Friday, December 5, 2014

BOOK REVIEW | Paradise Regained by John Milton

Paradise Regained, while not at the same level of rhetoric and literacy as Paradise Lost, does offer an interesting insight into Jesus' temptation in the wilderness. Milton uses language in order to assert Jesus as the Messiah, and Satan as an agent of evil, which is being used by God, to help that assertion. Paradise Regained is largely static. There is no real rise and fall of tension and there is no real climax, either. Rather, all of the stress is placed on the importance of language and silence.

When comparing Satan and Jesus' speeches, there is an immediate difference: Satan's speech is clouded in "persuasive rhetoric," whereas everything that Jesus says is plain and accessible. Jesus does not need fancy language in order to convey His message. Instead of trying to make Himself more confusing, the Messiah takes language back to its roots and uses it as Adam did (in a way that would be able to communicate with God directly) by keeping it as simple and as close to God as He can.

In his brilliant essay, "The Muting of Satan: Language and Redemption in Paradise Regained," Steven Goldsmith argues that the language Jesus is using is not the same as the language Satan is using. Rather than stay silent while Satan tempts Him, Jesus uses the fallen language in order to thwart Satan and beat him at his own game. In the process of using this language, Jesus is paving His way towards becoming the Messiah by silencing Satan so that His voice will be heard. Underneath all of Satan's fancy word plays lays absolutely nothing. He is the "linguistic anti-christ," who "has nothing to express."

Jesus finally asserts Himself as Messiah and readies Himself to be "all in all" with God towards the end of the poem:

"To whom thus Jesus: Also it is written,
Tempt not the Lord they God, he said and stood.
But Satan smitten with amazement fell."

At first glance, it is easy to see that Jesus and Satan are opposites: one is standing and the other is falling. However, the fact that Jesus "said and stood" is important. It parallels God's perfect speech during the creation of the world: "God said... and there was." This is the pinnacle of the poem - the point where Christ has officially triumphed over Satan and can now go public as Messiah. Satan is allowed to roam the fallen world and has even created a kingdom of his own in Hell and in the sky (according to Milton) where he perversely "blesses" people with wealth, glory, etc. Jesus has to enter the fallen world and first silence its biggest voice before He can redeem it.

"Queller of Satan, on thy glorious work
Now enter, and begin to save mankind."

According to Goldsmith, "the process of verification that is the purpose of Paradise Regained has been accomplished." By using language, Milton paralleled Jesus' own entrance into the world as Messiah by silencing Satan and glorifying Christ.

While I still believe this is not nearly as fascinating as Paradise Lost (and is also much shorter), it's still well worth the read if you've read the former. They really are two parts of a whole. Satan's temptation of Christ not only mimics his temptation of Eve, but it is also referenced throughout the entire poem whenever he feels foiled. This is the finale to Paradise Lost.


  1. I haven't read Paradise Regained yet, Jules, but it's been on my TBR since we read Paradise Lost in class a few years ago :)
    Have a great weekend!

    Lexxie @ (un)Conventional Bookviews

    1. Oh, I'm still finishing Paradise Lost! xD (I had to read this one first since my presentation was on it.) If you do read it, I hope you like it!

  2. Great review! Paradise Lost and Paradise Regained are on my TBR list. Those two I'll read in French because I'm sure that if I read it in English I won't be able to understand the full meaning of the story. From the quotes you've posted it seems to be written in Old English with "thy" instead of "you". My understanding of English isn't there yet, lol.

    1. It's written in Middle English. Heck, if it were written in Old English, I wouldn't understand what the heck was going on! LOL! I've seen Chaucer's original writing and I couldn't even read it, hahaha. Language has evolved so far. When you read them, let me know what you think! :-)

  3. I think I might give this one another go. I had to read some passages for my English Literature class last year but I was so burned because of all the things I had to study that I basically read it without paying much attention. I think is time to change that. Great Review!

    1. Haha, it's a weird one, tbh. I was waaaaaay more interested in Paradise Lost than I was in Paradise Regained, but I think that the essay I mentioned (and I read a few others) really saved it for me because I understood why the language was so dry, which is why I wanted to put it out there so people might like this more. xD Thanks! :)