Book I, Lines 1–26

Milton’s epic poem begins by declaring that his subject is humankind’s first act of disobedience toward God: Adam and Eve eating the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden. Milton goes on to invoke the Holy Spirit as his muse. Milton’s speaker believes that the fall of humankind into sin and death was part of God’s greater plan, and that God’s plan is justified.

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Book I, Lines 27–722

After being defeated by God, Satan and his followers are banished to Hell, where Satan and the other devils contemplate the possibility of making evil out of good. Satan determines he would rather be a king in Hell than a servant in Heaven. Satan and his comrades construct a great temple known as Pandemonium in which the devils enter and begin a debate.

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Book II

Satan opens the debate in Pandemonium by saying that Heaven is not yet lost, which is then followed by ideas from the other devils. Beelzebub begins to speak and Satan volunteers himself to seek revenge against God by corrupting his new beloved humans. When Satan arrives at Hell’s gate he is approached by his children, Sin and Death, who grant him passage into an abyss, where Satan meets Chaos, Night, Confusion, and Discord. A bridge is built from Hell to Earth on which evil spirits can travel to tempt mortals.

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Book III

In Heaven, God’s Son offers himself as a sacrifice so that God can conquer Hell, which overjoys God since he knows this will lead to the salvation of the human race. The choirs of angels break into a song praising the goodness of both Father and Son, who will turn a sorrowful deed into a greater glory for both God and man. Meanwhile on Earth, Satan disguises himself as a cherub and interacts with the Archangel Uriel who points out to Satan the way to Paradise where Adam lives.

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Book IV

When Satan arrives at the Garden of Eden, he begins to regret his state, but ultimately resolves to commit to evil. He watches as Adam and Eve proceed through their daily lives, praising God and following his rule to not eat the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge, which Satan sees as his opportunity to inspire them to rebel. Meanwhile, Uriel consorts with the Archangel Gabriel and they send search parties into Eden to find Satan, who becomes enraged by Gabriel’s threat to send him back to Hell.

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Book V

After Eve divulges a dream to Adam concerning eating fruit from the forbidden tree, the Archangel Raphael visits Adam and Eve in Eden, shares a meal with them, and afterward describes to Adam the composition of the things God created on Earth, as well as relating the story of Satan’s fall.

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Book VI

Raphael continues his story of the first conflict between Satan and God, mentioning the battle between Satan and Abdiel. God intervened and sent his Son to surround the rebel angels to drive them out through a hole in Heaven’s ground, where for nine days they fall through Chaos before landing in Hell. Raphael warns Adam to withstand Satan’s plot to doom mankind.

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Book VII

Milton invokes the muse Urania, who he refers to as a source of inspiration, and asks her to ensure his safe transition from relating the story of the war in Heaven back to Raphael and Adam’s conversation on Earth. Back on Earth, Raphael explains how and why the world was created by God.

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After Raphael finishes the story of creation, Adam tells Raphael what he knows about his own creation, and how Eve eventually came to be and how he instantly fell in love with her. Raphael proceeds to talk to Adam about love, and Adam responds by admitting his physical attraction to Eve while asserting that his love for her comes from an emotional and spiritual companionship, though Raphael still warns Adam to be wary of Satan’s temptations.

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Book IX, Lines 1–403

After Milton asserts his intention to show that the fall of humankind is more heroic than the tales of Virgil and Homer, the story returns to Satan in the Garden of Eden after Raphael’s departure, where Satan turns himself into a snake, though not without apprehensions and anguish concerning the beauty of Earth. The next morning, Adam and Eve go off to do their gardening independently, despite Adam’s fear that their separation will make them more susceptible to Satan’s schemes.

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Book IX, Lines 404–1189

Satan, disguised as a serpent, flatters Eve enough to convince her to take a bite from the forbidden fruit, which leads her to convince Adam to join in her disobedience. The morning after committing their sinful act, Adam and Eve awaken to discover that they now see the world as a place filled with shame and evil. This realization leads them to blame each other for committing the sin, without either of them admitting to any fault.

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Book X

After God acquits his angels of any guilt, the Son calls to Adam and declares consequences for him and Eve, and all generations to follow. Sin and Death enter Earth. In Hell, when Satan returns, the devils have all been transformed into snakes. God commands his angels to alter the universe, converting it into unfavorable conditions for humankind. Adam curses life until Eve speaks passionately, and he remembers the prophecy that someone in their lineage would bruise the head of the serpent, consequently granting Adam hope for humankind.

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Book XI

God, hearing Adam and Eve’s prayers, sends the Archangel Michael to Earth to escort Adam and Eve out of Paradise, during which Michael allows Adam to see his sons Cain and Abel commit the first murder. Then, Adam sees visions of people enjoying dances, games, and sex, and Michael explains that people begin living for their own pleasure and flesh. He tells the story of Noah and how he preserved humankind and virtue during a great flood.

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Book XII

Michael tells Adam how God will choose Israel as the one nation to rise above the rest. He details the story of Abraham and his bout with Pharaoh, and how Moses led the Israelites out of slavery through the Red Sea. Michael goes on to tell Adam that after many different rulers, there will come a king named David, and from his descendants will eventually come a Messiah (the Son) who will once again bring together Earth and Heaven, but not before a great deal of suffering that will lead to his death. However, the Messiah will rise from the grave, defeat Sin, Death, and Satan, and will return a second time to judge all humankind and reunite Heaven and Earth. Adam, now comforted by the future, exits Paradise with Eve to wander out into a new world.

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