Study Guide

Paradise Lost Quotes

  • Fate and Free Will

    Book 1

    "Nor had they yet among the sons of Eve
    Got them new names, till wand'ring o'er the earth
    Through God's high suff'rance for the trial of man" (1.364-6).

    This describes how Satan's associates were allowed to "wander" over the earth because of God's "suff'rance," or forbearance after the Fall. The most important word here is "trial," a word that comes up repeatedly in the poem and in Milton's other writings. It suggests something like a test of man's virtue, which is made manifest when he is tempted and refuses.

    Book 3

    "So will fall
    He and his faithless progeny. Whose fault?
    Whose but his own? Ingrate! He had of Me
    All he could have; I made him just and right,
    Sufficient to have stood, though free to fall" (3.95-9).

    God makes it clear that Adam will fall through his own "fault." Even though this sounds like predestination, it's actually foreknowledge. God sees all events – past, present, and future – as simultaneous or present, including Adam's fall, which hasn't happened yet (in the poem). Just because God knows it will happen though doesn't mean he makes it happen; He knows how Adam himself will make it happen.

    "They therefore, as to right belonged,
    So were created, nor can justly accuse
    Their Maker or their making, or their fate,
    As if predestination overruled
    Their will disposed by absolute decree
    Or high foreknowledge" (3.111-6).

    This passage picks up where the previous left off; things like "fate," "predestination," or "high foreknowledge" don't control one's destiny; in fact, God here places the onus on man's "will," which isn't subject to such external forces as "fate," etc.

    Book 5

    "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.

    Book 6

    "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.

    Book 10

    "No Decree of mine
    Concurring to necessitate his Fall,
    Or touch with lightest moment of impulse
    His free Will, to her own inclining left
    In even scale" (10.43-7)

    God reiterates a point he's made throughout the poem. Not even the "lightest…impulse" from God has affected Adam and Eve's behavior. Note the importance God places on words associated with the fate versus free will debate: "decree," "necessitate," "impulse," and "inclining."

  • Sin

    Book 1

    "Farewell happy fields
    Where Joy for ever dwells: hail horrors, hail
    Infernal world" (1.249-51).

    As a punishment for his sin, Satan must exchange the "happy fields" of Heaven for the "horrors" of Hell. As a result of their sins, both Adam and Eve and Satan must say "farewell" to their respective paradises, as if some notion of exile from one's "home" were intimately bound up with the idea of sin. Note also the alliteration in this line ("h" and "f" sounds), a sonorous effect that contrasts with the bleakness of the picture.

    Book 2

    "a Goddess armed
    Out of thy head I sprung! Amazement seized
    All the' Host of Heav'n. Back they recoiled afraid
    At first and called me Sin, and for a sign
    Portentous held me" (2.757-61).

    What's a poem without a character named Sin? Sin springs out of Satan's head – a strange birth indeed. Milton alludes here to a mythological story where Athena (ancient Greek goddess of wisdom, victory, and other things) sprung from Zeus' head. Who better than Satan to give birth to something as far from wisdom as sin? The passage says as much about Sin as it does about Satan and about Milton's relationship to ancient myth.

    Book 6

    "Apostate, still thou err'st, nor end wilt find
    Of erring, from the path of truth remote!" (6.172-3)

    The word "err" is used twice in this passage. "Err" and its cognates were once associated with wandering or going astray, a notion emphasized here in the idea of being "remote" from the "path" (i.e., the road, the path of uprightness, etc.). Satan's, Adam's, and Eve's falls all involve notions of error and wandering from the right path.

    Book 9

    "Daughter of God and Man, immortal Eve,
    For such thou art, from sin and blame entire" (9.291-2)

    Naïve readers often suggest that Eve was tainted from the get go, but Adam reminds us, yet again, that she is "entire[ly]" free "from sin and blame." Just because Eve goes off to garden by herself does not automatically make her a sinner. This passage is important alongside God's remarks about predestination, etc. as it emphasizes the ideas of innocence and purity, which seem to be related to all that stuff about freewill.

