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Concept of Free Will in “Paradise Lost” by John Milton Term Paper

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Updated: Sep 26th, 2021


Paradise Lost (1667) of John Milton portraits a highly creative principle of predestination that was constructed in the 17th century showing both the free will and the universality of electing elegance, and the divinely decisive function of human freedom in salvation. Milton fundamentally undermines the conventional thought of double predestination, by denying the continuation of any divine ruling of reprobation, and by affirming instead that “reprobation is a temporal and provisional act of the human will, by which some human beings – in spite of their election – freely choose and actualize their own condemnation.”

Free Will of Adam and Eve

Milton portraits a view that Man has the free will to either choose or reject obedience to God and by doing so, Man is made responsible for his decisions to serve either Satan or God. Reason and hu0man instinct help humans attempt to solve their problems. The prudence of Adam is prepared to control the strength of woman charm of Eve. The serpent’s way to deceive Eve is then shown as the pavement that a human will use against another, eve is doing so to be the disciple of Satan, Satan using to lead her beloved for tearful termination, and where Satan drew to Eve’s aspiration for dignity, Eve appeals for the physical need of Adam. And once instinctively Adam has been created. He wanted Eve would also become partitioned.

Milton’s God makes the very first inhabitants of Heaven- Adam and Eve have their own will while taking a taste of every fruit that grows in the Heaven “with glad heart” and asks “fear here no dearth”. But a warning, the predestination remark, eating the fruits of “the tree whose operation brings/ Knowledge of good and ill” will bring the end of the “happy state” and expels from Heaven into “a world/ Of woe and sorrow”, clarifies God’s concrete plan of predestination waiting afterward for Adam and Eve. And also exposes the free will given by God to them.


Milton’s Almighty God observes Satan and is aware of his designs on the earth. He tells His Son about the errand on which Satan is set and of its destined success and tells also that Man will be saved if he can find a redeemer. Through this description of Book, III Milton projects God as a figure, who predestines; moreover, implies that the free will of Adam and Eve is not of their own choice rather a part of God’s predestination: as Satan is very closely related with the Adam and Eve made courses of actions afterward, so all of their actions can be undertaken as God’s predestination.

We have another picture of Eden and its first great inhabitants in Book V, Adam and Eve, giving us a picturesque description of the First Man and Woman, incidentally dwelling upon the functions and the interrelationship between man and woman. Milton also describes the life led by Adam and Eve, their work, their worship, etc. The most important thing regarding God’s predestination is then shown when the almighty sends the angel Raphel to warn man of impending danger, so that Man if he falls, may knowingly add by his own fault. Raphel is received and entertained by Adam to whom he narrates the story of the rebellion in Heaven and all its dire results.

The story of the war in Heaven is continued in Book VI and the narrative describes the punishment meted out to Satan and his followers. Raphel again warns Adam against temptation by such a rebellious spirit.

However, Milton makes God place the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil in the Garden of Eden. This placement suggests that it was preplanned of God that mankind up for down with a view to making dependent of mankind to him. For the purpose of making Man dependent upon Him, as it is assumed that God did such arrangement for the fall for His own pleasure which should be considered more seriously, again, because of the possibility to be reduced to mere actors upon God’s stage. Though Milton’s Paradise Lost does not reduce the human condition to a “deterministic state” for Milton’s God tells us that the tree of “Knowledge of good and ill, which I have set’ is for “The pledge of thy obedience and they faith.” (Milton, Book VIII). It is in Eden where Adam and Eve go forth unto their labors and Eve proposes to go a different way from Adam, each Labouring apart. Adam tries to dissuade her but resists her idea and Adam yields. It, therefore, comes to pass that Satan in the form of a serpent finds Eve alone and induces her to eat the fruit of the Forbidden Tree. She falls prey to the temptation and induces Adam to eat the fruit. The fall and the dire consequences of it and the immediate sense of shame and remorse are all very vividly described.

The Son of God as the representative of God Almighty comes down to earth and pronounces doom on Adam and Eve and the Serpent. Adam and Eve are to be cast out of Eden and Satan are to be permanently converted into a reptile. All these kind of punishments provokes the image in the readers’ mind that God has done what he warned to Adam and Eve. The Almighty, however, foretells Sin and Death that their bold ascend from Hell to the earth is an overthrow, the redemption of man through the meditation of a Saviour. This again foretells us the supreme power that God has performed in the case of Adam and Eve by descending them from Eden to earth will surely be exercised as to his predestination.

The predestination is vibrantly spoken when the Father advances to explain in detail his predestined plan:

“Some I have chosen of peculiar grace

Elect above the rest; so is my will:

The rest shall hear me call, and oft be warnd

Thir sinful state, and to appease betimes

Th’ incensed Deitie, while offerd Grace

Invites; for I will cleer thir senses dark,

What may suffice, and soft’n stonie hearts

To pray, repent, and bring obedience due.

To prayer, repentance, and obedience due,

Though but endevord with sincere intent,

Mine eare shall not be slow, mine eye not shut.

And I will place within them as a guide

My Umpire Conscience, whom if they will hear,

Light after light well us’d they shall attain,

And to the end persisting, safe arrive.”

(Milton, Book III, 183–197).

The description of predestination in Paradise Lost always accentuates the decisive role of human free will, even to the extent of depicting creaturely free will itself as the eventual aim of God’s congenial decree. Satan’s strategy is clear to God that Satan is willing to visit the earth and to attempt the destruction of Adam and Eve, God tells his Son:

“Man will heark’n to his glozing lyes,

And easily transgress the sole Command,

Sole pledge of his obedience: So will fall

Hee and his faithless Progenie.” (Milton, Book III, 193–196)

When the fall is foreseen, the Father immediately announces his congenial attitude intending to restore humanity: ‘Man … shall find Grace’ (3.131). And dazzling the wish and nature of the father, son shining is the noticeable evidence of the elegance of God.

“Beyond compare the Son of God was seen

Most glorious, in him all his Father shon

Substantially exprest, and in his face

Divine compassion visibly appeerd,

Love without end, and without measure Grace” (Milton, Book III, 138–142)

The Son himself pleads and then the entire scene becomes a depiction of the ‘Eternal purpose’ which God has selected:

O Son, in whom my Soul hath chief delight,

Son of my bosom, Son who art alone

My Word, my wisdom, and effectual might,

All hast thou spok’n as my thoughts are, all

As my Eternal purpose hath decreed” (Milton, Book III, 168–172).

Conclusive Remark

Before possessing any need of salvation, before humans were fallen, God has already destined their salvation. God has divinely proposed to turn towards humanity, his ‘creature late so lov’d’ (3.151), in grace. Thus the epic is a means of predestination of God and plays an act of God’s grace. Moreover, it is a portrayal in which human beings have been given free will either to accept God’s obedience or reject it under the plans set by God.


Milton, John. Book VIII. Paradise Lost.

Milton, John. Book III. Paradise Lost.

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