Book I of Paradise Lost begins with Milton
describing what he intends to undertake with his epic: the story of Man's first disobedience and the "loss of Eden," subjects which have been "unattempted yet in prose or rhyme." His main objective,
however, is to "justify the ways of God to men."
The poem then shifts to focus on the character of Satan who has just fallen from heaven. The scene opens in a fiery, yet dark, lake of hell. Satan, dazed, seems to be coming to
consciousness after his fall and finds himself chained to the lake.
He lifts his head to see his second in command, Beelzebub, the Lord of the Flies, who has been transformed from a beautiful archangel into a horrid fallen angel. Satan gets his bearings and, in a speech
to Beelzebub, realizes what has just happened: Satan, presuming that he was equal to God, had declared war on the creator.
Many angels had joined Satan, and the cosmic battle had shaken God's throne.
Satan and his cohorts had lost and been cast "nine times the space that measures day and night" to hell.
Still, Satan tells Beelzebub that all is not lost. He will never bow down to God and now, knowing more of the extent of God's
might, the rebel angels might better know how to continue to fight him in an eternal war.
Beelzebub questions why they themselves still exist. What plan did God have for them since he did not kill
them completely, but left them their souls and spirits intact to feel pain in hell?
Satan replies that God indeed wanted to punish them by forcing them to languish in hell for eternity. But,
he says, that means that they don't ever have to obey God again. In fact, Satan says, they must work to instill evil in all
good things so as to always anger God.
Satan and Beelzebub gather their strength and fly off the fiery lake to firmer, though still fiery, ground.
They look around at the dark wasteland that is hell, but Satan remains proud. "Better to reign in hell, then serve in heaven."
They see their army lying confused and vanquished in the fiery lake. Satan calls to them and they respond
immediately. Satan gathers his closest twelve around him .
Music plays and banners fly as the army of rebel angels comes to attention, tormented and defeated but faithful
to their general
They could not have known the extent of God's might, Satan tells them, but now they do know and can now examine
how best to beat him. Satan has heard of a new kind of creation that God intends on making, called man. They will continue
the war against heaven, but the battlefield will be within the world of mankind.
The army bangs their shields with their swords in loud agreement. The rebel angels then construct a Temple, a throne room, for their general and for their government, greater in grandeur than the pyramids
or the Tower of Babylon.
All the millions of rebel angels then gather in the Temple
for a great council, shrinking themselves and become dwarves in order to fit.
Milton tells us that he is tackling the story told in
Genesis of the Fall of Adam and the loss of the Garden of Eden. With it, Milton will
also be exploring a cosmic battle in heaven between good and evil. Supernatural creatures, including Satan and the Judeo Christian
God himself, will be mixing with humans and acting and reacting with humanlike feelings and emotions. As in other poetic epics
such as Homer's Iliad and Ulysses, the Popul Vuh, and Gilgamesh, Milton
is actually attempting to describe the nature of man by reflecting on who his gods are and what his origins are. By demonstrating
the nature of the beings who created mankind, Milton is presenting
his, or his culture's , views on what good and evil mean, what mankind's relationship is with the Absolute, what man's destiny
is as an individual and as a species. The story, therefore, can be read as a simple narrative, with characters interacting
with each other along a plot and various subplots. It can also, however, be extrapolated out to hold theological and religious
messages, as well as political and social themes.
Milton introduces Book I with a simple summary of what
his epic poem is about: the Fall of Adam and the loss of the Garden of Eden. He tells us that his heavenly muse is the same
as that of Moses, that is, the spirit that combines the absolute with the literary. The voice is of a self-conscious narrator
explaining his position. There is some background in the past tense, then suddenly the reader finds himself in the present
tense on a fiery lake in hell. The quiet introduction, the backing into the story, then the verb change and plunge into the
middle of the action, in medias res, creates a cinematic and exciting beginning.
On this lake we meet Satan, general and king of the fallen rebel angels.
Milton's portrait of Satan has fascinated critics since
Paradise Lost's publication, leading some in the Romantic period to claim that Satan is, in fact, the heroic protagonist of the whole work.
Certainly Milton's depiction of Satan has greatly influenced
the devil's image in Western art and literature since the book's publication.
The reader first meets a stunned Satan chained down to a fiery lake of hell, surrounded by his coconspirators.
In this first chapter, the reason for his downfall is that he thought himself equal to God. Hell, however, has not taught
him humility, and, in fact, strengthens his revolve to never bow to the Almighty (Interestingly, the word "God" is not used
in the chapters dealing with Hell and Satan).
Satan is often called a sympathetic character in Paradise Lost, despite being the source of all evil, and in the first chapter the reader is presented with some of Satan's frustration.
Satan tells his army that they were tricked, that it wasn't until they were at battle that God showed the true extent of his
almightiness. If they had been shown this force previously, not only would the rebel angels not have declared war on heaven,
but Satan, also, would never have presumed that he himself was better than God. Now they have been irreversibly punished for
all eternity, but, rather than feel sorry for themselves or repent, Satan pushes his army to be strong, to make "a heaven
of hell, a hell of heaven."
Hell reflecting heaven and, later, earth reflecting both, will be a common theme throughout the work. Satan
chooses twelve close friends: all of them drawn from pagan mythology or from foreign kings in the Hebrew Bible: to echo and
mimic Christ's twelve apostles. Satan's angels build a large a glorious temple and call a council, both of which will be echoed
in heaven. In fact, Satan uses the same architect as heaven, now called Mammon in hell.
Many of the structures and symbols are similar. In heaven and hell there is a king and a military hierarchy
of angels. In most cases, however, they the reverse of each other. In Book I, we are shown that the most prominent thing about
hell is its darkness, whereas heaven is full of luminous light. As well, the fallen angels, previously glorious and beautiful,
are now ugly and disfigured.
These mirror, and therefore reverse, images of heaven and hell also work on a theological level. The darkness
of hell symbolizes the distance Satan and his army are from the luminous light and grace of God. Simultaneously, the rebel
angels pulled away from God by their actions and are forced away by God himself, outside of all the blessings and glory that
come with God's light and into the pain and suffering that comes with distance away from him. The physical corruption and
disfigurement that occurs to all the fallen angels is symbolic of the corruption which has occurred in their souls.
Hell itself is described as a belching unhealthy body, whose "womb" will be torn open to expose the "ribs"
of metal ore that are necessary to build Satan's temple. Natural occurrences in hell, such as the metaphor of the eclipsed
sun, are symbols of natural, and therefore spiritual, decay.
Psychological motivations also work in reverse in hell. Hell is punishment for turning away from the Good,
but instead of learning his lesson, Satan becomes more stubborn and more proud. While heaven is a place where all are turned
toward the good and toward pleasing and obeying God, Satan makes hell a place turned away from God and turned deliberately
toward displeasing him. Whereas before falling from heaven, Satan was only guilty of presuming to be greater than God (pride),
now Satan has, in fact, become a creator himself. He has created evil: the direction away from God.
