Outline of Paradise Lost -- Book Six
[passages marked with * are of special importance]
lines 1-28 Abdiel leaves Satan to report to God of Satan's rebellion. The cave of light and darkness is described. Abdiel sees war on the plain and is received by the other good angels and taken before God.
29-55 God praises Abdiel for having come over to the good side. He says the others refuse to acknowledge their new king the Messiah who reigns by merit (like Satan claims to reign). God then appoints Michael and Gabriel first and second in command to lead the army of saints ("equal in number" to the foes) to fight against Satan's followers and to drive them into the "fiery chaos."
56-113 When God finishes speaking it grows dark and smoky (sign of wrath), a trumpet blows, and the "bright legions" follow Michael and Gabriel in perfect, silent ranks. From the north they could see a "fiery region" approaching. Satan's followers expect to win the war, but their pride and vanity have made them lose from the beginning. It is strange to see angel fighting angel; usually they are all "unanimous" under God. Satan sits god-like in a chariot. Abdiel speaks up before the fighting starts.
114-126 Abdiel muses that Satan still resembles God even though his "faith and realty" are no longer there. He says that where virtue fails so also should strength and might fail. The victor in the debate of truth should be the victor in the war: reason must overcome false reason.
127-148 Abdiel, even angrier when Satan comes up to him, continues his speech saying that Satan is wrong in assuming he could reach God's throne with no obstacles and that his fight is in vain anyway because God could create more armies to defeat him. In addition, Satan can see that there are many angels who still worship God and are ready to fight.
*149-170 Satan answers saying that Abdiel's returning to God's side provoked Satan to strike. Satan also says that once he thought that heaven was freedom, but now all God's angels are merely slothful and servile.
*171-188 Abdiel replies that it is not servitude to serve the omnipotent God who is much better than the angels. It is servitude to serve one who has rebelled against someone better than he. Abdiel will continue to serve God.
Dore etching of Abdiel striking Satan.
189-261 When he finishes, Abdiel strikes Satan's crest with his sword, sending him back ten steps and down on his knee. The rebel forces are amazed and outraged to see their leader assaulted and the fighting begins. It is a noisy fight, and both sides fight strongly, but God limits their strength so that heaven is not destroyed. There are many brave deeds done in the war fought on the ground and in the air. The battle is even for a long time until Satan sees Michael conquer many squadrons at once and comes over to him. Satan is hoping for an end to the fighting.
262-280 Michael tells Satan that he is evil and has disturbed the peace of heaven. He says Satan has brought misery into nature for the first time and now will be sent (evil and all) to hell, the place of evil, to be punished with pain.
281-295 Satan replies that threats do not scare him if there are no actions to back them up. He says they intend to win the war, to turn heaven into hell, to rule or be free. He has not fled from the force of Michael but has come looking for him.
296-353 Satan and Michael begin to fight, but it is hard to describe their "god-like power" in terms humans can understand. Raphael compares them to two planets clashing. Michael cuts Satan's sword in half and stabs him in the right side. Satan feels pain for the first time because the sword cuts him in half, and he bleeds "nectarous humor" which stains his armor. He is defended by some of his angels and carried back to the chariot by others. He is humbled by the defeat but is soon healed, because spirits are not as frail as men; they "cannot but by annihilating die" and can assume whatever shape they want.
Dore etching of Satan in pain.
354-385 Other angels are also fighting. Gabriel defeats Moloch, Uriel and Raphael are victorious, and even Abdiel strikes down some of his former partners. There could have been many more names listed, but angels are content with their fame in heaven and do not seek the praise of men. The foes are canceled from heaven's memory; their doom is the eternal silence, "nameless in dark oblivion."
386-405 The battle turns nasty for Satan's followers, but the archangels' innocence gives them such a big advantage over Satan that they do not get tired or injured.
406-417 Night comes and both sides stop fighting. The angels make fires and set up guards. Satan's group meets in the dark to have a council.
Dore etching of Satan after the first day's battle.
