Paradise Lost

Paradise Lost Summary and Analysis of Books X-XII

Book X:

God tells the angels that guarded the Garden of Eden that there was nothing they could do about stopping Satan and the mankind from making their decision. In a sense, he says, this was destined to happen. He then sends his Son to judge Adam and Eve.

The son calls to Adam and Eve, who are hiding in the bushes. They emerge, but instead of praising him, the cringe in guilt. Adam says that he heard the Son calling, but was ashamed that he was naked. Adam amidst to eating the fruit, but blames Eve ,the partner that God had made for him.

Eve admits as well, but blames the snake. The Son judges the snake: and makes him an animal who will grovel on his stomach and eat dust.

The Son judges Eve. She will now have pain in childbirth and must be submissive to her husband.

The Son judges Adam. He will have difficulty with the earth in getting food to grow. And death will be at the end for both of them. The Son then gives them both clothes made from animal skins.

Sin, at the gates of hell, is inspired by Satan's success on creation and talks with her son Death. The two of them build a bridge from hell to earth so that mankind can more easily be brought to hell and Sin, Death, and Satan can more easily invade earth.

Satan returns to hell and sends Sin and Death to reign on earth.

His fallen angles gather around him in his temple to hear of his success. He tells them what he did. They do not cheer however, as he expected. Instead they hiss. Satan feels himself be turned into a giant snake, and he himself hisses with them.

All of the fallen angels then turn into snakes, scorpions, and monsters. They gather around a tree of fruit, resembling the Tree of Knowledge. They taste the fruit, but it tastes like ashes.

In the meantime, Sin and Death are on earth. death starts to work on nature, starting with plants and moving up to animals. Sin, of course, will concentrate on mankind.

God changes the laws of nature so that they will not always provide light and order. Most significantly, God sends the angels to tip the axis of the earth so that now it will have seasons. Now man will be fighting against nature instead of working with it.

Adam laments the transformation. He repels Eve. Eve, despondent, contemplates suicide. Adam turns softer, and tells her that their condition and judgment could have been much worse. They are not, after all, dead and they are still together.

The two then pray to God, asking for forgiveness, and begin to, once again, praise him.


The major theme of Paradise Lost, is, of course, the idea of the Fall. The books opened immediately after the fall of Satan and will now close on the fall of mankind. Along the way, this fall theme appears again and again in smaller contexts, but always paralleling the idea of falling away from the goodness, the grace and light of God.

The many instances of the fall theme, therefore, parallel each other and we can ascertain their various meanings by comparing the reasons for the fall, the punishment for the turning away, and the reaction of the characters after the fall. Specifically, in Book X, one can now compare the way Adam and Eve deal with falling away from goodness to how Satan dealt with it.

By the end of the chapter, after the stinging immediacy of remorse and anger has quieted, the two decide that they will continue to do what they did before the fall: praise God. First, of course, they ask for forgiveness. Although what they have done will change their nature forever (literally) and they realize that they can never go back, still, they ask for God's forgiveness and ask to be brought back into goodness. Compare this reaction with Satan and the fallen angels' reaction. Satan, too, immediately is stung with remorse and there are many instances, specifically in the Garden of Eden, when Satan truly misses his previous form and his previous life. Still, this remorse and regret only makes Satan more angry and more bitter and urges him on to corrupt with enthusiasm.

Because of this, God's relationship with fallen mankind will be much different from God's relationship with Satan. God will continually be open to man's return, though not without some punishment. In fact, God will sacrifice his only Son to finally redeem man. Man remains God's favorite creation, and man's destiny remains a union with God finally in heaven.

Satan, on the other hand, will be forever shunned from the light of heaven. Satan's children, Death and Sin, will be overcome with the death of Jesus Christ and evil itself will cease at the end of the world (though Milton, for the most part, stays away from eschatological discussions).

In yet another political jab, Milton refers to the bridge from hell to earth as the "wondrous art pontifical(314)." The word pontifical, of course, is used by Catholics to describe all things related to the pope, who is, in fact, the pontiff or bridge between God and man. Milton's irony is clear: the pope is actually the bridge to hell and the Roman Catholic Church is the quickest way to get there.

Chapter XI:

The Son hears the prayers for forgiveness from Adam and Eve and presents them to God, asking if the pleas for forgiveness aren't somehow sweeter now that mankind knows the difference between good and evil.

God agrees and decides to lighten his judgment of the two. But, he says, mankind must be forbidden to live in Paradise. God calls a council to proclaim his decisions, and tells the archangel Michael to go down to Paradise with a squadron of Cherubim to evict Adam and Eve.

Adam and Eve wake and Adam says that perhaps all is not lost. They then see Michael coming down from heaven and grow afraid.

Michael approaches Adam and tells him that he and Eve must leave Eden. Adam laments their loss of Eden, but mostly because he will be far from God. Michael replies that God is everywhere, even outside of Eden.

Michael then brings Adam to a hill to show him what will happen to him and his offspring up until the flood. He shows Adam how all his offspring will be corrupted by Adam's sin and demonstrates by telling him about the story of Cain and Abel and the introduction of violence into mankind. Michael tells him of the other ways man will die: fire, flood, famine, bad food and drink, and a long litany of diseases.

Adam asks how man can avoid these horrible deaths. Michael replies "by temperance taught, " "the rule of not too much" and then man might die a peaceful death.

Michael continues and narrates the stories of the sons of Cain, the prophet Enoch, and Noah and the Flood.


