly Thou, O Spirit..." seems to confirm this idea.

    Lines 27 ff begin the story of the temptation and fall -- that first disobedience. In lines 34 ff, we back up even more.

    . . . He it was, whose . . .
    . . . Pride . . .
    Had cast him out from Heav'n with all his host (l 37)
    Of rebel angels by whose aid
    Aspiring to set himself up in glory above his peers

    He's setting this guy up to be the protagonist, an antihero of Cosmic proportions. Antiheroes like Raskolnikov will pale before this one. Mark my words. "He trusted to have equaled the most High / if he opposed." But by line 44 he gets defeated.

    He lies there at the bottom of the bottomless pit, "the Abyss" for nine days. This, mind you, is before the beginning of time. There he lies fuming in

    Regions of Sorrow, doleful shades, where peace
    And rest can never dwell, hope never comes
    That comes to all;
    lines 65-67

    But now the plot thickens.

    One next himself in power, and next in crime,
    Long after known in Palestine, and nam'd
    Beelzebub.

    So the prologue ends with Satan beginning a conversation with Beelzebub. It is worth noting that in Milton (and other medieval writers) the arch-demons became the many gods of the Palestinians. <i>Be'el ha-zebub</i> means "Lord of the flies."

    So much for the prologue.

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    Quack! Patito de Hule's Avatar
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    I haven't given up. I'm shopping for a used edition that I don't mind scribbling in. The next section of the epic is the conversation between Satan and Beelzebub. I intend to make notes on the entire conversation instead of several tiny bites.

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    Registered User the_hibernator's Avatar
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    Thumbs up Coming Soon

    Hello Rubber Ducky! I will be starting the Norton Critical Edition of Paradise Lost soon, and will keep notes with you.

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    Registered User the_hibernator's Avatar
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    NOTES ON THE INTRODUCTION BY DAVID HAWKES (in Barnes and Noble edition)

    During the time building up to the writing of Paradise Lost, the "free market" concept was emerging. In this system, land was being taken away from peasants and their labor was being exchanged for money. This emerging free market system seemed like objectification of labor, as if the laborers were "signs" or "symbols." This system seemed idolatrous to Milton.

    Henry VIII separated from the Roman Catholic Church so he could get a divorce, but he disliked many of the Protestant ways, so the Anglican church was more similar to the Roman Catholic Church than Puritans were comfortable with. They wanted to be free of religious practices they viewed as idolatrous.

    Meanwhile, the new market economy provided a means for non-gentlemen to get money, so the structure of the English society was breaking apart. Charles I kept trying to get Parliament's consent to raise taxes, but Parliament insisted on economic or religious reformation as stipulations. Therefore, Charles I increased taxes without Parliament's consent (around 1640). In 1642, Charles I needed to raise an army to quell the rebellion in Ireland, but Parliament didn't trust him. Charles I left London and raised his army in Oxford, which initiated civil war. This is when Milton emerged into history. He considered the "free market" and legitimization of usury to be idolatrous. He wrote many political pamphlets about his views.

    Paradise Lost is about idolatry of Satan. It could even be viewed as a prophecy of today's world, in which everything is represented as a symbol (think of virtual reality and the internet). To Milton, even viewing our perception of the world as reality was idolatrous. We forget that, through the filters of our human minds, we can not perceive the truth as it really is.

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