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Paradise Lost

Paradise Lost

by John Milton

Analysis: Allusions

When authors refer to other great works, people, and events, it’s usually not accidental. Put on your super-sleuth hat and figure out why.

There are literally hundreds of allusions in Paradise Lost, many of them to the Bible. Rather than list every single possible allusion – which would probably take a few years – we've listed some of the more important ones below. If you're craving more, any decent edition of the poem will list many that we've left out. And of course, the entire poem is one gigantic allusion to the book of Genesis, from which the story of Adam and Eve is taken.

Biblical Allusions

Classical/Mythological Allusions

  • Hesiod, Theogony 713 ff. (1.50; 197-200)
  • Ovid, Metamorphoses 5.325-31 and 346-58 (1.197-200)
  • Virgil, Aeneid 3.570-7 (1.230-7)
  • Hesiod, Theogony 126-39 (1.510 ff.)
  • Homer, Iliad 3.3-6 (1.576)
  • Homer, Iliad 1.591-5 (1.740-6)
  • Virgil, Aeneid 1.430-6 (1.768-70)
  • Homer, Iliad 2.87-90 (1.768-70)
  • Prometheus (2.181)
  • Horace, Odes 1.2.2-3. (2.174)
  • Hercules (2.542-6)
  • Medusa (2.611)
  • Tantalus (2.614)
  • Scylla (2.660)
  • Ovid, Metamorphoses 14 (2.660)
  • Hecate (2.662)
  • Homer, Iliad 8.15-24 (2.1005)
  • Apollonius Rhodius, Argonautica 2.552-611 (2.1017)
  • Homer, Odyssey 12.234-259. (2.1019-20)
  • Ovid Metamorphoses 10 (3.17)
  • Homer Iliad 2.594 (3.35)
  • Homer (3.35)
  • Tiresias (3.36)
  • Horace, Ars Poetica 464-7 (3.471)
  • Cleombrotus (3.473)
  • Hesperides (3.568; 4.250)
  • Hermes (3.603)
  • Virgil, Aeneid 1.164-5 (4.137-42)
  • Ovid, Metamorphosis 5 (4.269 ff.)
  • Daphne (4.273)
  • Ovid, Metamorphoses 3.402-510 (4.461ff.)
  • Pandora (4.714)
  • Homer, Iliad 8.69-72 (4.997)
  • Virgil, Aeneid 12.725-727 (4.997)
  • Homer, Odyssey 10.275 (5.285 ff.)
  • Pomona (5.378)
  • Hesiod, Theogony 736-57 (6.1-10)
  • Ovid, Metamorphoses 13.15 (6.521)
  • Hesiod, Theogony 664-735 (6.871)
  • Bellerophon (7.18)
  • Bacchus (7.33)
  • Orpheus (7.34)
  • Ovid, Metamorphoses 1.151 (7.280)
  • Dryad (9.387)
  • Delia (Diana) (9.387)
  • Pomona (9.394)
  • Ceres (9.395)
  • King Alcinous (9.441)
  • Odysseus (9.441)
  • Ovid, Metamorphoses 4.563-603 (9.505)
  • Aesculapius (9.506)
  • Ovid, Metamorphoses 15.669-74 (9.506)
  • Delos (10.296)
  • Herodotus Histories 7.35 (10.307-310)

Historical People and Places

  • Galileo (1.288; 3.590; 5.261-2)
  • Busiris, a.k.a. Ramses II of Egypt (1.307)
  • The Black Sea (9.77)
  • The Sea of Azov (9.78)
  • The River Ob (9.78)
  • Arctic Ocean (10.290)

Other References

  • Dante, Inferno 3.9 (1.66)
  • Ludovico Ariosto, Orlando Furioso 17.14 and 18.158 (1.583-4)
  • Dante Inferno 33.93-117 (2.595 ff.)
  • Edmund Spenser, Faerie Queene, 1.1.14 (2.651)
  • Dante, Inferno 1.85 (2.864)
  • Edmund Spenser, Faerie Queene 4.2.47 (2.960 ff.)
  • Ludovico Ariosto, Orlando Furioso 34 (3.459)
  • William Shakespeare, Hamlet 2.2.306-15. (8.15)
  • Edmund Spenser, Faerie Queene 2.11.1 (8.15)
  • Edmund Spenser, Faerie Queene 2.7.55 (9.648)

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