Paradise Lost Book 2 Summary and Analysis
by John Milton

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Book 2 Summary and Analysis

New Characters:
Sin: Satan’s daughter, born out of his head in Heaven

Death: born as the son of Satan and Sin’s incestuous relationship

Chaos: rules the region of confusion between Hell and Earth

Night: the consort of Chaos

As he is ready to begin the consultation, Satan sits on his exalted throne in Pandemonium, the capitol of Hell. Addressing his angels as “Powers, Dominions, and Deities,” Satan, in his vanity, is comparable to the monarchs of the Orient. He assures them that Heaven is not lost, and with a spirit of unity, they can return again to claim their “just inheritance.” He offers the alternatives of “open war” or “covert guile” as he opens the debate with an invitation to anyone who wishes to speak.

Moloch, the strongest and fiercest demon, begins the debate with a proposal for “open war.” His hopes for equality with God have been dashed, and his despair has fuelled his desire for revenge. He argues that it would be better to be reduced to nonexistence than to bear the pain of their present state in Hell with no hope of an end to their suffering. Since nothing could be worse, they have nothing to lose by defying God openly. He insists that if the fallen angels are “indeed divine” and cannot be annihilated, God can do no more to them than he has already done. In his desperation for revenge, Moloch advocates that they alarm and disturb God though they will never be victorious since Heaven is inaccessible to them.

Belial, though false, is a much more humane and dignified demon who opposes Moloch’s plan and proposes peace at all costs. He too is aware that God could destroy them completely, but, unlike Moloch, he feels it would be better to exist in Hell than “to be no more.” In skillful debate, he exposes the folly of Moloch’s argument and reminds the fallen angels that Heaven is closely guarded and “impregnable.” He insists that Hell could get worse if they would arouse God to even greater condemnation and reasons that God might “remit his anger” and soften their punishment if they do not provoke him. Belial also suggests that familiarity with the horror and darkness of Hell will eventually lessen the pain.

Mammon speaks next, advocating that they stay in Hell rather than risk spending eternity in forced subjection to Heaven’s supreme Lord whom they hate. He reminds them that in Hell they will be free of God, choosing “hard liberty” rather than the “easy yoke” of servility. Pointing out that Hell can equal Heaven in gems and gold, he questions Heaven’s appeal. He concludes his speech, advising a dismissal of all ideas about war against Heaven. Mammon’s proposal is well received by the legions of angels who applaud loudly in approval. With the threatening sword of the heavenly angel Michael still vivid in their memory, many of them dread going to war against Heaven.

The last to speak, Beelzebub, second only to Satan in power, captivates his audience with his broad Atlas shoulders and majestic appearance. Since they have voted to stay in Hell, Beelzebub addresses the fallen angels by their new titles as Princes of Hell. He warns them to make no mistake about God’s intentions. He has doomed them to this place as their “dungeon” not their “safe retreat,” as some might think, and he rules them with an iron sceptor. Beelzebub exposes the folly of discussing peace or war since war against Heaven has already determined their irreversible fate. He proposes another plan, involving the new world God has created which is the happy seat of the race called Man. Beelzebub reasons that this place, possibly within their reach, may hold opportunities for revenge against God by destroying his new world or claiming it as their own and driving out God’s new inhabitants. It was Satan, the poet says, who first devised the devious scheme against mankind, and Beelzebub simply acts as his mouthpiece in the devilish council.

After the fallen angels vote to approve Beelzebub’s...

(The entire section is 2,326 words.)