Paradise Lost

by: John Milton

Sin and Death

Quotes Sin and Death
Die he or justice must; unless for him Some other able, and as willing, pay The rigid satisfaction, death for death. (III, 210–212)

While sitting on his throne, God sees Satan flying towards Paradise and foretells man’s fall and Satan’s success in deceiving Eve. Upon hearing this prediction, God’s Son asks an important question: How will justice be preserved if God shows mercy to man for disobeying? Here, God explains that to preserve justice, payment of the death penalty must be made on man’s behalf. Without the payment of a death, justice will “die.” God’s response reveals that all sins must be paid for, in one form or another, or justice ceases to exist.

Out of thy head I sprung: amazement, seiz’d All th’host of heaven; back they recoil’d, afraid At first, and call’d me Sin[.] (II, 758–760)

Upon reaching hell, Satan finds Sin and Death guarding the gates. Unbeknownst to Satan, both Sin and Death are his progeny. Here, Sin explains to Satan that while Satan was still an angel, Sin sprang from his head. Sin in turn gave birth to a son, Death, who was conceived when Satan incestuously raped Sin. The relationship between Satan, Sin, and Death is an allegory tying together the ideas of disobedience, sin, and death: Disobedience results in sin, and sin results in death.

Greedily she ingorg’d without restraint, And knew not eating death. Satiate at length And heightened as with wine, jocund and boon, Thus to herself she pleasingly began. (IX, 791–794)

The narrator uses rich, sensory language to describe Eve’s act of disobedience. The moment Eve eats the fruit, she abandons reason entirely and indulges in gluttony. Eve eats the fruit “without restraint,” and her experience resembles intoxication, as if from drinking wine. Such a description presents sin as a rash, sensual act rather than a restrained and rational one. Sin originates from man’s lower impulses rather than the rational mind.

Meanwhile, ere thus we sinn’d and judg’d on earth, Within the gates of hell sat Sin and Death, In counterview within the gates, that now Stood open wide, belching outrageous flame Far into Chaos, since the fiend pass’d through, (X, 229 –234)

The narrator explains how, after Satan’s triumph, Sin and Death open the gates to hell and excitedly commence their task of building a bridge from hell to earth. When Sin and Death meet Satan at the gates of Paradise to congratulate him on his victory, he urges them to rush to and conquer Earth. This explains how Sin and Death came to roam the earth, corrupting all living things and perverting the thoughts and deeds of humankind. Sin and death constitute the connection between hell and earth.

His death for man, as many as offer’d life Neglect not, and the benefit embrace By faith not void of works. This godlike act Annuls thy doom, the death thou shouldst have died, In sin for ever lost from life; this act Shall bruise the head of Satan, crush his strength Defeating Sin and Death, his two main arms (XII, 425–432)

Before the angel Michael comes to lead Adam and Eve out of Paradise, Michael continues to relate the future of humankind to Adam. Adam, upset at the havoc sin and death cause across Earth, feels comforted by Michael’s words. Michael explains how the incarnation of God on earth in the form of the Son and his death, resurrection, and ascension back to heaven ultimately annuls all people’s sentence to death. Metaphorically, man achieves everlasting life through the Son.