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A resource for studying Milton's Paradise Lost



Book V


Book V is a strange mixture of the domestic and the divine. It opens in the intimacy of Adam and Eve's bower at dawn: Eve is in an uneasy sleep, the words Satan has whispered into her ear troubling her with alien notions of impiety and disobedience. Adam wakes his wife, and she tells him her dream. Troubled, he recognises evil, but cannot guess at its source, and his attempt to reason Eve out of her fears is only half-successful.

They then begin the business of the day, hymning their praises of God. Their song restores their disturbed spirits, and they set about the task of disciplining the all-but-excessive bounty of Eden. God, watching Adam and Eve at work, instructs the angel Raphael to pay them a visit. He is to talk to them of their enemy, Satan, and warn against his lies and trickery - in case, after they've fallen, Adam and Eve should complain that ignorance of evil left them vulnerable to its allure.

Raphael arrives in Eden and Adam almost mistakes his celestial splendour for the sun coming up again. Angel and man sit down to eat together, and Raphael relates the cautionary story of the rebel angels' fall from Heaven. Raphael tells Adam how God summoned his host to hear a divine decree: the Son, Christ, has been begotten, and appointed vicegerent above all of the angels. They celebrate, but there is a disaffected angel among them: the archangel now known as Satan feels jealousy and wounded pride, and determines on insurrection. Satan masses a huge following of sympathisers under pretence of gathering the angels to worship their new ruler. Instead, he makes an eloquent speech protesting against 'prostration vile' to God and now his Son, rejecting servitude and questioning their right to rule. His persuasive rhetoric convinces most of his hearers, but there is one angel who refuses to be swayed. Abdiel denounces Satan as a blasphemous ingrate, and asserts God's supremacy as creator. Alone untempted, he predicts the rebel angels' destruction, and leaves their camp.






Milton and the Critics


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