Paradise Lost Additional Summary

John Milton


(Literary Essentials: Christian Fiction and Nonfiction)

Considered the greatest epic poem in English literature, John Milton’s monumental Paradise Lost, a twelve-book narrative poem written in iambic pentameter, tells the story

Of Man’s first disobedience and the fruitOf that forbidden tree whose mortal tasteBrought death into the World, and all our woe,With loss of Eden. . . .

Like classical epics of Greco-Roman antiquity, Paradise Lost opens in the midst of things (in medias res), at a central point of the action. In books 1 and 2, Satan and his peers have been defeated in the War in Heaven and, now in Hell, turn their vengeful thoughts toward another world, Earth, about to be created for some “new Race called Man.” As infernal deliverer of fallen angels, Satan, “author of evil,” promises to lead them out of Hell, thereby solidifying his hold on the throne of Hell. “Better to reign in Hell, than serve in Heaven,” Satan asserts, and he hopes to make God repent his act of creation. In escaping from Hell, Satan allies himself with his offspring, both Sin, the gatekeeper of Hell, and Death, in opposition to God. After voyaging through Chaos, the “unbottom’s infinite Abyss,” he deceives the archangel Uriel in order to discover the location of Paradise and then practices deception in tempting Eve.

Meanwhile, in book 3, in Heaven, where all measures of time—past, present, and future—coexist, God the Father, knowing that Satan will deceive Man, announces that Man, despite continual ingratitude and faithlessness, will find salvation. The Father ordains the Son’s incarnation and commands that he shall reign as universal king, “both God and Man.”

In book 4, Satan invades the “blissful solitude” of Adam and Eve in Eden, a paradoxical realm of “Eternal Spring” without decay. Satan learns from Adam and Eve that of all...

(The entire section is 821 words.)


(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

In the tradition of the epic poem, Paradise Lost begins in medias res, in the middle of the story, showing in the first two of twelve books how Satan and his followers gathered their forces on the burning lake of Hell and sought out the newly created race of humans on Earth. (The revolt and resulting war in Heaven that preceded this action and earned the devils their place in Hell is reported in books 5 and 6.)

In book 3, God observes Satan traveling toward Earth, predicts the fall of human beings, and asks for someone to ransom them. Christ, the Son, accepts. In book 4, Adam and Eve are introduced, as Satan lies hidden in the Garden of Eden. Satan appears in Eve’s dream, encouraging her to taste of the forbidden Tree of Knowledge, and in book 5 God sends the angel Raphael to warn Adam and Eve of their danger. Raphael begins the story of Lucifer’s revolt in Heaven, which he completes in book 6, and in book 7 Raphael tells of how God responded to Satan’s revolt by creating a new world, the earth, and a new race in Adam and Eve. In book 8, Adam describes to Raphael his and Eve’s creation, and Raphael delivers his final warning and departs. Book 9 tells the story of Satan’s successful temptation of Eve, the eating of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge, and the resulting discord between Adam and Eve. In book 10, Christ passes judgment on Adam and Eve, and Sin and Death build a bridge from the gates of Hell to Earth as Satan is returning to Hell. At the end of book 10, Adam and Eve resolve their discord and petition God for forgiveness, which is granted in book 11 as God sends the archangel Michael to give Adam a vision of the future for humans. In book 12, after the vision of Christ’s sacrifice and redemption of the human race, Adam and Eve are expelled from Eden.

This brief synopsis, of course, does not communicate the grandeur and emotional intensity of Milton’s great poem. Milton begins Paradise Lost with two captivating books set in Hell and featuring Lucifer, or Satan, who rallies his defeated forces and vows eternal war on God before journeying toward Earth to destroy Adam and Eve. In Hell, Satan has a kind of heroic splendor, and such apparent grandeur led English Romantic poets such as William Blake and Percy Bysshe Shelley to identify with Satan as a tragic rebel and to proclaim that Milton subconsciously admired Satan. Although Milton’s subconscious mind must forever...

(The entire section is 993 words.)


(Epics for Students)

Book I
Book I introduces the main subject matter of the poem: the creation, fall, and redemption of the world and...

(The entire section is 2183 words.)