In Paradise Lost (1667), Milton produced the most magnificent poetic account ever written of the biblical Fall of man. In this wide-ranging study, William Poole presents a comprehensive analysis of the origin, evolution, and contemporary discussion of the Fall, and the way seventeenth-century authors, particularly Milton, represented it. Poole first examines the range and depth of early modern thought on the subject, then explains and evaluates the basis of the idea and the intellectual and theological controversies it inspired from early Christian times to Milton's own century. The second part of the book delves deeper into the development of Milton's own thought on the Fall, from the earliest of his poems, through his prose, to his mature epic. Poole distinguishes clearly for the first time the range and complexity of contemporary debates on the Fall of man, and offers many insights into the originality and sophistication of Milton's work.