The next morning Adam awakes from a restful sleep, but Eve seems disturbed and restless. She tells Adam that she has had troubling dreams, as it seems a voice was whispering to her in the night. In the dream she followed the voice, thinking it to be Adam’s, and it led her to the Tree of Knowledge. There she saw a creature who looked like an angel, and he took a fruit from the Tree and ate it. The angel then praised the taste of the fruit and asked Eve to eat as well.
Eve’s dream foreshadows the disobedience she will soon experience. In her innocent, ignorant state, she could not even have conceived of ideas like this without Satan’s whispered suggestions. Again Eve follows and trusts a mysterious, invisible voice.
In the dream the angel told Eve that the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge would make her even happier, as she would be like “the gods,” and he held out a sweet-smelling piece of the fruit. Eve seemed to eat it, but she did not actually experience the disobedient act in the dream. Immediately she flew up into the sky with the angel, but then he disappeared. She then woke up and was happy to discover that it was only a dream.
Eve still cannot conceive of the ultimate act of disobedience – Satan can only suggest eating the fruit; he cannot actually put the image in her mind. Satan does introduce some of the methods of his temptation, notably that if Eve eats the fruit she will be like “the gods” and lifted above her proper station.
Adam is troubled by this dream, and wonders where evil would come from in Eden, but he reassures Eve that she is still blameless for sinning in a dream, and that the dream does not necessarily predict the future. Eve still has her free will to be obedient in her waking life. Eve cries two tears but then is cheered by Adam’s words, and they praise God spontaneously and profusely. They then go about their morning work tending to the garden, leading “the vine / To wed her elm.”
Eve remains sinless, as the disobedience in her dream was entirely Satan’s suggestion and she couldn’t even imagine the physical eating of the fruit. In this book Milton begins to emphasize the free will Adam and Eve had, even as he also emphasizes the seeming inevitability of their fall. The work in the garden echoes the submission of female to male in Milton’s hierarchy.
The scene shifts to Heaven, where God calls the Archangel Raphael and tells him that Satan has entered Paradise and is trying to corrupt Adam and Eve. God does not want to be blamed for leaving Adam and Eve ignorant about Satan and the consequences of disobedience, so he sends Raphael to speak with Adam and warn him about the tempter in Eden and remind him that he has free will. Thus God fulfills his obligation to his own Justice.
Milton heightens the paradox of free will versus predestination. He continues to foreshadow the Fall and show that it is inevitable, as God has already foreseen it, but at the same time he tries to show how much free will Adam and Eve actually have. Every Christian already knows the outcome of the “conflict,” but Milton adds gravity to the single act of disobedience with all this preamble.
Raphael flies immediately from Heaven to Eden. When he lands he assumes his natural shape, a naked figure clothed in six beautiful wings. He then passes through the garden and Adam sees his approaching light. Adam tells Eve to set out all their best food and prepare for an honored guest. Eve prepares some delicious food and drink while Adam leaves the bower to meet Raphael. Adam bows and invites Raphael inside to stay until the day grows less hot.
Milton totally invents this meeting, as nowhere in the Bible are Adam and Eve warned about Satan. Milton adds these scenes to strengthen his argument for free will, going against what most of his Puritan compatriots believed. The warnings and “freedom” don’t create suspense, as we already know the story’s outcome, but they do heighten the tragedy of the Fall.
Raphael accepts, and the two enter the bower where Eve waits, naked and more beautiful than any of the ancient Greek goddesses, but still virtuous and innocent. Raphael greets her, blessing her womb which will give birth to all of humanity. They then sit down and eat, and Raphael discusses heavenly food and earthly food – though angels are pure spirit, they can also eat mortal food, transforming it like an alchemist turns iron to gold. Milton laments again the Paradise that has been lost, where humans and angels could eat together as friends.
With this invented scene Milton also builds up the glory of pre-Fallen man – Adam and Eve could eat and talk with an angel as if with a friend. He compares this to the current state of the world and laments everything that has been lost. Through Raphael Milton is also able discourse on various subjects, including his theories about the science of Heavenly substances and whether angels could partake in physical acts.
After the meal Adam wants to ask Raphael about heavenly knowledge, and he questions Raphael further about angels’ food. Raphael answers by discussing the kinds of substances in God’s creation. There are different levels in the hierarchy, with each higher form retaining the attributes of the substance below it – plants and inanimate objects have form but no physical senses, animals have physical senses, and humans have both physical senses and internal spirit, and so are the highest life forms on Earth. Raphael then warns that Adam and Eve must always use their spirit and reason to be obedient to God.
In adding so much to the Biblical account of the Fall Milton risks blasphemy, and indeed he recognizes his own soaring ambition. Milton does believe his poem to be divinely inspired though, just like the Bible, and he truly invokes the Holy Spirit to speak through him when he addresses the Muse throughout the poem. Milton expands on the hierarchy inherent in all of matter throughout the universe – everything is symmetrical and ordered in God’s creation.
