by John Milton
Paradise Lost Fate and Free Will Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Book Number, Line Number
"advise him of his happy state—
Happiness in his power left free to will,
Left to his own free will, his will though free
Yet mutable" (5.234-7).
The repetition of "free will" in this passage points to its importance and centrality in the poem, but the tortured syntax makes the issue more complicated than a simple matter of emphasis. Adam can control his own happiness ("left free to will"), but free will can turn into something else if he's not careful. What exactly? We're not sure.
"The monstrous sight
Strook them with horror backward but far worse
Urged them behind: headlong themselves they threw
Down from the verge of Heav'n" (6.862-5).
At the end of the war in Heaven, the rebel angels throw themselves out of God's kingdom. Wait a minute. What? The fact that they hurl themselves over the edge makes the point about free will perfectly clear: they have nobody to blame – not God, not fate, not predestination – but themselves.
"Firm they might have stood,
Yet fell; remember, and fear to transgress" (6.910-1).
Once again, things could have gone better for Satan if he had "stood." The idea of standing (and its associated rhetoric of uprightness, erectness, etc.) is an important figure or trope in the poem. Courageous figures who do the right thing stand (like Abdiel) while disobedient ones don't. Standing implies effort, which implies free will.