Paradise Lost


Plot Summary

Paradise Lost begins with Milton’s explanation that the poem will be about man’s disobedience to God and his subsequent fall from God’s grace. In his prologue, Milton states that he intends to “justify the ways of God to men” (1.26). In the Virgilian tradition of epic poetry, Milton invokes a muse to help him in his efforts, specifically calling upon the Holy Spirit, which situates the poem in a Christian context. The action of the poem begins in Hell, where Satan and his army of fallen angels have been chained to a lake of fire after rebelling against God and being cast out of Heaven.

Satan frees himself from his chains and, with Beelzebub at his right hand, addresses his army of wounded rebels. Rallied by Satan’s inspiring speech, the fallen angels—or devils, as they now are—mine Hell for minerals and gems to construct a palatial tower called Pandemonium. There, Satan leads a council of war in which the devils debate whether their rebellion against Heaven should continue as open military action, or in some more covert way. Beelzebub advocates for covert war in the form of corrupting God’s newest creation, Man. Satan leaves Hell to investigate the newly made Earth and begin planning his strategy. On his way out, he encounters his incestuously created progeny, Sin and Death, who have been tasked with guarding Hell’s gates. They follow after Satan and begin building a bridge to connect Hell with Earth.

The action switches to Heaven, where God announces to His angels Satan’s plan to corrupt humanity. Because he has perfect foreknowledge, God knows that Man is bound to fall into temptation, and declares that they will suffer eternal death as punishment unless some Heavenly creature is willing to suffer for them. The Son, God’s child as well as an aspect of Himself, volunteers to make this sacrifice.

Satan flies through Chaos and Night until he reaches the Earth’s sun, which is guarded by the Archangel Uriel. Disguised as a cherub, Satan tells Uriel that he wants to...

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Essays About Paradise Lost