Adam asks why any being would choose to be disobedient to God, and Raphael tells Adam (Eve has possibly left the scene) that his happy state is not permanent, but depends on his own actions. Adam and Eve are created as perfect but still have free will, as God only wants love and praise that is freely given. Raphael mentions that some angels have refused to be obedient, and so have been cast from Heaven into Hell. Adam says he has heard rumors of this, but he asks Raphael to tell him the full story.
Adam is still mostly ignorant of even the concept of disobedience. Milton follows another epic tradition in beginning this long backstory through dialogue. Like other epics, he began “in media res” (in the middle of the action) to grab the reader’s attention, and now he explains the context and history through a character’s narration.
Raphael begins by explaining how difficult it is to describe heavenly things in earthly terms, but that he will give Adam more than his allotted knowledge if only to teach him the consequences of disobedience. He begins his story: When Heaven was still united and at peace, before God had created the mortal universe out of Chaos, God summoned all his angels to hear an announcement. Millions of angels gathered with their standards raised, and God declared that he had begotten a Son, who was from then on to rule at his right hand and as equal to God, “United as one individual soul.”
Raphael’s challenge in describing Heaven to Adam echoes Milton’s own dilemma. The poet is trying to describe the Divine, the Heavenly, and the Unfallen in fallen, inherently corrupt language. This also relates to Milton’s authority in describing such mysteries. Other then his belief in his own divine inspiration, Milton also intends an allegorical level to his tale, as his fallen language points to something purer and truer.
All the angels were pleased at this news except for one, one of the most powerful (if not the most powerful) Archangels, he who is now called Satan. That night during the heavenly twilight this Archangel could not sleep, for he was tormented by envy for the Son of God. The Archangel was proud and did not want to worship the Son, but felt that he himself deserved the same honor and power as God.
Milton departs from orthodox Christianity with this scene, where God “begets” the Son at a specific point in time. In the traditional doctrine of the Trinity, the Son is eternally begotten of the Father, as both of them exist outside time. Milton does not deny the Son’s divinity, but he does stand by his own individual interpretation of Christian doctrine with this divergence.
That same night Satan spoke to his second-in-command (now called Beelzebub) and ordered him to assemble all the angels under their command. He ordered them to fly to their region of the North of Heaven, where Satan falsely said they would prepare to “receive our King / The great Messiah, and his new commands,” as the Son had planned to survey Heaven and impose new laws. A third of the angels of Heaven went with Satan, trusting totally in his decrees, and they left that same night for the North.
Almost all the details of the war in Heaven are Milton’s invention, but through Raphael’s prologue he implies that the metaphorical truth is what is most important. He is trying to teach the reader about disobedience and Heavenly power, just as Raphael is trying to teach Adam.
God and his Son watched all this happen, though Satan thought he was being secret. God was pleased at this opportunity to display his omnipotence and bring glory to his Son, and the Son was also proud to show his new divine power to those who had doubted him. Meanwhile Satan and his millions, all arranged according to power and rank, travelled into the vast regions of the North, and Satan (who was then associated with Lucifer, the morning star) set up his own throne on a hill, in appearance a reflection of God’s throne.
Satan’s is the first sin of the universe, and it is the sin of pride – thinking himself equal to God – which basically equates to reaching above his place in the divine hierarchy. As in all the scenes in Heaven there is no real conflict, as God already knows about Satan’s rebellion and how he will easily defeat it. Satan has often been associated with Lucifer, but this was originally just as symbol of his original brightness in Heaven.
Satan called his armies before him and delivered a speech, saying that they had been unjustly ruled by God, and now that they are supposed to also worship the Son the injustice is doubled. Satan proposed that they “cast off this yoke” and take up their own sovereignty, as they are all equals of God in freedom, if not in power, and so they should live rightfully free.
Satan presents his cause as the side of freedom in a twisted version of Milton’s own political philosophy. Milton saw the monarchy in England as a tyranny unworthy of rule, but he saw God as the rightful monarch, and so Satan’s rebellion is evil in that it goes against the order of Nature.
Satan was then interrupted by the angel Abdiel, who alone of all the legions objected to Satan’s argument. Abdiel called Satan blasphemous, and affirmed that God was the rightful king of Heaven, as he created all the angels (including Satan) and set them in a proper hierarchy, with himself and his Son at the head. Abdiel begged that Satan and the other angels repent of their pride while they still could, but they refused.
Abdiel is the only dissenter to this argument, showing how easily Satan swayed millions of angels to his cause. Abdiel speaks with Milton’s voice, trying to “justify God” even as Milton gives Satan a persuasive, dynamic argument.
Satan argued that he could not remember when he was created by God, so he must be self-created and “self-begot.” Because of this he has as many rights as God himself, and deserves to try his strength against the throne of Heaven. All his followers applauded at this except for Abdiel, who cursed Satan and the other rebel angels and warned them to fear God’s omnipotent power. The rebel angels mocked him but Abdiel endured their taunts and flew away, returning to the side of God.
This scene shows how Satan’s reasoning has declined – originally he actually thought he was self-created and equal to God, and so his argument for freedom had more weight. By the time he is in Eden, however, Satan basically acknowledges God’s total authority and omnipotence but still tries to spite him in any way he can.