    "Greedily she engorged without restraint,
    And knew not eating death. Satiate at length
    And heightened as with wine" (9.791-4)

    Milton goes to great lengths to display the intemperance associated with Eve's sin. Notice how ravenously she eats: "greedily," "engorged without restraint," and "heightened as with wine." The irony, of course, is that Eve is "eating death" (how does one do that?), but she doesn't know it, and continues to eat voraciously.

    Book 10

    "for now were all transformed
    Alike, to serpents all as accessories
    To his bold riot" (10.519-21)

    Satan and his legions are turned into serpents after the Fall as a result of their role in it. Serpents can't walk upright like angels or humans; in Paradise Lost, the ability to stand "erect," or to stand at all, is a mark of either distinction or proximity to God. This is a fitting punishment, for it further removes the fallen angels from the realm of humans, angels, etc.

    "Within the gates of Hell sate Sin and Death,
    In counterview, within the gates that now
    Stood open wide" (10.230-2)

    After the Fall, Sin and Death build a bridge to earth; Adam and Eve have left the earth "open wide" for Sin and Death. In other words, while the characters Sin and Death can now make their way towards earth, the point is sin and death more generally have now become a part of the (fallen) world.

  • Lies and Deceit

    Book 1

    "Him haply slumb'ring on the Norway foam
    The pilot of some small night-foundered skiff,
    Deeming some island, oft, as seamen tell,
    With fixèd anchor in his scaly rind
    Moors by his side, under the lee" (1.203-7)

    Milton compares Satan to a giant creature that some "pilot" might mistake ("deeming some island") for an island; the point of the simile is that Satan seems like one thing (a heroic leader, an unjustly maligned angel), but is really another. In other words, he's a gigantic symbol of deception.

    Book 2

    "he seemed
    For dignity composed and high exploit:
    But all was false and hollow" (2.110-12)

    Milton here describes Belial; notice the rhetoric of "seeming." It is implied in the famous simile about the island (described above), and discussed more explicitly here. Belial is "false and hollow," a description that resonates nicely with the canon sequence (described below). Things are not always what they seem in this poem; in fact, they are often not what they "seem."

    Book 4

    "Whereof he soon aware,
    Each perturbation smoothed with outward calme,
    Artificer of fraud" (4.119-21)

    All of Satan's emotions are normally visible on his face, but here he shows his ability to display an "outward calm," even though he's as far from calm as one could get. The rhetoric of artificiality is quite patent here; we see it not only in "smoothed over," but also in "artificer." The latter contains the word "art" in it, suggesting that Satan is also some type of bad artist or something, or at least one that is more focused on the inauthentic than the natural.

    Book 6

    "in hollow cube
    Training his dev'lish engin'ry, impaled
    On every side with shadowing squadrons deep,
    To hide the fraud" (6.552-5)

    Satan's behavior in battle is the perfect example of what kind of character he is. He organizes his legions in such a way so as to conceal the "fraud," i.e., the canon. Note the recurrence of words associated with deception here: "hollow," "devilish," "fraud," and "hide," words that can be used to describe Satan more generally.

    Book 9

    "his final sentence chose
    Fit vessel, fittest imp of fraud in whom
    To enter and his dark suggestions hide
    From sharpest sight" (9.88-91)

    The serpent is the proper "vessel," the "fittest imp" for Satan. It's not totally clear why, especially since Milton is at pains to point out how everything is innocent. Is the serpent already a deceptive animal? Notice the contrast between "dark suggestions" and "sharpest sight," a dichotomy which plays on the contrast through the poem between darkness (Hell, Satan, etc.) and light (Heaven, good angels, etc.).

    "He ended, and his words replete with guile
    Into her heart too easy entrance won" (9.733-4)

    Satan's words are full ("replete") of "guile," and yet, ironically, they find an "easy entrance" into Eve's "heart." We see this throughout the poem, and as readers we are not exempt; often, Satan's most deceptive or problematic speeches are the most effective. There is something about his "guile" that appeals to Eve, and to us.