Other critics have examined the political implications of Milton's
hell. Like Dante's hell, the characters and institutions in Milton's hell are often subtle
references to political issues in Milton's day. The Temple of Satan, for example, has been thought to symbolize
St. Peter's Cathedral in Rome, the "capitol" of Roman Catholicism
and home of the Pope. The comparison of the glory of hell to the light of an eclipsed sun was thought to be a veiled critique
of the Sun King, King Charles, who reigned during Milton's
A full understanding of the metaphors and images that Milton
uses, however, would take more than a knowledge of his contemporary history or religious background. Describing Satan's kingdom,
Milton takes from a myriad of sources, including Greek mythology
and epic poetry, Egyptian and Canaanite religious traditions, the Hebrew Bible and Mishnaic texts, the New Testament and apocryphal
texts, the Church Fathers, popular legends, and other theological texts.
It should be noted that, in the epic tradition, Milton
is using poetry to tell his story, following most prominently the style of Homer. The work, therefore, can also be examined through the lens of poetry with an eye toward rhythm and sound. In the first sentence,
Milton uses an alliteration to conduct what is referred to
as a double discourse: "Of man's first disobedience, and the fruit of that forbidden tree..." Not only does the repeated "f"
sound add to the aesthetic of the sentence, it connects the "f" words to present a different idea than the sentence itself
is presenting. In this case, "first... fruits" are "forbidden." This double discourse, literally two sentences spoken at the
same time, is repeated throughout Milton.
Satan has drawn all the fallen angels into a large counsel in his Temple,
perched on a volcano top. He addresses them to give them courage. After all, he says, they need not fear ever falling again.
He asks for suggestion on how best to continue battling heaven.
Moloch stands up and suggests open warfare on the battlefield. They have nothing to lose, he says, there is no hell worse than this
that God can send them if defeated. Even if God kills them, surely this would be better than living in hell forever. Finally,
he says, even if they are defeated, "... if not victory is yet revenge."
Belial stands and disagrees. Even if God could kill them, he said, he never would. And there just might be worse hells than where
they are now. It is a useless action anyway, he says, because God sees everything and would know exactly what they are doing.
Belial suggests that they stay in hell and hope that God either relents on the punishment, or that they will, over time, grow
used to the obnoxious fumes and pain.
Mammon stands up and says that neither idea is really acceptable. Open warfare would be an exercise in futility
and, even if they were allowed back in heaven, is that a place where they want to spend eternity serving? It is better to
live in hell where God's light never interferes. Mammon suggest no war at all, just build a kingdom where they are, and maybe
someday they will have a kingdom that will be equal to heaven's .
The crowd cheers at Mammon's speech.
Beelzebub stands and tells the crowd that this will not do either. There is no place where God does not reign,
he reigns even here in hell though his presence is not seen as easily. So it is silly, he says, to talk about war and peace
when they will be eternally opposed to God and his kingdom, whether they like it or not. "War hath determined us."
Beelzebub then tells them of a new race that God has created called "Man."
Man is not as powerful as the angels, but he is God's chosen favorite among creations. Beelzebub suggests that they seek revenge
against God by seducing Man to their side.
All of the fallen angels agree unanimously to this decision. Satan asks for a volunteer to find out more
about this creation, but none volunteer. They are all afraid of the chasm, called chaos, that lies between hell and the island
of earth. Satan then says that he himself will go.
Hell is described. It has a geography like earth, with rivers and mountains, but "where all life dies, death
lives and nature breeds, perverts, all monstrous, and all prodigious things." Hell is all the worst of nature: natural disasters,
violent streams and volcanoes, unfriendly seas, darkness.
Satan flies to the gates of hell where he meets two beings guarding the gate. One is Sin, half woman, half serpent with group of hell hounds howling around her. The other is Death, a large black shape that stands in front of Satan, blocking his path. Satan knocks him down by throwing pestilence and war
Sin scolds Satan, and tells him that she is his daughter, born in heaven when Satan first thought of rebelling.
Later, they were lovers in heaven and she and Satan produced Death, their son. (As an aside, Death raped Sin and produced
the hell hounds which surround her forever.)
Satan tells them he is trying to get out of hell to find earth. If he finds it, and there is a race called
man, then the three of them can rule it together and Death's hunger will never be satiated.
Sin opens the gates of hell, which now can never be shut, and they gaze at the abyss of Night and Chaos.
Satan flies for a time in the darkness and then comes to the throne of Chaos and his consort, Night. Satan
tells him he is only passing through, trying to find earth.
Chaos tells him the way to earth, which is connected to heaven by a golden chain.
With each of the demon's proposals to fight heaven, we see a reflection a number of different worldly concepts
of good and evil, heaven and hell. Milton, with the devils,
has his own idea of how good and evil is balanced and, with the devils, refute the others as impossible.
These constructs include: an eternal war between good and evil (seen in folk religions where evil spirits
must be warded off by good spirits), evil's submission to good and hope of redemption (seen in new age concepts that all things
are, in their essence, good), and the opposite yet equal kingdoms of good and evil (seen in Eastern religions with the Yin/Yang
concepts). All these suggestions do not work for the devils, and, Milton
is suggesting, they do not work theologically either.
First, there can be no all out, open warfare between heaven and hell, because it would be an exercise in
futility. Despite the logic of Moloch's proposal, Heaven and goodness will always be more powerful than evil, there is no
Second, evil will never go away. The fallen angels will always exist, they will never be forgiven, they will
never be accepted back by God.
Finally, there can be no peace between heaven and earth, as Mammon suggests. Hell will exist, but it will
not be an equal empire to heaven. Evil will exist, but it will not be equal to good. There is no yin/yan equality here. Evil,
though the furthest from God, is still under God's reign.
The battlefield, as Beelzebub suggests, will be moved to the souls of mankind. The theory of the human soul
as an eternal battlefield between good and evil forces reflects a common element of the theology of Milton's time. There, on a sort of neutral ground away from heaven and hell, evil angels
can battle against good angels in a field which makes them nearly equal.
This particular concept we see reflected even today when cartoons are drawn of the devil and the good angel
whispering into the left and right sides of a character's ear. Revenge of the fallen angels will be taken out against man,
though Milton is suggesting that in the end good will win
The description of hell as a geographical place has physical properties that we find in our own world, and
we will later find in the description of heaven. There are mountains, valleys, rivers, and seas. The difference between hell
and earth, and especially hell and heaven, is that hell has the worst of nature. Milton
emphasizes the awful, inescapable smells of hell, the raging "perpetual storms," the rivers with their "waves of torrent fire."
By drawing hell as nature gone wrong, Milton also attempts
to answer the age-old question of why, if God created this beautiful earth, does it sometimes seem to go against us. Why is
there famine, flood, and fire that kill and destroy? Milton
demonstrates that these events are nature perverted, nature not as it was intended to be. These events were caused by the
creation of hell and evil after Satan's fall.
