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A resource for studying Milton's Paradise Lost



Welcome to darkness visible


I remember the first time I read Paradise Lost. It was nearly a decade ago. I was fifteen and obsessively listening to 'Murder Ballads' by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, which opens with 'Song of Joy', the tale of a killer who 'quotes John Milton on the walls in the victims' blood'. At the line 'The sun to me is dark and silent as the moon' (from Samson Agonistes), I was hooked. I rushed out to buy a copy of Milton's works and over the next few months slowly worked my way through a gruelling first reading of Paradise Lost. The sensation was unlike anything I'd ever encountered. It was exciting, yet bizarre. While I could just about keep track of the plot, and even get a few of the mythological references, there was so much that I knew was going over my head. But in spite of this, there was an authority to the command of language that raised goosebumps on my flesh.

darkness visible

This website was conceived with that first reading and the journey it started in view. There are a lot of very good Milton resources available on the web, but many of these sites are aimed at a scholarly readership which has already undergone years of academic training. darkness visible was put together specifically for those attempting their first or second reading of Paradise Lost, whether at sixth form, at university or in private study. Our aim has been to discuss this challenging epic with an accessibility that will enable those new to Milton to familiarize themselves with the poet, his work and his themes, but without patronizing the reader or shying away from more difficult ideas. There is a variety of resources on offer for the teacher or student of Paradise Lost to explore: a plot summary, character descriptions, essays with suggestions for further reading, a biography of the poet, and a gallery of illustrations including some interactive images.

Darkness visible was composed by members of Christ's College, Cambridge, where Milton studied from 1625 to 1632. It was commissioned as part of the college's year-long celebration of the poet's 400th birthday, which is on the 9th of December this year (click here for more details of events and exhibitions). Most of the writers of darkness visible are current students who themselves have recently trodden the path of initiation into Milton's world. We wish you success in your journey.

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Katharine Fletcher
January 2008


Editions used:

Throughout the website we have used the following editions of Milton's works.

Paradise Lost, ed. Alastair Fowler, 2nd edn (Harlow: Longman, 1998)
Complete Shorter Poems, ed. John Carey, 2nd edn (Harlow: Longman, 1997)
Complete Prose Works of John Milton, general ed. Don M. Wolfe, 8 vols (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1953-82)

Line numbers (or book and line numbers for Paradise Lost and Paradise Regained) have been given for all citations of poetry. References to the Complete Prose Works are denoted CPW and given by volume and page number.


      Copyright © 2008 Christ's College
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