Study Guide

Paradise Lost Book 11

By John Milton

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Book 11

  • Book 11 opens with Adam and Eve sending up their prayers to Heaven.
  • The Son receives them and presents them to the Father. He intercedes on their behalf, and asks God to proclaim peace for mankind, to forgive him, etc.
  • God accedes to the Son's requests, but says Adam and Eve still have to leave Paradise. Death will be their punishment, but it will lead to a second birth, so it's not all bad.
  • God tells Michael to go down to Adam and Eve and banish them, but to be nice about it. He also tells him to tell Adam about what will happen in the future.
  • Adam and Eve finish their prayers and feel more hopeful. Adam even tells Eve that he thinks the "bitterness of death/ Is past" (11.157-158).
  • Eve responds by saying that she deserves to be reproached, but that her judge was "infinite in pardon."
  • She tells Adam that it's time to go to work, and that she will never stray from his side again.
  • As they go to work, they notice that things have changed; an eagle is chasing a peacock and a lion is looking for prey.
  • Adam interprets these as signs that something else is still in store. He doesn't quite realize what's going to happen yet.
  • Meanwhile, Michael and a few other angels arrive; Michael approaches Adam, who realizes that this angel is a bit sterner than Raphael.
  • Michael says, in effect, that Adam and Eve must leave Paradise. Adam is shocked (as is Eve). He stands "Heart-strook with chilling gripe of sorrow."
  • Eve is really sad; she can't bear the thought of leaving Paradise.
  • Michael, however, tells her not to worry. She lost Paradise fair in square, but at least Adam is going with her.
  • Adam responds to Michael, saying that the angel has gently delivered his message.
  • Adam is worried, though; the garden is a special place, full of the memories of many encounters with God. "In yonder nether World where shall I seek/ His bright appearances, or foot step-trace?" (11.328-329) he asks.
  • Michael responds by saying that God fills the entire earth, not just Paradise. Adam will have access to many signs of God's presence.
  • He then tells Adam that he will show him the future; the two ascend the tallest mountain in Paradise while Eve sleeps below (Michael's put her to sleep).
  • He puts some things in Adam's eyes; Adam falls down, and then Michael helps him up and tells him to open his eyes.
  • Adam sees a field and two guys; both bring sacrifices, but God only accepts one. The guy whose sacrifice is rejected kills the other one (this is the story of Cain and Abel, from Genesis).
  • Adam is horrified and asks if this is death? Michael responds and says it is one form of death, but there are others.
  • The scene changes again and Adam sees a "Lazar house," a sort of hospital that has every type of sick person known to man.
  • All these people are slowly dying; Death refuses to take them, so they're still suffering.
  • Adam can't help but weep; if that's death, he suggests, life isn't worth it. Isn't there some other way?
  • Michael shows Adam another scene; this time, there are a whole bunch of guys around a bunch of tents. Eventually, a lot of women come out and they all pair off, sing, dance, and get married.
  • Adam is delighted, but Michael checks his response by telling him that these are actually evil men, the descendants of the guy (Cain) who killed his brother. They will give up a lot for lust and wickedness.
  • Adam is upset, but Michael shows him another vision; this time, he sees a city and a lot of fighting. It's basically, a chaotic battle scene, with lots of blood.
  • There is one guy who stands up and speaks on behalf of justice; a cloud descends and whisks him away.
  • Adam cries again; he can't believe all the slaughter. Michael tells him this is the result of the marriages he saw earlier on the plain.
  • Michael continues, saying that there was one guy who refused to participate in all the fighting; as a reward, he was taken away to Heaven, to enjoy everlasting life.
  • Michael then shows Adam what happened after all the battles; the scene changes, and though the fighting is no more, there is all kinds of lust, adultery, etc.
  • A guy wanders through the city, trying to persuade people to get back on the right path; they don't listen, so he moves his tents away from the city.
  • Eventually, he builds an ark and fills it with a bunch of animals and provisions; he, his three sons, and their wives all get in before a giant flood destroys everything.
  • Adam again cries; he falls down, and Michael has to help him up. Adam wishes he didn't have to learn the future; he feels there is no hope. Is this the end of the human race, he asks?
  • Michael summarizes the events Adam has just witnessed and then shows him the sequel: the flood eventually recedes, the mountains reappear, Noah and his family emerge. They see a rainbow in the sky.
  • Adam rejoices and says to Michael: "Far less I now lament for one whole World/ Of wicked Sons destroyed" (11.874-5).
  • Michael tells Adam that, after this flood, God will never destroy the race of mankind again, until the end of time when fire will consume it.

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