Describe Hell in Milton's Paradise Lost Book 1.

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In book 1 of Paradise Lost, Milton describes hell as a dark, desolate wildness lit by never-ending fires. Satan awakens chained in a sea of molten flame. In this place that smells of sulfur, Satan and his minions mine ore and build a city that is a parody of God's celestial city in heaven.

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When John Milton describes hell in book 1 of Paradise Lost, he seems to be portraying a terrifying yet paradoxical place.

At first, he tells us hell is a world where torment and affliction know no limits. He tells of us "bottomless perdition":

Regions of sorrow, doleful shades, where peace
And rest can never dwell.

Hell is not a place to relax, take or break, or unwind. It's a place of constant cruelty and "torture without end." It's so nefarious that Milton can't quantify it.

Yet Milton does quantify it by assigning it concrete properties. He refers to hell as a "dungeon horrible" and a "prison ordained / In utter darkness." Dungeons and prisons have specific boundaries. Yet maybe what separates the dungeon/prison of hell from an ordinary dungeon/prison is that the dungeon/prison of hell offers unlimited capacity.

As for light, there's not lots of that in Milton's hell. As we already know, hell is consumed by "utter darkness." Although, perhaps when Milton says "darkness," he doesn't mean literal darkness. Perhaps he means there's a lack of thought, awareness, or virtue. If it were truly dark, there wouldn't be fires. In Milton's hell, there's "floods and whirlwinds of tempestuous fire."

There's also people in Milton's hell. Maybe not people so much as creatures. There's the fallen angels, including Satan. Satan seems to think of hell as a kingdom—his kingdom. "Better to reign in Hell, then serve in Heav'n," Satan tells the other devils. It reveals the extent to which Satan privileges power. He'd rather rule a place of "waste and wilde" than serve God in a place as perfect as heaven.

One more description that we always take note of occurs when Satan says,

The mind is its own place, and in it self Can make a Heav'n of Hell, a Hell of Heav'n.

The emphasis on the psychological aspects of hell suggests that hell doesn't need specific physical properties or traits. It can exist abstractly in our heads on its own.

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Milton offers a vivid description of hell in book 1 of Paradise Lost. It is a place of "utter darkness" and chaos. As the poem opens, Satan and his minions have lost their war with God and his angels and awaken to find themselves in a lake of fire.

Satan, who wakes up before anyone else, notices that they are in a dismal, wild wasteland. Beyond the lake of fire in which he is chained, the flames of this fiery wasteland are everywhere. Rather than shedding light, they only make the never-ending "darkness visible." The place smells of "ever-burning" sulfur. It is a site of such "torture" and misery that the fallen Satan is stunned at the contrast between this and the light-filled heaven from which he and his minions have just fallen.

Nevertheless, Satan, though shaken and in pain, makes the best of this new environment. As he (because God allows it) breaks the chains pinning him in the lake of fire, he sees a shoreline littered with broken chariot wheels and the corpses of his dead followers. He wakes and leads his remaining legions from the "fiery waves" in which they are caught to a dark and "dreary plain." In a famous speech, he states that the mind

itself
Can make a Heav'n of Hell, a Hell of Heav'n

He brings his legions to a hill where they mine ore

with impious hands
Rifl'd the bowels of thir mother Earth
For Treasures better hid.

They build a city in hell called Pandemonium, which is a parody of God's celestial city in heaven. Here, Satan reigns over his dark, barren kingdom while plotting the revenge that will bring him to earth disguised as a serpent.

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Milton's Paradise Lost is filled with very imagery in all of its many books, but Milton's descriptions of hell are especially vivid, and keep in line with our general understanding of hell as being a place of fire and punishment.

In Book 1, Milton describes what happened to the fallen angels who dared to challenge God in Heaven.  He states that the angels were all

hurled headlong flaming from the ethereal sky / With hideous ruin and combustion down / To bottomless perdition, there to dwell / In adamantine chains and penal fire ... his (Satan's) horrid crew / Lay vanquished, rolling in the fiery gulf.

This first description of hell is very clearly a place of terror and torment.  The rebel Angels were thrown from the beautiful sky of heaven down to an unending hell of damnation.  There they are suffering in the fires that they cannot escape from. 

From there, the descriptions goes on to reinforce the above mentioned description.  Hell is described as a

dismal situation waste and wild / A dungeon horrible, on all sides round / As one great furnace flamed, yet from those flames / No light but rather, darkness visible. 

