Places: Paradise Regained

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

First published: 1671

Type of work: Poetry

Type of plot: Epic

Time of work: First century

Asterisk denotes entries on real places.

Places Discussed*Judaea

*Judaea. Paradise RegainedDesert region east of Jerusalem, near the Dead Sea, where Jesus goes to be baptized in the Jordan River. Baptism gives him an overpowering sense of mission to proclaim the kingdom of God the Father, and he spends forty days wandering through the Judaean wilderness, absorbing the new reality. Afterward Satan accosts Jesus and tries to tempt him three times. The first temptation is to feed himself by turning a stone into bread or by accepting delicacies conjured up out of thin air. The second is to prepare himself for his new mission by acquiring the powers of a world ruler. For this temptation, Satan takes Jesus to a mountaintop from which they can see every place in the ancient world.


*Parthia. Mesopotamian territory in what is now northeastern Iran; the center of the Parthian Empire, which overran Israel briefly during the first century b.c.e. Looking east, over Parthia, from the mountaintop, Satan tempts Jesus with all the glory of the Asian king. He includes military victories that would place Jesus among such heroes of later ages as Charlemagne. He also suggests that Jesus can reunite the ten lost tribes of Israel, now scattered over the area. Jesus rejects this offer by saying that his time has not yet come.


*Rome. Largest city in Italy and center of the vast Roman Empire at the time Jesus was alive. Looking west from the mountaintop, Satan points toward Rome and its Capitol building, in which senators and other officials plan the fate of an empire reaching all the way to Britain. Jesus rejects this, too, saying that God’s kingdom will be far more permanent.


*Athens. Principal city of ancient Greece and center of intellectual activity in the ancient world. The final temptation that Satan offers to Jesus is the intellectual attainments of ancient philosophy and literature, and he points toward Athens to call attention to the Academy of Plato, the Lyceum of Aristotle, and the Stoa of Zeno and other Stoic philosophers. He suggests that learning of this sort can make Jesus a ruler over himself. Jesus rejects even this offer, countering that his own Jewish culture has plenty of thought and beauty.


*Jerusalem. City situated on a hill in Judaea that is the center of religious life for the Jewish people. After Jesus spurns every sort of power–physical, political, and intellectual–Satan suggests that he has no place in the world. He then leads Jesus to the pinnacle of the Temple of Jerusalem, suggesting that Jesus throw himself off its top and let the angels decide what to do next. Again Jesus resists, knowing that he must let God direct his life.


*Nazareth. City in Galilee, a province north of Judaea that is home to Mary, the mother of Jesus. As Satan begins tempting Jesus, Milton imagines Mary in Nazareth worrying about her son. After Satan makes his last offer, he has Jesus return privately to his mother’s house.

Sources for Further StudyFixler, Michael. Milton and the Kingdoms of God. Evanston, Ill.: Northwestern University Press, 1964. Examines Paradise Regained in the historical, religious, political, and literary contexts of Milton’s life and works. It is particularly valuable in exploring the Puritan dilemma after the failure of their revolution.Lewalski, Barbara K. The Life of John Milton: A Critical Biography. Oxford, England: Blackwell, 2000. A full and detailed biography of Milton by a scholar who has written on Paradise Regained.Lewalski, Barbara K. Milton’s Brief Epic. Providence, R.I.: Brown University Press, 1966. A magisterial treatment of the religious background of Paradise Regained, with particular attention to the Book of Job and its historical interpretation.Mayer, Joseph G. Between Two Pillars: The Hero’s Plight in “Samson Agonistes” and “Paradise Regained.” Lanham, Md.: University Press of America, 2004. A study of Paradise Regained and Samson Agonistes (1671) as poems about temptation and the development of the heroes.Pope, Elizabeth Anne. “Paradise Regained”: The Tradition and the Poem. New York: Russell and Russell, 1962. A helpful examination of the poem through the religious commentaries, legends, and sermons familiar to Milton and his original readers.Stein, Arnold. Heroic Knowledge: An Interpretation of “Paradise Regained” and “Samson Agonistes.” Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1957. An intelligent, free-ranging series of essays on Milton’s major late works as dramatic poems and the problems they present.Wittreich, Joseph Anthony. Calm of Mind. Cleveland, Ohio: Case Western Reserve University Press, 1971. A collection of valuable critical studies on Paradise Regained and Samson Agonistes, including issues in their interpretation.
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