1189 lines, the longest book, presenting the main event, the Fall, the eating of the forbidden fruit.
In Milton’s prologue to this book (lines 1–47), he warns us that he is going to leave the pleasant subjects of previous books and get to the temptation. He again invokes his Muse’s aid.
Satan returns to the garden (lines 48–98).
and with inspection deeplines 83–86
Considered every creature, which of all
Most opportune might serve his wiles, and found
The serpent subtlest beast of all the field.
It was, in fact, the native subtlety of the snake that made him a fit cover for Satan’s ploy, since any sort of cleverness in another animal would raise suspicions.
Satan speaks (lines 99–178). He first mentions how wonderful earth seems, and then reflects on his plans.
Nor hope to be myself less miserablelines 126–28
By what I seek, but others to make such
As I, though thereby worse to me redound.
Satan enters the snake (lines 179–91).
Morning breaks, and Adam and Eve discuss their to-do list (lines 192–204).
Eve speaks (lines 205–25), suggesting that they split up to do their work, since there’s so much work to do, and they often distract each other.
Adam speaks (lines 226–69), saying it’s not that important to get all the work done, and love is a noble thing, too. He could consent to a brief separation, but he fears their foe.
Eve speaks (lines 270–89), objecting that Adam seems to doubt her fidelity.
Adam speaks (lines 290–317), saying that he does not doubt her fidelity, but he looks to prevent even the attempt at temptation. Plus, their enemy must be clever if he could persuade angels to rebel against God. Adam says he gains strength in her presence.
I from the influence of thy looks receivelines 309–14
Access in every virtue, in thy sight
More wise, more watchful, stronger, if need were
Of outward strength; while shame, thou looking on,
Shame to be overcome or over-reached
Would utmost vigour raise, and raised unite.
Eve speaks (lines 322–41), saying that surely they can withstand their enemy individually.
Adam speaks (lines 342–76), saying that they are perfect as created by God, but they also have free will, and the enemy is crafty. Our wills are stronger together. He might trick one of us into thinking that something bad for us is good for us. But he finally says if she wants to go, she can go. Maybe if we stay together we’ll actually be less prepared?
Eve speaks (lines 378–84), saying she will go, and she doubts the enemy, who is proud, will try her first, since she’s the weaker.
They go their separate ways (lines 385–411). The poet laments:
O much deceived, much failing, hapless Eve,lines 404–11
Of thy presumed return! event perverse!
Thou never from that hour in Paradise
Found’st either sweet repast, or sound repose;
Such ambush hid among sweet flowers and shades
Waited with hellish rancour imminent
To intercept thy way, or send thee back
Despoiled of innocence, of faith, of bliss.
Satan comes (lines 412–72), meets Eve. At first he is awed by Eve’s beauty, and then he comes to himself.
Satan speaks to himself (lines 473–93), giving himself a pep-talk. He recognizes that Eve is intellectually inferior to Adam (lines 482–83).
Satan approached Eve (lines 494–531). The snake did not crawl as now:
not with indented wave,lines 496–99
Prone on the ground, as since, but on his rear,
Circular base of rising folds, that towered
Fold above fold a surging maze
Satan addresses Eve (lines 532–48), flattering her, extolling her beauty.
Eve replies (lines 553–66), expressing surprise to hear the snake speak.
What may this mean? Language of man pronouncedlines 553–54
By tongue of brute, and human sense expressed?
Eve knows that beats generally cannot talk, though she’s not sure how much reason there is in their heads. She knows the snake is the subtlest beast of the field. She asks how the snake learned to talk.
Satan replies (lines 567–612), saying that he too had been a dumb brute, when he encountered a tree with gorgeous and sweet-smelling fruit. He had to wind his way up the trunk of the tree, because the fruit was so high that Eve or Adam would have to stretch to reach it. No other animal could reach the fruit, though they also wanted it. He said he ate his fill, and found it wonderful. Pretty soon, he found he grew smarter and gained speech. He considered all good things, and found Eve to be the best, and came to tell her so.
Eve speaks (lines 615–24), asking which tree the snake meant.
Satan speaks (lines 625–30), saying he’d be glad to taker her to it.
They go to the forbidden tree (lines 631–46).
Eve speaks (lines 647–54), explaining that the tree was forbidden her.
Satan speaks (lines 655–58).
Indeed? hath God then said that of the fruitlines 656–58
Of all these garden trees ye shall not eat,
Yet lords declared of all in earth or air?
Eve speaks (lines 659–63), explaining that it’s just this one tree that’s forbidden them.
The snake prepares himself to speak like an orator (lines 664–78). He’s about to give his big speech to Eve, and Milton presents Satan here as imitating (or, rather, foreshadowing) the Sophists, with their ability to make the weaker argument appear stronger.
