These notes have been prepared after going through some reference books and a number of online sources. Book 1 of the Paradise Lost by John Milton, written in blank verse, is divided into six sections and comprises of 798 lines.
- The first section (lines 1-26) contains the invocation and the purpose of writing.
- The second section (lines 27-83) gives a bird-eye view of consequences of the disobedience and the revolt and expulsion of Satan from Paradise.
- The third section (lines 84-282) contains the speeches between Satan and Beelzebub (his commander-in-chief)
- The fourth section (lines 283-621) gives a comprehensive detail of the demons accompanying the Satan.
- The fifth section (lines 622-669) contains the speeches of Satan to demons.
- The sixth section (lines 670-798) gives an overview of the construction of Pandemonium.
Summary of Paradise Lost Book 1 by John Milton
The poem Paradise Lost opens with an invocation and the poet explains the theme of his poem-first act of disobedience towards the God and then its consequences. Poet explains the story of Adam and Eve who ate the Fruit of Forbidden Tree that brought sorrow and death to human beings until Jesus came to the world and purified it again brought happiness back.
Now Milton invokes the Muse (source of mystical inspiration) to assist him divinely in giving voice to his purpose of writing (Milton calls it Adventurous Song). Milton’s muse is Holy Spirit which, in his views, makes his song superior to the others. According to Milton, his purpose of writing is to “assert Eternal Providence and justifie the wayes of God to men.”
In section 2, Milton moves from prayer to the disobedience of Adam and Eve that occurred because of the serpent (i.e. Satan) that made them be expelled from the Heaven. Poet then moves to an event before Adam and Eve. Satan who was Lucifer, an angel, who along with his companions considered himself “to have equal’d the most High” and rebelled against the God.
A war started between God and Satan, in which the latter was defeated and thrown out of Heaven into Hell along with his companions who are now demons. All the demons including Satan remain “rowling in the fiery Gulfe” i.e. the fire for nine days.
Around them is “dungeon horrible” and fire flames. Poet describes the scene of Hell which he calls Choas. Satan ultimately regains the conscious and “with bold words breaking the horrid silence” speaks to Beelzebub.
It comprises of speeches between Satan and Beelzebub. Satan, breaking the prolonged silence says to Beelzebub, “O how fall’n! how chang’d from him, who in the happy Realms of Light Clothed with transcendent brightness didst out-shine.”
He mourns over their defeat and expulsion from the Heaven but does not repent his rebellion and calls his dare “injured merit”. He says that in spite of being defeated he still has “unconquerable will”, “revenge”, “immortal hate”, and “courage”. He also acknowledges the fact that God cannot be defeated and suggests that they should find an alternate way to deal with Him who “hold the Tyranny of Heaven.”
At this Beelzebub speaks up. Acknowledging the Satan’s dare to rebel against God, he says that they are now “in endless misery”. According to him, God has left “to suffer and support our pains.” Satan replies, “to do ought good never will be our task, but ever to do ill.” If God does something good, their business will be to make bad of it. He suggests moving to a nearby plain so as to discuss the war that they are supposed to wage against.
“Better to reign in Hell, then to serve in Heaven”
Seeing the lethargic devils, Satan speaks out,
You wearied virtue, for the ease you find
To slumber here, as in the Vales of Heavens
Or in this abject posture have ye sworn
To adore the conquerour?”
He again commands, “Awake, arise, or be for even fall in” Hearing the command, they quickly stand up and, as if they have been caught up napping while on duty. All of them assembled near Satan. They come one by one. Some of them are Moloch, Chemos, Astarte, Thammuz, Dagon, Rimmon, Osiris, Iris, Orus and Belial.
As an army of devils gathers around the Satan, he praises them by calling them ‘Myraids of immortal Spirits” and “Powers Matchless”. He asks them to not worry and encourages them to rise up again. He tells them, though they will rise again, they won’t be able to fight against God in the same way.
This time they should use “fraud” and “guile”. Satan mentions some rumor that God is going to create man and thus their task will be to mess with him. All the demons “to confirm his words, out-flew millions of flames surrounds.”
Soon after the speech, the army of demons under the command of the materialistic Mammon, start digging the ground and bring out gold and other costly minerals. With their super-power, they construct a great chamber called Pandemonium (by Milton meaning all demons). Thousands of demons shrink to fit inside it and then “After short silence then and summons read, the great consult began.”