Paradise Lost

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Hierarchy and Order Theme Analysis

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LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Paradise Lost, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.
Hierarchy and Order Theme Icon

In portraying the “Fall of Man” and the war in Heaven, Milton spends much of Paradise Lost describing the universal hierarchy and order that these events upset. In his 17th century view of the cosmos, Heaven exists above, Earth below, and Hell and Chaos below that. Within this geographically ordered cosmos, the most important hierarchy of Heaven is that of God as supreme monarch, the creator and ruler of the universe, and his “only begotten” Son as equal in rank, a separate person but of the same essence as God. Below these are the Archangels and Angels, arranged in different categories depending on their proximity to God’s light – these include Thrones, Powers, Dominions, and Cherubim, among others. When God creates Earth, he sets Adam and Eve in rank above the animals, and he sets Adam above Eve in terms of authority and wisdom. The devils of Hell are the lowest ranked of all, as they have been totally cast away from God.

In his personal life, Milton was a proponent of individual freedom and the overthrow of monarchies, and he actively defended the regicide (i.e. execution) of King Charles I. One of the great ironies of Paradise Lost is that the radical Milton would make his masterpiece a poem that defends the ultimate system of monarchy and order. A probable explanation for this (from C.S. Lewis) is that Milton felt God was the rightful ruler of all, while monarchs were not. Thus he felt no qualms about defending God’s sovereignty while simultaneously attacking Charles I and II. Despite Milton’s personal beliefs and biography, the overarching moral lesson of Paradise Lost is that the hierarchy of Heaven and Earth must be respected and upheld, and that the evil in the world is the result of an upset of the divine order.

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Hierarchy and Order Quotes in Paradise Lost

Below you will find the important quotes in Paradise Lost related to the theme of Hierarchy and Order.
Book 1 Quotes

The mind is its own place, and in itself
Can make a Heav’n of Hell, a Hell of Heav’n…
Here we may reign secure, and in my choice
To reign is worth ambition though in Hell:
Better to reign in Hell, than serve in Heav’n.

Related Characters: Satan (speaker)
Page Number: 1.254-263
Explanation and Analysis:

In this famous passage, Satan claims that he would rather be free and independent of God's authority, even if it means living in Hell, than serve God mindlessly and be rewarded with Heaven. In other words, Satan aspires to be "his own boss"--he wants to rule over his henchmen the devils, essentially being the "god" of Hell. His argument here is that the devils can turn Hell into their own Heaven, as long as they remain free in their minds. This also foreshadows Satan's later realization that "Hell" is not a place at all--it's something he carries within himself. So far from being able to turn Hell into Heaven, he can in fact never escape Hell, no matter where he goes. But at this point in the poem he remains more optimistic.

While Satan's statement seems bitter, petty, and manipulative, on another level it's also somewhat inspiring--the way he talks about using his mind and his imagination to achieve happiness is, one could argue, deeply human. Satan is a kind of Romantic hero--a bold, imaginative, yet evil figure who aspires to cause pain and suffering to everyone rather than submit his pride to another's.


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Book 2 Quotes

Thus Beelzebub
Pleaded his devilish counsel, first devised
By Satan, and in part proposed; for whence,
But from the author of all ill could spring
So deep a malice, to confound the race
Of mankind in one root, and earth with Hell
To mingle and involve, done all to spite
The great Creator? But their spite still serves
His glory to augment.

Related Characters: Satan, God the Father, Beelzebub
Page Number: 2.379-386
Explanation and Analysis:

Satan has assembled a vast group of devils, his henchmen (who were cast out of Heaven along with him). Satan has held the council to decide what to do now that their open revolt against God has failed, and everyone is confined to Hell. After a series of speakers come forward, Beelzebub takes the floor, proposing that the devils work their mischief on God's new creations, the human race.