This description is especially interesting in the final image.  Normally we think of fire and picture the warm lighted glow that is emitted from the flames, but this fire is so intense and other-worldly no light comes forth.  It is actually darker than seems possible.  It is in incredibility frightening description.  From there, the description continues with interesting and powerful word choices and short phrases.  There is a mention of the "fiery deluge" which suggests a flood of fire -- a flood is usually thought to be overwhelming and unstoppable.   When Beelzebub tries to rally the angels to be strong in the midst of this torture he acknowledges the "dreary plain" that is "forlorn and wild."  He calls it a "seat of desolation" and describes the flames as "livid."  That is an interesting word choice because the reader might expect "vivid" meaning bright and lively, but he uses "livid" to draw the connotation of anger and power.  Even though this hell is an awful and frightening place, Satan wants his followers to "toss off the fiery waves" and overcome this "dire calamity."  He rallies the other angels to try to rise from the firey pit they are in and to embrace the idea that even though they are damned

The mind is its own place, and in itself / Can make a Heaven of Hell, or a Hell of Heaven. 

 The angels may be eternally in this place, but they can still have great influence in the world.  They can embrace the idea that they are "in charge" of hell and no longer have God in charge of them.  The rest of Paradise Lost is about how Satan sets about to get his revenge on God.  As we know from the Bible, he sees his opportunity in the characters of Adam and Eve in God's Garden of Eden.  As they are brought down by sin, so is all of humanity.

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Provide a complete description of hell according to Paradise Lost.

In "Book I" of Paradise Lost Milton gives us some very memorable images of hell; many of them allude to the Bible, and others from his own mind. Here are some of them:

"bottomless perdition" (I. 47)

"fiery gulf" (I. 52)

"A dungeon horrible" (I. 61)

"one great furnace flamed, yet from those flames / No light (I. 62-63) My favorite.

"Regions of sorrow, doleful shades, where peace / And rest can never dwell, hope never comes / That come to all" (I. 65-67)

These are incredible images of Milton's hell. The first one alone is astonishing. In the two words "bottomless perdition" Milton gives us a sense of the magnitude of the punishment; it is eternal; this idea is accomplished via the word "bottomless." How does one escape a bottomless anything let alone a "perdition?"

The other that is quite mind-boggling is "flames" that cast "No light." This paradox certainly further enhances the "bottomless perdition" idea, doesn't it? The image reveals just how hopeless it is in hell, for light represents hope; Milton confirms this lost of hope when he says Hell is a place

where peace

And rest can never dwell, hope never comes

That comes to all (I. 66-67)

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Provide a complete description of hell according to Paradise Lost.

I'm afraid that a complete description would take quite a while (more space than is available here), because it would involve things like describing the mindset of Satan and the fallen angels.

However, you can get a good discussion of some elements of hell in the summary and analysis of Book 1. There and in the poem itself you'll find it mentioned that there is a lake of fire in hell, that it is "horrid," "dismal," a "dungeon," full of pain and despair, and so on. It is usually silent, until Satan speaks, but a "horrid" silence. It is full of devils who when they do act, make terrible noises and do unspeakable things.

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Describe Hell in Paradise Lost.

In Book I, Hell is described as a fiery prison. Satan is thrown into Hell, in "Adamantine" (inflexible) chains and "penal" (punishing) fire, chained on a burning lake. As Satan views his environment in Hell, he sees Hell as: 

A Dungeon horrible, on all sides round

As one great Furnace flam'd, yet from those flames

No light, but rather darkness visible

Serv'd only to discover sights of woe,

Regions of sorrow, doleful shades, where peace

And rest can never dwell, hope never comes (61-66).

The lake is in flames. Even though there are flames, they provide no light. Hell is in "utter darkness"; the only light serves to illuminate suffering. Hell is as far away from "God and light of Heav'n" as three times the distance between the Earth (or center of the Earth) and the outermost atmosphere (lines 72-74). 

The so-called "chains" could be metaphoric. In other words, they may not be actual chains; the chains might refer to Satan and his cohorts being imprisoned/confined to Hell. This is possibly a metaphor, rather than a literal set of chains, because Satan later famously explains that it is "Better to reign in Hell, then to serve in Heav'n." (263) In either case, although Hell is a miserable place of eternal suffering, Satan rationalizes that it is better to suffer and be "free" than it is to serve God and live in paradise. 

Satan rationalizes that he can make Hell bearable by force of will. This is one of the reasons Satan is portrayed as an odd kind of fallen hero as well as a delusional villain: 

The mind is its own place, and in it self

Can make a Heav'n of Hell, a Hell of Heav'n. (254-55) 

In his determination and pride, Satan determines to make Hell into something livable or even sublime. 

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