Study Guide

Paradise Lost Book 9

By John Milton

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Book 9

  • Book 9 opens with Milton's final invocation; he says he must now change his "notes" (i.e., his poem) to "tragic."
  • Milton says that his theme is more heroic than all the martial epics of Homer, Virgil, and Spenser that have preceded him. The themes of those poems are "Not that which justly gives heroic name/ To person or to poem" (9.40-41).
  • The sun sets and night falls as Satan returns – "fearless" and "bent on man's destruction" – to the garden. He's been gone for about a week.
  • There's a river (the Tigris) that flows underground and remerges as a fountain in Paradise; Satan uses this river to get back into the garden.
  • He decides to become a serpent to execute his designs against Adam and Eve.
  • Before that, though, he bursts out in complaint, saying the earth is really beautiful; "With what delight could I have walked thee round," he exclaims.
  • It turns out, though, that Satan really can't enjoy it; the whole thing just makes him mad. He's not hoping to become happy because of what he's doing; he just wants to make others as miserable as he is.
  • He searches throughout the night for the serpent. He finds him (the serpent), enters through his mouth, and waits until dawn.
  • As the sun rises, Adam and Eve come forth. Eve suggests to Adam that they divide their labor; often, when working together, they don't get anything done.
  • Adam responds by saying labor isn't such a big deal that they can't rest and take it easy. But, if
  • Eve wants to get away for a while, that's OK with him because "Solitude sometimes is best society."
  • Adam is uneasy though; he reminds Eve that they've been warned about Satan and that they're better off together.
  • Eve isn't crazy about Adam's comment, so she says in return that she's upset that Adam has his doubts about her.
  • Adam responds by saying that he doesn't doubt her ability to resist temptation; he just thinks it would be dishonorable for her to suffer temptation alone.
  • Eve responds, saying that temptation in itself isn't a bad thing; it will only prove how strong she and Adam are, and how evil Satan is.
  • Adam replies with some remarks about the importance of trial and concludes by telling Eve that he doesn't want to make her work with him against her will.
  • Eve says she'll back by noon or so and that such a proud foe as Satan is wouldn't dare attempt to mess with the "weaker" sex because that would make his punishment all the more shameful.
  • Satan is waiting in the bushes for Eve; he had been hoping to find her alone and lo and behold his wish has come true!
  • Satan can't believe how gorgeous Eve is; seeing her is like being pent up in a disgusting city and then going out to the country for some fresh air. For a moment, Satan forgets his hate.
  • Then he snaps out of it and tells himself not to forget about the hate and revenge that brought him here. He also makes some remark about how much easier this is going to be with just Eve.
  • He moves towards Eve, except he moves in a sideways motion, almost as if he didn't want to interrupt her. Oh, and he's walking upright, not crawling on his belly.
  • He approaches here, and makes some noise in an effort to get her attention; she doesn't notice because she's used to it, so he makes some bolder gestures. He even licks the ground she walks on!
  • By the way, the first letter of each line from 510-514 spells "Satan." That's called an acrostic.
  • Satan addresses Eve, telling her not to wonder. He tells her she's so beautiful that everybody should be able to gaze on her, not just Adam.
  • Eve is surprised ("not unamazed"); she says she didn't think animals could talk and wants to know how it is that he can speak.
  • Satan responds, again with flattery, by saying he used to be as dumb as the other animals. But then he saw a tree whose fruit looked soooooo good; he couldn't resist so he slithered up the trunk and took some.
  • It was marvelous, he says, because then he could talk and think and reason.
  • Eve is amazed. She asks the Satan (disguised as a serpent) which tree it was and to lead her to it, which he gladly does.
  • He's clearly deceiving her; he's kind of like a mirage or fire at night that distracts wandering travelers and leads them astray.
  • He leads Eve to the "Tree/ Of prohibition." Eve tells Satan that she's not allowed to eat from it and makes a cute pun as well: it is "Fruitless…though fruit be here to excess," she says. Hehe.
  • Satan can't believe it and realizes he will have to more persuasive. He starts moving around like some ancient orator in Greece or Rome.
  • He tells Eve that the fruit won't kill her; just look at him! He ate from it, and he's fine! Besides, why shouldn't she be able to eat the same stuff as the beasts (i.e., the serpent)?
  • What is more, he says, God will admire her boldness in eating what will make her smarter, despite God's threats of death!
  • God wouldn't hurt Eve, he continues, because that wouldn't be just. The only reason he's forbidden her to eat is because he wants to "keep ye low and ignorant."
  • If she eats the fruit, she'll become like the gods and possess a much clearer vision of things, just like the serpent.
  • The only death that will result is that she will put off her human nature and assume a godlike one, he claims. So eat the fruit, he says to her.
  • Eve is tricked by Satan; his words have "too easy entrance won" into her heart. It's near lunchtime, and she's hungry; that fruit looks so good, and she can't stop staring at it.
  • Eve addresses the fruit, saying it is quite powerful (it gave the serpent the ability to speak) and the fact that it is forbidden makes it even more desirable.
  • Why should mankind be denied knowledge, she asks? It has done wonders for the serpent so why shouldn't she be allowed to have it too? Was death made only for mankind?
  • She eats the fruit; or rather, she stuffs her face with it until she's full. Nature shudders as Eve eats death.
  • She addresses the fruit then as the most "precious" of all trees. She vows to sing to it everyday, and eat from it everyday until she grows wise.
  • But what about Adam? Should she tell him? If he doesn't eat, and she dies because she ate it, Adam will get a new Eve. She decides to tell him.
  • Meanwhile, Adam has been weaving a little garland for Eve's hair. Anxious, he goes looking for her and eventually bumps into her near the Tree of Knowledge.
  • Eve runs up to him with a bunch of fruit and tells Adam that the tree isn't like what they've been told. It has not caused death but has rather opened her eyes. She wants Adam to eat some of the fruit too.
  • Adam is shocked; his blood turns icy cold. He drops the pretty garland he has made for her and then speaks to himself.
  • He says, "How art thou lost, how on a sudden lost" (9.900). He can't believe it; he's doomed too, he says, because he can't stand to be without Eve, or to watch her suffer.
  • He then tells Eve that she's done a bold thing; however, it's clear that the fruit will cause them to become like gods.
  • God won't kill his first-made creatures, says Adam; besides, he would have to un-create the world too, which was made for and is dependent on Adam and Eve.
  • Adam loves Eve too much, and he will go down with her.
  • Eve says everything she's thought about Adam has been confirmed. She encourages him to eat with similar language that Satan used with her: "Adam, freely taste."
  • With that, Eve offers Adam a healthy portion of the fruit; he eats it, and the earth groans again. Thunder is heard, and some rain drops fall.
  • They both feel like gods, and experience lust for the first time ("in lust they burn"). Adam gives Eve a look, she returns it, and then Adam says "now let us play."
  • They have sex for a while in some thicket, fall asleep, and then wake up "as from unrest." The fruit is bad, almost a drug, and they're now waking up with a hangover.
  • They now realize they are naked, and Adam tells Eve that the serpent lied and that they have lost their innocence.
  • He suggests that they find something to cover up their private parts; they choose some fig leaves. They then sit down and cry while various passions like anger and hate tear up their insides.
  • Adam tells Eve that if she had only stayed home that morning this wouldn't have happened; Eve responds by saying it could just as easily have happened because the serpent was so persuasive.
  • They spend the rest of the day accusing/blaming each other.

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