Many critics have argued that Milton implies that mankind was actually better off in the eyes of God and in the eyes of Adam and Eve having fallen. The opening of this chapter seems to enforce this view, as the prayers for forgiveness from Adam and Eve appear more sweet and valuable now that they can choose evil or good and now voluntarily choose good. There was only one thing they could do while they were in the pre-Fall garden and that was to eat from the Tree of Knowledge. Other than that, nearly everything they did was ordered and just. Now, they' re universe has opened up, in a phrase, and they see that they can be controlled by animal instincts constantly if they so choose. But they choose to repent and continue to praise God (and, by the way, they finally stop fighting when they decide to do this).

According to these critics, then, the Fall was not only a necessary thing, but it was a good thing, a fortunate or happy fall, for both God and the humans. Loving and praising God now becomes a rarer, more appreciated act.

The idea of the "happy fall" is reinforced by the fact that the Son of God would never have come to earth in the form of Jesus Christ without the Fall. The phrase, "thy seed shall bruise our foe," is repeated again and again in the final books of Paradise Lost. The phrase, we see now, is referring to the seed of Eve: who will be, down the line, the Son on earth, i.e. Jesus Christ: and how he will crush Satan and Death and Sin. The Fall of man makes his redemption through Christ possible.

The question that many critics and theologians ask is, "was mankind destined to fall?" For that matter, was Satan destined to fall? It is clear for Milton that God knew all along that man was going to fall, he told his Son long before it actually happened. Satan accuses God of creating him with a nature that was prone to pride, and, therefore, destined to fall. The idea of the "happy fall," perhaps, mitigates this accusation. God, indeed, predestined that Adam should fall so that he could show his love for mankind by sending his Son as sacrifice. Still, if Adam and Eve and Satan were all predestined to fall, are we, as well, destined to act by our natures in a way that God has already ordained?

Milton began his poem by saying that he meant to justify the ways of God to man. We see now that Milton actually meant that he intended to give a justification for God's actions, not just provide a narration or explanation of them. Is God, as a character, justified in this creation story? Or is he the all-seeing tyrant that Satan accuses him of being?

The question, in Milton's time, was personified in the battle between the Calivinists, who believed in predestination, and the Catholic Church, who believed man's free will gave him a constant choice between good and evil. Milton, in his epic, seems to take a fragile middle road between the two.

Book XII:

Michael continues to relate the story of man (basically covering the whole of the Hebrew Bible). He relates the story of the tyrant Nimrod and his desire to be greater than all men and even God by constructing the Tower of Babel. He tells the story of how God chose one nation, Israel, to be his chosen people and described the line from Abraham, to Joshua, through Joseph, Moses, and Joshua, who finally brought them into the promised land. He described the kingdom of David, the Temple of Solomon, and the Hebrew people's Babylonian exile and captivity.

Finally, Michael tells of the anointed Messiah who will finally conquer death and right Adam's wrong. The Son will then ascend to heaven which will be possible for all men who follow God's law.

Adam rejoices in the fact that the Son of God will be born of his seed, but how will the Son conquer Death?

"Thy punishment he shall endure by coming in the flesh to a reproachful life and a cursed death," replies Michael.

Michael finishes by telling Adam to add deed to the knowledge which he has been given, add virtue, patience, temperance and love. "Then wilt thou not be loath to leave this Paradise, but shalt possess a paradise within thee, happier far."

Michael then holds both Adam's and Eve's hands and leads them out of Paradise.


Why does Raphael recite the history of mankind, in the form of the Hebrew Bible, to Adam? The reason can be read in Adam's reaction to every turn of the story. Adam is pained by the fact that one of his sons will kill the other, that humans will again and again disappoint God because of what Adam and Eve have done. Corruption and violence will continue to be a part of human history from this time forward. Thus, the reciting of the story is a punishment for Adam, a demonstration of the consequences of his actions, the evil that he has wrought.

At the same time, there are many positive stories and heroes in Raphael's narrative: Enoch, Noah, Abraham, David and Joshua are all described as heroes who bring mankind back on track with God's will. The story culminates with Jesus Christ as the ultimate redemption. The story, therefore, also serves as comfort to Adam in order to show him that there will be members of his seed that will act honorable and bring the grace of God back onto mankind. Raphael's narrative ends with the resurrection of Jesus Christ and Adam is filled with the ultimate satisfaction.. Adam sees that the Fall was not just necessary, but it exemplifies God's glory and goodness even more so than creation by coming to conclusion in the story of Christ. The power of God to redeem and forgive mankind through the resurrection of Christ, turning an "evil thing to good," is an even more powerful act than when God separated darkness from light.

Raphael's narration, however, does more than just make Adam feel guilty/good about his decisions. It is actually a continuation of the basic theme that Milton established from the beginning, the theme of Fall and ascension, freedom and slavery, reason and animal appetites. The history of mankind is a series of falls from God's grace, a series of man acting irrationally (opposed to God's will) and therefore creating corruption. Man turns away, as in the Tower of Babylon, and then returns, in a continual cycle.

So it is with a bittersweet sense of loss mixed with glorious redemption that Adam and Eve, and the readers, leave the Garden. The final image of Adam and Eve walking hand in hand in search of a place in the post-Fall world is a reflection on the journey every man and woman must take in life. Milton balances the corruption of man with the hope of eternal life in grace to give us not a tragedy, but an epic reflection of the condition of humanhood.