  • Pride

    Book 1

    "For who can yet believe, though after loss,
    That all these puissant legions whose exile
    Hath emptied Heav'n shall fail to re-ascend,
    Self-raised, and repossess their native seat?" (1.631-4)

    Satan thinks so highly of his army that he has no doubts about their ability to "repossess their native seat." The pride he takes in his rebellion is evident as well in the fact that he grossly exaggerates ("emptied Heav'n") the number of angels who joined his rebellion (we learn later that only a third of the angels fell with Satan).

    "How such united force of gods, how such
    As stood like these, could ever know repulse?" (1.629-30)

    Satan is proud of his army, so proud that he's absolutely baffled that it was defeated. He thinks that a force as strong as his should never have known "repulse." His pride was so blinding that he didn't realize that God would easily "repulse" such a band, even though they "stood" like "gods."

    Book 5

    "fair angelic Eve,
    Partake thou also! Happy though thou art,
    Happier thou may'st be, worthier canst not be.
    Taste this, and be henceforth among the gods
    Thyself a goddess, not to Earth confined" (5.74-8).

    Satan's first encounter with Eve (the evil dream he whispers in her ear) closely resembles his second (the Forbidden Fruit); in both, he appeals to Eve's pride, offering her the possibility of divinity ("thyself a goddess") and greater happiness while also boosting her self-esteem ("fair angelic Eve"). Here, as in Book 9, Satan attempts to get Eve to share in his misery by making her more like him (he fell because he wanted to be the god).

    Book 6

    "for they weened
    That selfsame day by fight, or by surprise
    To win the Mount of God, and on His throne
    To set the envier of His State, the proud
    Aspirer" (6.686-90)

    Part of the problem with Satan's pride is that it makes him an "aspirer" to God's throne; he's not just dissatisfied with God's Son, but, it seems, with God as well. Otherwise, his legions wouldn't attempt to place him on God's "throne." As in many other passages, pride is associated with an inappropriate movement upwards or an attempt to gain control of something that is supposed to be out of reach (God's throne, knowledge, etc.).

    Book 8

    "Joy thou
    In what He gives to thee, this Paradise
    And thy fair Eve; Heav'n is for thee too high
    To know what passes there; be lowly wise:
    Think only what concerns thee and thy being" (8.170-4)

    Raphael essentially tells Adam not to get too proud. He tells him that Heaven is "too high" for him to 'know what passes there." In other words, Adam shouldn't try to learn more than he already knows. The dichotomy of high and low ("too high," "lowly wise") underlines the difference between pride and humility (recall that pride is often associated with superiority, trying to reach too high, etc.).

    Book 9

    "look on me!
    Me who have touched and tasted yet both live
    And life more perfect have attained than fate
    Meant me, by vent'ring higher than my Lot" (9.687-90).

    Pride is associated with a sense of superiority, and Satan – here disguised as the serpent – deceives Eve with the ridiculous idea that one can have a "more perfect" life. How can there be something beyond perfection? The very fact that "more perfect" occurs alongside the idea of attaining more than "fate/ Meant" suggests quite clearly both Satan's illogic and the dangers of pride.

    "ye shall be as Gods
    Knowing both good and evil as they know.
    That ye should be as Gods, since I as Man,
    Internal Man, is but proportion meet" (9.708-11)

    Satan here appeals to Eve's pride, suggesting that she deserves to know good and evil; it's only natural ("proportion meet"). One should note the irony of using a phrase like "proportion meet." The world is already perfect, yet somehow Satan's rhetoric – maybe because of its own neat "proportions" – convinces Eve that things aren't fair, right, or in "proportion."

  • Revenge

    Book 1

    "and enraged might see
    How all his malice served but to bring forth
    Infinite goodness, grace, and mercy shown
    On Man by him seduced, but on himself
    Treble confusion, wrath and vengeance poured" (1.216-20)

    Satan's plans to get revenge will backfire; all his "malice" does exactly the opposite of what he wants because it serves to "bring forth/ Infinite goodness." Also, he will experience "treble confusion," a state not unlike that in which he finds himself at the beginning of the poem. In a sense, then, he will end up right where he began when he made his plans for revenge.

