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Paradise Lost | Study Guide

John Milton

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Book 5

Kristen Over, Associate Professor at Northeastern Illinois University, provides an in-depth summary and analysis of Book 5 of John Milton's book Paradise Lost.

Paradise Lost | Book 5 | Summary



After Adam and Eve wake up the next morning, Eve recalls a dream she has had in which an angel told her to eat from the Tree of Knowledge. She explains the dream to Adam: In the dream, the angel offers her a piece of fruit and she hesitates. The angel tells her that if she eats the fruit she will become godlike. Eve says she awoke before she could eat the fruit. After Eve relates the dream, Adam reassures her that she did nothing wrong and that she has remained obedient to God.

God watches Adam and Eve from Heaven and sighs to the archangel Raphael that he knows they will ultimately give in to their temptation to eat the fruit. He sends Raphael to visit them in Eden, where Raphael reminds them that they must obey God even though free will gives them the choice to disobey him. Raphael tells Adam and Eve about Satan's rebellion in Heaven, which began with Satan's jealousy toward the Son, who would become King of the Angels. In preparation to fight God, Satan gathered all the angels under his command and attempted to trick them into following him away from the rule of God and the Son. They all agreed to follow Satan except for Abdiel, who tried to convince them to repent and remain in Heaven. They mocked him, and Abdiel alone returned to God.


Adam and Eve are right to be troubled by Eve's dream, for it's unlikely that she would have come up with the idea of disobeying God on her own. But Eve has committed no sin; the temptation came from Satan, not her own inclination. Yet the dream is still a foreshadowing and plants a seed of uneasiness in both Adam and Eve, though the reader already knows how it will end. In this way the reader has the same vantage point as God, able to see the future outcome as well as past actions that will result in their disobedience. And as much as either God or the reader would like to prevent disobedience, free will dictates that only Adam and Eve could have prevented it.

Raphael's meeting with Adam and Eve heightens the inevitable tragedy that will befall them, since Raphael is there to explain that they have free will and so any choice to give in to temptation will be their error. It is ironic that Raphael is sent to provide them with knowledge about their own ignorance, which should help them resist temptation. In the end, the irony is evident in that Adam and Eve know what will happen if they give in to temptation but do it anyway.

There's a political parallel between Satan's rebellion in Heaven against what he sees as God's tyranny and Milton's view of the English monarchy as a tyrannical power. Yet Milton uses the angel Abdiel as the lone voice justifying the ways of God and, as such, seems to be suggesting that God's rule is rightful and just.

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