"All Hell Broke Loose"

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Last Updated on May 9, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 214

Context: During the night of the day upon which he discovers Paradise, Satan assumes the shape of a toad, to squat by the ear of sleeping Eve and place dreams into her mind. Satan is discovered in his evil work by two angels of the heavenly guard, Ithuriel and Zephon. They take him, once again in his own shape, to be questioned by the archangel Gabriel, who is the commander of the guard of angels God has placed in Eden. In disdainful tones Gabriel speaks insultingly to Satan, who has questioned the reason for his being taken into custody. Gabriel taunts Satan with having deserted the host of rebel angels and with being willing to give up his authority and leadership of the fallen spirits in order to escape the pains of Hell. That this Miltonic phrase is the source of the well-known phrase about hell breaking loose seems doubtful, because of the context in which it appears. Gabriel taunts Satan:

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"But wherefore thou alone? wherefore with thee
Came not all hell broke loose? Is pain to them
Less pain, less to be fled, or thou than they
Less hardy to endure? courageous chief,
The first in flight from pain, hadst thou alleged
To thy deserted host this cause of flight,
Thou surely hadst not come sole fugitive."

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