    Book 2

    "Thither full fraught with mischievous revenge
    Accurst, and in a cursèd hour, he hies" (2.1054-5)

    Satan's "revenge" is "mischievous." So much is clear. Notice the repetition of "curse" in both "accurst" and "cursed," as if we could forget that Satan is up to no good and that his actions will certainly have consequences. The same type of repetition is evident in the alliteration of "full fraught" and "he hies," a technique that makes the line memorable while also emphasizing Satan's evil dedication.

    "and by proof we feel
    Our power sufficient to disturb His Heav'n,
    And with perpetual inroads to alarm,
    Though inaccessible, His fatal throne,
    Which if not victory is yet revenge" (2.101-5)

    Moloch proposes that the fallen angels continue to batter God's throne through what he earlier calls "open war" (2.51). Here, he importantly suggests that achieving "victory" is not necessarily as important as being really annoying. He wants to make "perpetual inroads," almost like some annoying insect, because this will at least be some form of "revenge," which is not necessarily synonymous with victory, but is just as valuable.

    Book 3

    "so bent he seems
    On desperate revenge that shall redound
    Upon his own rebellious head" (3.84-6)

    In Book 10, Satan's plans for revenge will "redound" upon him, just as God says it will here. Notice the use of the word "bent." Good characters – Adam, Eve, Abdiel – are often described as "upright" or "erect." Satan, in contrast, is "bent" on "revenge," a phrasing that suggests a connection between revenge and something opposed to uprightness.

    Book 4

    "yet public reason just,
    Honor and empire with revenge enlarged
    By conquering this new world compels me now
    To do what else, though damned, I should abhor" (4.389-92).

    Satan's subservience to "public reason" – probably some sense of duty or responsibility to his legions – is what partly causes him to go through with his plans of revenge. He suggests that the only reason he's still going through with it is because he made a promise. He makes a distinction between a "public" and a more private self, crediting all his evil plans to the former and all the nicer ones (about abhorring what he's about to do, melting at the sight of Adam and Eve right before this, etc.).

    Book 9

    "But what will not ambition and revenge
    Descend to? Who aspires must down as low
    As high he soared, obnoxious first or last
    To basest things. Revenge at first though sweet
    Bitter ere long back on it self recoils" (9.168-72).

    Satan's words reveal a bitter irony; his revenge will quite literally "back on it self recoil" in the next book, when he and his companions are changed into serpents. The same is true of his remark about how one who "aspires must down as low." Satan tried to soar to the top (of God's throne) but ends up in Hell, a place at the bottom of the universe both literally and figuratively.

  • Language and Communication

    Book 1

    "If once they hear that voice, (their liveliest pledge
    Of hope in fears and dangers […] they will soon resume
    New courage and revive" (1.274-5; 278-9)

    The power of Satan's voice is an important theme throughout Paradise Lost. Here, the emphasis is on the actual sound of Satan's voice and how it renovates the fallen angels' despair. At other moments in the poem his voice is just as effective, though it achieves different results; he uses it to trick Eve, for example, in Book 9, whereas in the early books his speeches seduce us (as readers) into admiring him.

    Book 2

    "His thoughts were low,
    To vice industrious but to nobler deeds
    Timorous and slothful. Yet he pleased the ear
    And with persuasive accent thus began" (2.115-8)

    Much like Satan, Belial (described here) is a bad dude; he's just as dangerous too because he "pleases the ear" with "persuasive accent[s]." Milton often points out the way in which what is "pleasing" can cause us to ignore someone's love for "vice." The voice, not just Satan's but God's as well, is a very powerful force in Paradise Lost.

    Book 5

    "what surmounts the reach
    Of human sense, I shall delineate so,
    By likening spiritual to corporal forms,
    As may express them best, though what if Earth
    Be but the shadow of Heav'n, and things therein
    Each to other like, more than on earth is thought?" (5.571-6)

    Raphael uses similitude to give some idea of what Heaven is like, knowing full well that this is at best an imperfect approximation. Raphael seems a lot like John Milton, who must have faced the same exact problem of trying to explain "spiritual" things in earthly or "corporal" terms.

