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198 of 203 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Greatest Epic Poem in English, Norton Edition is Outstanding
Paradise Lost was not part of my core curriculum in science and mathematics. I was of course aware that scholars considered it a great work, a classic. But it seemed a bit daunting - long, difficult, dated, and possibly no longer relevant.
A few years ago I made two fortunate decisions. I elected to read Milton's Paradise Lost and I bought the Norton Critical...
Published on June 11, 2000 by Michael Wischmeyer

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184 of 195 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Great edition, except. . .
I love Norton Critical Editions. Or I try to. Gordon Teskey's new edition of Paradise Lost is for the most part worthy of the praise it has received in other reviews on this site. However, it has one unpardonable flaw, which is the editor's tampering with Milton's poetic line. Teskey and the Norton editors have for some reason decided to make it "easy to read" by...
Published on March 19, 2007 by Alcofribas Nasier


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198 of 203 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Greatest Epic Poem in English, Norton Edition is Outstanding, June 11, 2000
Paradise Lost was not part of my core curriculum in science and mathematics. I was of course aware that scholars considered it a great work, a classic. But it seemed a bit daunting - long, difficult, dated, and possibly no longer relevant.
A few years ago I made two fortunate decisions. I elected to read Milton's Paradise Lost and I bought the Norton Critical Edition (edited by Scott Elledge). I read and reread Paradise Lost over a period of three months as well as the 300 pages of the Norton critical commentary. I was stunned by the beauty and power of Milton. Why had I waited so long to even approach such a literary masterpiece?
Make no mistake. I had been right in several ways. Paradise Lost is difficult, it is long, and full appreciation requires an understanding of the historical and religious context. But Paradise Lost is a remarkable achievement. It explores questions regarding man and God that are as relevant today as in the 17th century. And the genius of Milton has never been surpassed.
I found the Norton footnotes extremely helpful - definitions for rare or archaic words and expressions, explanations of the historical context, and links to the critical commentary section. The footnotes are at the page bottom, making them readily accessible.
The Norton biographical, historical, and literary commentaries were fascinating in their own right. I may well as spent as many hours reading commentary as with Paradise Lost itself.
John Milton led a remarkable life. His enthusiastic euology on Shakespeare was included in the second folio edition of Shakespeare in 1632. This was Milton's first public appearance as an author! While traveling as a young man he "found and visited" the great Galileo, old and blind, a house prisoner of the Inquisition for his astronomical heresy. Years later Milton, a close supporter of Cromwell, barely escaped the scaffold at the Restoration and was at risk for some period afterwards. Many considered Milton no more than an outcast, now old and blind himself, a republican and regicide who had escaped death by too much clemency. Within a few years this aging blind outcast created one of the masterpieces of the English language.
Milton broke all English tradition by writing Paradise Lost in blank verse. Homer in Greek and Vergil in Latin had used blank verse, but English demanded rhyme. Although others failed to imitate Milton's blank verse (I suspect that none wanted to be compared directly with genius), the praise was without exception. Dryden, a master of rhyme, is attributed with saying, "This man cuts us all out, and the ancients too".
Milton's characterization of Satan, Adam, Eve, the archangels Raphael, Michael, and Gabriel, and even God himself are masterful. The debates and arguments that evolve around free will, obedience, forbidden knowledge, love, evil, and guilt are timeless. And fascinating. And thought provoking.
Paradise Lost will require commitment and patience and thought. The commitment in time is substantial. (I enjoy Samuel Johnson's subtle comment: "None ever wished it longer than it is.") But the return is a personal experience with great literature, one of the masterpieces of the English language. I consider myself fortunate to have made such an investment.
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147 of 151 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Possibly the Best Edition Out There, June 22, 2008
By 
Nick (Switzerland) - See all my reviews
I have read "Paradise Lost" four times, and took no less than three semesters on it at university. This was the edition we used to work. Modernised spelling, coherent punctuation (plus variations of it in the notes), good introduction, and enormous work in the notes; this edition has all you need for a good reading of the epic poem.

As to the poem itself, some people are hard on it for all the wrong reasons. Remember that it is a 17th century poem, that English was not exactly similar as it is today, and that there are many, many words which were first used in English in "Paradise Lost". Milton was innovative with words, and he gave English new words, and expressions, such as the most famous "all Hell broke loose", which was first uttered in "Paradise Lost".

A poem like this cannot be read without good notes, and this is what this edition has to offer. Notes aren't enough, though, they have to be good, and in this edition, they are. The poem itself is not burdened by the numbers of the notes, because there are so many, the editor decided not to show them in the text per se, but at the end of the book, you will always have the reference, the lines, which the notes are about.

