Paradise Lost

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Themes and Colors
Hierarchy and Order Theme Icon
Disobedience and Revolt Theme Icon
Sin and Innocence Theme Icon
Free Will and Predestination Theme Icon
Love and Marriage Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Paradise Lost, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.
Love and Marriage Theme Icon

Love is one of the Christian God’s most important attributes, and Heavenly love also takes center stage early in the poem as the angels ceaselessly worship God and commune with each other in joy, and the Son offers himself as a sacrifice for humankind out of love for them. Then when Adam and Eve are created, the poem partly shifts its focus to mortal love and the idea of marriage.

Milton was seen as radical and lewd for suggesting that Adam and Eve had sex before the Fall and still remained sinless, but Milton creates a picture of marital love that is innocent and pure and still involves sexuality, mostly as a form of obedience to God’s command to “be fruitful.” Milton also emphasizes the hierarchy in marriage, which relates to the general ideas about women at the time. Adam is created to be superior to Eve, communing with God directly, while she communes with God through him, and while Eve is more beautiful, Adam is wiser and stronger. Along with this marital hierarchy, there is also a proper order for love itself. Love of God should come before romantic love (or self-love, in Satan’s case), so when Adam chooses to disobey God’s commandment for the sake of Eve’s love, this is as much his “original sin” as the actual eating of the forbidden fruit. Though this romantic love leads to the Fall, it is also a great comfort to the couple (along with the ever-present love of God) as they are expelled from Paradise. Adam and Eve can still take some joy in each other, and look forward to the day when God will prove his divine love through his Son’s incarnation.

Love and Marriage ThemeTracker

The ThemeTracker below shows where, and to what degree, the theme of Love and Marriage appears in each section of Paradise Lost. Click or tap on any chapter to read its Summary & Analysis.
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Love and Marriage Quotes in Paradise Lost

Below you will find the important quotes in Paradise Lost related to the theme of Love and Marriage.
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.)


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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.

Straight side by side were laid, nor turned I ween
Adam from his fair spouse, nor Eve the rites
Mysterious of connubial love refused:
Whatever hypocrites austerely talk
Of purity and place and innocence,
Defaming as impure what God declares
Pure, and commands to some, leaves free to all.
Our Maker bids increase, who bids abstain
But our destroyer, foe to God and man?
Hail wedded love, mysterious law, true source
Of human offspring, sole propriety,
In Paradise of all things common else.

Related Characters: God the Father, Adam, Eve
Page Number: 4.741-752
Explanation and Analysis:

In this fascinating passage, Milton defends his interpretation of the Bible. There's a longstanding debate among Christian scholars--did Adam and Eve have sex before their fall from Paradise? Milton declares that they did--in fact, he argues that there's nothing inherently sinful with sex at all, as long as it's practiced in the context of marriage, and done with God's approval. God created human beings to have sex (as expressed in his command to "be fruitful"), though in the Garden of Eden, sex was an entirely different experience for Adam and Eve. Sex wasn't a product of sinful lust at all--rather, Adam and Eve had sex because of their love for each other, for God, and, perhaps, simply because it was pleasurable and innocent.

By praising sex and placing it in Eden, Milton is taking a stand against the Puritanical Christians of his time, who saw all sexuality as inherently sinful and shameful.

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

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 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

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.