Demystifying Milton’s Epic Poem Paradise Lost – Summary & Explainer

Paradise Lost

Ever been curious about John Milton’s epic poem Paradise Lost but felt intimidated to dive in? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. This masterpiece from 1667 can seem dense and inaccessible, but we’re going to break it down and make it engaging for you. You’ll be chatting about the Fall of Satan and debating free will versus predestination at the water cooler in no time.

By the time you finish reading, you may have a better appreciation of Milton, theology, and 17th-century English epic poetry. Who knew unravelling the mysteries of Paradise Lost could be so interesting and fun? Take a walk with us as we explore the meaning and relevance of this timeless story.

The Fall of Lucifer and the Rebel Angels

Milton’s epic poem Paradise Lost tells the famous story of Satan’s rebellion against God and his subsequent role in the fall of Adam and Eve. In Book I, Milton describes the fall of Lucifer and the other rebellious angels.

Originally, Lucifer was the most beautiful of all the angels in Heaven. But Lucifer became jealous of God’s power and rebelled, convincing one-third of the angels to join his cause. There was a great battle between the loyal angels and the rebels. Lucifer and his followers were defeated and cast out of Heaven, falling into the abyss for nine days before landing in Hell.

In Hell, Lucifer and his angels plot their revenge. They decide to corrupt God’s new creation (humans) so that they will also rebel against God. Lucifer volunteers to undertake this mission himself. He disguises himself as a serpent and slithers into the Garden of Eden. When Lucifer tempts Eve to eat the forbidden fruit of knowledge, she succumbs and also persuades Adam to take a bite. By tricking humans into disobeying God’s orders, Lucifer succeeds in corrupting God’s new creation and taking revenge.

God punishes Adam, Eve, and all their descendants by banishing them from Paradise.


Adam and Eve in Paradise

Milton’s epic poem gives us a glimpse into the blissful lives of Adam and Eve before the Fall. In Paradise, the first couple lives in perfect harmony with God and nature. Adam and Eve spend their days enjoying the lush gardens of Eden. All their needs are met without effort – delicious fruit is abundant and the weather is always pleasant. They want for nothing.

More importantly, Adam and Eve enjoy an intimate relationship with their Creator. God walks with them in the garden and they commune freely. There are no barriers between them. This changes after Eve is tempted by Satan and eats the forbidden fruit. Sin enters the world and Paradise is lost. Adam also partakes of the fruit, seduced by Eve’s persuasion.

Suddenly, everything changes. Ashamed of their nakedness, Adam and Eve hide from God. Their intimacy is shattered. God curses the serpent and the ground and banishes the couple from Eden. 

Paradise Lost


The Expulsion from Paradise

In Milton’s Paradise Lost, the expulsion from Paradise is a pivotal moment. Upon learning of Adam and Eve’s sin, God holds a council with the Son and angels to determine the appropriate punishment.

God wants to be merciful but also just. They decide that Adam and Eve must leave Paradise, preventing them from eating the fruit of the Tree of Life and living forever in their fallen state. Though Paradise is lost, God shows mercy. He promises Eve her offspring will defeat the serpent, foretelling the coming of Christ. A glimmer of hope remains for restoration.

Paradise Lost

The Sentencing & What it Means

God descends to Eden and confronts Adam and Eve, who confess their transgression. God rebukes them for giving in to temptation and disobeying his explicit command. As punishment, God proclaims: The ground will be cursed and difficult to farm, and Adam will toil for food. Eve and all women will suffer pain in childbirth and be ruled over by their husbands. Adam and Eve will eventually die and return to the dust from which they came.

God then expels the couple from the Garden of Eden, stationing cherubim and a flaming sword at its east side to bar their re-entrance. Paradise is lost. Though harsh, God’s sentence is meant to be remedial. By preventing Adam and Eve from eating of the Tree of Life in their fallen state, God ensures that sin will not live forever. It’s their expulsion from Paradise that ushers in an age of mortality, labour, and death—but also eventual redemption. The loss of Paradise makes possible the hope of heaven.

What do you think of John Milton’s classic poem? Can you share any insights with our readers? Let us know in the comments below. 


2 thoughts on “Demystifying Milton’s Epic Poem Paradise Lost – Summary & Explainer”

  1. They disobey the commandment–their first commandment–to “be fruitful and multiply [in the Garden]” before donning the infamous telltale fig leaf aprons after they become one flesh incorrectly by eating allegorical forbidden pleasure fruit from the allegorical wrong tree in the allegorical Garden’s center. Some would say they make a joke out of their marriage and God responds accordingly.

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