Invitation to read Book IX of Paradise Lost
I just wondered who might be interested in reading Book IX. I mean going through it with more thoroughness than we've been using so far, and including not just the few of us that have been reading the whole work. It might be more rewarding to discuss one book at length rather than give it a cursory glance, even if that might mean only glimpsing the anticlimactic books X-XII.
Book IX is where the important action happens, without doubt. Milton tells us in his prologue to the book that the true epic action takes place here. He slights other epics by saying they just tell us battle after battle and not important maters. He may here be reflecting on his own performance in the cartoonish Book VI war in heaven. At any rate, he tells us he's going to recast the epic form as one of psychological action and thematic depth. I believe he does make good on his boast. Book IX is a bravura performance dramatically and artistically. The psychological detail shows his close attention to Shakespeare, and for readers there is throughout an ironic distance between us and the characters that is interesting to note. And whether we are fundamentalist Christians or atheists, I think the drama catches us; we do become invested in the plight of the characters regardless of our acceptance of Christian belief. The book also makes us see the value of having such a myth as the Garden of Eden.