3. 1 - 79:
The opening section of Book III seems to be told by the speaker; however, by using personal pronouns to retell the events of Book II, it can be interpreted as Satan speaking. An example of this is "Thee I revisit now with bolder wing, escap't the Stygian pool, though long detain'd in that obscure sojourn, while in my flight through utter and through middle darkness borne" (3.13-16), which describes Satan's journey through Chaos. The portrayal of the muse and allusion to blind oracles, though, suggests the speaker's perspective, particularly in lines 51-55: "Thou celestial light shine inward, and the mind through all her powers irradiate... that I may see and tell of things invisible to mortal sight." Immediately following this, we as readers are given an account of God's experiences through the speaker (as God is not narrating these lines himself).
Starting on line 56, the narration moves away from the speaker himself, and toward God in Heaven. The speaker describes that God has been watching "his own works and their works at once to view" (3.59), being Adam and Eve in Eden. Christ is seated on God's right, and together they watch as Adam and Eve live joyfully "in blissful solitude" (69): the calm before the storm. God notices Satan's ascent toward Earth, and turns to speak to his son about the matter. It is notable that "past, present, [and] future he beholds", as God must have known that Satan would escape, and that his treasured creations (humans) would be left vulnerable. It is also interesting that this description of God's omniscience mirrors the note on oracles (3.35) in this edition, as oracles (whom the speaker compares himself to) are merely human.
3. 80 - 134:
God is speaking in this passage to his Son about the actions of Satan, the creation of man, and the plan that is already in motion.
God starts with describing Satan and how he has come this far in his journey. "See the rage that drives Satan and how he pushes through the strongest bars, heaviest chains, hardest terrain, so bent on revenge." However, this shall backfire on him (Foreshadowing for later in the poem). As he now, not far from heaven, flies towards the Precincts (walls, surrounding area) of Lights of the created Paradise for man. God explains that Satan can force Man to destroy themselves, or worse, make them follow him. And he can make them disobey the sole Commandment (possibly the one rule he gave to Adam and Eve whilst in Paradise about the forbidden fruit, or the most important Commandment to forever be faithful to God). God knows the plan of Satan and he knows that he is a smooth talker and therefore can make man fall for his tricks to break the commandment. So will fall, he and his faithless Progenie (family, followers?) Which means that man shall fall with him, those who chose to break this commandment and therefore God knows that Satan will succeed in his plan.
But whose fault is this? God makes it clear that he is in no way to be blamed for all of these actions of disobedience. He then describes Satan for an example of how he is not to blame. Satan is ungrateful for what he had when he was with God. God created him to be just and right, and yet he chose to fall. (This makes me wonder, if he created the world and the angles, how could God allow himself to create Angels who had the chances of falling? Why not create perfect Angels who would never disagree with God's actions or words? It's all part of the plan) He goes on to state that by giving these "Freedoms" it will show true allegiance, and constant faith or love (3.103-104) This is also reflective of the creation of man, why the Gates were guarded by Sin, why all these "silly" moves on God's part were all part of this overall plan. "What pleasure I from such obedience paid" (3.107): this signifies the joy in knowing people are choosing to follow him rather than by force or by convenience.
This part is a little confusing, (3.108-119) I believe God is explaining his reasoning for creating those who have freedom to chose. He explains that by allowing freedom, they will have no one to blame but themselves for their actions. He states that the power to be "Authors to themselves in all both what they judge and what they choose" (3.122-123) is the key and he will never change that factor. It shall be their freedom to stand or to fall. God continues, that while he knows what will happen, that doesn't mean that it was predestined that man shall fall since they have the power of freewill.
I believe he continues to describe what shall happen should man chose to fall. He describes how he would change their nature, revoke their high status in Paradise and it shall never ever be reversed. He then describes "The first sort" which I believe he is referring to Satan and the Fallen and how they fell on their own and therefore opened the possibility to fall for Mankind (Domino Effect). He ends with saying he shall show Man "Mercy and Justice both" (none for the Fallen Angels however) and this sign of grace will brighten both heaven and earth.
