God tells the angels that guarded the Garden of Eden that there was nothing they could do about stopping Satan and the mankind from making their decision. In a sense, he says, this was destined to happen. He then sends his Son to judge Adam and Eve.
The son calls to Adam and Eve, who are hiding in the bushes. They emerge, but instead of praising him, the cringe in guilt. Adam says that he heard the Son calling, but was ashamed that he was naked. Adam amidst to eating the fruit, but blames Eve, the partner that God had made for him.
Eve admits as well, but blames the snake. The Son judges the snake: and makes him an animal who will grovel on his stomach and eat dust.
The Son judges Eve. She will now have pain in childbirth and must be submissive to her husband.
The Son judges Adam. He will have difficulty with the earth in getting food to grow. And death will be at the end for both of them. The Son then gives them both clothes made from animal skins.
Sin, at the gates of hell, is inspired by Satan’s success on creation and talks with her son Death. The two of them build a bridge from hell to earth so that mankind can more easily be brought to hell and Sin, Death, and Satan can more easily invade earth.
Satan returns to hell and sends Sin and Death to reign on earth.
His fallen angels gather around him in his temple to hear of his success. He tells them what he did. They do not cheer however, as he expected. Instead they hiss. Satan feels himself be turned into a giant snake, and he himself hisses with them.
All of the fallen angels then turn into snakes, scorpions, and monsters. They gather around a tree of fruit, resembling the Tree of Knowledge. They taste the fruit, but it tastes like ashes.
In the meantime, Sin and Death are on earth. Death starts to work on nature, starting with plants and moving up to animals. Sin, of course, will concentrate on mankind.
God changes the laws of nature so that they will not always provide light and order. Most significantly, God sends the angels to tip the axis of the earth so that now it will have seasons. Now man will be fighting against nature instead of working with it.
Adam laments the transformation. He repels Eve. Eve, despondent, contemplates suicide. Adam turns softer, and tells her that their condition and judgment could have been much worse. They are not, after all, dead and they are still together.
The two then pray to God, asking for forgiveness, and begin to, once again, praise him.
The major theme of Paradise Lost is, of course, the idea of the Fall. The books opened immediately after the fall of Satan and will now close on the fall of mankind. Along the way, this fall theme appears again and again in smaller contexts, but always paralleling the idea of falling away from the goodness, the grace and light of God.
The many instances of the fall theme, therefore, parallel each other and we can ascertain their various meanings by comparing the reasons for the fall, the punishment for the turning away, and the reaction of the characters after the fall. Specifically, in Book X, one can now compare the way Adam and Eve deal with falling away from goodness to how Satan dealt with it.
By the end of the chapter, after the stinging immediacy of remorse and anger has quieted, the two decide that they will continue to do what they did before the fall: praise God. First, of course, they ask for forgiveness. Although what they have done will change their nature forever (literally) and they realize that they can never go back, still, they ask for God’s forgiveness and ask to be brought back into goodness. Compare this reaction with Satan and the fallen angels’ reaction. Satan, too, immediately is stung with remorse and there are many instances, specifically in the Garden of Eden, when Satan truly misses his previous form and his previous life. Still, this remorse and regret only makes Satan more angry and more bitter and urges him on to corrupt with enthusiasm.
Because of this, God’s relationship with fallen mankind will be much different from God’s relationship with Satan. God will continually be open to man’s return, though not without some punishment. In fact, God will sacrifice his only Son to finally redeem man. Man remains God’s favorite creation, and man’s destiny remains a union with God finally in heaven.
Satan, on the other hand, will be forever shunned from the light of heaven. Satan’s children, Death and Sin, will be overcome with the death of Jesus Christ and evil itself will cease at the end of the world (though Milton, for the most part, stays away from eschatological discussions).
In yet another political jab, Milton refers to the bridge from hell to earth as the “wondrous art pontifical(314).” The word pontifical, of course, is used by Catholics to describe all things related to the pope, who is, in fact, the pontiff or bridge between God and man. Milton’s irony is clear: the pope is actually the bridge to hell and the Roman Catholic Church is the quickest way to get there.