Notice that Satan has actually planted Beelzebub to propose such an idea--the whole "debate" is just a farce, allowing the other devils to think that they have a democratic voice. (In this devilish council Milton also critiques the human politics of his time). Beelzebub is trying to persuade his fellow devils to go along with Satan's plan: to use fraud, instead of open rebellion, to try to hurt God--and to do this by corrupting mankind, God's favored new creation. And while we know the result of this plan of "deep malice," Milton also notes the bright side: all of Satan's mischief will be in vain. One day, God will send Jesus Christ to redeem mankind, saving the human race from damnation in Hell. It is characteristic of the Christian universe that evil, while horrific by itself, is actually useful for achieving good ends. Milton will show how Satan's rebellious evil actually helps God and ensures God's plan.

Book 3 Quotes

So man, as is most just,
Shall satisfy for man, be judged and die,
And dying rise, and rising with him raise
His brethren, ransomed with his own dear life.
So Heav’nly love shall outdo Hellish hate,
Giving to death, and dying to redeem,
So dearly to redeem what Hellish hate
So easily destroyed, and still destroys
In those who, when they may, accept not grace.

Related Characters: God the Father (speaker), God the Son, Adam
Page Number: 3.294-302
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, God continues to explain his plan for the human race to his angels. God explains that mankind will not be wholly damned after its fall. Rather, a future "man" will make a sacrifice, allowing all of mankind to ascend with him back to a state of grace.

God characterizes the sacrifice as crucial to the redemption of humankind. Satan's evil cannot be allowed to win; the only way to make sure that mankind ends up in Heaven is to have someone atone for mankind's innate corruption. Immediately after the passage, God's Son (who, in human form, will be Jesus Christ) volunteers to go to Earth and sacrifice his life for the sake of the human race. (It's also worth noting that the scene was parodied in the second Book of the poem when Satan volunteered to "sacrifice himself" and fly over the abyss to go corrupt the world of men.)

Book 4 Quotes

Be then his love accursed, since love or hate,
To me alike, it deals eternal woe.
Nay cursed be thou; since against his thy will
Chose freely what it now so justly rues.
Me miserable! Which way shall I fly
Infinite wrath, and infinite despair?
Which way I fly is Hell; myself am Hell;
And in the lowest deep a lower deep
Still threat’ning to devour me opens wide,
To which the Hell I suffer seems a Heav’n.

Related Characters: Satan (speaker), God the Father
Page Number: 4.69-78
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Satan flies from Hell to Earth. As he travels, he thinks to himself about the misery that is his life now. In Heaven, Satan was happy to be a powerful angel--in Hell, however, Satan is tormented by constant misery; the misery of being hated by God and being the enemy of the universe itself. Satan goes on to say that he carries Hell with him wherever he goes--his bitterness and lust for power is now so intense that he is always miserable, even if he should fly back to Heaven itself.

In short, the passage shows Satan in the depths of despair. He's a glutton for authority--and God will never allow him to satisfy his appetite. As a result, Satan's only solace is to cause misery and pain to others, such as Adam and Eve.

This one, this easy charge, of all the trees
In Paradise that bear delicious fruit
So various, not to taste that only Tree
Of Knowledge, planted by the Tree of Life,
So near grows death to life, whate’er death is,
Some dreadful thing no doubt; for well thou know’st
God hath pronounced it death to taste that Tree,
The only sign of our obedience left
Among so many signs of power and rule
Conferred upon us, and dominion giv’n
Over all other creatures that possess
Earth, air, and sea.

Related Characters: Adam (speaker), God the Father
Related Symbols: The Fruit of the Tree of Knowledge
Page Number: 4.421-432
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Milton sets the scene for the fall of man. In paradise, Adam and Eve have one easy job: to tend to the plants and animals (who are all peaceful and tame), and only avoid the Tree of Knowledge, since God has forbidden them from eating its fruit. Adam tells Eve that their job is exceptionally easy, and the reward is great: because of their obedience, God has made them lords of the Garden of Eden, free to command all the animals and enjoy the beauty of Paradise.