3. 135- 143:
God, having finished his proclamations about foreknowledge, destiny, and the difference between the fall of man and of the angels, is greatly appreciated by the heavenly beings around him as his words produce an "ambrosial fragrance" which fills all around him with a sense of joy. As beloved as The Father is the Son of God, a being of endless love and compassion who may represent the gentler portrayal of God in the New Testament. Evidence of the Son's sympathy for mankind is given as he begins to make his case for their salvation.
3. 144 – 66:
In this piece the Son of God speaks, it is a response to Gods speech about how mankind will not fall as the rebel angels had because of his mercy. He compliments the closing words that God uses and states that if mankind is not lost then the praise that God would receive from both Heaven and Earth would be great. The Son of God goes on to explain that mankind could fall to Satan and be corrupted. If this would occur then they could be used against God. The third option that the Son of God proposes is that God unmakes mankind so that they would not be able to fall. If they did then God would lose some Glory and God would not be able to defend against it.
3. 167 – 216:
God is speaking in this passage in response to his son (Jesus?), who brought up the issue of the temptation of mankind and their fall. God responds with the fact that not all of mankind will be lost, because by the power of his grace some will be restored to full health, now fully aware of their frail condition and indebted to God. The others he will talk to, allowing them the free will to choose their fate? The ones that follow God's conscious will survive and reap the benefits, but those who don't will never know his happy kingdom. He offers the choice to all humankind, and it is up to them to decide if they want to follow his will or not. God cannot force any of the humans to do what he wants though, because if the deserved don't die, justice has to. The only way to get around that is if someone else takes the offender place, but it must be death for a death. God then asks who would be willing to do that?
3. 217 – 26:
In this passage, the speaker is describing the moment when Jesus volunteers to be the Saviour of mankind. When God first proposes that a sacrifice be made, the entire Heavenly Host remains silent. This indicates that Gods project of Earth may not have been as popular with the angels of heaven as one might have imagined. Alternatively, Jesus had been prophesised in the Bible to be a saviour, King of Kings, etc., so the choice to volunteer as the price of men’s sins may have been made long before this moment. This reminded me of the Council in Book 2, when Satan first volunteers to scout Earth. Both Jesus and Satan are seen as heroes after taking upon themselves “the deadly forfeiture” (221) that seems the most difficult to their followers, (Satan’s journey to Earth, Jesus’s ultimate sacrifice.)
3. 227 – 65:
In this section the Son of God is speaking to God's request for an angel to save all of the souls on Earth from going to Hell. When the speaker answers God, he shows his true love for God and willingness to do anything for Him. This is unlike any of the angels in Heaven. The speaker knows that grace cannot find humans who are buried under sin, so he will go to save those souls (232-6).He is willing to become man, and give up his Heavenly status, and let Death let out all its rage on him (241). A point that is made in this passage is that God will become a different God when the speaker defeats Death (263-5). This passage showed me that God may be seen as a better character than he has been seen throughout the poem so far. There is the idea of an old testament God, one that is angry and vengeful, will turn into a God that is loving and joyous, much like God is described in the New testament. Also in this passage, Death is portrayed as the most powerful villain that the speaker will have to defeat. This makes me think that Satan no longer has all the power to defeat God, because there is someone else who is a stronger opponent to the Son of God.
3. 266 – 73:
Jesus finishes speaking out loud, but his "meek aspect", or demeanor, speaks volumes more in this section as the Speaker speaks; in this case, "meek" being reminiscent of the beatitude "Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the Earth", which is based very much on the very nature of Jesus. The air about him at this point is that of "immortal love/ To mortal men", which exemplifies how Jesus' love is all-encompassing in time for a creature that exists for only a fraction of time in the realm of these three figures. As well, lines 268-9 illustrate how the only thing that shines in Jesus brighter than this love for Man is his obedience to his Father and Creator, God.
Jesus is more than happy to offer himself up as a sacrifice, and waits for God's opinion (will) on the matter. Meanwhile, all the angels around them are full of admiration for Jesus and are wondering how this will all turn out. ("Whither" according to OED means "to what place or state; the likely future of".)
3. 274 – 343:
In this section, God is replying to his Son who has just volunteered as the one to travel to earth and die for Man’s sins. God begins by saying that all of his creations are dear to him, and that even though created last, it is man he cares for so deeply that he will sacrifice his only son. God seems quite egotistical in these lines as he suggests he is making a huge sacrifice, yet in actuality it is Son who makes the sacrifce. God then continues to foretell the miraculous conception, the restoration of mankind, and the ascending into heaven.
