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Paradise Lost by John Milton - Barron's Booknotes
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BOOK III

The scene now shifts to Heaven, where for the first time we see God, his Son, and the angels. Book III is almost a point-for-point contrast with the two preceding books. All is light here, as all was darkness in Hell. In Heaven there is a council, as there was in Hell, but it is characterized by harmony and expressions of love. Just as Satan undertook the task of spying on man, so the Son takes on the burden of dying to redeem mankind.

Contrast this introduction to Heaven with Book I's description of Satan in Hell. You may find that God and his Son lack the characteristics-human failings-which make the fallen angels interesting. In Satan, God has a hard act to follow, and Milton hasn't given him much help. It's quite difficult to think of ways in which absolute authority could be given a human face, especially when by definition God's choices cannot be understood by man.

The poetry of the scenes in Heaven has a different texture. There aren't many epic similes or classical allusions in this book (which is one-third shorter than Book II). Most of the classical references are found in the first part, where Milton speaks of himself, and the last, where Satan continues his journey and lands on the sun. God and his Son converse in quite straight-forward statements; whether you agree with God or not, you can follow his argument quite easily.



NOTE: THE CHRISTIAN TRINITY In Christian theology, God has a mystic three-in-one, one-in-three unity. The Godhead has three aspects: God the Father is the original authority, while God the Son has a special affinity for mankind, since he himself became man to redeem Adam's sin. God the Holy Spirit is not mentioned until Book XII, when his coming is foretold. But you will remember that Milton prayed to the Holy Spirit after the first invocation.

The threefold nature of the Christian God separates him from the Hebrew deity, who has only one aspect. The Holy Trinity is a difficult concept to grasp, not least because, although the Son and the Holy Spirit are revealed later in time, they have existed as part of God from the beginning. They are therefore present at the creation of everything, including the angels.

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Paradise Lost by John Milton - Barron's Booknotes
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