Paradise Lost

Free Will and Predestination Theme Analysis

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.
Free Will and Predestination Theme Icon

In Paradise Lost Milton argues that though God foresaw the Fall of Man, he still didn’t influence Adam and Eve’s free will. Milton’s God exists outside of time and so sees all times at once, and thus can see the future without actively affecting it. God specifically says that he gives his creatures the option to serve or disobey, as he wants obedience that is freely given, not forced. Some critics have claimed that the God of the poem undercuts his own arguments, however. Milton did not believe in the Calvinistic idea of “predestination” (that God has already decided who is going to Hell and who to Heaven), but he often comes close to describing a Calvinistic God. God purposefully lets Satan escape Hell and sneak past Uriel into Eden, and basically orchestrates the whole situation so that humanity can be easily ruined by a single disobedient act. In describing the Fall before it happens, God already predicts how he will remedy it and give greater glory to himself by sending his Son to die and restore the order of Heaven.

This possible predestination leads to the theory of the “fortunate fall,” which is based on Adam’s delight at learning of the eventual coming of the Messiah. This idea says that God allowed the Fall of Man so that he could bring good out of it, possibly more good than would have occurred without the Fall, and be able to show his love and power through the incarnation of his Son. In this way the free will of Adam and Eve (and Satan) remains basically free, but still fits into God’s overarching plan.

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Free Will and Predestination ThemeTracker

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

Below you will find the important quotes in Paradise Lost related to the theme of Free Will and Predestination.
Book 1 Quotes

Of man’s first disobedience, and the fruit
Of that forbidden tree, whose mortal taste
Brought death into the world, and all our woe,
With loss of Eden, till one greater man
Restore us, and regain the blissful seat,
Sing Heav’nly Muse…
What in me is dark
Illumine, what is low raise and support;
That to the heighth of this great argument
I may assert Eternal Providence,
And justify the ways of God to men.

Related Symbols: The Fruit of the Tree of Knowledge
Page Number: 1.1.26
Explanation and Analysis:

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Fall’n Cherub, to be weak is miserable
Doing or suffering: but of this be sure,
To do aught good never will be our task,
But ever to do ill our sole delight,
As being the contrary to his high will
Whom we resist. If then his Providence
Out of our evil seek to bring forth good,
Our labour must be to pervert that end,
And out of good still to find means of evil…

Related Characters: Satan (speaker)
Page Number: 1.157-165
Explanation and Analysis:

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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:

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If him by force he can destroy, or worse,
By some false guile pervert; and shall pervert;
For man will hearken to his glozing lies,
And easily transgress the sole command,
Sole pledge of his obedience: so will fall
He and his faithless progeny: whose fault?
Whose but his own? Ingrate, he had of me
All he could have; I made him just and right,
Sufficient to have stood, though free to fall.

Related Characters: God the Father (speaker), Satan, Adam
Page Number: 2.91-99
Explanation and Analysis:

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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:

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Book 5 Quotes

Happiness in his power left free to will,
Left to his own free will, his will though free,
Yet mutable; whence warn him to beware
He swerve not too secure: tell him withal
His danger, and from whom, what enemy
Late fall’n himself from Heav’n, is plotting now
The fall of others from like state of bliss;
By violence, no, for that shall be withstood,
But by deceit and lies; this let him know,
Lest wilfully transgressing he pretend
Surprisal, unadmonished, unforewarned.

Related Characters: God the Father (speaker), Adam, Raphael
Page Number: 5.235-245
Explanation and Analysis:

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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:

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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:

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