The theme of justice is prominent in lines 298-302 as God states that “So dearly what Hellish hate/ So easily destroy’d and still destroys/ In those, who when they may, accept not grace”(300-2). In other words, those who do not accept the grace of God will not be redeemed.
Throughout lines 303-320 God goes on to say that in no way will his Son be tarnished “by descending to assume/ Man’s nature” (303-4), and furthermore states that his sons glory will be equal to his own and that he has earned this not through birthright, but through goodness.
In lines 321-338 the theme of justice is again central as God foretells of judgment day, upon which the earth will burn, and from the ashes a new heaven and earth will bloom, wherein only the just will live in a state of eternal paradise.
In the final lines 339-344, God states that there will be no more need for justice, “God shall be All in All” (341). He then addresses the other “gods” or powerful beings and decrees that they must “Adore the Son, and honour him as mee” (343). These final lines bring a sense of renewal to mind, as the all powerful is both the Son of God, the son of man.
3. 344 – 71:
In this section of Book Three, lines 344-371, the speaker is addressing the angels' celebration of God and his Son. Nature is abundent in this passage with what the angels are wearing and the scenery of the Tree of Life. The angels' "crowns inwove with Amarant and Gold" (352) which views the angels as natural and free. The crowns the angels are wearing also show how high and mighty God treats them and how delicate they are. Near the Tree of Life there is an immortal flower that "began to bloom, but soon for man's offense" (355) which suggests that it was immortal on earth before there was sin. Heaven is preceived as full of nature with "Pavement that like a Sea of Jasper" (353). The imagery of heaven is how I see heaven: full of nature, free and delicate. When I read this passage, though, I found a comparison between how God is worshipped by his angels and how Satan is worshipped by his followers.
3. 372 - 415:
The "multitude of Angels" (345), directing their obeisance toward the thrones of Almighty God and the Son, begin their song in line 372 as accounted by the Speaker. Only after working through nearly the entire lyric does the reader arrive at what is typically considered the primary aspect of God in practical Christianity: Love. For as St. John makes didactically plain, is not this same God essentially love? And is not the manifestation of God's love through his Son's incarnation the only means of redemption for humanity? (cf. 1 Jn. 4:7-10) This may well be the core of a hopeful Christian's worship as a beneficiary of God's love rather than divine judiciary punishment, yet the Angels revere God foremost as a supremely powerful, authoritative, sovereign and eternal being in and of himself (372-3). Again, it is worth emphasizing that there is no equivocating about morality in this initial burst of praise; God's worthiness is based on his fundamental characteristics ahead of all resultant actions with respect to creation. Next, the Angels sing of God's creativity and luminance (374-5), the second of which is further developed (376-82) with reference to Isaiah's heavenly vision of Seraphim whose wings shield their faces from the sheer glory of the Lord (cf. Is. 6:2). This interpretation rests on the hypothesis that the Speaker (and/or Poet) has intentionally ordered the praise to i) convey a particular image of God to the reader and ii) to humble any inflated notions of humanity's place in the cosmic scheme. In other words, God's omnipotence &c. stands fixed whether or not he chooses to exhibit mercy to particular chosen ones among a fallen race of creatures.
The tricky matter of the Son's relation to the Father is approached by categorizing him as the first of all Creation, (383) in apparent disagreement with the Nicene Creed. If this reading is defensible, a Christological question must be raised: what effective difference in meaning arises from postulating God's "begetting" of the Son as either an eternal generation or a distinct act of creation? Corollary to this issue: how are the Father and the Son distinguished in their "Divine Similitude" (384)? Clearly the Speaker positions the Son as seated "Second" to God but further speculation, while prescient in Milton's age of beleaguered heresy-hounding and denominational splitting, may be stretching the point to a theologically uninformed audience. One iota, indeed.