Contrast, however, the geography of hell with the geography of Chaos and Night. The Chaos is ruled over by
"Rumour next and Chance, And Tumult and Confusion all embroiled." In Chaos there is true darkness. Milton compares the situation in Chaos to a nation embroiled in a civil war on a macro scale,
to a man paralyzed by indecision and loss of reason on a micro scale. Hell, at least, is contained and is actually ruled by
a some sort of law. There is a king and a temple, there are actual visible geographical locales. But in chaos there is no
order, one can fall forever (as Satan almost did) in a dark ocean of nothingness. On the other hand, the Chaos is not evil.
It is not a perversion of good or of nature. It is land where nothing holds. It is from this Chaos, as is told in the Genesis
story, that heaven and earth are created, and where God creates light.
Finally, in this book we are introduced to the first of a number of parrallel trinities that Milton will compare and contrast. The unholy trinity introduced at the end of Book II consist
of Satan, his consort/daughter Sin, and his only son, Death. Their relationship is based on lust: Satan raped his daughter
Sin and they had Death. Death later raped his mother Sin and she gave birth to the hell hounds that now suround her. Note
that Satan tries to kill his only son, Death, when he first approaches the gates of hell. This will contrast with the circumstances
that will surround God sacrificing his only son in later books.
The personificaiton of concepts, in this case Death and Sin, was a common literary tool in Milton's time,
seen most prominently in Spencer's "The Faerie Queene," which greatly influenced Milton's own work.
God sees Satan heading toward the world and points him out to his Son, sitting on his right hand. He tells
his son how Satan is going to tempt man and how man is then going to fall.
"Ingrate," God says of man. "He had of me all he could have; I made him just and right, sufficient to have
stood, though free to fall."
Even though God knows man will fall, as opposed to Satan, man will still have the chance to gain God's grace,
since he was led to evil by Satan. Satan, on the other hand, freely choose evil without any temptations. God says, then, that
there will be a chance for God's grace for mankind, but that mankind will always be cursed with Death.
His Son, of course, offers to die for man, "I for his sake will leave Thy bosom," he says. And then the Son
will come back and conquer death himself.
God then agrees, and tells of how his Son will be born to a virgin and die so that God's favorite creation,
man, will live. God then makes him the king of man, son of both man and God. God tells the angels in heaven to bow to him.
The scene switches back to Satan who has arrived in the Limbo of Vanity and the Paradise of Fools, the place
where all men and nature go who have vain hopes of achieving heaven while on earth by pursuing riches or superstitions. The
Limbo of Vanity, in fact, will soon be filled with "hoods and habits... relics, beads, indulgences, dispenses, pardons, bulls."
Here Satan paces on semi solid land.
Satan sees also the Gate to Heaven and the stairway to the gate. As well, there is a large passageway, though
it will soon be made smaller, that brings angels down to God's creatures on earth.
Satan flies up to the sun where he can see all of creation. He spies Uriel, one of God's angels, guarding
the earth. Satan turns himself into a cute little cherub and asks Uriel where this new creature of God's is so that he may
go and admire it
Uriel is impressed that an angel would want to leave heaven to check out God's creation, and he directs Satan
to man's home in Paradise.
Milton introduces the character of God and Son with preparatory
phrases of praise, almost a hymn, describing the nature of God and heaven. From stanzas 1-55, Milton uses the idea of light to represent this nature. Alternately, light is used to describe
God himself, the first born Son, the immortality of God, the glory of God, grace, truth, wisdom, and physical light. Heaven
is a place, then, full of light but much of it is an invisible light, i.e. the light of wisdom, that man cannot perceive in
the same manner as physical light but which works in the same way.
The reader is introduced to the characters of God and his Son, watching Satan from the heavens. The Trinity
of God, Son, and Holy Spirit (the one who is inspiring Milton to write) is juxtaposed
against the evil Trinity of Satan, Death, and Sin, a relationship originating in lust. Milton
relates love and goodness with reason and reason is clear in even a conversational sense in the holy trinity, between God
and his Son. Corruption and evil, however, are tied to the irrational and thus to the unholy trinity. The raping of Sin by
father and son, the battle between Satan and Death, all emphasis Milton's
view on relationships based outside of God's grace.
Compare heaven's council with the one Satan had in hell. Heaven's council is a peaceful, rational conversation
between God and his Son, both of whom seem to see and understand the same things. Decisions are made rationally given the
circumstances that God's all-seeing eye can predict. Hell's council, on the other hand, argued and debated, their opinions
clouded by the distance from goodness, which is here equivocated with reason. A path motivated by revenge, Milton is saying, is not one of right reason, and therefore is unpredictable.
Note, however, the reaction from the heavenly council when God asks if someone would volunteer to redeem
man's moral crime. Just as it was when volunteers were asked for in hell to tempt man to fall, no one in heaven is willing
to undertake the task of saving him. Finally, the Son volunteers which places him on a parallel with Satan. The implication
is that, though God is all powerful, his Son and Satan are more on equal footing in that they can equally impact the destiny
The concept of the Son of God conquering death comes from the Pauline letters in the New Testament, specifically First Corinthians. Because the Son of
God cannot really die, his coming down from heaven and becoming fully human while at the same time fully God made it possible
for him to experience death ,but then move through it to be resurrected. Through the resurrection, the theology goes, death
no longer has the same grip it did before, it is not a permanent state merely a place that all men can now pass through.
Book III introduces the other settings of the epic as well, including heaven and earth, tied to each other
with a golden chain and a passageway for angels to go down to earth and help with creation. Milton's universe is structured fairly simply: earth is in the middle, tied to heaven above
it and a soon-to-be constructed bridge to hell leading below it. Between the earth and hell is Chaos. In concentric circles,
or invisible globes surrounding earth, are the various orbits of the sun and moon, stars and planets around the earth (the
earth is still in the middle).
Milton uses Limbo, or the Paradise of Fools, to make
social criticism by demonstrating that examples of man's vanity that he saw in his era would find their end there. Thus, Limbo
is full of indulgences and pardons, symbolic of the political machine behind the Catholic Church, as well as relics and beads,
symbols of the superstitious nature of Catholic worshipers. Milton's
point is that it is vain for man to think he can get into heaven by using these things. In fact, there is nothing man can
do himself to get into heaven, he must rely completely on God's light. Those that use these religious trappings end up in
a fake heaven, a Paradise of Fools.
Remembering always that Paradise Lost is a poem, note the structure of lines 56 through 79 as God looks down at his creation. God starts by seeing all the good
things, including his creation of Adam and Eve. Then he pans over to hell and chaos, and finally to Satan himself flying toward Paradise.
The paragraph gives equal time to nature as pure and nature as corrupted. Sentences in the middle of these two equal parts
deal with love. Therefore, the subdialogue is that love is what divides corrupted nature from pure nature. This circular paragraph
structure, with a discussion literally circulating around one theme (in this case love) is a poetic tool employed by Milton throughout the story.
