Paradise Lost, Book 3

“Hail holy light, of spring of Heav’n first-born,
Or of th’ Eternal Coeternal beam
May I express thee unblam’d? since God is light,
And never but in unapproached light
Dwelt from Eternitie, dwelt then in thee,”

Book 3 of Paradise Lost by John Milton highlights the characters of both God and Satan where God sees the impending Man’s Fall and Satan’s rebellious war while sitting upon His throne and Satan plan to tempt and corrupt God’s first creation in the Heaven.

Bringing to light the issues of selfless sacrifice of God’s Son for the evils of humanity and the fraudulent attempt of Satan to tempt Adam and Eve, the poem aptly foreshadows the beginning of sin and evil in the world.

  • Critical Summary

Opening with Milton’s invocation to the holy light of God for illuminating his mind with the divine knowledge, the third book describes the famous conversation between God and His Son in Heaven.

God, after seeing the devils’ debate of waging war against Him, informs His Son about the Man’s impending fall to which the Son requests God to make him mortal so that he can sacrifice himself for the evils of humankind.

God feels overjoyed and highly praises His Son for his desire to wilfully sacrifice himself for the sake of humanity. This sacrifice of God’s only Son throws light on the virtuous traits of honesty, selflessness, and courage innately present in the creatures of God.

“Behold mee then, mee for him, life for life
I offer, on mee let thine anger fall;
Account mee man; I for his sake will leave
Thy bosom, and this glorie next to thee
Freely put off, and for him lastly dye”

The second half of the poem deals with Satan contemplating his next move against God and His creation. To begin his rebellious plan of destroying humanity, Satan travels toward Heaven from Hell and meet the angel Uriel on his way. Disguising himself as a cherub, Satan requests Uriel to tell him about Heaven as he is a new young angel fond of knowing more about God’s world.

Failed to recognize the lord of Hell, Uriel becomes happy to see a curious little angel and informs him about the path leading to Heaven. Satan bids farewell to Uriel and happily strides off to Heaven with the evil desire of tempting Adam and Eve. Satan’s deceitful disguise, in the poem, shows that the cunning fallen angel never leaves an opportunity to commit sinful deeds; thereby, polluting the pious world created by God.

“Thus said, he turnd, and Satan bowing low,
As to superior Spirits is wont in Heaven,
Where honour due and reverence none neglects,
Took leave, and toward the coast of Earth beneath,
Down from th’ Ecliptic, sped with hop’d success,
Throws his steep flight in many an Aerie wheele,
Nor staid, till on Niphates top he lights.”

  • Themes

Paradise Lost Book 3 revolves around the themes of the selfless and virtuous sacrifice of God’s Son for humanity and the fraudulent attempt of Satan to befool Uriel to forward his plan of tempting the first humans created by God.

These themes show that good and evil reside in this world simultaneously where on one hand virtue tries to save humankind from an eternal downfall while on the other hand, vice tries its best to tempt and corrupt the human soul causing the everlasting doom of humanity.

“They therefore, as to right belonged,
So were created, nor can justly accuse
Their Maker or their making, or their fate,
As if predestination overruled
Their will disposed by absolute decree
Or high foreknowledge”

  • Mood and Tone

The mood and tone of the poem are very solemn, serious and grave reflecting upon the intensity and gravity of Man’s Fall and Satan’s attempt to pollute him. Milton has skillfully crafted the goodness and evilness perpetrating in the world using bombastic diction and contemplative tone.

  • Conclusion

Milton’s Paradise Lost Book 3 is worth-reading and worth-remembering for the readers of all ages and times due to its description of the historic events of Man’s Fall and Satan’s desire to tempt Adam and Eve.

“So will fall
He and his faithless progeny. Whose fault?
Whose but his own? Ingrate! He had of Me
All he could have; I made him just and right,
Sufficient to have stood, though free to fall”

Play Quiz