It is morning in Paradise. Adam wakes Eve. Eve tells Adam of the dream she had in which a voice called her to the Tree of Knowledge. The voice appeared as an angel and told her that she should taste the tree’s fruit for it will make her a goddess. Eve took the fruit and flew up to heaven like a goddess.
Adam, of course, is disturbed by the dream. He comforts Eve and they go to work, singing the praises of God. They tend to the garden, but it is pleasant work and nature works with them.
God calls Raphael and talks to him about Satan. God sends the angel to warn Adam. Adam sees Raphael coming and tells Eve to prepare a meal for the heavenly guest. They sit down to eat. Raphael reminds Adam that he has free will and warns him of Satan’s intentions to corrupt God’s creation.
Raphael gives some history on Satan: Satan first turned when God begot his Son and announced to all heaven that the angels must worship him. All the angels do worship the Son, but later that night Satan speaks to his second in command and tells him to gather their forces in the northern hill Satan convinces one half of the angels in heaven to join him because of his great leadership as an angel.
God, of course, sees what Satan is up to and discusses it with his Son. The Son agrees to defeat Satan.
Satan erects a temple on a northern hill that replicates God’s own temple. There, Satan addresses the angels that followed him and incites them to rebellion.
Only Abdiel stands up in the crowd and objects, but none of the others join him. He leaves proudly and is allowed to fly back to heaven.
The concept of Satan’s original disobedience stemming from pride, i.e. not wanting to bow down to the Son, is seen in many Jewish and Christian traditional myths (though it is not explicitly stated in the Hebrew Bible or New Testament). In a way, this only helps with our sympathy for the devil. After all, Satan was one of God’s top angels, he had served God unfailingly to arrive at that position, and, in some traditions, was considered God’s first and favorite angel. To make an angel who has worked so hard bow before someone else seems somehow unjust.
God as tyrant is an interesting paradox in Milton. It is clear that heaven is a monarchy, with no room for dissent. Interestingly, Satan’s councils seem much more democratic in the sense that individuals other than Satan are allowed to stand and voice their sometimes opposing views. Milton’s point, however, is that right actions (democracy, freedom) done irrationally (out of God’s will) do not count as right. A tyranny ruled by reason and goodness is better than one ruled by passions and animal instincts. Although the councils of Satan’s angels appear democratic now, it will soon become clear that they are led by lies and deception. Satan later will trick his cohorts into obeying his whims, reason and rational thinking will give way to decisions based on revenge and hate, and corruption will reign outside of God’s ordering nature.
Along with the repeated theme of the Fall (Satan, mankind), Milton uses again and again the “coming down” of supernatural spirits/Gods/devils to intervene or meddle in the goings-on of earth and creation. Satan departs from his kingdom to come to earth, Raphael is sent by God to warn Adam. Later, Michael the archangel will come with his mission, and, finally, the Son himself is prophesied to come in the form of Jesus Christ.
Language in lines 388-390 correlates Eve, mother of mankind, with Mary, mother of God. Indeed, Eve’s seed that is prophesied to crush out the serpent (read Satan) will be Jesus Christ. The language of these lines shares many words with the “Hail Mary” Christian prayer, not the least of which is the first line: “Hail, mother of mankind.”