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Paradise Lost

Paradise Lost Summary


Here you will find a Paradise Lost summary (John Milton's book).
We begin with a summary of the entire book, and then you can read each individual chapter's summary by visiting the links on the "Chapters" section.

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Last Updated: Monday 1 Jan, 2024

Paradise Lost Summary Overview

The narrative begins with the aftermath of a rebellion led by Satan against Heaven. After the insurgents are cast down to Hell, they unchain themselves and create a meeting place called Pandemonium. Here, they discuss plans for a new war against God, but Beelzebub proposes an alternate plan - to corrupt God's favourite creation, humans. This idea is accepted, and Satan ventures to Earth. His path is obstructed by his offspring, Sin and Death, but they end up building a bridge from Hell to Earth. Meanwhile, in Heaven, God warns the angels of Satan's plot, and His Son offers himself as a sacrifice for mankind. Satan, disguised as an angel, deceives Uriel, the guardian of the Sun, enters Paradise and perches atop the Tree of Life. Uriel, detecting an impostor, alerts the other angels. On Earth, Adam and Eve live peacefully, obeying God's command to not eat from the Tree of Knowledge. However, Satan takes the form of a toad and manages to tempt Eve into eating the forbidden fruit. Gabriel, an angelic guard, confronts Satan who flees upon the appearance of God's sign - golden scales of justice. Disturbed by a dream of temptation, Eve shares it with Adam, prompting God to send Raphael to caution them about Satan. Raphael recounts the jealousy and rebellion of Satan upon the Son's appointment as God's deputy, the subsequent war against God, and the creation of the universe. He warns Adam against seeking forbidden knowledge and advises him to love Eve purely and spiritually. Eight days later, Satan returns to Paradise, assumes the form of a serpent, and finds Eve alone. He convinces her that the prohibition against eating from the Tree of Knowledge is a test of courage. Eve succumbs, and Adam, not wanting to lose Eve, also eats the fruit. This act transforms their innocent love into lust. God, aware of their disobedience, sends His Son to mete out punishments. The Son degrades the serpent, introduces pain, death, childbirth, subservience, and hard labor as the punishments for Eve, Adam, and their descendants. Satan, upon returning to Hell, is hailed as a hero, but his celebration is short-lived as they all transform into snakes, tantalized by unreachable, illusory fruits. God modifies Earth's climate, introducing harsh seasons. Adam and Eve, filled with remorse, repent and pray. God sends Michael to banish them from Paradise, but not before showing Adam visions of mankind's sinful future and redemption. After this enlightening vision, Adam and Eve leave Paradise, hand in hand, for a brave new world.

book 1

Paradise Lost commences with the poet Milton unveiling its theme: the first disobedience of Adam and Eve against God, resulting in a series of consequences. The named disobedience is the consumption of the banned fruit from the Tree of Knowledge, illustrated in the Bible's Genesis. Milton uses the term "fruit", from the first line, as a pun to represent both the forbidden apple and the figurative outcomes of Adam and Eve's actions. Milton strongly believes that this original sin marked the emergence of death for mankind, and led to the loss of our heavenly home until Jesus' arrival to reestablish purity. The poet calls upon his muse, symbolizing divine inspiration, asking it to voice these topics through him. However, he specifies that his muse is different from those who traditionally inspired classical poets—it is the Holy Spirit that stirred Moses to receive the Ten Commandments and pen Genesis. Claiming that both his poem and muse will surpass traditional poets, he calls upon the Holy Spirit for knowledge on the world's inception, as it was the driving force behind the universe's creation. Milton desires this sacred knowledge to demonstrate to his fellow men that humanity's fall into sin and death was part of a larger divine plan, thus justifying God's intentions. Following this, Milton delves into why Adam and Eve's disobedience took place, attributing it partially to a serpent's trickery. The serpent symbolizes Satan, and the narrative shifts to him and his followers in Hell, having been cast out after losing to God in Heaven. Satan, alongside his deputy Beelzebub, is found in a dark, flaming lake. Despite their current dire predicament, Satan remains unrepentant, suggesting they might gather strength for another assault. Beelzebub, however, doubts this possibility. Satan proposes that they could tarnish God's good works and turn them to evil. Only after God releases their chains do the two devils manage to escape the lake, signifying that God aims to transform their evil actions into good. On reaching dry land, Satan calls to his fallen angels, who despite their wounds, assemble on the plain. Notably, many of these fallen angels will later be worshipped as gods by man. Despite his defeat, Satan remains steadfast in his wickedness, vowing to devote himself to evil deeds. He endeavors to distort God's will and transform good into evil. Satan's pride leads him to claim that he'd rather reign in Hell than serve in Heaven. Finally, Satan rallies his troops, encouraging them to contemplate another war. Instantly, the devils excavate the ground, discovering gold and other minerals. Using their supernatural abilities, they rapidly construct a grand temple, named Pandemonium, where all the demonic troops gather for a conference. As spirits, they can easily alter their size and, after shrinking, enter Pandemonium to initiate their discussion.