As to the poem itself, if you don't know it, you certainly know of the story of the Fall of Man, Adam and Eve, and the rebellion of Satan in Heaven. I'll only say that Milton's God is one seriously problematic figure in the poem, and that it caused centuries of academic discussion as to whether Milton's God is a good God or a devilish one, whether "Paradise Lost" was truly a "myth", in the old sense of a story which explains why we're here and how it got to be, or whether it was an attack on Christianity. Scholars still discuss this today, so make your own mind if you can!
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184 of 195 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Great edition, except. . ., March 19, 2007
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I love Norton Critical Editions. Or I try to. Gordon Teskey's new edition of Paradise Lost is for the most part worthy of the praise it has received in other reviews on this site. However, it has one unpardonable flaw, which is the editor's tampering with Milton's poetic line. Teskey and the Norton editors have for some reason decided to make it "easy to read" by adding parentheses to complex syntactical passages that Milton wrote on purpose to be. . . I dunno. . . hard? This move to simplify the syntax alters not only the experience of the poem but, worse, its meaning. Take for example these famous lines of Satan's from Book I, the first words spoken in Hell:

If thou beest he but O how fall'n! how changed

From him who in the happy realms of light

Clothed with transcendent brightness didst outshine

Myriads, thought bright! if he whom mutual league,

United thoughts and counsels, equal hope. . .

The meaning of the lines is confusing because Satan himself is confused, and now speaking for the first time a fallen language. The "he" from line one gets dropped until line four, when Satan remembers what he's talking about after wandering through a few memories of his life before the fall. The reader is supposed to feel the confusion and torment of this run-on sentence. But Teskey uses parentheses to clean up the very mess Milton wanted Satan to make of the sentence:

If thou beest he (but O how fallen! how changed

From him who in the happy realms of light

Clothed with transcendent brightness didst outshine

Myriads, though bright) if he whom. . .

This effectively dumbs down the poem and drastically changes it. And there is way too much of it in this edition. It is common enough to modernize spelling and syntax in editions of early modern poetry, but this is a bit too much. Readers don't buy this book because they want an easy read; most readers, even students, don't mind if it is a little hard and confusing in parts. Mostly, I bet they want to see what Milton and not his editors wrote.
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70 of 71 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellently annotated version, January 13, 2010
When John Milton set out to write Paradise Lost, he had every intention of writing a masterpiece of the English language. He felt he was destined for greatness, and his creation does not disappoint. With over 9000 lines of some of the greatest poetry every written, Milton does an incredible job of using classical and biblical allusions within a classical format to create a surprisingly modern and incredibly poignant look at the nature of God and man. Add on to this the fact that he was blind when he composed it, and you cannot call PL anything less than a work of genius.

What separates this version from all the others available? The incredibly detailed work of the editors. The annotations of this edition are absolutely fantastic. They are plentiful (sometimes taking up as much as half a page), extremely informative, and surprisingly fun to read. Most annotated works such as this merely clarify antiquated vocabulary, but in this case the editors point out classical allusions, references to current events, and references to Milton's prose works. In addition to the prose and poetry associated with the text, the editors routinely mention the critical discourse (of which there is an unholy amount) associated with Milton. There are even moments where I laughed out loud at their comments. There is also a subtle touch to the annotations, in that there is no indication of annotations within the line. What I mean by this is that there are no bubbles or footnote marks in the body of the poem. The annotations at the bottom of the page simply point to a line number. This allows the reader to ignore the annotations if they choose to do so.
Another nice characteristic of this edition is the artwork and illustrations included. There's some really fantastic stuff in there.

