The role of the angel Raphael, whom God dispatches midway through Paradise Lost to instruct Adam and Eve, has attracted increasingly contentious comment over the last decades. That Raphael's visit takes up a lengthy middle third of Milton's narrative complicates the debate, allowing scholars to focus on various segments of the angelic instruction to adduce evidence for these diverse positions. William Empson, making more strident the critiques of earlier generations, argues that “Adam and Eve would not have fallen unless God had sent Raphael to talk to them, supposedly to strengthen their resistance to temptation.” Empson reasons that, among other flaws, Raphael “never once says the practical thing which would be really likely to prevent the Fall, that Satan is known to have reached the Garden and spoken to Eve in her sleep, and will probably soon address them again in disguise.” More recent scholars such as Kimberly Johnson and Michael Allen also argue that Raphael demonstrates various shortcomings in his rhetorical duties, respectively through casting Satan as a martial foe in book 6 or mishandling Adam's questions in book 8. By contrast, many present a relatively favorable view of Raphael, one claiming that he exemplifies virtue, and others that he explains aspects of Adam and Eve's future redemption and postlapsarian existence. In a more even-handed study, N. K. Sugimura attenuates the weakness of Raphael's account within the larger problems of causation in Paradise Lost. As Sugimura suggests, and as Peter C. Herman more specifically observes, Raphael does not escape the tinge of “contributory negligence” that spreads through the poem. Yet I expand cursory insights regarding Raphael's rhetoric by scholars such as Clay Daniel and Eric Charles Reeves to emphasize Raphael's adroitness in at least two related rhetorical duties. He integrates rhetorical scholarship and precedent into a powerful peroratio, and in doing so he suggests a balance among a complex set of passions within his audience.
In Raphael's peroratio, his concluding speech to Adam in Paradise Lost 8.633–43, the angel brings together the wisdom of classical rhetorical scholarship, classical epic, and the Christian scriptures to help Adam maintain the pre-fall balance of “passions,” or its approximate synonym in the seventeenth century, emotions.