book 2

Satan initiates a discussion in Pandemonium, insisting that Heaven can still be won if they unite for another fight. Moloch, a fierce pro-war devil, is the first to respond. He proposes another war, arguing that even annihilation could not be worse than their current situation in Hell. Belial counters Moloch, suggesting that God may inflict more severe punishment if they wage another war. Belial cunningly proposes inaction to prevent more conflicts. Next, Mammon refuses to submit to God again, advocating for hard work in Hell to create a realm similar to Heaven. This idea receives significant support and applause. The assembly falls silent as Beelzebub, a figure of respect, starts to speak. He also values freedom over servitude, but suggests a different strategy. He shares a rumor of a new world filled with a creation called Man, who will be favored by God above angels. At Satan's secret instruction, he recommends they take revenge by corrupting or destroying this new race. The devils unanimously agree to this idea, now needing a scout to locate this new world. Eager to play the hero, Satan volunteers. As devils engage in discussions and construction activities, Satan heads off to locate Hell's gate. He discovers it to be nine gates guarded by two strange figures. One is a half-woman half-serpent creature with a group of howling dogs around her waist, and the other is a shadowy figure. Satan decides to confront the latter. Just before a fight breaks out, the woman-beast reveals that they are Satan's own offspring, named Sin and Death, and they are appointed to guard the gate of Hell. Satan, having forgotten these details, softens his approach and shares his plot against God. Sin and Death are eager to assist. Sin opens the gate, revealing a vast abyss. A cloud of fire catches and carries the falling Satan towards Chaos, the ruler of the abyss accompanied by his consort Night and others. Satan requests his assistance, promising to bring more disorder by reclaiming the new world. Chaos agrees and shows him the way to recently created Earth. Satan advances with difficulty, while Sin and Death follow, building a bridge from Hell to Earth for evil spirits to use to tempt mortals.

book 3

Book III begins with Milton's second invocation to his muse, this time referred to as the "holy light" (III.1). He desires divine knowledge illuminated in his mind, intending to share it with his readers. The narrative then transitions to Heaven. God, accompanied by his Son, observes Satan heading towards Earth and humanity's progenitors. God can foresee all the consequences, including mankind's downfall, due to his gift of free will. This gift was essential for sincere love, but it also meant man would be responsible for his actions. Despite this, God decides to act with love and mercy. His Son questions how mercy can exist without undermining justice, to which God replies that a worthy sacrifice is needed to atone for man’s sin. When no angel responds, the Son offers himself, agreeing to become mortal to defeat Death and Hell. Despite the sacrifice of his Son, God is elated because it ensures human redemption, preserving justice and mercy. Those who believe in the Son will find salvation, while disbelievers will face eternal damnation. The angelic choirs then sing praises to the Father and Son, turning the tragic act into a celebration of divine glory. The focus then shifts back to Satan, now on Earth, in what would become China. The land is devoid of life and human creations that could distract from God. Satan notices a towering gate in the sky leading to Heaven. To get a closer look, Satan ascends the steps, but only feels envy. Drawn by the sun, he flies towards it and encounters the Archangel Uriel on a hill. Disguising himself as a cherub, Satan pretends to be curious about God's new creation. Uriel, deceived by Satan's transformation and speech, incorrectly assumes he is a young angel eager to learn about the world. Uriel innocently directs him towards Paradise, where Adam resides. With a deceitful farewell, Satan heads to Paradise with malevolent intentions.

