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A resource for studying Milton's Paradise Lost



Book II


Satan sits on a throne and talks about how, being united in misery, the devils can, and should, be in complete and democratic agreement. He asks the assembly what they should do to fight and frustrate the will of God.

Moloch counsels open war. There is nothing to lose, he says, the most that God can do to them is to destroy them utterly and end their agony. Belial criticises this for being motivated by despair and the hope of destruction. He further states that there is no way they can defeat the invulnerable and all-knowing God. He fears the consequences - being utterly destroyed, or worse, having greater agony inflicted on them. It is their duty to suffer; they should be content and hope that in time they will get used to the flames, or that God might decide to save fuel and turn down the heat.

Mammon develops this idea of inaction, advising that they should forge their own kingdom in hell and enjoy their freedom from subjection to God. A cheer arises from the devils, who don't quite wish to go to war again and have their behinds handed to them on a platter.

Beelzebub mocks both the possibilities of peace and of war, and puts things in stark perspective - hell is a prison, not a new world of joy and tree-planting. He speaks, though the idea was given him by Satan, of a prophesied New World of Man, and counsels shifting operations to this battleground. The proposal meets with assent and a brave adventurer who fears nothing is called for. There is silence. Satan eventually steps up. He tells the rest to make themselves comfortable and do some home improvement, while he goes exploring.

Satan reaches the gates of Hell, guarded by Sin and Death. Death threatens Satan with his spear and Satan raises his; the opportunity arises for a great movie moment but unfortunately, Milton wasn't into movies, being rather blind. Sin prevents the fight by revealing Satan to be her father, and also the father of her child, Death. (Work out for yourself how that is possible!) There is a touching family reunion, as Sin and Satan catch up on what their son has been doing in the meantime - incest, rape, attempted cannibalism, in short, if you believe Freud, all the things that children would love to do but never quite get around to, on account of excessive schoolwork. Although commanded by God never to unlock the gates, Sin is convinced by Satan to do so, and she lets him out.

The first thing Satan sees is the ocean of Chaos, where the elements or 'dark materials' of God's Creation reside. Satan meets Chaos himself who directs him towards Earth. The book ends with Satan seeing Heaven, and Earth hanging from Heaven like a pendent on a golden chain. He moves towards Earth with revenge in his heart, and here the book closes; a cliff-hanger if ever there was one.






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