Milton I, II, & III – Paradise Lost

Essay Questions:
Choose one of the following topics for your essay on Books One, Two, and Three of Paradise Lost:
(1) Milton juxtaposes light and darkness throughout PL and there are stark contrasts between the light of heaven in Book Three and the “darkness visible” in Books One and Two.  Compose an essay where you explore what Milton might be trying to achieve with all his references to light and darkness in these three books.  One thing you may want to keep in mind is that, by the time he composed PL, Milton was completely blind.  You may want to think about what losing “light” and vision to a writer like Milton would mean to him.  Also, you may want to consider what light and darkness symbolize.
(2) One of the critical issues surrounding PL is the idea of the felix culpa.  Translated from the Latin, this term literally means “the fortunate fault [or fall]” and expresses the idea that man’s fall from grace into sin was a fortunate event because it allowed for the grace of God to manifest itself fully through the ultimate sacrifice of his son for mankind’s redemption.  In this way, the character of Satan actually serves God’s purpose because Satan provides the catalyst for mankind to sin.  If you agree with this argument and would like to write an essay on this topic, be sure to draw quotes from Books One and Two in addition to the more obvious source, Book Three.
(3) Upon first reading PL, readers often associate Satan in Books One and Two with heroism.  A closer reading however, proves that Milton’s intent was not to create a heroic Satan but rather a character whose fallacies and deceit create contempt.  Point out some of the passages and/or elements of the text that may lead readers to interpret Satan as heroic and then contradict this interpretation.  Be sure to include Christ from Book Three because he serves as Satan’s antithesis.

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