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Paradise Lost (Penguin Classics) Paperback – 27 Feb 2003
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"In this landmark edition, teachers will discover a powerful ally in bringing the excitement of Milton's poetry and prose to new generations of students."--William C. Dowling, Rutgers University"This magnificent edition gives us everything we need to read Milton intelligently and with fresh perception."--William H. Pritchard, Amherst College
In "Paradise Lost" Milton produced poem of epic scale, conjuring up a vast, awe-inspiring cosmos and ranging across huge tracts of space and time. And yet, in putting a charismatic Satan and naked Adam and Eve at the center of this story, he also created an intensely human tragedy on the Fall of Man. Written when Milton was in his fifties - blind, bitterly disappointed by the Restoration and briefly in danger of execution - "Paradise Lost's" apparent ambivalence towards authority has led to intense debate about whether it manages to 'justify the ways of God to men', or exposes the cruelty of Christianity.See all Product description
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I read it through lightly, as I am not versed in the classics, but was looking for inspiration from the poem for my own project. I got that in bucketloads and have since started my poem, having written over 1050 lines so far. It will take time but I will get there. Paradise Lost is a real journey, difficult at times, but so worth it. Essential reading.
This is a review of the Slipcase edition.
The value for your money with this hardcover edition is going to be hard to beat. I already had a paperback version of Paradise Lost and I was looking for a version that presented the contents with appropriate decoration. This edition makes the most of Gustave Dore's illustrations with an embossed picture on the front cover of the book. The slipcase itself is done nicely and is a small peak at what to expect. Once you remove the book you see the embosssd picture of one of Gustave Dore's illustrations and throughout the book all of his illustrations are printed very large on their own page.
I'd say this version is definitely for someone (like myself) who is already familiar with this poem and wants a deluxe presentation of it. However looking at the price of this book just being £10, which I cannot believe as this would easily pass for a book of £50 and considering the price of paperback editions if you are buying this poem for the first time you might as well buy this version and not bother with a cheap paperback.
Another hero is Adam who also becomes thoughtful and brave as he becomes older and develops. Eve is tricky as she is painted as the traditional, beautiful wife who gets into terrible trouble when she uses her initiative (and eats the apple). The portrait of Eve is shocking, in fact. No wonder women were repressed by men when they read this or the Old Testament. She was blamed for everything and was untrustworthy and, under pressure, slippery. (At one stage she blames Adam for having listened to her entreaties to let her go off alone and, as it worked out, to be tempted by the serpent.)
Anyway, this is an astounding tale with wonderful characterisation, put together by someone with great imagination and great rationality. It is hard to read, however. Milton was a great linguist and his Latin style influences the construction of his sentences.
Just to quote a little on Satan. After "the Arch-fiend lay/Chain'd on the burning lake", having left Heaven, he has to work out what to do and how to organise Hell as far as he can. He says that "The mind is its own place and in itself/Can make a Heav'n of Hell, a Hell of Heav'n". Later he tries to work out what doing evil means in practice, and so aims to create a system in which "Fate shall yield/ To fickle Chance, and CHAOS judge the strife". That is an interesting definition of Hell, in my view, and one that we do import to earth (in civil wars, extreme poverty and even in normal life).
This is ultimately a very optimistic work in many ways. For instance, the Angel Michael tells that fallen Adam that if he can feel love for others he "shalt possess a Paradise within thee" and that this could make him "happier farr" than just being in Paradise. Also, and this is easy to miss in the blandishments of the Testaments New and Old, man was created as a beautiful creature in the image of God. Adam and Eve seem "Lords of all" in Paradise.
To call it 'illustrated' is an insult to anyone capable of reading it; the text most worthy of illustration I personally, have ever read, painting pictures continuously before ones eyes is supplemented here by a landscape 19th.C. painting at the beginning of each chapter by artists such as Anton Hlavacek and Albert Bierstadt not to detract from their works in any way.
'Mustn't grumble', mind, @ 99p, worth every newpence and more.
I thought the introduction got terribly bogged down about different theories of interpretation of the text and suspect there are better ways of approaching Milton than it offered; however, the font size and layout of the poem itself was really good. Generous margins on both sides leave lots of room for notes to myself as I wade through Milton's dense verse, and the paper is nice for writing on with a strong, sharp pencil.
The footnotes tended to be of two types: either brief synonyms or modern equivalents of a word whose meaning has changed over the years, or brief explanations of allusions (mostly to either the Bible or Ovid). Sometimes, a summary of an obscure phrase or passage would have been helpful, but not often forthcoming.
Overall, this seems a good text for anyone who's of the calibre to be reading (or in a position to be assigned to read) the full text of Paradise Lost.