book 4

Satan arrives at Mount Niphates, close to the Garden of Eden. He's conflicted about his mission, with the earth's beauty and purity reminding him of his past state. He briefly thinks about asking for forgiveness but realizes that he couldn’t stand being subservient, even in Heaven. He decides to persist in his wicked ways, unknowingly exposing his evil character to Uriel, the archangel he deceived to get directions. Uriel observes his unusual facial expressions and concludes that Satan can't be a cherub. Satan then heads for Eden, leaping over its protective wall. Inside, he sees a beautiful world full of various animals and trees, including the Tree of Life and the forbidden Tree of Knowledge. Concealing himself as a cormorant on the Tree of Life, he spots two creatures, Adam and Eve, who move differently from the other animals. As he watches them, Adam tells Eve to obey God's one rule: not to eat from the Tree of Knowledge. Eve agrees, and they embrace. Eve relays to Adam the story of her creation and how she recognized herself in the reflection of a lake. She also mentions hearing a voice telling her about her role as the mother of humanity alongside Adam. Seeing this, Satan senses a chance to make them break God’s rule but decides to gather more information first. Uriel warns Gabriel, another archangel, of a shape-shifting spirit he saw, suspecting it could be a fallen one. Gabriel vows to find the spirit if it's in the garden. Meanwhile, Adam and Eve end their day of work, praying and expressing gratitude for their perfect life before making love. As night falls, Gabriel sends his angels to search the Garden. They discover Satan, disguised as a toad, whispering into Eve's ear while she sleeps. Gabriel confronts Satan, who pretends to be innocent but, facing a threat of being dragged back to Hell, prepares to fight. The appearance of a pair of golden scales in the sky, a sign from Heaven, stops them. Recognizing the sign as a prophecy of his defeat, Satan retreats.

book 5

Adam wakes up refreshed, yet finds Eve had a troubled night. She tells him of a nightmare where she was led to the Tree of Knowledge by a voice. A faux angel tried to entice her to eat from the tree, promising godhood, but disappeared before she could eat the fruit, leaving her to return to a deep slumber. Adam dismisses the dream as not being a prophecy but a warning, reminding her of her ability to choose her actions. Calmed, they resume their tasks, worshipping God. God, in Heaven, beckons Archangel Raphael. Anticipating that Adam and Eve might blame a surprise attack by the devil if they disobey, God instructs Raphael to warn them about the impending danger. Raphael is warmly received in Paradise by the couple, with whom he shares a meal, explaining the distinction between divine and mortal food. Post meal, Eve leaves Adam and Raphael to their discussion. Raphael enlightens Adam about the various forms of life God created, each with its unique essence. Spirit, being the highest, was bestowed upon humans. Animals rank below humans, possessing life but lacking spirit, followed by plants and inanimate objects. Each life form has attributes of the ones below it, with humans having the additional gift of reason. Raphael emphasizes that obedience to God is vital and that despite being created perfect, Adam has the potential to lose it through disobedience. Curious, Adam inquires about the origin of disobedience in Heaven, prompting Raphael to narrate Satan’s downfall. Raphael illustrates the time when Heaven was tranquil, and angels were obedient. However, God’s announcement of a son to rule alongside him angered one angel. This angel, stripped of his heavenly name and now termed Satan, felt he was equally deserving of God’s powers. He managed to rally a third of the angels, set up his throne, and urged them to resist unjust rule. An angel named Abdiel disagreed and returned to God, enduring the rebellious angels' mockery.

