13-19 Milton's subject will be more heroic than those in other epics such as the Iliad, the Aeneid, or the Odyssey.
20-47 Milton invokes his "celestial patroness." He says that he has rejected epic topics on war and chivalry to pursue "the better fortitude/Of Patience and Heroic Martyrdom." He needs the muse's help since his old age or the cold climate could prevent him from completing the epic.
48-98 Milton describes the opening setting. It's midnight. Satan has been orbiting the earth for eight days after Raphael banished him from Eden. Satan enters Paradise through an underground branch of the Tigris and rises up near a fountain next to the Tree of Life. Wrapped in the mist of midnight, Satan has inspected all creatures for the one that might best "serve his will" and has chosen the serpent--"subtlest beast of all the field."
99-178 Satan's midnight soliloquy: The more he sees pleasures around him, the more tormented he feels, but destruction will ease his mind. He sets out to mar in one day what God created in six. Satan believes God has stubbornly created a "man of clay" to replace his impaired numbers in heaven. Satan bewails the fact that he must degrade himself by mixing with "bestial slime" in order to get his revenge.
179-191 Satan enters the snake's body.
205-225 Eve discusses how the plants are growing more quickly than she and her husband can prune, prop, and bind them. Until they have children who can share the work, they need to divide the labor because both have trouble tempering their passion. Looks and smiles intervene with their daily tasks until the dinner hour comes unearned. By going their separate ways in the garden, they'll be able to manage the workload.
226-269 Adam initially agrees yet sees nothing wrong with flirting at work since God made them not for "irksome toil." He concludes that a brief period of solitude is sometimes "best society" for "short retirement urges sweet return" (250). Absence makes the heart grow fonder, in other words. He reminds Eve of the "malicious foe" lurking near them, and gently suggests that she not go out alone. She should stay next to him for protection.
270-289 Eve resents Adam's intimation that her firmness or fidelity to him and God might be shaken by the evil force.
290-317 Adam says that he wants to avoid any confrontation with the evil foe. He reasons that if Eve were tempted, she would be dishonored and angered. Although he trusts that Eve would resist temptation, he reminds her that Satan can seduce angels. In short, he would prefer her to stay by his side.
318-341 Eve begins a discussion on free will. She asserts that Heaven is on their side. She feels that heaven has secured their perfect state, asserting, "And what is faith, love, virtue, unassayed/Alone, without exterior help sustained?"
342-375 Adam fervently contends that God made them perfect, but man has the power within himself to follow or abandon reason. Man has free will, and reason can misinform his will to do God's work, especially if some "fair appearing good" beguiles man. Finally, he stresses, "Seek not temptation then, which to avoid/ Were better, and most likely if from me/ Thou sever not; trial will come unsought" (364-366).
376-411 Eve leaves, having been granted permission to work alone. For the first time, they stop holding hands. Eve heads toward the groves, keeping in mind that she must return to the bower by noon. Milton foreshadows the impending doom:
Waited with hellish rancor imminent
To interrupt (Eve's) way, or send (her) back
Despoiled of innocence, of faith, of bliss" (407-410).
439-472 Satan is mesmerized by Eve's pristine innocence and beauty. For a moment, he remains "stupidly good," charmed by her heavenly form and angelic femininity, while guile, hate, envy and revenge empty out of his heart. But soon his torments return, augmented.
473-493 Satan reflects how he will gain pleasure from destruction. Although he hates her, he will feign love for her to plot her ruin.
494-531 Satan is described in his disguise as a snake. He tries to catch Eve's attention by coiling around trees and by "licking the ground whereon she trod." (He kisses the ground she walks on.)
532-552 Satan begins his "fraudulent" temptation. As a Petrarchan sonneteer, he extols her celestial beauty, calling her "sole Wonder" of the universe.
553-566 Eve marvels at the fact that the snake can speak. She inquires, "What may this mean? Language of man pronounced/ By tongue of brute, and human/ sense expressed?"