All in all, this is an excellent edition of an excellent poem.
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88 of 93 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very Handsome Devil of a Book, October 20, 2005
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This review is from: Paradise Lost (Hardcover)
I have other editions of Paradise Lost, many with lengthy and preachy introductions, but this one has become my favourite. The design is beautiful, with a great cover, blood red inside covers and red ribbon marker. The original engravings that illustrate the story are a unique feature and look great.
The introduction and notes on all chapters written by Philip Pullman are short, refreshing and suprisingly funny. Even if you studied Paradise in depth, his comments may shed new light on this classic work. As he reminds the readers, these are his views as a fan rather than a scholar, and he tries to clear some cobwebs that gathered on Milton's opus and bring it closer into focus for the modern readers. Among his references are Alfred Hitchcock's movies and novels of Frederick Forsyth. And he tackles that age old dilema- if he is so evil, why do we find Lucifer so damn likeable...?
If you want to read Paradise Lost for the first time, possibly after/before devouring Pullman's own Dark Materials trilogy, look no further than this beautiful edition. And even if you have other copies, this is a great addition to your home library. Nothing wrong with a good looking book, when the content matches the design in quality, as it is the case here.
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55 of 57 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great version of a great epic, November 2, 1999
By A Customer
The annotations in this version elevate it to a level above that of other Paradise Lost prints. Since this version runs about $20 more than other respectable versions (Signet Classics) I was hesitant about purchasing this Hughes version. However, I was immediately impressed with the amount of and the quality of the textual annotations. Milton's text is so enriched with allusions that a reader not seeking the sources of them is missing out on the full impressiveness of Milton's writing. The introduction by Merritt Y. Hughes (Editor) is both informative and enriching to the reader; it is further enhanced with its inclusions of illustrations that reflect Milton's world cosmos. Finally, a major inclusion in this version (missing in many low-cost versions) is Andrew Marvell's poem, On Paradise Lost. For reading Paradise Lost, any version will probably suffice. However, for the reader that truly wants to analyze and interpret, this New Edition of Paradise Lost is bloody excellent. Read on...
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32 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Why the Norton Critical Edition (NCE) of _Paradise Lost_?, June 10, 2000
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There are so many editions of Milton's epic, so how does someone interested in owning a copy choose from the crowd? Unfortunately there are not many "bad" editions of Milton's poetry, so the decision requires effort, and every editor has their own interpretation (which is more or less valid than others') of their author. (Indeed, editors are always like secondary authors.) First a few quick words about NCEs. All have bigraphical, historical, literary backgrounds, and criticism that are outside the text (in this case _PL_) and are useful, or at the least interesting. But I do not advocate the NCE edition of _PL_ for these reasons though they are rewarding. Rather I encourage those who are interested in Milton, _PL_, and poetry to get a copy of the NCE because of its editor's philosophy on footnotes. The footnotes are what separate one edition of poetry from another, and Scott Elledge's footnotes to _PL_ were made with the following prescription: "No one, I think, should interrupt his or her first reading of a poem, or a substantial part of it, by looking to the bottom of the page for help. The best way to read is to listen to the poet , the way one listens to someone speaking; then if one is attracted to what one hears, or is curious about it, one can go back over the poem, or a passage in it, consulting the notes. In my opinion one should read a poem before one begins to study it" (2). Finally, Elledges, footnotes to _PL_ are so rewarding to read because of their etymological emphasis.
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32 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A superb, user-friedly edition, August 2, 2000
Paradise Lost is my favorite work in the English language, and this is my favorite edition of it (I have quite a few). The editor, Roy Flannagan, does a superb job with the footnotes. They address just about every question a modern reader might have, provide plenty of historical context and explain in detail the zillions of references and names that someone who is not intimately familiar with all of Milton's sources (among them the Bible and ancient Greek and Roman mythology) will have a hard time understanding. Flannagan's infectious enthusiasm for this poem comes across loud and clear, and he never condescends to readers that lack a PhD, like Merritt Hughes does in his scholarly edition of Paradise Lost. Finally, the page layout of the Flannagan edition makes reading and note taking real easy. In sum, this is hands down the best edition of Paradise Lost.
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57 of 61 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful edition, October 8, 2005
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This review is from: Paradise Lost (Hardcover)
Interesting but skimpy comments from Philip Pullman, but the real attractions are a very clean and historically sensitive page design and the Michael Burghers engravings from the first illustrated edition of 1688. I own other PL's, but from now on this is the one I will take down to read.
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57 of 62 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Incredibly valuable, August 22, 2000
I was assigned to read Paradise Lost on my own over the summer and I am so glad that I chose the Norton Critical edition. Obviously, reading Paradise Lost is a daunting task for anyone who isn't a religious historian and without the Norton Critical edition, I might not have finished the epic at all (which would be much of a loss, not only in my grades.)
This edition has a vast array of extremely helpful footnotes (have a Bible at hand for all those cross-references) and it has large margins for taking plenty of notes of your own. More than half of the book is a collection of various literature, excerpts and explanations that are also quite helpful.
Certainly, there is no doubt that Paradise Lost is an excellent work, but the Norton Critical edition is invaluable for any average person (like me) who wants to truly appreciate it. I highly recommend this.
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Paradise Lost (Hackett Classics)
Paradise Lost (Hackett Classics) by John Milton (Paperback - September 15, 2005)
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