Analysis of Books I and II of “Paradise Lost”

Updated November 26, 2021

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Analysis of Books I and II of “Paradise Lost” essay

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The critically acclaimed Paradise Lost by John Milton details the epic story of the fall of Satan and corruption of man. In his writing, John Milton crafts an in depth commentary of monarchical and democratic political systems and the behavioral tendencies that lead to their failure. In order to accurately communicate the ideas in this essay, it’s important to define what the term “universal” means in this context. For the purposes of this essay, universal means something widely exhibited in the modern western world, the failings of these systems being ambition and pride.

Milton’s political views and demonstration of political failings can be found in his book, Ready and Easy Way. In which, Milton said that a monarch, “will have little else to do but to bestow the eating and drinking of excessive dainties, a pompous face upon the superficial actings of the state”(p 1119). This statement is something that ultimately defines what monarchies are to Milton. This characterization shows that milton believes that monarchs are excessive and frivolous in their practices by the activities he cites, and that monarchs are useless, and are just dictatorial powers that ultimately do nothing as shown by the term, “superficial”. This view is shown throughout Paradise Lost. In line 263 of Book one it states, “Better to reign in Hell, than serve in Heav’n,” alludes to the fact that Heaven is a monarchy, and monarchies are decidedly flawed according to Milton.

Evidence of Milton’s dislike of monarchies is found within Paradise Lost. The line, “…Was by the command of God driven out of Heaven…” (Book I The Argument Line 6) shows a dictatorial nature to God’s dominion over heaven. Dictatorial tendencies are a glaring failing in monarchical system of governance. The dictatorial undertones in this quote come from the words “command” and “driven.” They have very aggressive, and not to be redundant, commanding natures. This is a universal failing in monarchical rule.

In Paradise Lost, God is described as being “imperious.” Imperious suggests a rather imperial type of rule, and imperialism most surely suggests incursion and subjugation, negative attributes. Once again it is shown that God’s will is rather corrupt and self serving, despite being king and creator of all. God ultimately accomplishes nothing at all except for the creation of beings for perhaps some sort of enjoyment or subjugation. The creation of angels to serve God is a rather useless notion and seems to be some pompous useless action. God is The Almighty and can do virtually anything, so why would he create a race of people simply to be subjected and used as nothing but slaves to carry out his will. The nature of this situation highlights the uselessness and terribleness of monarchy.

“The Tree of Knowledge” or “The Forbidden Tree” highlights the rather sadistic nature of a king who can do anything. The Tree of Knowledge was a tree placed within the Garden of Eden, the original birthplace of man. God said to Adam and Eve that the land and everything there was theirs, except for The Tree of Knowledge. Eventually, they had fruit from the tree of knowledge, and fell out of favor with The Lord. Often in politics leaders do not want their subjects to understand the full picture of their situation for one reason or another. In the case of God it’s because He believes He knows best. This highlights another failing of monarchical systems in the fact that it’s all down to the judgement of one. The judgement that knowledge is harmful and forbidden seems rather ridiculous and quite simply wrong from the standpoint of this essay.

In bold conspiracy against Heaven’s King,
All on a sudden miserable pain
Surprised thee, dim thine eyes and dizzy swum
In darkness, while thy head flames thick and fast
Threw forth, till on the left side opening wide,
Likest to thee in shape and countenance bright,
Then shining heavenly fair, a goddess armed,
Out of thy head I sprung. Amazement seized
All th’ host of Heaven; back they recoiled afraid
At first, and called me Sin, and for a sign
Portentous held me; but, familiar grown,
I pleased, and with attractive graces won
The most averse — thee chiefly, who, full oft
Thyself in me thy perfect image viewing,
Becam’st enamoured; and such joy thou took’st
With me in secret that my womb conceived (Book II Lines 751-766).

Lines 751-758 detail a physical manifestation of Satan’s original idea of “conspiracy against the Heavenly King”, this thought manifests itself into sin, the ultimate wrong. It seems rather corrupt that the first sin manifests from Satan’s conspiracy against God.

He trusted to have equalled the Most High,
If he opposed; and with ambitious aim
Against the throne and monarchy of God
Rais’d impious war in Heav’n and battle proud,(Book I Lines 40 to 44)

From these lines we can come to understand that sin comes from ambition and pride, Satan simply thought to put it simply “I bet I’m better than this fellow” and that thought got him excommunictaed from Heaven along with his followers and this seems rather cruel to punish someone simply for being ambitious and prideful.

In Book II the great debate represents the flaw in democracy when ambition interferes with the system of democracy. Milton cleverly sets up what appears to be a democratic process among the angels in the great debate of Book II. He then suggests that this process is flawed by Satan’s ambition as he is ultimately selected as the leader of their decision.

Satan, whom now transcendent glory rais’d
Above his fellows, with monarchal pride
Conscious of highest worth, unmoved thus spake (Book II Lines 426-429)

The phrase “Conscious of highest worth, unmoved thus spake” characterizes satan as being both vain and better than the other angels. Satan believes in his utmost worth, but this is also reaffirmed by Milton himself, who writes the line about Satan’s supremacy. Thus Milton creates the idea that it is given that Satan will lead the revenge of the angels, given his, “transcendent glory raised / Above his fellows”. This shows a corruption in the democratic system that those who are destined to lead will overpower the system itself.

In Books I and II, Milton explores the flaws of both monarchy and democracy and the behavioral tendencies that lead to their failings. Single rule is immoral, and democracy is vulnerable to single rule by powerful and ambitious individuals. The tyrannical rule of God compels Satan to abuse comradery in order to establish his own tyranny.

Analysis of Books I and II of “Paradise Lost” essay

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Analysis of Books I and II of “Paradise Lost”. (2021, Nov 26). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/analysis-of-books-i-and-ii-of-paradise-lost/


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