Add this reviewer to the list of people who hold Paradise Lost up to the lofty title of The Greatest Epic Poem in the English Language; it is not only this, but one of the best in any language. Writing unabashedly in the tradition of unrhymed Homeric epic verse, Mitlon was working well within what was earlier purveyed by Homer, Virgil, and Dante -- but he brings his own distinctive touch and flair to the work. The opening lines of the long poem are clearly inspired by Homer, as are other elements, but Milton has a very unique poetic style; long sentences, often with the principle verb at the end, being one of its mainstays. This language is very grandiose and quite complex; it takes a while to get used to it -- you will have to pay very close attention during the first book -- but, as with most classical literature, once the reader gets the hang of it, it goes quite smoothly. The Divine Comedy of Dante has a more towring reputation than does Milton's Paradise Lost -- for one thing, it is older -- but I among those who find Milton to be superior. The Divine Comedy is, certainly, an undisputed masterpiece, but, where it was, more or less, a satire and a thinly-veiled attack on many of Dante's political enemies, Milton's work deals with much more complex and profound subject matter: why mankind fell, how the gods themselves operate and think, the nature and attractiveness of evil and sin, the importance of love in human relationships, the moral problems of God's justice. It is true that Dante's work is more original; Paradise Lost and Paradise Regained, at least in seed, come straight from The Bible. But Milton only uses these stories as a springboard for the exploration of the latent moral and ethical problems lurking beneath. Milton explores these problems with a refreshingly fresh perspective -- strictly within the Christian tradition, to be sure, but far from fundamentalist, and even quite radical for its day. Although some cite the work as Christian apologist, there are certainly many elements within the poem that many of the more hard-line Christians would be taken aback by; it was, of course, even more controversial in its day. One thing about the work that often gets pointed out is that Satan is a far more interesting and appealing character than God. This, in my view, does not have Milton unwittingly on the Devil's side, as some critics have suggested. Rather, he is pointing out how appealing sin is always is: of course it's interesting, of course it's appealing -- otherwise, we wouldn't keep falling for it again and again and again. If we saw its razor-sharp fangs and [dripping] mouth, we would have stopped getting ensnared in its trap long ago. However, as a non-Christian myself, I cannot but disagree with some points of Milton's theodicy; the last two books, in particular, and Paradise Regained as a whole, were, for me, quite hard to swallow. I found the more human elements of the poem to be its most intriguing. Milton paints Adam and Eve as quintissentially human characters who possess many of the same feelings that we all share: joy, happiness, fear, sadness, depression, and, most of all, the overriding paramount importance of love. The act of Adam, who was not himself [evil], eating of the apple so that he could follow Eve, no matter what doom was to befall her and them, out of love for her, is still one of the most touching moments in all of literature -- as Mark Twain, in the voice of Adam, later said, "Wheresoever Eve was there, THERE was Eden." God, Satan, and the various angels are also endowed with human characteristics; most Christians today seem to have forgotten that God created Man "in His own image", and that He is not a perfect creature. Likewise, Satan is not entirely evil -- certainly he is ambitious and narcissistic, but so are many humans -- indeed, many have seen him as the hero of the poem (an errorenous view, as I see it.) God often comes off as extremely cold and hardly forgiving or merciful; indeed, to many readers, myself included, this poem doesn't come anywhere near its stated goal of justifying the ways of Gods to men, but only reinforces the views we already had (Mark Twain, whom I have previously mentioned, has a very different view of the situation, closer to my own perspective, that is worth seeking out.) Whatever one's objections to the theology and theodicy expressed within the poem, the poem remains a great work of literature -- poetic, grandiose, profound, extremely readable, and thought-provoking. The shorter sequel, Paradise Regained, is also included in this edition. This work, in my view, comes nowhere near the glory of it's predecessor, but it is still a good read and it is very handy to have it included in this volume as well. For that reason, I highly reccommend picking up this particular edition of the works; also because the introduction, written by Dr. Susanne Woods, is very good, and it has notes provided by the wonderful Christoper Ricks, who also edited the poem for this version. Unlike many editors, he does not include so many notes that they become cumbersome and distract from the text: they are genuinely helpful and there are not too many of them. This is an absolute classic not only of English literature, but of world literature, and a monument in the tradition of epic poetry that you owe it to yourself to read.