Summary and Analysis of Books IV-VI
Satan lands on Mt. Niphates
and has some moments of doubt. The light from the sun reminds him of the light and grace he had in heaven. He questions whether
he would have fallen or not if he had been created by God with less pride in the first place. Being created from the beginning with a nature that would lead to his fall makes him
hate God all the more.
"Farewell hope," he says, "And with hope farewell fear." and he goes to corrupt mankind.
He comes to the Garden of Eden and finds it protected all around by a high wall of trees and plants. Satan
jumps over it, literally like a thief in the night.
Paradise is described as a natural wonderland.
Satan spots Adam and Eve who "in naked majesty seemed lords of all." All the animals are playing peacefully around them or lying lazily beside them.
Satan is struck wordless. He finds them beautiful, but he is compelled to do what, if he were not damned,
he would abhor.
Adam and Eve are conversing about their life. Theirs is one of continuous and sensuous joy, the only thing
they cannot do is eat from the tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.
Eve recollects the moment when she was first created. The first thing she did was walk to a lake where she
saw her reflection and a voice told her who she was looking at. Then she meets Adam who, she notices, wasn't exactly as beautiful
as her own reflection.
The sight of Adam and Eve crushes Satan. He mourns his own loss in hell, fierce desire unfulfilled in joy
Uriel tells Gabriel that he was fooled by Satan and now Satan is somewhere in the Garden. Gabriel tells Uriel that he will find Satan before
Adam and Even talk about the stars, say a prayer, and then go to sleep.
Gabriel hunts and finds Satan. Satan explains that he wanted to escape the pain of hell and so came to paradise.
Gabriel does not believe him and tells him to go back to hell or he will personally drag him there.
Satan, angry, prepares to fight. Gabriel tells him to look up at the stars to see "how he is weighted." In
the stars, it is clear that Satan will be trampled by Gabriel, so Satan leaves on his own accord.
In this chapter we are given more insight into the character of Eve and Satan. As Eve narrates her first
waking moments after her own creation, we are immediately introduced to Eve's weakness, vanity. She awakes near a lake and
sees an image of herself and thinks the images beautiful. Modern readers, especially coming from a feminist perspective, might
view Eve's admiration of herself not as vanity or a weakness, but rather as a gesture of self-confidence and independence
from man (especially as she finds her own image so much more beautiful than Adam's ).
This self confident independence, however, is quickly lost. It is quite clear Milton
believes in the traditional patriarchal system, complete with the gender stereotypes of 17th century Europe.
Milton views the hierarchy of Adam being submissive to God
and Eve being submissive to Adam as a natural God-given order : "God is thy law, thou mine," Eve says, "to know no more is
woman's happiest knowledge and her praise." Later, when both Raphael and Michael come to visit the pair in separate episodes with messages from God, Eve will leave the conversation and only Adam will hear
the message. The implication, of course, is that it is men who are in contact with God, and women are to learn about God only
Satan, as a character, has lost some of his original glamor and reader sympathy. It is clear in this book
that Satan's argument for fighting against God is increasingly irrational. He clearly regrets his decision, the sight of so
much light and beauty in the Garden of Eden and in the creatures of Adam and Eve seems to break his heart. He even admits,
for the first time in the poem, that God loved him when Satan was serving him. Why then, does he continue? Satan's character
in this book sums up Milton's view of evil from a psychological
and theological viewpoint. Theologically, it is highly irrational, and therefore outside of the grace of God. Implicit in
this irrationality, however, is that true evil is done with full conscienceness of what is being turned away from. Satan remembers
heaven, he remembers what goodness is, he knows how to act good, and yet he refuses to do so. He has knowledge, but he uses
it irrationally. Psychologically, of course, Satan is in increasing pain, especially when he comes close to beauty and God's
light. He is no longer simply in physical pain when he is in the geographic location of hell, he is hell and brings this hell
whereever he goes. His remorse is tangible.
Note the continuing micro to macro connection of Satan's interior state with his exterior state. Satan is
physically becoming less and less of the great angel he was at the beginning of the epic. In this book he turns into a lesser
angel, a cherub, then into actual beasts, lions and tigers, to get closer to Adam and Eve. Finally, he lowers himself to the
level of a toad and then a snake to tempt Eve. When he retunrs to hell, his appearance will be monstrous. His physical disintegration
is in line with his moral decay.
The description of Eden, and man's job in it, reflects Milton's theology on a broader level as well. Eden,
as discussed before, is ordered, tame, domiciled nature. Still, Adam and Eve must wake every day and go to work. Their work,
however, is pleasurable. It appears to consist, mostly, of trimming a few bushes, looking into each other's eyes, and praising
God and his creation. It is easy work and Adam and Eve enjoy it.
In the same way, love, and, it is arguable, even sex has taken place in the Garden between Adam and Eve.
But they a pure, uncorrupted love and love making. It is untainted by lust, the animal instincts, and free from ego. In the
same way that the work in the Garden is a joy because Adam and Eve are in constant praise of God, love and love making in
the garden are pure and a joy because the couple is practicing unselfish, rational love.
Milton again takes the characteristics of the macrocosms,
in this case the ordered nature of the Garden, as a reflection of how the ethics of the microcosm should work, in this case
the morality of man. In the same way that Eden is ordered,
not prone to radical bursts of natural cataclysms (or even variable weather) but maintaining a steady growth under God's rule,
man himself should order his passions with reason and keep them steady under God's eyes. If this is done, then mankind, like
the Garden, will grow healthy and safe. Love and love making fit this same theology: ordered love making, unselfishly given,
rational, unpassionate and without the animal instincts, will create a healthy and steady growing love.
Later, Eden, and creation at large, will
become uncontrollable. Floods, fire, famine, harsh weather will all make man's life difficult. Animals will prey on other
animals, violence will exist at all levels of nature, fear will be commonplace. In the same way, post-Fall man will have to
deal with his nearly uncontrollable passions and corruption. But in this pre-Fall Eden and Adam, life is ordered, good, directed
Much is made of the astrology and astronomy in Milton
as seen in the later end of this Book IV. Suffice it to say here that, theologically, it follows the same ordered/reason theme
as the Garden and as Adam and Eve's love. The sun, moon, planets, and stars turn in an ordered manner, following a destined
plan. God is actually Aristotle's unmoved mover, the first cause, who first pushes the outer "globe" of the cosmos to set all the other cosmos in motion.
When Adam and Eve fall, the earth becomes difficult, Adam and Eve's relationship is corrupted, and the cosmos themselves become
Turning to the poetic elements of the text, Milton's
use of the epic simile is worth pointing out. An epic simile is one in which the image is not just referred to, but elaborated,
perhaps forming a complete scene of incident itself. For instance, in line 159, Milton begins
by talking about the wind, but goes on to liken it to ships sailing past the Cape
of Hope. The description of the ships and the emotions of their passengers
is then described for seven more lines. Milton uses this epic
simile as a window into a smaller story, a window which takes one away from the immediacy of the story at hand and often brings
one to another part of the world all together. Homer uses the epic simile as well-- in particular, in the intricate description of Achilles' shield in the Iliad.
