Paradise Lost


Book 3

Book 3 Summary

In Book 3, Milton’s narration turns from Satan and Hell to God and Heaven. Accordingly, Milton begins Book 3 with another invocation of the muse, requesting that the Holy Spirit illuminate what is dark to him. Milton refers directly to his physical blindness, classing himself among other blind poets and prophets of antiquity, such as Homer and Tiresias.

In Heaven, God is seated upon his throne with the Son to his right. God surveys all that is from his high vantage point, including “our two first parents” (3.65)—Adam and Eve—frolicking in Paradise. He observes Satan’s flight from Hell through the intervening Night and toward the world of man, foreseeing all that will happen. Addressing his remarks to his Son, God explains that man will fall into temptation, as Satan intends, and that God will not intervene to prevent man’s fall. God presents the important concept of “free will,” explaining that he created man with free will because otherwise his loyalty and obedience would have no meaning. Man must choose his actions and be responsible for them. Seeing that man will fall, God decrees that he will have to punish man with death unless one among the “heav’nly Powers” is willing to sacrifice himself to atone for man’s sin. All of the angels of Heaven are mute; at last, the Son offers himself as the sacrifice through which man will find grace. The Son describes how he will live as a man, suffer Death as a man, but then rise again immortal and return to Heaven with those redeemed sinners who have faith in him, and dwell there for eternity. God joyfully praises his Son’s compassion and filial obedience, expresses his great love for the Son, and assures the Son that his descent into mortality will not “degrade” him. Rather, the Son’s “humiliation shall exalt” (3. 313) him, and he will rule Heaven with God for eternity. God instructs his angels to “Adore the Son, and honor him as [God]” (3. 343). Heaven’s...

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