book 6

Raphael carries on narrating the first battle between Satan and God, hinting that he needs to simplify the details for Adam's comprehension. The account follows Abdiel, who warns Satan and his rebel angels about their impending defeat. Abdiel leaves Satan's group and is warmly received back into God's ranks. His steadfast loyalty, obedience, and rejection of evil earn him God's forgiveness and praise. God nominates Gabriel and Michael as the heads of his celestial army, an equivalent in size to Satan's forces. As the battle approaches, both armies prepare. They position themselves within sight of each other, waiting for the signal to start fighting. Satan and Abdiel meet in the center, exchange taunts, and start fighting, thus commencing the battle. The battle is even until Michael, co-leader of the virtuous angels, injures Satan with a massive, intimidating sword. Satan's forces recede with their injured leader. However, Milton notes that angels, being bodiless, can only be temporarily hurt, enabling Satan to recover and prepare for the next day's fight. Satan convinces his followers to re-enter the battle, arguing that superior weaponry will ensure their victory. They spend the night constructing a secret weapon: cannons. On the following day, Satan's army reveals the cannons and starts bombarding the virtuous angels. The angels' armor becomes a burden, hindering their escape. Michael offers a solution: the good angels carry mountains across the field, burying the rebel angels and their artillery. The rebels have to slowly excavate themselves and regroup. As night falls, God declares a day of peace, and decides to end the war. He deploys his Son who drives the enemy forces from the battlefield in a grand chariot. Empowered by God, the Son surrounds the rebels, including Satan, and expels them from Heaven's Gate via a hole in the celestial ground. They tumble through Chaos for nine days before landing in Hell. Adam receives a warning from Raphael that Satan is planning humanity's downfall. Raphael theorizes that Satan, seeking revenge, aims to tempt humans into sinning and thus ruin God's cherished creation. Raphael adds that Satan may also be seeking more rebels against God to share his fate. Raphael urges Adam to be wary of Satan and resist his malevolent scheme.

book 7

Milton calls upon Urania, the Muse of Astronomy, in Christian context akin to the Holy Spirit, seeking her guidance as he shifts the narrative from the celestial clash to Adam and Raphael's earthly discourse. He implores her to fill him with inspiration for the rest of Raphael’s speech, shielding him from opposing views of those devoid of her insights. Adam, curious yet wary, questions Raphael on the origins of the world and himself. Raphael consents to narrate, asserting that this tale isn't forbidden knowledge for humankind. Resuming the narrative post Satan's fall, Raphael describes how the Father planned a new species to erase traces of the revolt and compensate for the vacant spots in his faithful creations. Raphael suggests that God, by replacing the fallen angels, denies Satan any triumph in reducing God’s creation. The creation of Earth and humans in an almost vacant cosmos displays to the fallen angels that God’s grand realm can continually grow. Hence, God decides to unite Heaven and Earth through human obedience to his divine commands. Raphael narrates how the Son is sent to Chaos to establish Earth. Initially, Earth emerges from Chaos, distinguished by light and dark, day and night in equal parts. Land is carved out from water, and creatures are spawned to inhabit both. The act of creation spans six days, ending with the creation of Adam and Eve. The Son, who makes man in his likeness, bestows upon him control over all earthly creatures. The only restriction for Adam is to abstain from the Tree of Knowledge, bearer of the knowledge of good and evil. The Son concludes his task by attaching Earth below Heaven with a chain, returning to Heaven amid angelic hymns praising his work. Satisfied with his creation, God takes a rest on the seventh day, henceforth known as the Sabbath.

book 8

Upon finishing the creation tale, Raphael is asked by Adam about the celestial bodies. Eve leaves them to chat, opting to hear Adam's summary later. Adam believes other planets orbit Earth, but Raphael suggests this might be an illusion due to Earth's rotation. Raphael tells Adam that it's unimportant whether Earth or the universe moves. These matters are often unanswerable, as humans aren't meant to grasp all elements of existence. Raphael cautions Adam to be content with his current knowledge and avoid seeking understanding beyond his boundaries. Following Raphael's advice, Adam shares his memories of his own creation. He recalls waking up to consciousness, soon discovering his abilities. God then appeared, explaining his creation, granting him authority over everything but forbidding him from the Tree of Knowledge. Adam acquaints himself with the animals, and despite meeting them for the first time, he effortlessly names them, realizing God had instilled this knowledge in him. Adam soon desires a companion he can share his thoughts with. God answers this wish by creating Eve from Adam's rib while he slept. Adam remembers this because God kept him semi-conscious. He fell in love with Eve at first sight. Raphael advises Adam on love, suggesting avoiding physical passion and pursuing pure love that revitalizes mind and body. Adam, however, fears his strong physical desire for Eve, who appears less pure. Raphael explains that despite her external beauty, Eve lacks spiritual strength, intellectual depth, and has a vanity problem. Adam's love should surpass her physical allure. Adam concedes his physical attraction but maintains that his love is based on their emotional and spiritual bond. Raphael emphasizes to Adam the risk Eve poses and the importance of resisting Satan's temptations. After their conversation, Raphael departs for Heaven as Adam retires for the night.