It is morning in Paradise. Adam wakes Eve. Eve tells Adam of the dream she
had in which a voice called her to the Tree of Knowledge. The voice appeared as an angel and told her that she should taste
the tree's fruit for it will make her a goddess. Eve took the fruit and flew up to heaven like a goddess.
Adam, of course, is disturbed by the dream. He comforts Eve and they go to work, singing the praises of God.
They tend to the garden, but it is pleasant work and nature works with them.
God calls Raphael and talks to him about Satan. God sends the angel to warn Adam. Adam sees Raphael coming
and tells Eve to prepare a meal for the heavenly guest. They sit down to eat. Raphael reminds Adam that he has free will and
warns him of Satan's intentions to corrupt God's creation.
Raphael gives some history on Satan: Satan first turned when God begot his Son and announced to all heaven
that the angels must worship him. All the angels do worship the Son, but later that night Satan speaks to his second in command
and tells him to gather their forces in the northern hill Satan convinces one half of the angels in heaven to join him because
of his great leadership as an angel.
God, of course, sees what Satan is up to and discusses it with his Son. The Son agrees to defeat Satan.
Satan erects a temple on a northern hill that replicates God's own temple. There, Satan addresses the angels
that followed him and incites them to rebellion.
Only Abdiel stands up in the crowd and objects, but none of the others join him. He leaves proudly and is allowed to fly back to heaven.
The concept of Satan's original disobedience stemming from pride, i.e. not wanting to bow down to the Son,
is seen in many Jewish and Christian traditional myths (though it is not explicitly stated in the Hebrew Bible or New Testament).
In a way, this only helps with our sympathy for the devil. After all, Satan was one of God's top angels, he had served God
unfailingly to arrive at that position, and, in some traditions, was considered God's first and favorite angel. To make an
angel who has worked so hard bow before someone else seems somehow unjust.
God as tyrant is an interesting paradox in Milton.
It is clear that heaven is a monarchy, with no room for dissent. Interestingly, Satan's councils seem much more democratic
in the sense that individuals other than Satan are allowed to stand and voice their sometimes opposing views. Milton's point, however, is that right actions (democracy, freedom) done irrationally (out
of God's will) do not count as right. A tyranny ruled by reason and goodness is better than one ruled by passions and animal
instincts. Although the councils of Satan's angels appear democratic now, it will soon become clear that they are led by lies
and deception. Satan later will trick his cohorts into obeying his whims, reason and rational thinking will give way to decisions
based on revenge and hate, and corruption will reign outside of God's ordering nature.
Along with the repeated theme of the Fall (Satan, mankind), Milton
uses again and again the "coming down" of supernatural spirits/Gods/devils to intervene or meddle in the goings-on of earth
and creation. Satan departs from his kingdom to come to earth, Raphael is sent by God to warn Adam. Later, Michael the archangel
will come with his mission, and, finally, the Son himself is prophesied to come in the form of Jesus Christ.
Language in lines 388-390 correlates Eve, mother of mankind, with Mary, mother of God. Indeed, Eve's seed
that is prophesied to crush out the serpent (read Satan) will be Jesus Christ. The language of these lines shares many words
with the "Hail Mary" Christian prayer, not the least of which is the first line: "Hail, mother of mankind."
Abdiel is welcomed back into heaven and praised for his courage. God then sends Michael and Gabriel with
his army to defeat Satan's army.
The battle ensues with a tremendous din. Soon, Satan and Michael find themselves face to face. They duel
by sword. Michael swings his sword, cuts through Satan's own, and cuts Satan's right side. Satan feels pain for the first
Satan's angels run to defend him and carry him back to his chariot. Satan soon heals, but his pride is hurt.
He is supposed to be equal to God and but here he gets knocked down by a simple archangel.
Satan and his forces find themselves beaten back for the time being. Night falls in heaven and Satan retreats
and calls a war council. There, he turns the defeat into victory. If God was infallible, he says, why were the fallen angels
able to survive a whole day and then allowed to retreat. Why weren't they entirely squashed? If they could battle God for
"...one day, why not eternal days?"
Satan suggest they return to battle the next day with more powerful weapons that they could construct using
heaven's natural resources, i.e. gunpowder and cannons.
The next day, Satan's forces surprise God's army by using the cannons, and thousands of good angels are knocked
down. But the good angels soon run to the surrounding nature of heaven and start throwing the actual hills back at Satan's
army. All of heaven is engulfed in confusion: the hills are being uprooted on both sides and thrown across the battlefield.
On the third day of battle, God sends in his Son. The Son tells God's army to relax and he rides forward
in his spectacular chariot to face Satan's army alone. As he rides, the hills assume their natural positions and heaven starts
to look normal again.
The Son charges after them with lightning bolts. Satan's army turns and runs away in horror. A breach opens
in the wall of heaven and the whole of Satan's army falls through and cascades down to hell.
Milton is making a political critique with his rather
strange allusion to cannons and gunpowder. A new invention at the time of his writing, many of Milton's contemporaries actually did view the use of cannon and gunpowder as a weapon inspired
by the devil. Perhaps analogous to nuclear warfare in our own time, the use of artillery was revolutionizing the way wars
were won. They increased the efficiency of war, that is, they increased the amount of casualties possible in a small span
of time. At the same time, they made war more impersonal. One no longer had to see the enemy to kill them. Because of this,
society had to change, or completely lose, its concepts of the hero and of chivalry. In a sense, the use of artillery was
somehow cheating, somehow taking away from the honor of war, and therefore originated from a less than honorable source.
Milton actually gives a rather poetic technical description
of how the cannon works. The "other bore" is the touch-hole or cavity of the barrel. The "touch of fire" is where the cannon
is lit, actually called a touch-powder.
There are no coincidences in Milton, every number, every reference to a star, nearly every word is a clue
or key to another meaning. On a very superficial level we can see this in Milton's
numerology. The third day of battle, of course, corresponds to the three days Jesus Christ was in the tomb in the Christian
New Testament. Christians believe that when Christ was resurrected on the third day, raised from the dead, he defeated death.
Death, we will remember, is Satan's son. So when the Son goes out on the third day to battle Satan and his army, Satan's defeat
is a direct correlation with Jesus Christ's victory over death. It is notable that the Son battles the whole of Satan's army
without any help from the God's angels. Likewise, Jesus Christ's crucifixion and death was faced without any help from angels.
The torn up hills of heaven are also put back in their place and nature resumes its order when the Son passes
by on his chariot. Again, in a macrocosmic sense, the Son is ordering, making rational once again, what was chaos by his mere
presence. So he will make mankind ordered, rational, and good when he comes the earth in the form of Jesus the Christ. In
lines 723 -33, in fact, the Son is reciting exact phrases from Jesus' last supper.
Another Biblical allusion at this point is the simile of 856-857 comparing Satan's retreating army to a flock
of sheep which will ultimately be driven off a cliff and fall. The story of the Jesus casting the devil into the Gaverene
swine from the Gospel of Mark and then the swine running off a cliff is implied.