418-445 Satan tells the group that their success thus far shows that God is not as omnipotent as they once thought. If they survived one day, they can go on forever. Now that they know that they cannot be mortally wounded, they need stronger weapons to win. If God's angels have any secret advantage, Satan says that his forces by using their minds can find weaknesses and destroy the enemy.
446-468 Nisroch speaks up, badly injured from a fight, and says it is very difficult to fight while in pain, especially if the enemy is unhurt. He wants someone to figure out a way for the enemy to be hurt or for them to keep from hurting.
469-495 Satan replies saying that the lovely things in heaven grow from "dark and crude" materials. He says they will use "hollow engines" that use fire and sound like thunder -- they will invent cannons and gunpowder. He tells them to revive.
496-523 Satan's new invention brightens up his followers, and since that time anyone with malicious intentions has invented some instrument of destruction. The devils then build the black machine and balls.
524-536 God's angels get up and scouts look for the enemy, who is soon to appear. One scout, Zophiel, comes and reports.
537-546 Zophiel says that the enemy is coming and everyone should dress for battle because there are going to be fiery arrows thrown at them.
547-557 So warned, the angels get up and ready and face the devil army when it arrives. They stand around until Satan speaks.
558-567 In a false offer of peace, Satan commands his troops to step aside and show their way to "peace and composure."
568-608 The troops part to reveal a triple row of pillars on wheels; when they light the weapon smoke and iron globes appear, causing the angels to fall down. They do not know whether to run away and be laughed at or stay and get knocked down by the engine again. Their heavy armor prevents dodging. Satan sees their plight.
609-619 Satan tells his followers that he does not understand why the angels do not rush to them to accept their offer of peace.
620-627 Belial adds that perhaps they have not understood the offer because the do not "walk upright."
628-679 While the devils are pleased with themselves because of their assured victory, the angels become enraged and throw away their weapons. They fly back to an amazed enemy. They uproot heaven's mountains to bury the engine and then attack the devils in mass confusion. God has permitted all of this, and then he transfers all his power to his Son.
680-718 God acknowledges the Son as the one who shows his deity in visible form. He says that the fighting has been going on for two days and, because they were created equal, could continue without end. He says the third day is the Son's, as God has ordained it, and this is when the Son will show his worthiness to be king. He gives the Son his chariot and weapons and sends Him out to teach them a lesson.
*719-745 The Son praises his father and says that they always seek to glorify each other. It makes him happy to know that God is pleased with him. Who God hates (or loves), so does the Son. Armed with God's might he will rid heaven of the rebels and will lead the hosts in singing praise to God.
746-784 The Son bows to God and gets in the chariot drawn by four cherubic shapes. Victory rides with Him into battle and all the angels, led by Michael, unite under him. Hills return to their places at his command.
785-800 The enemy sees them coming and tries to get up hope, grieve when they see the Son, but are still envious. They do not want to retreat. The Son speaks to his army.
*801-823 The Son dismisses the army saying they have fought well and God is pleased, and it is He whom Satan's troops are angry at and want to test. He has to fight them alone.
824-866 After the Son speaks, a terrifying look comes over his face and he drives the foes with such force that they lose their courage and strength. The Son uses only half of his strength because he is not trying to destroy them, but only drive them from heaven. The devils then leap off the edge of heaven to burn in the bottomless pit.
867-892 Hell hears the foes coming and would flee, but the foundations are too deep. They fall nine days, through Chaos and into Hell. Heaven rejoices, and the Messiah returns as sole victor. He is received by the angels, who wave palm branches and sing praises to Him. He then rides to God where he now sits at His right hand.
Dore etching of the rebel angels falling into Hell.
*893-912 Raphael explains that that is the story of the war in heaven -- that Satan aspired too high. Satan is now plotting revenge using man. He will try to seduce him from obedience so that man can share in Satan's misery. Raphael warns Adam not to listen to Satan's temptations or he will receive similar punishment.
Half-way through Paradise Lost at the end of this book, we are back where Genesis begins -- as an epic Milton's version begins in medias res. The epic tradition also calls for war and battle, which Milton provides here. Milton also relates this theme to his own time, the Civil War of the 1640s.
summarized by Celeste Derey