Michael tells Eve that she shouldn’t mourn for her home, because her home is wherever her husband is. Adam, who’s recovered a bit by now, says that if he knew his prayers would change God’s mind, he would pray incessantly, but he knows it’s no use. But he is really sad to leave Paradise, because it’s full of hallowed memories for him, even if God won’t come any longer to visit, and he dreamt about showing his futures sons (again, not daughters) the places where he saw God and the like. Michael tells Adam that humankind was not meant to live forever in Paradise anyway; if they continued to live and multiply, Paradise would be like the capital where Adam would live like the king and his children would come to visit. (What future did God envisage for man if he wanted him to be fertile and at the same time immortal? Would he create another Earth for the spillover population or would he in time dematerialise some people and take them to Heaven?) But God is still going to take care of Adam and Michael is now going to tell him about the future of him and his children, but first he needs to put Eve to sleep, like she cannot take too much information or something. Have I mentioned Milton’s treatment of Eve makes me quite mad?
Adam keeps on lamenting and wishing he were dead but one thought stops him. Similarly to Hamlet, he is afraid that death may not end his suffering. But then he argues to himself (following, as the Helpful Footnote points out, Milton’s argument in Christian Doctrine) that both his body and soul have to die (Milton believed they are both resurrected at the Last Judgement). I do not quite follow his argument here: Adam seems to say that only what has “life and sin” can die, and the body as such has neither. So his conclusion is that both should die, while mine is that in that case only the soul should die, while the body should lead some kind of dreadful zombie-like existence. His further arguments, a bit more understandable to me, are that God could not create “deathless death”, because that would be a contradiction in terms, so death must be the end. Also man, a finite being, does not deserve infinite punishment. He is also very sorry that his curse is going to be passed down through the generations and thinks it is a bit unjust, to punish with guilt his guiltless children, but then he reasons that he, being himself corrupt, cannot produce innocent offspring. Night comes but it’s not the prelapsarian night, “wholesome, and cool, and mild”, but full of “damps and dreadful gloom”. Eve, hearing Adam’s cries, approaches him to comfort him, but he repulses her.
The serpent now poses himself like a Roman orator and delivers quite a masterful speech, and cunningly he attributes his ability to do so to his having eaten the fruit. “You won’t die”, he says, “look at me, I am alive and much better than I was before. So why should it be forbidden to man? No just God could forbid it, and if he did, he is not just and therefore not God. The fact that he threatened you with death proves that he is not one. He did it so just to keep you in the dark. If eating this fruit elevated me, a mere animal, to a rational and talking being, then it means you, who are already rational, are going to be like gods. So if you die, it’s only going to be metaphorically, as the death of your old selves. Gods only happened to be around first and so they claim everything comes from them, but then, who put the knowledge-granting power into this tree, if apparently it’s there without their permission? How can your knowledge hurt God if he claims to be omnipotent? Maybe it’s just envy, but how can God be envious?” Eve, unfortunately, finds it all too convincing, and besides it is noon and she feels in need of a lunch, and the fruit of the tree smells very tasty.
After a long battle, God’s side starts to win. Night sets in and the angels set up their camp, while Satan’s troops have to flee. Undaunted, Satan gathers his councillors and says, “It’s far from all being lost. I know now, seeing your valour, that you deserve not only liberty, but honour and power. Now you have proven yourself in battle and we know we can’t be killed even though we can be temporarily wounded. If despite the power of angels we are not completely vanquished, perhaps all it takes is stronger weapons to overcome them”. Another fallen angel, Nisroch, tired and with his arms all cut up, stands up and says, “Well, since we’re fighting against the soldiers who apparently can’t sustain any wounds, we are still at disadvantage. We can deal with lack of pleasure but not with constant pain. The one who invents the weapons with which we can overcome the angels would be really our saviour” (I sense some irony here.)
Gabriel sends out his officers to look for the intruder. Ithuriel and Zephon, who were sent to the First Couple’s bower, find Satan there squatting next to their bed and trying to pour temptation into the ear of sleeping Eve. Ithuriel touches him with his spear and startled Satan jumps up like gunpowder touched by a spark. The angels ask him who he is and Satan haughtily answers that they must be really low-rank angels if they can’t remember him, being so high above them in his days of glory. Zephon says, “You got so much uglier since then, now come with us”. Satan is hurt by it, but doesn’t let it show, snapping back, “If I must fight, I’d rather do it with your commander or with you all”, to which Zephon retorts, “The weakest of us can take you down, because you are now wicked, and therefore weak.” They lead him to Gabriel, without any problems since Satan figured out resistance is useless. When they bring him to Gabriel, they explain where they found him.
Satan as a young cherub addresses Uriel, telling him that he is curious about this new creation of God he has heard so much about and he would like to see it: the earth but especially the man. Uriel answers him kindly, and Milton addresses the question that probably has arisen in the minds of many readers (certainly mine): he can’t see past Satan’s disguise: “neither man nor angel can discern/Hypocrisey, the only evil that walks/Invisible, except to God alone.” So Uriel says that it’s not an offense to wish to see the wonders of God’s creation, especially since others are just content to rely on the reports they hear in heaven. All God’s works are wonderful, he says, and this give him (and Milton) a pretext to give us a flashback to the first days of the creation. Then he points the way to the Earth. Satan thanks him politely, bowing low “as to superior Spirits is wont in Heav’n, Where honour due and reverence none neglects”. I wonder if it’s a jab towards some more radical new religious movements such as the Quakers who famously refused to take off their hats or to address anyone by any other form than the familiar “thou”. Then Satan takes off and lands on the top of mount Niphates (the Helpful Footnote says it’s in Assyria, but Wiki, which is never wrong, says it’s in Armenia. I don’t really care.)
Sin continues her tale. She was cast down from Heaven together with the fallen angles and given the key to Hell. She was sitting there lonely until she felt pangs of childbirth and gave birth to Death. She tried to flee him, but he caught her and raped her, impregnating her with the hell hounds which now torment her terribly, creeping back into her womb and gnawing her insides. Death would like to devour her and does not do it only because he knows she’s poisonous. She implores Satan not to confront Death because even he is not immune from the power of Death’s dart. Satan realizes his situation and tries cajoling instead of aggression: he addresses them sweetly as “dear daughter” and “my fair son”, and tells them that his mission is to investigate the Earth where, as he has heard, a new race of upstarts was created by God, possibly to replace the fallen angels. Once he is done, he will return and take them to this beautiful place, where they can roam freely and devour everything. Death grins a horrible ghastly smile at this pleasing perspective and Sin says that although she was told to guard the key of Hell, she does not feel she owes more loyalty to God who cast her down into this dismal place than to her father, who is going to bring to this wonderful new world where she is going to rule, sitting on his right hand.