Turning to the poetic elements once again, it is interesting to note Milton's
repeated use of certain words. "Fruit," "fall," "forbidden" are, of course, used quite often and not always in the most obvious
contexts. Interestingly, Milton avoids using the word "original,"
though theologians continually use the word to refer to the fall of Adam and Eve. And the word "all" is used a tremedous number
of times, 612 times to be exact, at the rate of about once every seventeen lines. This use of this word shows the absolutist
nature of Milton's concept of purity and corruption. They
are extremes in Milton's mind, and the possibility of all-goodness
or all-evil is wholly possible in his universe.
Summary and Analysis of Books VII-IX
Adam asks Raphael about how he, man, came to be, how the earth was created, and why?
Raphael tells him that after Satan's fall, God saw that heaven had lost half its population. Not wanting Satan to claim even that victory, God decides to populate heaven
with a creature who, given free will, would earn their way into his glory.
God then creates darkness and light, the universe, earth and ocean, and plants and animals (in the same order
as the Genesis story of the Hebrew Bible) in seven days.
With a direct Biblical allusion, Raphael relates the story of creation. Here, Milton uses the order and, in some cases, word for word description used in the first and
second chapter of Genesis, the first book of the Hebrew Bible.
Theologically, Raphael is giving God's reason for creating man, and man's universe, in the first place: in
order to repopulate heaven. Man is designed to work his way to an angelic state by keeping correct, rational order to his
passions, as discussed in Book IV.
Raphael story, and Adam's remembrances, will parallel with Michael's narration of the history of man after the Fall starting in book XI. The contrast between the two histories starts with
the messengers who are narrating them. Raphael is a friend coming over for dinner. He is a soft, kindly angel who serves as
a warning friend to Adam. Michael, on the other hand, traditionally a militant angel, comes in with full military regalia,
as well as a squadron of angels behind him, to tell Adam the story as well as evict he and Eve from the Garden. Raphael is soft to Michael's hardness, Raphael is amiable to Michael's firmness. Raphael comes with gentle
advice, Michael comes with strict enforcement of orders. The opposites stand as a pre-Fall/post-Fall contrast of the nature
of interaction between God's emissaries and man.
Milton reminds us throughout the poem that he is writing
an epic and tying himself to a grand tradition by calling for the muse before he begins writing many of the episodes. In this
Book , Milton actually calls on the Holy Spirit to be his inspiration, setting up a competition with Homer and Vergil who called on pagan muses to be theirs. Milton
has already admitted he believes he is tackling a much bigger subject than they did in their poems. In this case, however,
Milton is backing his greatness, and his authroity to write,
with the element of the Chrisitan trinity that has inspired the writers of the scriptures.
Adam asks Raphael about the heavens. In the meantime, Eve goes to take care of her garden. Raphael talks
about heaven a bit, and even mentions creatures living on other planets, but ends by saying that Adam and Eve should not get
too curious about other worlds or how heaven functions. Such questions and curiosity may lead them astray of their function
Adam then tells Raphael what he remembers about when he was created. (Raphael was guarding hell while Adam
was being created so missed the whole thing.) Adam remembers only waking up in a beautiful place and wondering about his own
existence. He has a dream and God answers him that it was he, God, that created him. God warns him not to eat from the tree
of Knowledge of Good and Evil. God tells Adam that all the rest of creation is his to own and name.
Adam tells God that he would like a companion, a mate. Adam notes that all the other animals were given consorts
God tells him that he, God, is alone and is doing fine. God finally relents, however, and tells Adam that
he planned a mate for him all along.
Adam is put to sleep and God takes a rib from his side. From it, God forms a woman, the most beautiful to
Adam of all God's creatures.
Adam and Raphael have a discussion about love: how love must be pure, not a carnal or a passionate love.
Carnal love is what the beasts enjoy and God gave Adam a woman, not a beast, so he should practice a higher love.
The creation of Eve foreshadows what will ultimately become the cause of Adam's fall: following the guidance
of his own baser, more animalistic elements that are convinced by Eve's beauty. Adam tells Raphael of his concern for how
he feels about Eve. Although he knows her to be a weaker creature by nature, Adam is sometimes fooled by her beauty in believing
that she is "...wisest, virtuousest, discreetist, best."
Milton, who had three wives himself, is saying some pretty strong things about women in this passage. Basically,
he places Adam, the male, not only at the head of the household, but naturally placed there because he is wiser, more virtuous,
more discreet and best.
As the theme of Fall is a recurring theme in the work, it is interesting to compare the various reasons for
their disobedience: Satan falls because of his pride, Adam because of his love/seduction by Eve, Eve because of her vanity.
As well, we have the theme of the trinity repeated in the three fallen species.
Despite Raphael's and Adam's rather misogynist conversation, the two hash out some valid points on love.
The animalistic love that Raphael alludes to is, in modern terms, an objectification of Eve. Adam, after all, is responding
to Eve's beauty, her shape, her outer physical nature. Raphael says this is for the animals. Man's love should be a rational
love, based on person and respect for the living as opposed to corrupted lust.
Twilight falls on the Garden of Eden. Then darkness. Satan slips into the garden in the form of mist. He
then hides himself in the snake.
While going though Eden, Satan again laments
his loss of heaven when he sees how beautiful a creation paradise is. "Revenge, at first though sweet, bitter ere long back
on itself recoils.""
Morning comes and Adam and Eve go out to tend the garden of Eden. Eve suggests they split up and divide the
work to get more of it done. Adam doesn't think this is a good idea, but relents when Eve implies that he doesn't trust her.
Satan, of course, finds Eve alone and, for a moment overcome by her beauty, finds himself "stupidly good."
In the form of a serpent, then, Satan flatters her, telling her how beautiful she is. Eve is amazed that
the serpent knows how to speak and asks how this is possible. Satan replies that it is because he ate from a tree in the garden.
He brings her to the Tree of Knowledge to show her.
Eve, at first, says she cannot eat from the tree, but Satan tells her that God doesn't want her to eat because
knowledge of good and evil will make her equal to a god.
Eve takes an apple and devours it. She then decides, because of her love, to involve Adam. They meet in front
of the tree.
Adam is upset, but decides he cannot live without Eve, so he takes the apple as well. When he eats the apple,
the two are seized with lust, and Adam leads Eve back to the bank where they first lay together.
They sleep and arise, "destitute and bare of all their virtue." They realize for the first time that they
are naked. Adam sews together fig leaves to cover themselves.
Adam blames Eve for their torment. Eve blames Adam for letting her work in the garden alone. Adam blames
Eve for being angry about that, and they spend the afternoon blaming on another.
Milton is writing at the cusp of the Renaissance. The
emerging sciences, arts, and literature point to a different sense of the individual than that of the dark ages. Milton was straddling the heavy hand of the church and religion of the
Middle Ages and the humanism and individualism of the future, both in his personal philosophy and in his historical context.
