Paradise Lost is often referred to as an English Christian Epic. It has the distinguishing marks of an epis - a major central theme. In Paradise Lost, the fall of man is central to the poem. Milton writes of events that occurred before Creation and shortly thereafter. Indeed, the main outlines of the stories of most epics are well known to the audiences for which they are composed; the poet's over-all contribution is the artistry with which he retells known material and the interpretations he makes of it. His method of retelling the material usually involves a large number of dramatic scenes. An example of such a scene in Paradise Lost is the initial conversation between Satan and Beezelbub when they regain consciousness after having been hurled from Heaven to Hell.
The supernatural usually plays a large part in epics, also. In Paradise Lost, the poem opens with Satan and the other fallen angels chained to the burning lake in Hell. After regaining consciousness, they arrange a great plot to determine how they are going to revolt against God. The epic traditionally begins with an announcement of the theme or subject matter either combined with or followed by an invocation to a heavenly power. Milton opens Paradise Lost with an invocation to the heavenly muse and announces his purpose.
Milton was so strongly committed to the Puritan cause that he accepted a government [position under Oliver Cromwell. He was a radical Christian individualist who objected strongly and vocally to all kinds of organized religions which, he believed, put barriers between man and God. Milton was therefore a rebel because he identified himself with a revolutionary cause. Paradise Lost is about rebellion and its consequences.
Similar to Paradise Lost, Edmund Spenser set out to be the great English poet and wrote a Christian Epic, The Faerie Queen. The purpose was to make one virtuous and educate others on virtue. He begins his Epic with a letter to Authors as to how to read the poem.