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Summary

John Milton's Paradise Lost is one of the greatest epic poems in the English language. It tells the story of the Fall of Man, a tale of immense drama and excitement, of rebellion and treachery, of innocence pitted against corruption, in which God and Satan fight a bitter battle for control of mankind's destiny. The struggle rages across three worlds - heaven, hell, and earth - as Satan and his band of rebel angels plot their revenge against God. At the center of the conflict are Adam and Eve, who are motivated by all too human temptations but whose ultimate downfall is unyielding love.

Marked by Milton's characteristic erudition, Paradise Lost is a work epic both in scale and, notoriously, in ambition. For nearly 350 years, it has held generation upon generation of audiences in rapt attention, and its profound influence can be seen in almost every corner of Western culture.

Public Domain (P)2009 Tantor

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An awe-inspiring book read flawlessly by SV

Having been enthralled by the myths of Vikings and of ancient Greece and Rome, I always suspected that Christianity had a bit more to offer than the limp moralising stories I encountered at school and through the Venerable Bede. Not only have I found this in Paradise Lost, which has now taken the place as my favourite piece of mythology, but I would say this is one of the greatest books I have ever read.

Almost everything is perfect. From the start, with Satan crashing headlong into hell, I was gripped. Milton takes what I always considered a bland and tedious subject matter, the fall of man, and turns it into a romping story with cataclysmic battles, horrific monsters and disarmingly human characters. I recognised myself in Adam and Eve, and indeed in Satan, who is portrayed as a complex but understandable evil. The writing is breathtaking and leaves me, an atheist, in the awkward position of finding it perfectly plausible that it was, as Milton claimed, divinely inspired. Every line is a treat. The scenes he spins are as clear and dazzling, or as dark and terrifying as the subject matter. And this is story with a purpose too. Milton tackles some of the deepest questions about what it is to be human with a clear and persuasive logic.

It angers me that a story as deeply affecting as this has to, according to the leaders of many religions, be taken not as allegory but as fact. It is clear that Christianity, or at least Milton’s interpretation of it, has a lot to offer. I found myself struck by the relevance of many of the themes. But do we really have to tie in rules that say we have to believe in holy ghosts and heavenly kingdoms? It seems like such a pointless waste.

Though this is not to say that I was comfortable with everything presented. Foremost, the role of women, weaker and subservient to men. I looked hard for some saving graces in the text, but while Eve has depth, ultimately I found the messages about women uncomfortably antiquated. Secondly, the chastisement of those seeking knowledge. It really does reek of the tools used by rulers to oppress their subjects and stifle curiosity. I take the point that there are limits to what we can and should explore, but without our thirst for knowledge we wouldn’t have made such leaps in medicine, and helped save the lives or alleviate the suffering for so many people. If human life is as precious as Christianity makes out, the angels should be singing Hallelujah at these advances in science, not ticking people off for daring to probe deeper.

I also inevitably got confused at Milton’s dense poetic verse from time to time, but this comes with the terrain and certainly shouldn’t put anybody off. It’s Shakespearean in style, with all the benefits and challenges that brings, but with the summaries, the “arguments”, at the start of each book, I never got bamboozled for too long. I must also confess now that I cheated a little in “reading” the audiobook, but epic verse like this was made to be read aloud, and Simon Vance’s narration is, as ever, flawless.

A staggering achievement in literature and one of the best pieces of writing I’ve ever encountered, even with my reservations about some of the messages embedded in the subject matter, I still consider this one of the greatest and most enjoyable books I have ever read.

4 of 5 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
  • Tony McClung
  • 21-02-10

The most accessible reading of Paradise Lost

Simon Vance's pace and tone are excellent, infusing the verse with appropriate dramatic tones.

Naturally, the book is a classic. However, I never thought listening to Milton would be so rewarding.


30 of 32 people found this review helpful

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  • Corvin Rok
  • 19-02-16

brilliant and beautiful

a masterpiece of the English language. Milton is the modern Homer and has crafted a poetic epic the scale and import of the Iliad.

7 of 7 people found this review helpful

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  • John
  • 19-11-16

Solid performance

Simon Vance always does a tremendous job. The poem itself can be dull at times, but the last few books of it were intense and vivid. It is a difficult read, but if you're into the subject matter, I would recommend

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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  • Amanda D
  • 05-02-15

Wonderfully read audiobook.

This reading does justice to Milton's great poem.
I highly recommend it for those interested in Milton or already fans.

10 of 11 people found this review helpful

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  • Marie
  • 14-06-17

Worthwhile purchase

If you're interested in Paradise Lost, then you should already know what you're in for. It's not the most riveting story in the world. This performance doesn't do much to help that; the voice is monotone and may put you to sleep. But I found the voice clear and easy to understand (because it emphasizes all the right parts in Milton's convoluted syntax, it's easier to follow than reading in print). And the audiobook was a good recording -- no weird volume changes and a steady pace. Overall I'd say it was a good purchase and I'd buy it again.