Interestingly, Adam tells us that God has warned him not to eat the fruit because it will bring death. And yet Adam doesn't know what death is--he's totally innocent. In other words, God has instructed Adam and Eve to obey him, but hasn't told them why, exactly. There are some who have argued that God has designed the rules of the Garden of Eden so that Adam and Eve will inevitably eat the fruit--the mystery of what the fruit is, and what death is, is simply too interesting to ignore. (Such critics often point to the writings of Saint Paul for an explanation of why prohibition creates sin.) Others argue that God has kept humans in a state of ignorance so that they'll be happy forever--they don't know what death is, but that's a very good thing. Yet another idea is that God eventually wants Adam and Eve to eat of the Fruit of Knowledge, but only when they're ready, and only when he allows it--thus the tree itself isn't evil, it's only their disobedience to God that's evil.

Book 5 Quotes

Will ye submit your necks, and choose to bend
The supple knee? ye will not, if I trust
To know ye right, or if ye know yourselves
Natives and sons of Heav’n possessed before
By none, and if not equal all, yet free,
Equally free; for orders and degrees
Jar not with liberty, but well consist.
Who can in reason then or right assume
Monarchy over such as live by right
His equals, if in power and splendour less,
In freedom equal?

Related Characters: Satan (speaker)
Page Number: 5.787-797
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, narrated by Raphael to Adam, Satan assembles his angels and urges them to rebel against the divine authority of God. To do this, he makes a long speech in which he invokes the principles of equality, pride, and freedom. His speech is full of contradictions and hypocrisies, and yet it's also full of interesting points. Notice that Satan's language (freedom, equality, liberty) parallels the language of the European Enlightenment. Furthermore, Satan makes a surprisingly democratic argument, saying that no being should live under the ultimate authority of another being, even if that being is more powerful.

The argument is particularly surprising since Milton actually supported the rebellion of English people against the authority of the king of England--he favored the "commonwealth" of Cromwell over the monarchy of Charles I. Some people have interpreted the speech to mean that Milton himself subconsciously supported Satan's rebellion against God--he couldn't help casting Satan as a democratic crusader challenging a tyrant. Others have argued that Milton saw divine authority as entirely different from earthly authority, and believed that while it's right to depose kings because they are merely human, and don't deserve absolute power, God himself is the appropriate divine authority in the hierarchy of the universe, so it's entirely proper that he should rule absolutely.

Unjust thou say’st
Flatly unjust, to bind with laws the free,
And equal over equals to let reign,
One over all with unsucceeded power.
Shalt thou give law to God, shalt thou dispute
With him the points of liberty, who made
Thee what thou art, and formed the Powers of Heav’n
Such as he pleased, and circumscribed their being?

Related Characters: Abdiel (speaker), Satan
Page Number: 5.818-825
Explanation and Analysis:

Satan has assembled a band of followers to rebel against God, and tried to sway the angels with bold arguments about rebelling against tyranny. And yet there's one angel who disagrees with Satan: Abdiel. Abdiel tells Satan that he's being absurd for suggesting that he (Satan) has the right to rebel against the supreme authority of the universe, the being who created everyone, including Satan himself. This argument is similar to God's own argument in the Biblical book of Job. God afflicts Job, a righteous man, with all kinds of trials and tribulations, and Job finally cries out at his unjust treatment. God's ambiguous response is mostly to invoke his own power and wisdom--who is Job to question the being who created Job in the first place? What laws of justice or fairness can Job (or in this case Satan) invoke that God himself didn't create, and doesn't already embody perfectly?

The character of Abdiel also shows that (in Milton's universe at least) angels, like humans after them, have a degree of free will--they can choose to obey or disobey God. This makes Abdiel all the more admirable, in that he not only chooses freely to return to God, but goes against his leader and all his peers in doing so.

