The Son hears the prayers for forgiveness from Adam and Eve and presents them to God, asking if the pleas for forgiveness aren’t somehow sweeter now that mankind knows the difference between good and evil.
God agrees and decides to lighten his judgment of the two. But, he says, mankind must be forbidden to live in Paradise. God calls a council to proclaim his decisions, and tells the archangel Michael to go down to Paradise with a squadron of Cherubim to evict Adam and Eve.
Adam and Eve wake and Adam says that perhaps all is not lost. They then see Michael coming down from heaven and grow afraid.
Michael approaches Adam and tells him that he and Eve must leave Eden. Adam laments their loss of Eden, but mostly because he will be far from God. Michael replies that God is everywhere, even outside of Eden.
Michael then brings Adam to a hill to show him what will happen to him and his offspring up until the flood. He shows Adam how all his offspring will be corrupted by Adam’s sin and demonstrates by telling him about the story of Cain and Abel and the introduction of violence into mankind.
Michael tells him of the other ways man will die: fire, flood, famine, bad food and drink, and a long litany of diseases.
Adam asks how man can avoid these horrible deaths. Michael replies “by temperance taught, ” “the rule of not too much” and then man might die a peaceful death.
Michael continues and narrates the stories of the sons of Cain, the prophet Enoch, and Noah and the Flood.
Many critics have argued that Milton implies that mankind was actually better off in the eyes of God and in the eyes of Adam and Eve having fallen. The opening of this chapter seems to enforce this view, as the prayers for forgiveness from Adam and Eve appear more sweet and valuable now that they can choose evil or good and now voluntarily choose good. There was only one thing they could do while they were in the pre-Fall garden and that was to eat from the Tree of Knowledge. Other than that, nearly everything they did was ordered and just. Now, they’ re universe has opened up, in a phrase, and they see that they can be controlled by animal instincts constantly if they so choose. But they choose to repent and continue to praise God (and, by the way, they finally stop fighting when they decide to do this).
According to these critics, then, the Fall was not only a necessary thing, but it was a good thing, a fortunate or happy fall, for both God and the humans. Loving and praising God now becomes a rarer, more appreciated act.
The idea of the “happy fall” is reinforced by the fact that the Son of God would never have come to earth in the form of Jesus Christ without the Fall. The phrase, “thy seed shall bruise our foe,” is repeated again and again in the final books of Paradise Lost. The phrase, we see now, is referring to the seed of Eve: who will be, down the line, the Son on earth, i.e. Jesus Christ: and how he will crush Satan and Death and Sin. The Fall of man makes his redemption through Christ possible.
The question that many critics and theologians ask is, “was mankind destined to fall?” For that matter, was Satan destined to fall? It is clear for Milton that God knew all along that man was going to fall, he told his Son long before it actually happened. Satan accuses God of creating him with a nature that was prone to pride, and, therefore, destined to fall. The idea of the “happy fall,” perhaps, mitigates this accusation. God, indeed, predestined that Adam should fall so that he could show his love for mankind by sending his Son as sacrifice. Still, if Adam and Eve and Satan were all predestined to fall, are we, as well, destined to act by our natures in a way that God has already ordained?
Milton began his poem by saying that he meant to justify the ways of God to man. We see now that Milton actually meant that he intended to give a justification for God’s actions, not just provide a narration or explanation of them. Is God, as a character, justified in this creation story? Or is he the all-seeing tyrant that Satan accuses him of being?
The question, in Milton’s time, was personified in the battle between the Calivinists, who believed in predestination, and the Catholic Church, who believed man’s free will gave him a constant choice between good and evil. Milton, in his epic, seems to take a fragile middle road between the two.