9 of 10 people found this review helpful

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  • Mitchell Zimmerman
  • 06-11-16

Beautiful and intelligent reading

Milton's complex lines are read with articulate care, rendering even the most convoluted stanzas clear to the listener and drawing out their unique beauty effortlessly

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • NYC Amazon buyer
  • 26-01-18

Brilliant, illuminating reading

Never was a fan of the poem before, but between teaching it to outstanding students at my school, and Simon Vance’s superlative performance, I’m a convert. Vance does an extraordinarily deft job of balancing erudition, elegance and poetic instinct; a wonderfully sensitive read by the perfect voice for this work.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Rodney cron
  • 08-05-15

I love this book.

Paradise Lost is written in Old English fashion and the only way to enjoy it completely is to listen to it with a narrator that can capture that certain finesse. I would highly recommend it.

7 of 8 people found this review helpful

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  • danielnewhouse
  • 11-10-18

gripping

Only one voice actor is only downside. I haven't finished it yet, but this is a summary

stygian counsel? Lucifer's stygian counsel
Amalech, Esmadi, Ariel, Ariach, Ramiel, misrok, and zophiel (7)


angel Uriel, one of 7 guardians of God the father is sent to talk to Lucifer. This is a peace envoy.


Gabrielle speaks to God the father as if God the father isn't sure she loves him.


Lucifer - Paradise Lost refers to him as the apostate
the sun is briefly spoken to by Lucifer as if she were an angel, she is uninterested. Her name is Alfina.
the air is disembowled. Alarming metaphor.

Michael leads the army of heaven along with Gabrielle according to Raphael.

The battle is in question until the Messiah arrives on the 3rd day.

Abdiel is the angel that sees Lucifer at the head of his army and pontificates that he is beginning to look demonic.

Raphael and Uriel on either wing fight Amalech and Esmadi and vanquish them.

God, the father calls the sky the firmament.

That earth now seamed like to heaven.

It is God, the father who tells Adam not to eat the fruit of Knowledge from the tree.

God the father says to the son, now I will make man in our image. Adam was made from dust. In God the father's own image he
created Adam and he became a living soul.

Adam refers to God, the father as Jehovah.

Jehovah makes Eve from Adam's rib.
Satan fled before the threats of Gabrielle.


God, the father envies Adam and Eve's conjugal love.

Lucifer talks about how much he loves Eve.

"Scipio the height of Rome."

It's the fruit of a particular tree that Eve may not eat.

Adam and Eve eat the apple and Adam gives a speech of now knowing good and evil.

For the first time they feel shame. So they find leaves to sew and gird themselves. It sounds like they are concerned more
with their sanitary condition than bodily embarassment.

God, the son, "For dust though art, and to dust though shall return."

The achangel Michael shows Adam visions of the future including Cain's treachery.

As the archangel Michael describes the future I start headbanging to "Before the War."

Adam shall endure punishment by living a reproachful life and cursed death.

analysis:
Uriel, I was once told my Mike Gualtieri that Uriel is the son of Lucifer. Jehovah sends him to entreat with Lucifer not to rebel. See the movie Legend. Uriel is concerned that Gabrielle will cast him out of heaven if something goes wrong, and I don't remember what it is.

The reason Alfina turned down Lucifer is that she was already wed to the archangel Michael. The archangel Michael who leads heaven's army is their son.

Eve created asexually? Jehovah wants to make sure that they like each other, after Lucifer's failure to find a bride.

This story implies the archangel Michael decides whether marriages are honored in heaven. It also implies that if marriage fails so does Christianity.

tips "I am who I am" is what the archangel Michael says if you meet him. His ability to have visions of the future confuses people who expect other people to be capable of doing it.

"I am that I am" is Jehovah.

"I am where I am" is God, the son.

Now I remember the meaning of the interface between Uriel and Lucifer. This replaces a very bad analysis. God, the father can see a future in which one of the seven guardians of time, Illyria, is destroyed, and hopes that Gabrielle will side with the law.

Some of these name are like titles. Satan's real name is JOJ "Swoop." I prefer to call him "Lucifer" out of memory of what he was.

Now I just realized, Uriel is "El", the creator.

For related stories that are reprises of the war in heaven try Jeremiah Johnson/Mountain Man and the Nutcracker.

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  • Bill Hill
  • 03-09-18

A little disappointing

Simon Vance's voice and clear diction are, as always, wonderful but greater distinction in the voicing of the different characters would have made the story easier to follow.