Paradise Lost Book 10
God has seen the deed from heaven, but couldn't prevent it because of man's free will. Angelic guards ascend into heaven from Paradise, wondering how Satan had gotten by them. God tells them not to worry or feel bad; their "sincerest care" couldn't have prevented Satan from coming to earth. God explains that he won't inflict death immediately, and sends his Son to judge man with mercy and justice.
Adam and Eve hear the Son coming, and hide themselves in the trees. The Son calls them forth, and Adam explains how they feared him and hid. The Son asks why he is feared, when he used to be revered, and asks how they know they are naked. Adam explains succinctly that she gave him the forbidden fruit and he ate it. The Son asks Adam if Eve was his God or superior, since his "perfection far excelled hers in all real dignity." Book 10, line 150-1.
Eve tells the Son that the serpent tricked her and she ate the forbidden fruit. The Son, having heard both confessions, enacts a series of punishments: first, the serpent is doomed to a life of groveling along the ground. Second, woman is given pain in childbirth, and the Son explains "to thy husband's will thine shall submit, he over thee shall rule." Book 10, lines 195-6.
Finally, man gets his punishment: he'll have to toil hard in the fields to get food "till thou return into the ground, for thou out of the ground wast taken: know thy birth, for dust thou art, and shalt to dust return." Book 10, lines 206-8. The Son proceeds to clothe their naked bodies with animal skins and their inner nakedness with righteousness.
Meanwhile, Sin and Death are at the gates of hell, which are wide open and pouring out flames. Sin asks Death why they are sitting there, when Satan has gotten them the happier world as promised. Sin decides to make an easy passage from hell to the new world, a "monument of merit" to Satan's accomplishment. She and Death are building the bridge when they see Satan in the guise of an angel. Milton explains that Satan had been witnessing what was going on in Paradise until he saw the Son coming and got scared and fled.
Sin knows just by looking at Satan that he prospered in his mission to earth. She says "these are thy magnific deeds, thy trophies, which thou view'st as not thine own, thou art their author and prime architect." Book 10, lines 354-6.
Satan is happy, saying he's made one realm of hell and earth. He tells Sin and Death to live in and rule over earth while he goes to visit Pandemonium. Everyone there rushes to greet him with joy. Satan pledges to lead them out of the "infernal pit" into the "spacious world" of earth, and recounts all that transpired in Paradise's downfall.
Expecting to hear applause, Satan instead hears a scornful hiss. Suddenly, he is transformed into a serpent. Then everyone else in hell turns into a serpent. To aggravate their cause, a fruit-laden tree like the one in Paradise springs up before them. They have an overwhelming temptation to eat the fruit, which turns out only to be bitter ashes. Feeling they are sufficiently tortured, God allows them to resume their original shape outside during certain periods.
Meanwhile, Sin and Death are on earth. God explains that the Son can seal up hell forever and renew heaven and earth. God changes the universe to give earth extreme heat and cold, winds, and storms. Sin and Death make the previously peaceful animals fight each other. Animals are also made to fear men now.
Adam bemoans his condition, saying that generations of men will always blame him. He asks God "Why has thou added the sense of endless woes? Inexplicable thy justice seems." Book 10, lines 753-5. Adam wonders why he is mocked with death and not killed. He pities future generations, wondering why his fault should condemn guiltless people. Eve tries to assay Adam, but he calls her a false and hateful serpent. He then informs her that she is a nature's defect and because of her, future men will never find fit mates.
Eve breaks down crying at his feet and begs him not to forsake her. She says "both have sinned, but thou against God only, I against God and thee." Book 10, lines 930-1. She advocates peace between them and a mutual hatred of the serpent. All the blame should be on her, she contends. Adam loses all his anger and forgives her for being frail and infirm. In this way, the righteousness bestowed upon Adam has made him able to once again care about Eve and forgive what she has done.
Eve thinks that they should remain childless to disappoint Death, but Adam contends that they should have kids to punish the serpent for generations. They both beg God for mercy and pardon at this book's end.