Knowledge makes one godlike, and so does the power of reproduction, according to Satan in Eve's dream. The reference to gods once again parallels the images and language Homeric epic, and the persistence of pagan spirits like Zephyr and Flora in Eden, and Lucifer makes an even cruder, tempting ploy about how reproduction creates new 'godlike' beings (i.e. children):
For Gods, yet able to make Gods of Men:
And why not Gods of Men, since good, the more
Communicated, more abundant growes,
The Author not impair'd, but honourd more?
The knowledge derived from eating from the apple is sexual in Satan's rendition in Eve's dream, not merely an awareness of sexual potential, and his wooing of Eve, much like Adam's waking of Eve, is also highly sexualized, suggesting Eve 'knows' about sexuality to understand the full implications of his temptation, at least in an unconscious level in her dream. Power and sexuality are conjoined, as making more gods makes Eve a goddess says Satan: "Taste this, and be henceforth among the Gods / Thy self a Goddess, not to Earth confind." The reader knows from Lucifer's own example that disobedience results in confinement, not freedom (and women used to be said to be having a 'confinement' when they were pregnant) thus Satan lies to Eve, impregnating her mind before she is literally impregnated -- and she does not ask for such an impregnation, she is merely a passive receptacle. This makes her womanly will 'weak' perhaps, but then again Adam is weak to the sight of his beautiful, shaken mate.
Although Milton of course wrote during a pre-Freudian era, and dreams were not seen as the expression of unconscious desires in the same way they are today, Adam wonders at first how such an apparently innocent creature as Eve can conceive of such a terrible thing. What must lie in Eve's unconscious to be the conduit of such a horrific and 'knowing' image? But immediately he suggests that within the unconscious of Eve there may be an urge and desire to such power and sexual choice:
Know that in the Soule
Are many lesser Faculties that serve
Reason as chief; among these Fansie next
Her office holds; of all external things,
Which the five watchful Senses represent,
She forms Imaginations.
Although Adam says that "That what in sleep thou didst abhorr to dream, / Waking thou never wilt consent to do," the reader knows that this is a vain hope, that the desire for sexuality precedes the act itself, the Fall of Man. The unwilled and unconscious sexualized dream will become reality and supersede all reason. Reason and rational choice, without which free will as a concept is impossible, is no match for the sexual potential of Satan to enter the mind of the dreaming Eve, and for Eve to tempt Adam. Milton may include a kind of rhetorical 'fig leaf' (no pun intended) of a nod to the idea that free will exists in an uncomplicated fashion with Adam and Eve's hearts that can resist the sexual natures to which they are born, as when God says to Raphael of Adam:
Happiness in his power left free to will,
Left to his own free Will, his Will though free,
Yet mutable; whence warne him to beware
He swerve not too secure: tell him withall
His danger, and from whom, what enemie"
But the unwilled nature of Eve's dream and the intervention of spirits and angels in the affairs of the couple create an overall impression of deemphasizing rather than emphasizing free will. There is a certain injustice to the fact that Man is expected to resist Satan's overtures. God could have intervened but did nothing:
Of God All-seeing, or deceave his Heart
Omniscient, who in all things wise and just,
Hinder'd not SATAN to attempt the minde
Of Man, with strength entire, and free Will arm'd,
Complete to have discover'd and repulst
Whatever wiles of Foe or seeming Friend.
Satan is the "Tempter" and "seducer" of man. Adam, who before thought that Eve was only capable of innocence, says to God in his defense: "from her hand I could suspect no ill, / and what she did, whatever in it self,/Her doing seemed to justified the deed; / Shee gave me of the Tree, and I did eate" thus blaming Eve for what transpired. God asks Adam in return if Eve was God, oddly echoing Satan's promise that Eve would become like a goddess, eating from the tree. God admits that Eve was designed to be like a tempter, a seducer, in her own way, even by his own hand: "Adornd / She was indeed, and lovely to attract / Thy Love, not thy Subjection." Adam is responsible for using his reason as an antidote to the desire provoked by Eve, God suggests, but how Adam was supposed to resist is not explained. When Adam takes the fruit it is said that: "She gave him of that fair enticing fruit/With liberal hand: he scrupled not to eat/Against his better knowledge, not deceived, / but fondly overcome with female charm." This raises the question: if Eve was designed by God to be an adorned, tempting vehicle of Satan, why is it fair to blame her, as she was the first receptacle of Satan's intent, no matter how much this potential frightened the conscious part of her mind that possess a will, and why is it fair to blame Adam for being tempted by a God-created being designed and adorned to seduce him?
When talking directly to God, Eve blames the Serpent: "Serpent though brute, unable to transferre/the Guilt on him who made him instrument.' But rather than excusing her, because of her weak and more easily impinged-upon and ravished nature, God condemns Eve particularly, as she must subjugate herself before her husband as her husband need only subjugate himself before the divine. Yet the subsequent dialogue that ensures between the now chastened couple suggests that despite their denial of one another before God in a way that echoes the language of Genesis, their relationship remains constant as it did before the Fall of Man, again suggesting that the final state of humanity was present in humanity's nature, even before Satan tempted Adam and Eve. Eve reveals all to her husband, she remains unself-consciously verbal, now sexually open to him as she was before: "Living or dying from thee I will not hide / What thoughts in my unquiet brest are ris'n, / Tending to som relief of our extremes."
Milton does not or cannot excuse the behavior of Adam and Eve as part of a larger divine plan. However, although he may verbally, on a conscious and articulated level stress that free will does exist, there is a strong implied challenge to this idea. The sexual relationship between Adam and Eve by which Adam becomes unconsciously prey to Eve's attractiveness and the desire she excites, as Eve is seduced by Lucifer suggests that within these individual's respective minds there is an influence at work in the world that cannot be easily avoided or resisted by reason. Their appearance, the fertility and bounty of Eden, and the couple's relationship with one another, instinctively lying side by side as the bees fertilize the plants, as well as God's explicit creation of bodies to be adored all suggest that although Milton may believe in free will as an idea, the images and metaphors used in "Paradise Lost" question the idea that he had entirely abandoned all of his Calvinist beliefs and influences.
Milton, John. "Paradise Lost." Online Literature Library. Jun 2008. http://www.literature.org/authors/milton-john/paradise-lost/index.html