    Book 8

    "For while I sit with thee, I seem in Heav'n
    And sweeter thy discourse is to my ear
    Than Fruits of Palm-tree pleasantest to thirst" (8.210-12)

    Adam tells Raphael how sweet is his words are. Satan is another guy whose words can be very sweet; Raphael is clearly not Satan, but we should think about what makes words actually sweet and what makes them problematically sweet.

    "I named them, as they passed, and understood
    Their nature, with such knowledge God endued
    My sudden apprehension" (8.352-4)

    The act of naming – assigning a word to something – is associated in Eden with understanding the "nature" of something. This suggests that names perfectly correspond with what name, that there is no gap or potential for ambiguity between word and thing as there will be after the Fall. The phrase "sudden apprehension" suggests how automatic or close the connection between word and thing is.

    Book 9

    "Language of Man pronounced
    By tongue of brute, and human sense expressed?
    The first at least of these I thought denied
    To beasts whom God on their creation-day
    Created mute to all articulate sound" (9.553-7)

    "Articulate sound" is a distinguishing feature of humans, God, and angels; Eve is curious for a moment but then (fatally) forgets about this incredibly strange disruption of God's hierarchies. As part of their punishment in Book 10, Satan (and his angels) will be temporarily deprived of the ability to use "articulate sound" (they will become figuratively "mute"), partly because of his misuse of that gift here.

    Book 10

    "He would have spoke,
    But hiss for hiss returned with forkèd tongue
    To forkèd tongue, for now were all transformed
    Alike, to serpents all as accessories
    To his bold riot: dreadful was the din
    Of hissing through the hall" (10.517-22)

    Because he tempted Eve in the guise of a serpent, Satan and his associates are all transformed into serpents. They are deprived of the ability to speak. It is appropriate that their hissing (a word repeated three times) creates a "din," a word used elsewhere to refer to the unpleasant sound of war (6.408).

  • Sex

    Book 2

    "I fled, but he pursued (though more, it seems,
    Inflamed with lust than rage) and swifter far, Me overtook, his mother, all dismayed,
    And in embraces forcible and foul
    Engend'ring with me of that rape begot
    These yelling monsters" (2.790-5)

    Death is the product of Sin's relationship with Satan (her father), and he in turn has sex with his mother; actually, he rapes her because he is "inflamed with lust." Milton describes Adam's desire for Eve after the Fall in similar terms as here; thus Adam and Eve both "burn" in "lust" as a result of an "inflaming" desire. As evident here, this combination of words can lead to no good.

    "Thyself in me thy perfect image viewing
    Becam'st enamoured, and such joy thou took'st
    With me in secret, that my womb conceived
    A growing burden" (2.764-7)

    Satan has sex with his daughter ("joy thou took'st/ With me in secret") in what is a gross parody not only of family in general, but also of the relationship between God and His Son (3.63). Moreover, Satan is, essentially, having sex with his own image, which suggests that he really only loves, or desires, himself. Narcissism anyone?

    Book 4

    "Our maker bids increase, who bids abstain
    But our destroyer, foe to God and Man?
    Hail wedded love, mysterious law, true source
    Of human offspring, sole propriety,
    In Paradise of all things common else" (4.748-52)

    To justify having sex, Milton cites the "be fruitful and multiply" idea ("bids increase") and suggests that only Satan ("destroyer") or a like-minded person would encourage abstinence. Milton does not just champion sex for its own sake, however; note the reference to "human offspring" and "mysterious law." For Milton, marriage is something incredibly sacred, and it is within its precincts that such pure love can exist.

    "nor turned I ween
    Adam from his fair Spouse, nor Eve the rites
    Mysterious of connubial Love refused" (4.741-3)

    Adam and Eve have sex, but notice how anything resembling lust or traditional desire seems absent. Adam doesn't "turn" away and Eve doesn't "refuse" the "rites/ Mysterious." The sex here almost sounds automatic, as if desire as we understand it either has no place in the pre-fallen world of Eden or, at the very least, has a different form.