567-612 Satan fabricates a story about how he acquired speech. He says that he slithered up a tree, while other animals watched in envy, to pluck and eat his fill of ruddy and gold fruit. He explains the strange alteration the fruit caused in him. He gained reason in his inward powers and the gift of speech. Since then, he has considered all things visible in heaven and on earth, and has found nothing equivalent to her beauty.
613-646 Eve tells the serpent that he is overpraising her. Yet, having been convinced of the miraculous virtue of the fruit, she asks Satan where the tree is located. He conducts her to the Tree of Knowledge.
647-678 Eve protests that she is not allowed to eat from this particular tree. Satan falters, disturbed at Eve's initial resistance.
679-732 Satan tells Eve to ignore God's death threat. Using himself as an example, Satan says the God did not kill him after he ate from the tree. He continues to reason with her, asking how God could be angry at her for seeking a happier life. He further argues that God is keeping her and Adam "low and ignorant worshippers." Also, if she eats, she'll be as a god, since the serpent is like a man. The only death she could experience would involve her passing from human form to godly form. Finally, if God is so opposed to her eating the fruit, then he must be envious.
733-779 Eve is tempted by the look and smell of the fruit. Still she can't decide if she should eat it. She reasons that maybe death was invented only for humans or that beasts could have access to the fruit without fatal consequences.
780-794 Eve succumbs to the serpent's temptation and "engorges" the fruit. Nature laments the sin.
817-833 Eve debates whether to share her knowledge and happiness with Adam or to keep the power herself. She thinks that keeping the knowledge to herself will render her Adam's equal. Yet if she should die, she couldn't bear the thought of Adam with another woman--she would prefer that they both die.
834-855 In the meantime, Adam has made Eve a garland of flowers. He has sensed the danger.
856-885 Eve meets Adam by the Tree of Knowledge. Excitedly she tells him what she did.
886-920 Adam's blood runs cold as he hears of her trespass. Speechless, he drops the garland on the ground and its roses fade and lose their petals. He says that Eve is "defaced, deflowered, and now to death devote" (901). Adam declares that Satan has ruined him with her; since they're one flesh, he would die without her.
921-959 Adam conjectures that they probably won't die, since their destruction would mean victory for Satan. Adam consents to a love triangle with death if they do in fact encounter the same doom.
960-989 Eve is pleased that Adam's love for her is so strong that he would consent to die for her. He has withstood the test of true love, revealing "illustrious evidence." She reassures him that the experience brings "not death, but life/Augmented, opened eyes, new hopes, new joys" (986).
990-1016 Adam partakes of the fruit, having been "fondly overcome with female charm." Nature groans a second time at the mortal sin. Adam becomes inflamed with carnal desire.
1017-1034 Adam woos Eve, telling her how their previous pleasure was limited by abstaining from the fruit. Now they'll know "true relish."
1035-1066 Adam and Eve "seal their mutual guilt" with a lustful orgy. They fall into a "dewie" sleep, filled with bad dreams. They wake up to discover that their eyes are open, but their minds are darkened. They no longer have confidence, native righteousness, or honor. They are naked in guilty shame.
1067-1097 Adam realizes the tragic implications of their sin. The "false worm" has alienated them from God and the angels. Adam doesn't know how he'll ever bring himself to face God again.
1098-1133 The primeval couple abscond to a nearby wood to gather fig leaves that will cover their bodies. Both weep as "high winds worse within/ Begin to rise, high Passions, Anger, Hate,/ Mistrust, Suspicion, Discord" overtake their inner thoughts (1122-24). Both are left in subjection to sensual appetite.
1134-1189 "Fruitless hours" are spent in "mutual accusation." Eve blames Adam for not being with her when the serpent approached her. If he had been with her, she says, and firmly opposed to her gardening alone, then she would have never transgressed. Adam angrily justifies himself, reminding her that she ignored his warnings. He didn't want to enslave her. It was she who wanted to seek some "glorious trial." He concludes that a man who overtrusts a woman will encounter evil and be blamed for her indulgence. Neither takes the blame as their quarrel persists without end.
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