Paradise Lost by John Milton (1608 - 1674)

Paradise Lost
by John Milton (1608
- 1674)

Type of Work:

Narrative, epic poem


Hell, then Heaven, then newly-created

Earth; all "in the beginning"

Principal Characters

Satan, earlier called Lucifer, a fallen

Adam, the first man

Eve, the first woman

God the Father

God the Son

Various angels and demons

Story Overveiw
(Recounted here is the story of Man's

Of Man's First Disobedience, and the Fruit

Of that Forbidden Tree,whose mortal taste

Bought Death into the World, and all our

With loss of Eden, Till one greater Man

Restore us, and regain the blissful Seat...)

Satan, the once radiant Lucifer, and his
angels lay in a formless, sulphurous lake of fire having justbeen driven
out of Heaven. Their fall had sent them plummeting through space from their
heavenly home down to Hell, leaving them beaten senseless. Only now, after
lying unconscious for nine days, did Satan and his demons begin to rouse
themselves. Accustomed to living in heavenly glory, they found their new
home horrifying, and convened a council to determine how they might escape

Hell and recover at least some of their former glory.

Too proud to consider seeking re-admittance
to Heaven through repentance, they agreed with Satan that it was "better
to reign in Hell than serve in Heaven." One demon favored remaining in

Hell, but transforming it into a kingdom as powerful and glrious as Heaven.

But another, Beelzebub, second in command, proposed a different plan: He
had heard that God had designs to create a new world, to be the home "of
some new race called man ... / To be created like to us, though less/ In
power and excellence"

Beelzebub argued that, if they acted quickl,,
they could possess this new world and subdue as slaves the new race of
men. His vengeful plot was eagerly approved by the hosts of Hell, and Satan
himself volunteered to make the perilous journey past the Gates of Hell
and through space to the new earth.

Satan, after a long trek, happened upon
a heavenly angel, Uriel, custodian of the orb of the sun. Disguised as
an angel, Satan managed to get the unsuspecting Uriel to point out where
the new earth lay. The devil then flew off.

His earthly arrival, however, did not go
unnoticed by God, who calmly explained to His Son that Satan's presence
would, in time, lead to the fall of man, bringing upon him punishment and
death. Moved by compassion, the Son offered to give his life in order to
save men, which sacrifice the Father accepted. But for the time they left

Satan to his wiles.

Satan was overwhelmed by the earth's beauty.

But that very beauty, far from filling him with joy, stirred up memories
of the Paradise he had lost. In a stormy speech full of self-doubt, fear,
and envy, Satan lamented his fall and foretold a future filled with ever-worsening
torments. He would never be able to escape Hell, he concluded, since "which
way I fly is Hell; myself am Hell." But if he could not live in peace,
at least he would divide Heaven's kingdom, and possibly rule over the greater
part of God's creation.

Searching, Satan finally came upon Adam
and Eve. Disguised in the forms of various beasts, he marvelled at the
first man and woman, whose beauty and nobility inspired in him both admiration
and caretakers of the Garden of Eden and eavesdropped on their long, affectionate
conversations. He was astonished to find them endowed with full faculties
of speech and reasoning, and yet they were so innocent as to enjoy sexual
union without the slightest taint of lust. After performing their evening
devotions, Adam and Eve retired to their bed. Satan, crouching as a toad
beside the sleeping woman, whispered falsehoods and rumors into her ear.

After a time, guardian angels arrived to interrupt his mischief, but allowed
him to escape.

On the next morning Eve awoke complaining
of a nightmare in which an angel had tempted her to eat the forbidden fruit
of the Tree of Knowledge. God, seeing the peril his creation was in, sent
the angel Raphael to explain to the couple that Satan had been the cause
of the dream and to warn them against further temptation. Adam's curiosity
was sparked; he asked Raphael about this "Satan" and how he had managed
to come to the earth. The angel answered Adam with an account of Satan's
fall. The problem, he related, began when God the Father announced to the
assembled angels that He had anointed His Son, who stood at His right hand,
as a Lord over them all. Lucifer, full of envy, managed to assemble a rival
faction of angels to contest God's power. The