William Blake illustrated Paradise Lost more often than any other work by John Milton, and illustrated Milton’s work more often than that of any other writer. The illustrations demonstrate his critical engagement with the text, specifically his efforts to redeem the “errors” he perceived in his predecessor’s work.
There are twelve plates in each of the Paradise Lost sets, one for each of the books in the poem. While some of these, such as Satan, Sin and Death: Satan Comes to the Gates of Hell, depict specific scenes from the epic; others, such as Satan Watching the Endearments of Adam and Eve, are syntheses of several scenes. In the latter case, Blake employed visual barriers to separate the elements from different scenes, such as the arc of the bower in Satan Watching the Endearments of Adam and Eve.
In Blake’s mythology, Albion’s fall from a divine androgyny to a sexual nature divides him into the Four Zoas, their spectres (representative of hypocritical morality), and their emanations (female halves). In the Paradise Lost illustrations, Adam is analogous to the fallen Albion, Satan to Adam’s Spectre and Eve to Adam’s emanation.