Paradise Regained, while not at the same level of rhetoric and literacy as Paradise Lost, does offer an interesting insight into Jesus' temptation in the wilderness. Milton uses language in order to assert Jesus as the Messiah, and Satan as an agent of evil, which is being used by God, to help that assertion. Paradise Regained is largely static. There is no real rise and fall of tension and there is no real climax, either. Rather, all of the stress is placed on the importance of language and silence.
When comparing Satan and Jesus' speeches, there is an immediate difference: Satan's speech is clouded in "persuasive rhetoric,"
whereas everything that Jesus says is plain and accessible. Jesus does
not need fancy language in order to convey His message. Instead of
trying to make Himself more confusing, the Messiah takes language back
to its roots and uses it as Adam did (in a way that would be able to
communicate with God directly) by keeping it as simple and as close to
God as He can.
In his brilliant essay, "The Muting of Satan: Language and Redemption in Paradise Regained,"
Steven Goldsmith argues that the language Jesus is using is not the
same as the language Satan is using. Rather than stay silent while
Satan tempts Him, Jesus uses the fallen language in order to thwart
Satan and beat him at his own game. In the process of using this
language, Jesus is paving His way towards becoming the Messiah by
silencing Satan so that His voice will be heard. Underneath all of
Satan's fancy word plays lays absolutely nothing. He is the "linguistic anti-christ," who "has nothing to express."
Jesus finally asserts Himself as Messiah and readies Himself to be "all in all" with God towards the end of the poem:
"To whom thus Jesus: Also it is written,
Tempt not the Lord they God, he said and stood.
But Satan smitten with amazement fell."
first glance, it is easy to see that Jesus and Satan are opposites: one
is standing and the other is falling. However, the fact that Jesus "said and stood"
is important. It parallels God's perfect speech during the creation of
the world: "God said... and there was." This is the pinnacle of the
poem - the point where Christ has officially triumphed over Satan and
can now go public as Messiah. Satan is allowed to roam the fallen world
and has even created a kingdom of his own in Hell and in the sky
(according to Milton) where he perversely "blesses" people with wealth,
glory, etc. Jesus has to enter the fallen world and first silence its
biggest voice before He can redeem it.
"Queller of Satan, on thy glorious work
Now enter, and begin to save mankind."
According to Goldsmith, "the process of verification that is the purpose of Paradise Regained has been accomplished." By using language, Milton paralleled Jesus' own entrance into the world as Messiah by silencing Satan and glorifying Christ.
While I still believe this is not nearly as fascinating as Paradise Lost
(and is also much shorter), it's still well worth the read if you've
read the former. They really are two parts of a whole. Satan's
temptation of Christ not only mimics his temptation of Eve, but it is
also referenced throughout the entire poem whenever he feels foiled.
This is the finale to Paradise Lost.