Paradise Lost Summary

Paradise Lost is an epic poem by John Milton about the fall of Adam and Eve. 

  • Satan sets his sights upon the world of Man after being cast out of Heaven. 
  • He comes down to Earth, disguises himself as a serpent, and convinces Eve to eat the fruit of knowledge—an act that results in her and Adam being banished from paradise.
  • God identifies Satan to the Son and explains that Satan will lead Man to Sin. The Son volunteers to sacrifice himself in return for God’s divine grace for Man.


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Summary of the Work

A short summary, entitled The Argument, is presented by Milton as a preface to each of the 12 books of Paradise Lost. In the first book, he announces the subject of the poem, Man's disobedience and the loss thereupon of Paradise. The poem opens in the midst of things, after the war in Heaven but before the fall of Adam and Eve. Satan and his multitude of angels have been cast out of Heaven and into the Deep for rebelling against God and are chained on the burning lake in Hell. Satan awakens his legions of angels, comforting them in their dejected state by offering them hope of reclaiming Heaven. He recounts an old prophecy he has heard, while still in Heaven, of another world that will be created with a new kind of creature called Man. Satan calls a council in his newly erected palace, Pandemonium, to decide whether to wage another war on Heaven. After a lengthy debate, the council finally decides to send Satan to search for God's new creation instead. He flies toward the gates of Hell which are guarded by Sin and Death. They open the gates and Satan meets Chaos who directs him to the new world.

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Seeing Satan flying toward Earth, God points him out to the Son, prophesying that Satan will tempt Man to sin. God demonstrates his justice by declaring his divine grace to Man, however, only if someone will offer himself as a ransom for his sin. The Son volunteers and is praised by the angels in Heaven. Meanwhile, Satan has travelled through the Limbo of Vanity and reached the orb of the sun. He quickly disguises himself as a Cherub before he asks Uriel for directions to Earth.

On Earth, Satan disguises himself as a water bird in the Tree of Life where he overlooks the beauty of Adam and Eve in their blissful state. Later that night, Satan is caught at Eve's ear, tempting her in a dream, and he flies from the Garden. In the morning, Eve relates her disturbing dream to Adam.

Raphael is sent by God to caution Adam about the evil that is lurking in Paradise. After dining, Raphael engages Adam in a long conversation, reminding him of his obedience to God though he has been given free choice. Raphael informs Adam of the war in Heaven and the victory of the Son who drove Satan and his legions over the wall of Heaven and into the Deep. The Son was later sent by God to perform the work of creation in six days. Taking his leave, Raphael again cautions Adam to beware of God's command.

Returning to Paradise by night, Satan enters the body of the sleeping serpent. The next day, Eve innocently suggests to Adam that they work in separate areas of the Garden. Remembering Raphael's warning, Adam refuses at first but finally consents. Left alone, Eve is approached and flattered by the Serpent. He tells her his human speech and understanding were brought about by tasting of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge. He slowly convinces Eve to eat this same fruit. Although pleased with the taste and the exhilarating feeling, Eve approaches Adam with some reluctance. She convinces him to taste the fruit, and the effects are quickly felt, prompting them to cover their nakedness and blame each other for the sinful deed.

The guardian angels ascend to Heaven, and the Son is sent to judge the sinful pair. Out of pity, he also clothes them. In anticipation of their future appearance on Earth, Sin and Death build a broad highway over Chaos to make Earth more...

(The entire section contains 3905 words.)

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Chapter Summaries