    Book 8

    "Let it suffice thee that thou know'st
    Us happy and without love no happiness.
    Whatever pure thou in the body enjoy'st
    (And pure thou wert created) we enjoy
    In eminence and obstacle find none
    Of membrane, joint or limb, exclusive bars" (8.620-5)

    In response to his question about angelic sexuality, Raphael blushes and says, essentially, that they have some kind of spiritual sex. It's not entirely clear, but the implication is that the physical constraints ("obstacle") of human sex do not apply. It seems like the angels have some kind of physical relationship, but it has a spiritual dimension that is more like a high form of love.

    Book 9

    "Carnal desire inflaming. He on Eve
    Began to cast lascivious eyes, she him
    As wantonly repaid: in lust they burn
    Till Adam thus gan Eve to dalliance move" (9.1013-16)

    One of the effects of the Forbidden Fruit is that it turns pure love into lustful desire ("in lust they burn"). Milton makes it perfectly clear that is not a good thing, as evident, for example, in the use of "burn," "carnal desire inflaming," "wantonly," and, most importantly, "dalliance." The latter is the same word that Satan uses in 2.819 to refer to his sexual encounter with his daughter, Sin. Yikes!

  • Innocence

    Book 4

    "Flours of all hue, and without thorn the rose" (4.256)

    One mark of the purity and innocence of Paradise is the fact that the rose is "without thorn." Notice, however, that the only way Milton (and, by extension, his readers) can conceive of the rose is in terms of its one thorn (even if just to say that it doesn't have one). It is almost as if the fallen version of the rose is the only one we can ever know.

    "Nor those mysterious parts were then concealed:
    Then was not guilty shame, dishonest shame
    Of nature's works, honor dishonorable" (4.312-14)

    Milton reminds us that in Paradise Adam and Eve walked around naked, but he also seems to criticize his own, contemporary cultural practices, referring to them as "dishonest shame […] honor dishonorable." Does Milton think people should walk around naked? Not really, but he implies that the fuss made about "mysterious parts" is misguided.


    "And should I at your harmless innocence
    Melt, as I do" (4.388-9)

    Even the hard-hearted Satan cannot help "melting" at the sight of pure, "harmless innocence." It seems that Satan is almost a figure for the reader, at least in the fact that he has a strong, emotional reaction to the sight of "harmless innocence." But he's still Satan; does that mean we shouldn't "melt" at the sight and that we should respond in some other way that is different from Satan's?

    Book 5

    "O innocence
    Deserving Paradise! If ever, then,
    Then had the Sons of God excuse to have been
    Enamored at that sight" (5.445-8)

    This passage recalls 4.388-9, where Satan "melts" at the sight of innocence. Milton suggests something similar here, suggesting that one cannot help being "enamored" with the sight of innocence. The "Sons of God" refers to a race of lustful men from Genesis 6, which makes this passage strange because it sounds like Milton is saying it was OK for them to be obsessed with her.

    Book 7

    "and now
    Led on, yet sinless, with desire to know
    What nearer might concern him" (7.60-2)

    Milton reminds us that Adam is still innocent, except he doesn't say "innocent" but rather "yet sinless." Why conceive of Adam's innocence in terms of sin? As with the rose passage discussed above, it seems as though the only way Milton (and we his readers) can conceive of the innocent, pre-fallen world is through the sinful lens of the fallen world.

    "But they, or under ground, or circuit wide
    With serpent error wand'ring, found their way,
    And on the washy ooze deep channels wore" (7.301-3)

    Even though Milton describes the primordial waters as "wand'ring" with "serpent error," we aren't supposed to read anything sinful into them. This is the pre-fallen world, and words like "serpent," "error," and "wand'ring" have not yet accrued their negative (i.e., fallen) connotations yet. This is yet another example of Milton's attempt to recreate an innocent universe by purging negative words of their negativity.

    Book 8

    "Here had new begun
    My wand'ring, had not he who was my guide
    Up hither, from among the trees appeared" (8.311-13)

    Adam describes his movements in Paradise as a kind of "wand'ring." We encounter this word first in Book 2 with the rebel angels, and in general it has fairly negative connotations. However, Milton attempts to purge it of those connotations and use it in a more neutral, less problematic way. Sometimes wandering is just wandering.