Milton was, in many ways, a humanist and believed in the value
of human life as well as the rights and freedoms which are inherent in that life. However, Milton continually balanced this with the idea that true freedom can only be had if it is
in line with the ordered, rational will of God.
Adam loves Eve and so, by joining her in eating the apple, sacrifices his own happiness for love. This, in
itself is good act, motivated by love. A true humanist would say that Adam is acting freely and he has done a good thing.
Milton, however, shows that even good acts are evil and corrupt
if not done in line with God's will. Adam is disobeying God and no matter what he does outside of obedience, it will be bad.
William Blake said that "Milton was of the
devil's party without knowing it." He was referring to what we have described before, namely, the rather sympathetic nature
in which Milton seems to treat Satan. Indeed, Satan's rebelling
against the all seeing tyranny of God would appear to be right in line with Milton's
own political views that tyranny was wrong. However, just as with Adam in good works done in disobedience, Satan is wrong
because he is acting outside the will of God, no matter his courage, bravery, or justification in rebelling against tyranny.
Despite his humanism, therefore, Milton believes that no acts
can be considered good if they are against God's law.
It is quite clear in this book that right after Adam took a bite of the apple, Adam and Eve had lustful,
passionate sex. Referring back to Book IV, where it is inferred that they were having sex all along, one can see the difference
in sex in pre-fall uncorrupted mankind and post-Fall irrational man. Pre-Fall Adam and Eve were guided by reason and order
and so therefore all acts, even acts of love, brought him closer to God. Post-Fall Adam and Eve are using his animal appetites
which brought him closer to animals than God. One can see in the language where post-Fall Adam grabs Eve's hand and pulls
her to their bed, where before it was Eve who gently took Adam's hand.
Continuing on Milton's use of numerology,
we go a little deeper this time with the interesting fact that the pause before nature itself shudders in revulsion from Adam
eating the apple occurs exactly on line 999 of Chapter IX. Line 10000 actually begins the storm. Although we may be unsure
what Milton had in mind by these numbers matched with events,
we can be sure that it was not incidental (and probably has something to do with numerology of ancient Mesopotamian religions).
Once again, Milton is showing the physical,
macro results of a internal, micro moral decision. The earth, i.e., nature itself, shutters when Adam takes a bite of the
apple. In this chapter and the next, the natural elements of earth will crumble and become corrupted in the sense in the sense
that natural disasters, and violence between species, will become the norm. Earth will then become a mixture of the types
of nature seen in both heaven and hell. It will, at times, be spectacularly beautiful, full of light and blooming in colors.
It will also, however, have its dark times, be engulfed in floods and flames, and look more like an unordered hell.
The physical descriptions of Adam and Eve have changed as well. They no longer glow with joy, they are less
angelic in their nature, and, within hours of eating the apple, they are prone to new, irrational emotions ranging from anger
to deep depression. As well, they see each other differently as well. Specifically, they are more interested, and worried,
about their genetalia than ever before. The reproductive organs suddenly take on a value (they are evil in that they lead
to lust) which was hereto unheard of when Adam and Eve lacked knowledge.
For Milton, the interior state of the soul
is displayed visibly in the physical. Sin is always visible.
Summary and Analysis of Books X-XII
God tells the angels that guarded the Garden of Eden that there was nothing they could do about stopping Satan and the mankind from making their decision. In a sense, he says, this was destined to happen. He then sends his Son to judge
Adam and Eve.
The son calls to Adam and Eve, who are hiding in the bushes. They emerge, but instead of praising him, the
cringe in guilt. Adam says that he heard the Son calling, but was ashamed that he was naked. Adam amidst to eating the fruit,
but blames Eve ,the partner that God had made for him.
Eve admits as well, but blames the snake. The Son judges the snake: and makes him an animal who will grovel
on his stomach and eat dust.
The Son judges Eve. She will now have pain in childbirth and must be submissive to her husband.
The Son judges Adam. He will have difficulty with the earth in getting food to grow. And death will be at
the end for both of them. The Son then gives them both clothes made from animal skins.
Sin, at the gates of hell, is inspired by Satan's success on creation and talks with her son Death. The two of them build a bridge from hell to earth so that mankind can more easily be brought to hell and Sin, Death, and
Satan can more easily invade earth.
Satan returns to hell and sends Sin and Death to reign on earth.
His fallen angles gather around him in his temple to hear of his success. He tells them what he did. They
do not cheer however, as he expected. Instead they hiss. Satan feels himself be turned into a giant snake, and he himself
hisses with them.
All of the fallen angels then turn into snakes, scorpions, and monsters. They gather around a tree of fruit,
resembling the Tree of Knowledge. They taste the fruit, but it tastes like ashes.
In the meantime, Sin and Death are on earth. death starts to work on nature, starting with plants and moving
up to animals. Sin, of course, will concentrate on mankind.
God changes the laws of nature so that they will not always provide light and order. Most significantly,
God sends the angels to tip the axis of the earth so that now it will have seasons. Now man will be fighting against nature
instead of working with it.
Adam laments the transformation. He repels Eve. Eve, despondent, contemplates suicide. Adam turns softer,
and tells her that their condition and judgment could have been much worse. They are not, after all, dead and they are still
The two then pray to God, asking for forgiveness, and begin to, once again, praise him.
The major theme of Paradise Lost, is, of course, the idea of the Fall. The books opened immediately after the fall of Satan and will now close on the fall
of mankind. Along the way, this fall theme appears again and again in smaller contexts, but always paralleling the idea of
falling away from the goodness, the grace and light of God.
The many instances of the fall theme, therefore, parallel each other and we can ascertain their various meanings
by comparing the reasons for the fall, the punishment for the turning away, and the reaction of the characters after the fall.
Specifically, in Book X, one can now compare the way Adam and Eve deal with falling away from goodness to how Satan dealt
By the end of the chapter, after the stinging immediacy of remorse and anger has quieted, the two decide
that they will continue to do what they did before the fall: praise God. First, of course, they ask for forgiveness. Although
what they have done will change their nature forever (literally) and they realize that they can never go back, still, they
ask for God's forgiveness and ask to be brought back into goodness. Compare this reaction with Satan and the fallen angels'
reaction. Satan, too, immediately is stung with remorse and there are many instances, specifically in the Garden of Eden,
when Satan truly misses his previous form and his previous life. Still, this remorse and regret only makes Satan more angry
and more bitter and urges him on to corrupt with enthusiasm.
Because of this, God's relationship with fallen mankind will be much different from God's relationship with
Satan. God will continually be open to man's return, though not without some punishment. In fact, God will sacrifice his only
Son to finally redeem man. Man remains God's favorite creation, and man's destiny remains a union with God finally in heaven.
Satan, on the other hand, will be forever shunned from the light of heaven. Satan's children, Death and Sin,
will be overcome with the death of Jesus Christ and evil itself will cease at the end of the world (though Milton, for the most part, stays away from eschatological discussions).