book 9

Following Raphael's journey to Heaven, Milton shifts focus to Adam and Eve's impending disobedience. The narrative transforms into a tragedy, aiming to surpass the heroism depicted in Virgil and Homer's stories. Milton seeks support from Urania, the muse of Christian inspiration, as he doubts his ability to continue the narration due to his age and waning creativity. Satan reappears in the Garden of Eden, eight days after being expelled by Gabriel, and chooses to disguise himself as a snake. He marvels at the Earth's beauty, which he considers to surpass Heaven. This leads to jealousy towards Adam and Eve, who are chosen to steward this paradise, and the beauty around him amplifies his torment. He enters a sleeping serpent's body to proceed with his plan. The following morning, Adam and Eve decide to divide their tasks to increase efficiency, despite Adam's concern about them falling prey to Satan's tricks. Eve convinces him otherwise, promising to return soon, and they part ways. With Eve alone, Satan seizes this opportunity. As the serpent, he flatters her grace and beauty, and claims that he gained speech and intellect from consuming a fruit in the garden. Eve, intrigued by the snake's claims, is led to the Tree of Knowledge. She hesitates, aware of God's prohibition, but Satan argues that God wants them to assert their independence by eating the fruit. Eve, swayed by the snake's flattery and the fruit's seeming harmlessness, eats the apple. This act signifies humanity's fall, causing distress within nature itself. Eve, now fallen, decides to share the fruit with Adam, hoping to keep them on equal footing. Adam is initially horrified, but he couldn't bear the thought of living without Eve, so he too eats the fruit. Lust replaces his horror, and they retreat into the woods. Upon waking, they see the world differently, acknowledging their sin and realizing their loss of paradise. The knowledge they gained from the fruit merely highlighted their lost goodness and the evil they've unleashed. Overcome with shame at seeing each other naked, they cover themselves. Their desire for knowledge is satiated, but their longing for God is extinguished. The blame game ensues, with neither accepting their fault, their argument lasts for hours.

book 10

In Heaven, Gabriel and other angels report to God about Satan's successful temptation of Adam and Eve. God clears the angels of blame, revealing that he permitted Satan's actions. This leads God to dispatch his Son to pass judgment on Adam and Eve. The Son finds Adam and Eve embarrassed about their nudity in Paradise. When questioned, Adam confesses to having eaten the forbidden fruit offered by Eve, who blames the serpent for her temptation. As punishment, the Son curses the serpent to crawl forever, with humanity destined to harm it. He further announces that women, starting from Eve, will undergo painful childbirth and be subservient to their husbands. Men, beginning with Adam, will labor for food. After delivering these punishments, the Son leaves for Heaven. In Hell, Sin and Death, left by Satan, sense his achievement and complete the bridge from Hell to Earth. They encounter Satan at the border of Paradise, laud his success, and vow to spread death and sin on Earth. They attribute their freedom to Satan's victory, and he, erroneously believing in his newfound powers, encourages their mission. Satan returns to Hell to share his victory. Instead of applause, his followers, transformed into snakes, hiss in contempt. Satan, too, is turned into a snake, not realizing the full extent of the Son's punishment. Sin and Death commence their work on Earth. Observing from Heaven, God plans to let them remain until Judgement Day, when they will be eternally imprisoned in Hell with Satan. God now instructs his angels to modify the universe. The Earth's axis tilts or the sun's path changes, introducing harsh weather in place of the previously mild climate. Discord follows Sin to Earth, leading to warfare among animals and humans. Adam, observing these changes, expresses his regret and wishes he could bear all punishments. Eve approaches him, but he berates her and questions her creation. Eve pleads for forgiveness from Adam, accepting her mistake and urging unity and love as their salvation. Adam softens and shares the blame for their fall. He encourages Eve to accept their fate and seek God's mercy and forgiveness. They return to their punishment site, confess their wrongdoings, and pray for forgiveness.

