Study Guide

Paradise Lost Book 5

By John Milton

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Book 5

  • The sun is rising as Adam awakes from a smooth sleep; he looks at his wife, who is still sleeping. She looks rough, as if she had a bad dream. Adam speaks to her.
  • She wakes up, tells Adam he's perfect, and then mentions that she's had a rough night. She didn't dream of him, like she usually does, but of someone else whispering at hear ear telling her to come forth.
  • She wanders out (in her dream) and ends up at the "Tree/ Of interdicted Knowledge," where there is an angel-looking guy there. He asks why knowledge is forbidden, says that's a stupid rule, and takes a bite of the fruit.
  • Eve is shocked at so bold a deed; the angelic figure tells her: "Taste this, and be henceforth among the Gods/ Thy self a Goddess, not to Earth confined" (5.77-78).
  • Eve eats the fruit and flies up to Heaven with the angel; he disappears, she sinks back down, and then wakes up.
  • Adam is concerned. He concludes it has something to do with the "Fancy," which can make up crazy images and ideas while one is asleep.
  • He says something like this: "let's not worry about it because I know you won't eat the fruit. We have work to do." Eve sheds a tear, and is about to shed more but Adam kisses them before they fall.
  • They exit their bower and offer "orisons" or prayers to God. They say the beauty of the world proclaims His goodness, and they exhort all of nature (the winds, the streams, flowers, etc.) to praise their maker.
  • Adam and Eve get down to work in Eden. God observes them, with pity (why?), and calls Raphael, the "sociable spirit," to his side.
  • He tells him (Raphael) that Satan is causing a ruckus in Paradise, and orders him to go and tell Adam about it.
  • Raphael immediately departs and heads for earth. He lands on the eastern cliff of Paradise, where all the other angels on watch recognize him.
  • He has six wings (three pairs, on the shoulders, the waist, and the heels); he shakes them (heavenly fragrance is dispersed while he does this) and starts walking.
  • Adam is sitting in the door of his bower (Eve is inside preparing fruits), and sees Raphael approaching. It's high noon.
  • Adam tells Eve to get everything (food-wise) together for their guest, who is so bright he seems like another sun – "another morn" – rising at midday.
  • Eve says she'll go pick the best fruits and foods she can from their garden. She departs "on hospitable thoughts intent."
  • Meanwhile, Adam walks forth to meet Raphael and invites to lunch and hang out in his bower until the "meridian heat" is over. Raphael agrees.
  • They approach the bower, where Eve is waiting, naked ("undecked"). Fruits of all seasons are spread before them on a grassy table that has mossy seats around it.
  • Adam encourages Raphael to eat. Raphael says that even angels eat food and share with mankind things like sight, touch, hearing, etc.
  • They fall to eating; Raphael chows, just as if a hungry person would. Eve makes sure their glasses are full.
  • Adam decides he's not going to let this chance pass by of asking Raphael a bunch of questions about "things above his world." He asks him first how the food compares to Heaven's.
  • Raphael says that everything in the world is made of the same stuff, just in different combinations. In other words, God is the most spiritual at one end and earth the least spiritual (and most bodily) at the other.
  • This passage is a good example of Milton's monism, which we thought we should explain here because it's a little tricky: Monism holds that there is no distinction between body and spirit, that everything is a product of "one first matter all." Everything in the universe has some different combination of bodily and spiritual substances, depending on their place in the hierarchy of the universe.
  • Raphael tells Adam that, at some point in the future, if he follows God's rules, he and Eve's "bodies" will perhaps "at last turn all to Spirit."
  • Adam thanks Raphael, but asks, "What's the deal with this obedience stuff? Is it even possible that my wife and I would disobey God and screw it all up?"
  • Raphael responds to Adam, saying essentially, "Look, dude, God created all this for you; it's your job to take care of it and not break the rules."
  • He continues, saying God created everybody free. Adam and Eve are "By nature free"; they are "not overruled by fate/ Inextricable, or strict necessity" (5.527-8). If their praise of God and service to him weren't voluntary, it wouldn't mean anything to God.
  • Ditto the angels, says Raphael. They choose to worship God; their obedience secures their happiness. Those who don't obey lose Heaven and end up in Hell.
  • Adam is curious and asks Raphael to tell him more. Raphael is a bit wary but agrees. He says it will be hard to communicate to Adam what happened in Heaven in words he will understand.
  • Once upon a time, before the universe was created, there was only Heaven and Chaos. All the angels were summoned to a council, says Raphael.
  • At the council, God proclaims His Son the new sheriff in town. Everyone will obey him or go to Hell (literally). Just about everybody rejoices (says Raphael) and goes about singing and dancing before sitting down to a banquet.
  • Not everybody is so happy though. Satan is really angry; he was really high in God's esteem and feels slighted. He conceives "Deep malice…and disdain."
  • At midnight Satan awakes his next in command and tells him to assemble all of his forces in the north. He's really angry about this Son stuff.
  • Satan's lieutenant notifies all of the sub-commanders to attend a meeting; apparently, Satan was able to persuade a third of the angels in Heaven to join his side.
  • God, who sees everything, sees all this and speaks to his Son, telling him to get ready for an attack.
  • Meanwhile, Satan has arrived in the north and is sitting on his throne at the top of a mountain. He pretends to have called the angels there in order to discuss how best to receive their new boss, the Son of God.
  • Satan asks how they can possible serve two masters, God and His Son. Sounds like slavery, "prostration vile," to him.
  • Even though all the angels aren't equal, they're all free, and this whole business about God's Son is an insult to liberty, so he claims.
  • Most of the angels liked what they hear, but not Abdiel, an angel whose devotion to God is unquestionable.
  • He tells Satan that his arguments are blasphemous. He asks "Shalt thou give law to God, shalt thou dispute/ With him the points of liberty?" (5.822-823).
  • God always has their best interests in mind, says Abdiel. He is "bent rather to exalt / Our happy state" rather than lessen it.
  • Abdiel tells Satan that he better hurry up and apologize to God while there's still time.
  • Nobody is interested in Abdiel's arguments, which amuses Satan, who then responds to Abdiel's speech, challenging the claims to God's role in creation.
  • Satan says nobody remembers their birth; he claims that he and his angels were "self-begot" and "self-raised." He's denying God's priority, essentially, and he tells Abdiel to go tell the Son the very same.
  • There is some applause but Abdiel is undeterred; "I see thy fall/ Determined, and thy hapless crew involved / In this perfidious fraud." Satan will soon know who created him, and he'll regret it.
  • Abdiel turns his back on Satan and company. "His loyalty he kept, his love, his zeal."

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