In yet another political jab, Milton refers
to the bridge from hell to earth as the "wondrous art pontifical(314)." The word pontifical, of course, is used by Catholics
to describe all things related to the pope, who is, in fact, the pontiff or bridge between God and man. Milton's irony is clear: the pope is actually the bridge to hell and the Roman Catholic Church
is the quickest way to get there.
The Son hears the prayers for forgiveness from Adam and Eve and presents them to God, asking if the pleas
for forgiveness aren't somehow sweeter now that mankind knows the difference between good and evil.
God agrees and decides to lighten his judgment of the two. But, he says, mankind must be forbidden to live
in Paradise. God calls a council to proclaim his decisions, and tells the archangel Michael to go down to Paradise with a squadron of Cherubim to evict Adam and Eve.
Adam and Eve wake and Adam says that perhaps all is not lost. They then see Michael coming down from heaven
and grow afraid.
Michael approaches Adam and tells him that he and Eve must leave Eden.
Adam laments their loss of Eden, but mostly because he will
be far from God. Michael replies that God is everywhere, even outside of Eden.
Michael then brings Adam to a hill to show him what will happen to him and his offspring up until the flood.
He shows Adam how all his offspring will be corrupted by Adam's sin and demonstrates by telling him about the story of Cain
and Abel and the introduction of violence into mankind. Michael tells him of the other ways man will die: fire, flood, famine,
bad food and drink, and a long litany of diseases.
Adam asks how man can avoid these horrible deaths. Michael replies "by temperance taught, " "the rule of
not too much" and then man might die a peaceful death.
Michael continues and narrates the stories of the sons of Cain, the prophet Enoch, and Noah and the Flood.
Many critics have argued that Milton implies
that mankind was actually better off in the eyes of God and in the eyes of Adam and Eve having fallen. The opening of this
chapter seems to enforce this view, as the prayers for forgiveness from Adam and Eve appear more sweet and valuable now that
they can choose evil or good and now voluntarily choose good. There was only one thing they could do while they were in the
pre-Fall garden and that was to eat from the Tree of Knowledge. Other than that, nearly everything they did was ordered and
just. Now, they' re universe has opened up, in a phrase, and they see that they can be controlled by animal instincts constantly
if they so choose. But they choose to repent and continue to praise God (and, by the way, they finally stop fighting when
they decide to do this).
According to these critics, then, the Fall was not only a necessary thing, but it was a good thing, a fortunate
or happy fall, for both God and the humans. Loving and praising God now becomes a rarer, more appreciated act.
The idea of the "happy fall" is reinforced by the fact that the Son of God would never have come to earth in the form of Jesus Christ without the Fall. The phrase, "thy seed shall bruise our foe,"
is repeated again and again in the final books of Paradise Lost. The phrase, we see now, is referring to the seed of Eve: who will be, down the line, the Son on earth, i.e. Jesus Christ:
and how he will crush Satan and Death and Sin. The Fall of man makes his redemption through Christ possible.
The question that many critics and theologians ask is, "was mankind destined to fall?" For that matter, was
Satan destined to fall? It is clear for Milton that God knew
all along that man was going to fall, he told his Son long before it actually happened. Satan accuses God of creating him
with a nature that was prone to pride, and, therefore, destined to fall. The idea of the "happy fall," perhaps, mitigates
this accusation. God, indeed, predestined that Adam should fall so that he could show his love for mankind by sending his
Son as sacrifice. Still, if Adam and Eve and Satan were all predestined to fall, are we, as well, destined to act by our natures
in a way that God has already ordained?
Milton began his poem by saying that he meant to justify
the ways of God to man. We see now that Milton actually meant
that he intended to give a justification for God's actions, not just provide a narration or explanation of them. Is God, as
a character, justified in this creation story? Or is he the all-seeing tyrant that Satan accuses him of being?
The question, in Milton's time, was personified
in the battle between the Calivinists, who believed in predestination, and the Catholic Church, who believed man's free will
gave him a constant choice between good and evil. Milton,
in his epic, seems to take a fragile middle road between the two.
Michael continues to relate the story of man (basically covering the whole of the Hebrew Bible). He relates
the story of the tyrant Nimrod and his desire to be greater than all men and even God by constructing the Tower of Babel. He tells the story of how God
chose one nation, Israel, to be his chosen
people and described the line from Abraham, to Joshua, through Joseph, Moses, and Joshua, who finally brought them into the
promised land. He described the kingdom of David,
the Temple of Solomon,
and the Hebrew people's Babylonian exile and captivity.
Finally, Michael tells of the anointed Messiah who will finally conquer death and right Adam's wrong. The
Son will then ascend to heaven which will be possible for all men who follow God's law.
Adam rejoices in the fact that the Son of God will be born of his seed, but how will the Son conquer Death?
"Thy punishment he shall endure by coming in the flesh to a reproachful life and a cursed death," replies
Michael finishes by telling Adam to add deed to the knowledge which he has been given, add virtue, patience,
temperance and love. "Then wilt thou not be loath to leave this Paradise, but shalt possess
a paradise within thee, happier far."
Michael then holds both Adam's and Eve's hands and leads them out of Paradise.
Why does Raphael recite the history of mankind, in the form of the Hebrew Bible, to Adam? The reason can be read in Adam's reaction to every
turn of the story. Adam is pained by the fact that one of his sons will kill the other, that humans will again and again disappoint
God because of what Adam and Eve have done. Corruption and violence will continue to be a part of human history from this
time forward. Thus, the reciting of the story is a punishment for Adam, a demonstration of the consequences of his actions,
the evil that he has wrought.
At the same time, there are many positive stories and heroes in Raphael's narrative: Enoch, Noah, Abraham,
David and Joshua are all described as heroes who bring mankind back on track with God's will. The story culminates with Jesus
Christ as the ultimate redemption. The story, therefore, also serves as comfort to Adam in order to show him that there will
be members of his seed that will act honorable and bring the grace of God back onto mankind. Raphael's narrative ends with
the resurrection of Jesus Christ and Adam is filled with the ultimate satisfaction.. Adam sees that the Fall was not just
necessary, but it exemplifies God's glory and goodness even more so than creation by coming to conclusion in the story of
Christ. The power of God to redeem and forgive mankind through the resurrection of Christ, turning an "evil thing to good,"
is an even more powerful act than when God separated darkness from light.
Raphael's narration, however, does more than just make Adam feel guilty/good about his decisions. It is actually
a continuation of the basic theme that Milton established
from the beginning, the theme of Fall and ascension, freedom and slavery, reason and animal appetites. The history of mankind
is a series of falls from God's grace, a series of man acting irrationally (opposed to God's will) and therefore creating
corruption. Man turns away, as in the Tower of Babylon, and then returns, in a continual cycle.
So it is with a bittersweet sense of loss mixed with glorious redemption that Adam and Eve, and the readers,
leave the Garden. The final image of Adam and Eve walking hand in hand in search of a place in the post-Fall world is a reflection
on the journey every man and woman must take in life. Milton
balances the corruption of man with the hope of eternal life in grace to give us not a tragedy, but an epic reflection of
the condition of humanhood.