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Paradise Lost | Study Guide

John Milton

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Book 6

Kristen Over, Associate Professor at Northeastern Illinois University, provides an in-depth summary and analysis of Book 6 of John Milton's book Paradise Lost.

Paradise Lost | Book 6 | Summary



Raphael continues to tell Adam the story of Satan's rebellion in Heaven. Raphael says that after the rebellion, Abdiel returned to God and the other angels who did not follow Satan and that God praised him for his loyalty. Then God put together his own army of angels, though he is careful to ensure that it does not outnumber Satan's army of rebels. The battle between the armies began, and the rebels were ultimately forced into Hell by the Son.

Raphael tells Adam that the loss of the battle by Satan means that Satan now wants to corrupt man, since man is God's newest and most prized creation. He warns Adam not to give in to temptation, since that would be to disobey God.


Although Milton is critical of other epic poets for only writing stories about war, Milton lines up Paradise Lost yet again with the ancient Greek epics, depicting armies in deep battle with gains and losses on both sides. The difference here is that angels cannot be killed, only wounded, and therefore the battle could go on forever. God is even able to stop the battle when he decides it has gone on long enough—and he never even gets involved, otherwise. Satan and the other rebel angels never seem to realize how futile their battle ultimately is, given God's omnipotence.

It's possible that something is lost in Raphael's "translation" of Heaven to Adam. He explains to Adam that he can only describe Heaven in metaphors that Adam might understand. Otherwise Adam wouldn't be able to grasp the concept of Heaven. This explains why he describes "arming" battalions of immortal angels, an idea that seems somewhat silly given that they can't actually die. This serves to make the battle seem almost boring to the modern reader, who knows that nothing terrible or dramatic will befall any of the angels, since they can heal almost instantly. Similarly, Satan's belief that a cannon could destroy God's angels seems ridiculous—they are still immortal.

Raphael's larger point to Adam seems to be that even though Satan and the other fallen angels rebelled, they were never an actual threat to God or Heaven. Raphael wants Adam to see that even if disobeying God feels like a powerful choice, power is only an illusion. God can do what he wants whenever he wants.

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