Book 7 Quotes

But lest his heart exalt him in the harm
Already done, to have dispeopled Heav’n,
My damage fondly deemed, I can repair
That detriment, if such it be to lose
Self-lost, and in a moment will create
Another world, out of one man a race
Of men innumerable, there to dwell,
Not here, till by degrees of merit raised
They open to themselves at length the way
Up hither, under long obedience tried,
And earth be changed to Heav’n, and Heav’n to earth,
One Kingdom, joy and union without end.

Related Characters: God the Father (speaker), Adam
Page Number: 7.150-161
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage Raphael is still telling Adam about the history of the world. After Satan rebelled against God and was cast out of paradise, God decided to repopulate his universe with new beings. He decided to create the race of man--in other words, Adam and Eve and all their descendants. By creating Adam and Eve, God said, he would replenish his ranks (replacing the fallen angels) and exercise his own creativity and love. God also lays out a plan that is not strictly adherent to the Bible, but that makes more sense in Milton's universe--God created Adam and Eve as innocent but he gradually intended to "raise" them up until they were like angels themselves, and then God would join the earthly Paradise with Heaven itself. This is a fleeting glimpse of what might have happened had Adam and Eve not eaten of the forbidden fruit, and it both makes God seem more sympathetic (Adam and Eve weren't always going to be ignorant and simple followers, but would have gained God-approved wisdom) and the Fall itself more tragic (instead of this happy progression to Heaven, we get our present world of suffering and struggle).

In terms of the "plot," this quote is important because Adam is hearing it. From hereon out, Adam has no deniability--when he chooses to disobey God, he knows full-well what he's doing: he knows that he is turning down a life of eternal happiness.

Book 8 Quotes

Solicit not thy thoughts with matters hid,
Leave them to God above, him serve and fear;
Of other creatures, as him pleases best,
Wherever placed, let him dispose; joy thou
In what he gives to thee, this Paradise
And thy fair Eve; heav’n is for thee too high
To know what passes there; be lowly wise:
Think only what concerns thee and thy being;
Dream not of other worlds…

Related Characters: Raphael (speaker), God the Father, Adam
Page Number: 8.167-175
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Adam has just asked Raphael for the truth about the universe: does the Earth revolve around the Sun, or vice versa? Raphael refuses to answer Adam's question. Instead, he tells Adam that he should focus on the here and now: he should focus on being an obedient servant to God, and tending to his wife, Eve.

First, notice that Milton is commenting on the scientific squabbles of his day: Copernicus and Galileo have challenged the Church's usual doctrine by declaring that the Earth revolves around the sun, not the other way around. Milton refuses to take sides in such a debate (and for that matter, he probably didn't want his poem to favor the wrong answer, lest future readers be baffled by the bad science), and instead focuses on how too much knowledge can be sinful. Indeed, it's arguably the quest for forbidden knowledge that is at the heart of the Fall of Man.

Notice, however, that innocent Adam has already developed a curiosity and appetite for knowledge, foreshadowing his disobedience of God. God sent Raphael to reassure Adam about obeying God and accepting ignorance, and yet Raphael's visit seems to have had the opposite effect: it's made Adam more likely to question God's authority and desire more knowledge.

Book 9 Quotes

No more of talk where God or angel guest
With man, as with his friend, familiar used
To sit indulgent, and with him partake
Rural repast, permitting him the while
Venial discourse unblamed: I now must change
Those notes to tragic; foul distrust, and breach
Disloyal on the part of man, revolt,
And disobedience: on the part of Heav’n
Now alienated, distance and distaste,
Anger and just rebuke, and judgment giv’n,
That brought into this world a world of woe,
Sin and her shadow Death, and misery
Death’s harbinger…

Related Characters: God the Father, Adam, Sin, Death
Page Number: 9.1-13
Explanation and Analysis:

With the beginning of the final third of the poem, Milton turns to the tragic side of his story. He explains that it's time for him to talk about the fall of man--the tragic, repeatedly-foretold event to which his poem has been building up for hundreds of lines now. Man's fall into sin was a crushing defeat for the universe itself, because it ushered in a history of death, misery, disease--all that we now know of human history.

