Short Summary of Paradise Lost Book I

"Paradise Lost" critical summary by John Milton



Milton shows his resolve of writing a poem that may account for the fall of man as well as to "justify the ways of God to men". He seeks heavenly Muse to assist him in his cause which is noble and sublime. Then he narrates how Satan mistook the powers granted by God as his own powers and decided to revolt against God in heaven. He, along-with his crew, was "hurled headlong" into the abyss of hell by a single act of God. Milton then describes the woeful tortures of hell where Satan lay with his "horrid crew". He calls hell the "dungeon horrible" which has no light but woes and suffering without end.

Soon, Satan comes to senses and realizes what utter misery he has fallen into. He views with dismay his fallen angels that look like fallen leaves. Then he addresses Beelzebub, his fallen partaker and a superior angel. Satan reminds him of the lost glory and pride they shared together while they were in heaven, serving God. But here Satan shows "steadfast hate" for the rule of God. He encourages Beelzebub to remain constant to their aim of war and they must take revenge for their fall. Here he utters the words:

"What though the field be lost?
All is not lost; the unconquerable Will"

He then announces that from that day onward hell is their new place to dwell. They shall be free in hell than heaven because "Tis' Better to reign in Hell, then serve in Heav'n". He does not wish to serve God. Soon, God recalls his angels back to heaven and leaves Satan and his crew free to roam in hell. The chains of Satan are his fellow rebel angels are removed. Now Satan awakes all his partakers and prepares them for an eternal war against God. He reminds them that though they are inferior to God yet they can upset the plans of God by corrupting his creation, Man.

"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"

Then, Satan sets his angels to dig gold out of the tracts of hell and with this gold they prepare a council chamber in hell. All the devils attend the meeting there.




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