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by John Milton
Paradise Lost Book 10 Summary
God is aware of what has happened; what can escape his eye? Adam and Eve deserved to fall, says the narrator, because they had the power to resist temptation but didn't. A sadness pervades Heaven as the angelic squadrons return from their guard (they're no longer necessary) bearing the bad news. God speaks, saying not to be "dismayed" because there was nothing anybody could do. He says he'll send His Son down to execute justice on Adam and Eve. The Son responds, saying he will temper justice with mercy; nobody will behold the judgment except Adam and Eve. The serpent, of course, is innocent. The judge goes down to the garden; it is near evening, and Adam and Eve go hide themselves when they realize God's voice (i.e., the Son) is in there. The Son asks Adam where he is. Adam and Eve appear, clearly upset and without love in their eyes. Adam tells the Son that he hid himself because he was afraid and was naked. The Son is perturbed, and asks him how he knows he's naked? Did he eat from the tree? Adam answers indirectly by talking about his wife and how things are going badly; eventually, he admits that Eve gave him the fruit and he ate it. The Son rebukes Adam, telling him that he shouldn't have given in to Eve's demands; Adam was given the power to rule, not Eve. He then addresses Eve, who admits to her mistake. The Son then curses the serpent, saying he shall walk on his belly from here on out (note that this contradicts the Father's earlier assertion that the serpent would not be punished, in line 10.84). He then punishes Adam and Eve. He tells Eve that childbirth will be painful and that she must submit to her husband. For Adam, the ground will not be as fertile as it once was. He then makes them clothes (almost as if he were a father clothing his children) before returning to His Father's side in Heaven. Meanwhile, our old friends Sin and Death are waiting by the gates of Hell; Sin tells Death that she thinks Satan has succeeded (otherwise he would have returned by now). She feels a new strength within her, and suggests that they build a bridge from Hell to earth, just in case Satan can't find his way back. Death responds by saying he will help her; he smells fresh prey on earth, almost as if he were some type of vulture gathering around a battle field, waiting for everyone to die so he can feed. The two begin separating the elements of Chaos and building a bridge that connects Hell to the walls of earth, which is now "fenceless." They travel along the bridge and encounter Satan, who is coming towards them in the likeness of an angel; they recognize their father. After he slunk away, Satan changed his shape and watched the sequel of what he had initiated. Sin tells Satan that they have a connection ("secret harmony"); she could feel that he had succeeded in his task. He has succeeded in liberating Sin and Death from Hell, she says. Hell couldn't contain the three of them anyway. Satan is now the lord of earth, she says. Satan responds, saying that Sin and Death (both his son and grandchild) have proven themselves worthy of being the race of Satan. He tells them to go ahead and head over to Paradise and start wreaking havoc; he's going to go back to Hell and inform his legions of the good news. Satan enters the gates of Hell; his legions are hanging out around Pandemonium. Others are debating in council on the inside. He sneaks in, disguised as a lesser angel; he makes himself invisible, assumes his throne, and then suddenly appears. His legions shout in approval. He tells them he's come to lead them forth from Hell to possess the new world he has conquered. He tells the story of how he tricked Adam and Eve; he then expects to hear some applause but instead hears "A dismal universal hiss." He feels his body changing and notices that he is changing into a serpent! All the other fallen angels around him turn to serpents too; it's punishment for their crimes. Satan and his legions exit Pandemonium; the other fallen angels behold their comrades as serpents, and then themselves turn to serpents. Nearby, a grove springs up, laden with fruit that resembles the Forbidden Fruit. All the snakes are compelled to eat it because they've suddenly become so thirsty. When they eat it, though, it turns to ashes in their mouth! Eventually, they're allowed to resume their original shapes, though some they have to undergo this change every year. Meanwhile, Sin and Death (the "hellish pair") arrive in Paradise. They each go their separate ways to wreak havoc. God sees this, and says it's Adam's fault that these fiends are now in Paradise. He says eventually the Son will expel them for good. But that comes later. The angels in Heaven sing their praises as God institutes the seasons and fixes the orbits of the five planets (Milton only knew of five when he wrote). Big climactic changes are happening. The animals in paradise no longer get along; they kill each other for food and flee man's presence. Adam sees this, feels horrible, and bursts out with a complaint. He says it would be great if all this were to end right now because his children will all be cursed. He imagines future generations cursing him and then complains that he never asked to be created, and therefore God should return him to dust. Then he realizes, he accepted God's terms from the get-go, and that it is illogical to make arguments about not wishing to be born. He says he eagerly awaits that day, but then he speculates on what death is like for some time. He wonders if he'll still suffer after he's dead. Eventually, Adam admits that God was justified in punishing him. As he complains, Eve comes over and tries to comfort him, but he tells her to take a hike, calling her a serpent. He says "But for thee/ I had persisted happy" (10.873-874) and continues to blame her, at least in part, for her transgressions. He says, essentially, it was a dumb idea to create woman. Eve is really upset; she falls at his feet, crying, and asks Adam not to abandon her. She takes full responsibility, and wants there to be peace between them. Adam is moved to "commiseration" and tells her to get up. They've blamed each other enough. Eve responds, saying the best way to cheat death is just not to have children, and to abstain from "love's due rites." Better yet, why don't they just seek death now, she asks. Adam responds by saying God has probably figured this one out. Besides, how will they "bruise" Satan if they're dead or if they don't have any children? He says God didn't kill them right away but rather gave them clothes and only said that Eve will have labor pains and Adam will have to labor for his food. It could have been worse, he says; and besides, there is reason to hope that God will help them deal with what the future holds. "We need not fear/ To pass commodiously this life" (10.1082-1083). He says they should go pray to God and water the ground with their tears, which they do.
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