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Paradise Lost by John Milton - Barron's Booknotes
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LINES 25-83. THE SCENE IN HELL

The Holy Spirit is asked to begin the story by naming the cause of mankind's fall. That of course is Satan, the first character we meet. Milton has told us in the Argument that the poem "hastes into the midst of things," because this too is a classical storytelling device. We begin with Satan in Hell nine days after he lost the War in Heaven, which would be just about the midpoint of the story if it were told chronologically. We shall go forward and backward to hear how and why he rebelled and fought against God.



This kind of storytelling is quite familiar to us from flashbacks in movies, plays, and TV drama. In fact, the first book of Paradise Lost is the dramatic hook which gets you interested, so that you will want to find out what happened and why. In the flickering flames of a burning lake (a contradiction which symbolizes the chaos of Hell) we barely see Satan as he slowly becomes conscious of what has happened to him and how far he is now from Heaven, where he had hoped to reign.

He is accompanied by a vast number of followers, one-third of all the angels in Heaven. Next to him is Beelzebub, his trusted second-in- command. Beelzebub hasn't got the same fire for revenge as Satan. He expresses the despair which you might expect from a defeated angel who has been banished forever from Heaven. Nevertheless he is always loyal to Satan and accepts his leadership without question.

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