Milton describes the fall of man here, but doesn't yet mention that man's fall is, ultimately, a good thing, because it paves the way for the coming of Jesus Christ. Milton doesn't give this passage anything like a silver lining: instead, he emphasizes the enormous stakes of Adam and Eve's disastrous decision, and saves his optimism and hope for the poem's end.

O foul descent! that I who erst contended
With Gods to sit the highest, am now constrained
Into a beast, and mixed with bestial slime,
This essence to incarnate and imbrute,
That to the heighth of Deity aspired…
Revenge, at first though sweet,
Bitter ere long back on itself recoils;
Let it; I reck not, so I light well aimed,
Since higher I fall short, on him who next
Provokes my envy, this new favourite
Of Heav’n, this man of clay, son of despite,
Whom us the more to spite his Maker raised
From dust: spite then with spite is best repaid.

Related Characters: Satan (speaker), Adam
Page Number: 9.163-178
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Satan transforms into a snake. He's come into the Garden of Eden to tempt Eve into disobeying God's authority and eating from the Tree of Knowledge. Satan feels great shame and self-hatred as he transforms into a snake, which he sees as a lowly, ugly beast--he remembers the time when he lived in Heaven and his body was beautiful, and when he even aspired to be equal to God himself. He's fallen a long, long way since that time: now, every second of his life is full of misery. Indeed, he's so miserable that his only pleasure is to cause misery to other.

Milton uses clever language to foreshadow Satan's own punishment. In the final line, Satan mentions dust--after tempting Eve, God punished snakes by condemning them to eat "dust." Furthermore, the word "spite" (echoing several times in the last few lines) recalls the hissing sound of the snake, reflecting Satan's transformation.

Queen of this universe, do not believe
Those rigid threats of death; ye shall not die:
How should ye? by the fruit? it gives you life
To knowledge. By the Threat’ner? look on me,
Me who have touched and tasted, yet both live,
And life more perfect have attained than Fate
Meant me, by vent’ring higher than my lot.
Shall that be shut to man, which to the beast
Is open? or will God incense his ire
For such a petty trespass, and not praise
Rather your dauntless virtue, whom the pain
Of death denounced, whatever thing death be…

Related Characters: Satan (speaker), God the Father, Eve
Related Symbols: The Fruit of the Tree of Knowledge
Page Number: 9.684-695
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Satan, disguised as a snake, tries to tempt Eve into eating from the Tree of Knowledge. The snake uses a series of arguments. It claims that it can talk because it ate of the Tree of Knowledge, and the fruit made it wise. The snake also suggests that eating from the tree will elevate Eve's status in life, making her more divine and majestic. Finally, the snake insists that the Tree will not, as God had claimed, make Eve die--the snake has eaten from the tree, and it's clearly not dead. In fact, the snake says that God will praise Eve for eating the fruit, rather than punish her, because eating the fruit shows that she is brave enough to risk death, "whatever thing death be."

One thing to notice about the snake's arguments is that they suggest two opposing sets of morals. One set of morals favors bravery, heroism, striving, and daring uncertainty--one could call this a romantic or chivalric set of values. The other set of values (which the snake criticizes) favors obedience, loyalty, and trust in one's station in life. In the end, the first set of values is just more fun: Eve, who's been shown to be ambitious and curious, wants above her allotted station in life, and this is the sin for which she's ultimately punished.

What fear I then, rather what know to fear
Under this ignorance of good and evil,
Of God or death, of law or penalty?
Here grows the cure of all, this fruit divine,
Fair to the eye, inviting to the taste,
Of virtue to make wise: what hinders then
To reach, and feed at once both body and mind?
So saying, her rash hand in evil hour
Forth reaching to the fruit, she plucked, she ate:
Earth felt the wound, and Nature from her seat
Sighing through all her works gave signs of woe,
That all was lost.

