Paradise Lost


Book II

Summary Book II

After Beelzebub takes the floor, it becomes clear that the caucus has been a foregone conclusion. Satan lets the sides rhetorically engage each other before he announces through Beelzebub the plan he had all along. Satan and Beelzebub conspire to win the argument, and do, without any of the other devils recognizing the fraud. Satan’s volunteering to be the scout then silences all possible dissent, since he is heralded as the leader of Hell. Here again is a parody of Hell mimicking Heaven: Satan offers to sacrifice himself for the good of the other devils, in a twisted imitation of Christ. The parallel is made even more blatant when Sin cries out to Satan at the gate of Hell: “O father, what intends thy hand . . . against thy only son?” (II.727728). Sin’s statement foreshadows how God will send his only Son to die, for the good of the humankind. Satan believes he is free, and both Belial and Mammon celebrate the freedom of the devils even in Hell, and yet we see that they have no power to do anything except distort Heavenly things, twisting them into evil, empty imitations.

Satan’s encounter with Sin and Death is an allegory, in which the three characters and their relationships represent abstract ideas. Sin is the first child of Satan, brought to life by Satan’s disobedience. Since Satan is the first of God’s creations to disobey, he personifies disobedience, and the fact that Sin is his daughter suggests that all sins arise from disobedience and ingratitude toward God. To those who behold her birth, she is first frightening but then seems strangely attractive, suggesting the seductive allure of sin to the ordinary individual. Sin dwells alone and in utter torment, representing the ultimate fate of the sinner. That Death is Sin’s offspring indicates Milton’s belief that death is not simply a biological fact of life but rather a punishment for sin and disobedience, a punishment that nobody escapes.