Laying aside this conceptual quandary, we may turn to the more concrete functions of the Son as the executor of God's will (cf. 169-70) and the exhibitor of his Glory (388) By the Son are "Powers" created and thrown down (390-1); his personal involvement in warring against the rebellious Angels is a poignant example. Finally, it is the Son who intervenes into the tension between "Mercy and Justice" to the extent that he willingly becomes the "Savior of Men" (412). Acknowledging the "strife" (406) between these absolute virtues portrays a fundamental bipolarity in the deity's response to disobedience among his creation. One can go so far as to ruminate that the Son's existence is not only crucial for humanity's sake but also to provide an outlet to resolve the dualism in God's internal counsel.
3. 416 – 653:
While in heaven everyone is celebrating, on earth Satan walks. He is in a place where mankind has not yet been (China). He is compared to a Vulture who is looking for its prey but he is alone. Sin has filled the “works” of men with vanity, so all of their structures and the Tower of Babel is used as an example. First would come the Giants and then the builders of the tower. Everyone on Earth tried to come to the tower but a lot of them perished in storms, which is what Satan is learning as he travels. He finally finds a light in all the darkness “till at last a gleame of dawning light” (499-500) where the stairs to Heaven are (of course gleaming and adorned with jewels). The stairs were let down to either let Satan in easily or basically rub it in that he isn’t in Heaven. While Satan is on the lower stair he can see all the places that God influences, Satan is envious of all his power. Satan sees also the sun which touches the Earth and warms it, it is unlike any other precious metal or light and there is just so many precious things that Satan is beside himself, there is no darkness. Next he sees the Angel Uriel, who is wearing a golden crown and has beautiful hair and wings. “His journies end and our beginning woe” (633). Satan knows he must change his appearance to be among Man so he changes into a Cherub which is the lowest rank of Arch Angel. The Arch Angel Uriel is nearest to God’s throne and he is his eyes, and Satan approaches him.
3. 654 – 80:
In lines 654-680, Satan addresses Uriel who is one of “sev’n spirits that stand In sight of God’s high Throne” (654-655). Satan has transformed himself into a cherub and Uriel doe not recognize who he is. Satan is able to persuade Uriel into believing that he has come alone and is truly interested in the new world and all the “wondrous works, but chiefly man” (663). Satan pretends to be something he is not in order to get information from Uriel. At the end he asks Uriel “In which of these shining Orbs has Man” (668) and continues to deceive Uriel.
3. 681 - 93:
In lines 681-93 the speaker is describing the circumstances of Satan and Urial's conversation. Urial does not know that the angel he is talking to is Satan. Satan's disguise is so great that neither angels nor humans can see through it, so although Urial is the "sharpest-sighted spirit of all in Heavín" (691), he is fooled by Satan's disguise. This passage shows how powerful Satan is becoming, because of his ability to fool Urial. This foreshadows Satan's deceit when dealing with Adam and Eve and tempting them with the forbidden fruit.
3. 694 - 735:
Satan, having fooled the Archangel Uriel into believing he too was an angel, gets Uriel to show him how to get to paradise (explained in lines 733-735). Satan had pretended to be interested in learning all about this new and beautiful place God created. He acts as though he desires to know God's work to glorify him. Uriel describes the creation of the Earth in detail to Satan: explaining how God created order and the 4 elements, earth, water, air, fire (which I suppose at Milton's time those were what was thought of as the only elements, and that everything was made from these). Uriel then goes on about the night and day, the Sun and the Moon, etc. This is when Uriel then points out paradise "Adams abode" to Satan.
3. 736 - 42:
The speaker wraps up book three by describing Satan’s leave from Heaven in pursuit of Earth. Before leaving the Celestial Heights he bows low in respect and reverence to the Superiors. The following couplet of lines emphasizes the importance of this action.
As to superior Spirits is wont in Heav’n,
Where honor due and reverence none neglects,
And yet due to the fact that “none neglects” this customary worship suggests that Satan is doing so out of expected habit rather than sincere respect.
Satan then takes his leave from the Ecliptic (the sun zone) towards Earth. It is as if the speaker wishes to inject his readers with Satan’s ecstatic behavior so they can relate to the way he speeds towards Earth with joy filling his heart at his “hop’d success”, his excitement causing him to cartwheel and flip through the air (aery wheels) as he makes his way. At this frenzied pace he swiftly reaches Earth and touches down on the mountain chain Niphates. It is interesting to note that later on in Book eleven it is this same mountain chain where Satan tries to tempt Christ.