book 11

God answers Adam and Eve's prayers, enabling his Son to plead for humanity and atone for their sins. He rallies his heavenly angels and discloses his intentions. He tasks Archangel Michael to guide Adam and Eve out of Paradise as their impurity taints its sanctity. However, by living virtuous lives, they can reunite with God post-death. To soften the blow, Michael is permitted to provide Adam a glimpse of humanity's future. Adam surmises that their prayers have reached God. He consoles Eve, telling her that despite her guilt for admitting Sin and Death into the world, she can take solace in her role as the mother of mankind. Despite her hesitations, she commits to obeying God and living peacefully in Paradise. Michael descends from Heaven to announce their banishment. The news devastates them, yet they find comfort in knowing that their lives will be prolonged and that all of Earth is a gift from God, constantly under his watch. Adam mourns the loss of his direct communication with God, but Michael reassures him that God's presence will follow him everywhere. Michael then induces Eve to sleep and escorts Adam to a hilltop to reveal the future of mankind. From the hilltop, Adam sees two men making sacrifices, with one murdering the other. Michael identifies them as Cain and Abel, Adam and Eve's first sons. He is horrified by this encounter with death and learns about other mortal exits such as disease, war, and old age. Despite Adam's longing for an alternative to death, Michael encourages him to live a righteous life, promising longevity and prosperity as God allows. Adam then witnesses a vision of men and women indulging in hedonistic pleasures. He misinterprets this vision as a positive omen, but Michael informs him that their godlessness will lead to their demise. This vision is succeeded by scenes of war and ruin. Michael narrates the heroism of violent men and the efforts of a man named Enoch to counteract these wars. Enoch is shunned and threatened with death until God rescues him and brings him to Heaven. The vision shifts to depict rampant sensuality and sin. A lone man, preaching repentance, is ignored. He retreats to the mountains, builds a massive boat, and populates it with Earth's animals and his family. A great flood wipes out all life, sparing only those on the boat. The man is identified as Noah, whose virtuousness earns him God's favor. Noah and his family survive the flood, signifying the continuance of humankind. A rainbow appears, symbolizing God's pact to never again destroy Earth by flooding. This story reassures Adam of the preservation of virtue and obedience on Earth through Noah.

book 12

Michael resumes his narration about humanity's future to Adam. Post the flood, humans renew from Noah and his family. They show more obedience to God by offering sacrifices, but the peace is disrupted by an ambitious leader, Nimrod. He builds the Tower of Babel to ascend to Heaven, leading God to diversify human languages to hinder understanding. Adam concurs with Michael that freedom is essential to humans, but Michael points out that true liberty is contingent on obedience to "right reason." Michael reveals that God selects Israel to be exalted. Abraham, a man from an idol-worshipping race, is chosen and led to Canaan, the Promised Land. His descendants are enslaved in Egypt until Moses, a man chosen by God, liberates them and leads them out of Egypt, amidst the plagues inflicted upon the Pharaoh. They cross the Red Sea and survive the wilderness with God's aid. Adam is heartened to learn of God's blessing upon humanity but is puzzled by the practicality of obeying all God-given laws. Michael clarifies that absolute justice is impossible without a greater sacrifice. He forecasts Israel's gradual descent into sin, prompting God to empower their adversaries. Repentance will lead to their rescue. A king named David will rule, and his lineage will produce a Messiah who will reconcile Earth and Heaven. This Messiah, Jesus, will be scorned, distrusted, betrayed, and executed, but will defeat Sin, Death, and Satan through resurrection. Adam frets about the persecution of Jesus's followers, and Michael confirms this. He assures that the Messiah will bestow the Holy Spirit for spiritual safeguard. The church, post the death of the first followers, will see both corrupt and virtuous leaders. The Messiah will return to judge all and harmonize Heaven and Earth. Adam is consoled, marveling at the good emerging from his sin. He and Eve prepare to leave Paradise. Eve recounts a revealing dream she had. They depart from Paradise, hand in hand with Michael, under the watch of angels guarding the entrance with a flaming sword. They step into a new world, leaving Paradise behind.

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