Satan speaks (lines 679–732). He piles a lot of arguments on, poking holes in Eve’s beliefs.
Queen of this universe, do not believelines 684–705
Those rigid threats of death; ye shall not die:
How should ye? by the fruit? it gives you life
To knowledge: by the threatener? look on me,
Me who have touched and tasted, yet both live,
And life more perfect have attained than fate
Meant me, by venturing higher than my lot.
Shall that be shut to man, which to the beast
Is open? or will God incense his ire
For such a petty trespass, and not praise
Rather your dauntless virtue, whom the pain
Of death denounced, whatever thing death be,
Deterred not from achieving what might lead
To happier life, knowledge of good and evil;
Of good, how just? of evil, if what is evil
Be real, why not known, since easier shunned?
God therefore cannot hurt ye, and be just;
Not just, not God; not feared then, nor obeyed:
Your fear itself of death removes the fear.
Why then was this forbid? Why but to awe,
Why but to keep ye low and ignorant,
Just as Satan at the end of book 5 had questioned Abdiel’s assertion that he had been created through the Son, so now he questions whether the gods are really responsible for creation.
The gods are first, and that advantage uselines 718–20
On our belief, that all from them proceeds;
I question it.
The snake’s speech worked, or at least its words “Into her heart too easy entrance won” (line 734). She thought about it (lines 731–44).
Eve speaks to herself (lines 743–79), basically repeating the snake’s arguments and talking herself into eating the fruit. She even says that God has forbidden the fruit, “but his forbidding / Commends thee more” (lines 753–54, speaking to the fruit). And if God is forbidding something that is good for us, “Such prohibitions bind not” (line 760). Apparently the tree does not confer death, since the snake ate and yet lives. And the snake is very trustworthy, “author unsuspect, / Friendly to man, far from deceit or guile” (lines 771–72).
So saying, her rash hand in evil hourlines 780–84
Forth reaching to the fruit, she plucked, she ate:
Earth felt the wound, and nature from her seat
Sighing through all her works gave signs of woe,
That all was lost.
The snake left, and Eve enjoyed the fruit (lines 784–94). “Greedily she engorged without restraint” (line 791).
Eve speaks to herself (lines 795–833), happy with her decision to eat. She wonders if she should share with Adam, and eventually decides to, partly because she still fears that God might kill her, and then Adam would marry some other Eve.
Meanwhile, Adam’s waiting at home, but decides to go look for Eve, and finds her with fruit in her hand near the forbidden tree (lines 834–55).
Eve speaks to Adam (lines 856–85), urging him to eat the fruit, which she says does not, after all, bring death but rather godlike wisdom. There’s even a little bit of: “If you love me, you’ll eat it.”
Adam is astonished (lines 886–95).
Adam speaks to himself (lines 896–916). He assumes that death is still coming (line 901). But he knows immediately that he must die with Eve.
Adam speaks to Eve (lines 921–59). Here he reflects on death, wondering whether it will really happen.
Eve speaks to Adam (lines 960–89). She says she does not think death is coming, and if she thought differently, she would certainly not offer Adam the deadly fruit. Here I think Eve may be duplicitous, since earlier in her own reflections she had resolved to offer Adam the fruit particularly because it might still lead to her death.
They hugged, and Adam ate (lines 990–1016).
he scrupled not to eatlines 997–99
Against his better knowledge, not deceived,
But fondly overcome with female charm.
The fruit is working its evils on the couple.
Carnal desire inflaming, he on Evelines 1013–15
Began to cast lascivious eyes, she him
As wantonly repaid; in lust they burn.
Adam speaks to Eve (lines 1017–33), telling her that he’s glad she encouraged him to eat the fruit, and now he’s ready for sex.
They have sex, and fall asleep, and wake up with shame (lines 1034–66).
Adam speaks to Eve (lines 1067–98), lamenting what they had done, and advising that they cover their shameful parts.
They go get their fig leaves and make clothes (1099–1133). Milton throws in a reference to Columbus’s having found the Native Americans naked. Adam and Eve feel all kinds of negative emotions.
Adam speaks to Eve (lines 1134–42), telling her she should have listened to him when he rejected her idea of separating in the morning.
Eve replies to Adam (lines 1143–61), saying that Adam wouldn’t have been able to tell that the snake was lying even if he had been there, and was she supposed to never part from Adam? And why didn’t you command me stay by your side?
Adam replies to Eve (lines 1162–86), saying that he had chosen willingly to endure death with her, and is this the thanks he gets, to get blamed for her own transgression? I warned you as much as I could, and you just wouldn’t listen! You just had to go your own way! I do admit fault in trusting you too much. Clearly that was a mistake!
The book ends with these dreadful words.
Thus they in mutual accusation spent1187–89
The fruitless hours, but neither self-condemning,
And of their vain contest appeared no end.