Related Characters: Eve (speaker), God the Father
Related Symbols: The Fruit of the Tree of Knowledge
Page Number: 9.773-784
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Eve finally gives in to the snake's arguments and eats from the Tree of Knowledge. She's persuaded by the snake's points, but mostly because she's a naturally ambitious, inquisitive person. Eve decides that the Tree doesn't really kill people at all--it just makes them wise and intelligent. Like the proverbial child, Eve is interested in eating from the Tree of Knowledge precisely because it is forbidden to her. As a result, she eats, and mankind falls from grace. Even the earth itself "felt the wound" of this small, symbolic action.

Eve's decision to eat from the Tree parallels the Biblical description of the fall of man, though with much more detail thrown in. As in the Bible, Milton writes that the woman ate from the Tree first-- a detail that was often used to justify the lowered position of women in Western society.

However I with thee have fixed my lot,
Certain to undergo like doom; if death
Consort with thee, death is to me as life;
So forcible within my heart I feel
The bond of nature draw me to my own,
My own in thee, for what thou art is mine;
Our state cannot be severed, we are one,
One flesh; to lose thee were to lose myself.

Related Characters: Adam (speaker), Eve
Related Symbols: The Fruit of the Tree of Knowledge
Page Number: 9.952-959
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Adam discovers that Eve has sinned by eating from the Tree of Knowledge. Adam is still a loyal servant of God, but he also loves Eve, his wife. Therefore, Adam makes a horrible choice; knowing full-well that the fruit of the Tree will destroy him, he eats it. Adam loves Eve so completely that he's blinded to his duty to God.

In the passage, Milton criticizes the chivalric tradition of England. Adam loves his wife so completely that he's willing to disobey God for her sake. Such behavior could be interpreted as romantic and incredibly noble. But Milton sees it as sinful: Adam errs in choosing to love a mortal being more than he loves God. Nevertheless, Milton describes Adam's act of sin as more heroic and perhaps admirable than Eve's: as a result, Adam is punished less harshly than Eve when God discovers his creations' sin.

Book 10 Quotes

Fair daughter, and thou son and grandchild both,
High proof ye now have giv’n to be the race
Of Satan (for I glory in the name,
Antagonist of Heav’n’s Almighty King)
Amply have merited of me, of all
Th’ infernal empire, that so near Heav’n’s door
Triumphal with triumphal act have met,
Mine with this glorious work, and made one realm
Hell and this world, one realm, one continent
Of easy thoroughfare.

Related Characters: Satan (speaker), Sin, Death
Page Number: 10.384-393
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Satan has returned to Hell, and encounters his two incestuous offspring, Sin and Death, who have been busy building a bridge from Hell to Earth. Satan proudly tells his children that he has successfully corrupted the entire human race, allowing Sin and Death a "free reign" on Earth.

The passage shows Satan at the height of his power: he thinks that he's succeeded in defeating (or at least wounding)  God by tempting Eve and Adam into sin. As a result, Satan believes, Death and Sin are free to further lead Adam and Eve down the path of evil, and make "Hell and this world, one realm" (an echo and perversion of God's earlier plan to make Earth and Heaven one). He even fully accepts the name Satan (which means "Adversary") for the first time--it's not his original angelic name, but one that he now embraces, as he thinks himself as a worthy antagonist to God.

Yet even here at the height of his success, Satan's victory rings hollow: he's spread misery and pain to others, but done nothing to alleviate his own. Indeed, he won't be allowed to glory in his "victory" for long, as God will further punish and humiliate him and the other devils.

Book 11 Quotes

Adam, Heav’n’s high behest no preface needs:
Sufficient that thy prayers are heard, and Death,
Then due by sentence when thou didst transgress,
Defeated of his seizure many days
Giv’n thee of grace, wherein thou may’st repent,
And one bad act with many deeds well done
May’st cover: well may then thy Lord appeased
Redeem thee quite from Death’s rapacious claim;
But longer in this Paradise to dwell
Permits not; to remove thee I am come,
And send thee from the garden forth to till
The ground whence thou wast taken, fitter soil.

Related Characters: Michael (speaker), God the Father, Adam, Death
Page Number: 11.251-262
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, the angel Michael comes to Eden to cast out Adam and Eve. Michael is sympathetic to Adam and Eve's pain, but he's also firm--God himself has sent Michael to expel human beings from Paradise forever. Michael explains to Adam that he and his descendants will be forced to live in a hard, challenging world--they'll have to do hard work to survive, tilling soil and hunting for food, and struggling against each other all the while. Nevertheless, Michael makes it clear that Adam isn't totally out of favor with God--Adam will be granted the gift of long life, and it will be many centuries before he dies (in the Bible, we're told that Adam survived for hundreds of years before succumbing to death), so he has plenty of time to repent and make up for his "one bad act with many deeds well done."

Michael's explanation also covers one criticism of the logic in the Bible's story. In Genesis, God first declares that if Adam and Eve eat of the forbidden fruit, they will die "on that day." And yet they obviously don't--so in a way, the serpent (who in the original story is just a snake, not Satan) was right in saying that the fruit would give them knowledge and not kill them. Here, however, Michael smooths over this discrepancy by saying that God has mercifully kept Death away from Adam and Eve for a while, despite the fact that death was "due by sentence when thou didst transgress."

Book 12 Quotes

O execrable son so to aspire
Above his brethren, to himself assuming
Authority usurped, from God not giv’n:
He gave us only over beast, fish, fowl
Dominion absolute; that right we hold
By his donation; but man over men
He made not lord; such title to himself
Reserving, human left from human free.

Related Characters: Adam (speaker), Nimrod
Page Number: 12.64-71
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Michael gives Adam a vision of the future of the human race. Michael explains that in the future, some humans will fall under the dominion of a great human tyrant named Nimrod. Nimrod, a megalomaniac, will force his subjects to build a huge tower (the Tower of Babel) in an attempt to reach Heaven. Adam is outraged by Michael's description of Nimrod, saying that humans should not rule over other humans--everyone should be equal and worship God together.

The passage is interesting because it suggests something about Milton's political leanings. Milton risked his life to oppose a tyrannical monarchy in England, but he also believes in the total worship of God. As he sees it, humans can only serve one absolute master--the Lord. To serve another, such as a king (or a Pope) is a sin, a violation of the natural order of things.

They looking back, all th’ eastern side beheld
Of Paradise, so late their happy seat,
Waved over by that flaming brand, the gate
With dreadful faces thronged and fiery arms:
Some natural tears they dropped, but wiped them soon;
The world was all before them, where to choose
Their place of rest, and Providence their guide:
They hand in hand with wand’ring steps and slow,
Through Eden took their solitary way.

Related Characters: Adam, Eve
Page Number: 12.641-649
Explanation and Analysis:

At the end of the poem, Adam and Eve prepare to leave terrestrial paradise forever. They cry, but only a little bit: their interactions with Michael have inspired them to be strong and look forward to the future. Adam and Eve have been told that one day, a Messiah will redeem mankind from their sins, allowing all human beings to enter Heaven.

The poem is tragic, yet it also ends on a note of cautious optimism. Adam and Eve know that their lives will be long and hard, but also full of fulfillment and discovery. They can no longer walk with God and dine with angels, but "Providence" is still "their guide"--they haven't been totally cast away from God like Satan and his devils. And though they've argued with each other since losing their innocence, husband and wife continue to love and respect each other--thus, they hold each other's hands as they leave Paradise. In short, Milton leaves Adam and Eve to live in a world of sin, confident that one day, sin will be redeemed with the grace of God.