Book three begins on Prince Myshkin's birthday. He is at the Yepanchin's summerhouse in Pavlovsk. He, the Yepanchins (Madame and her three daughters, Prince S., and Radomsky are discussing Russian liberalism.
Radamsky maintains that liberalism goes contrary to what Russia and Russians are. He says that a Russian who claims he is a liberal is therefore not Russian. According to Radomsky, liberalism is something imported from Europe. His view is that the landowners and the priestly class, (two classes seen as "intellectual" classes in a Western sense), have merely only adopted and slightly modified western doctrines; therefore, their adopted liberalism is not something that belongs to Russian soil. He goes on to say that the Russian liberals are not for the betterment of their country; he declares they attack the very foundation on which Russia stands. Therefore Russian liberals, because they deny their country as it exists and has always existed, are not Russians.
Prince Myshkin, who has not been feeling well, tries to excuse his queer behavior. His candid confession is seen by the party as another outburst of idiocy. Aglaya is annoyed by the Prince's behavior. She loves the prince for his compassionate and good character (this love, at this point in the story, is greatly alluded to). Aglaya despises the Prince for his naïve confessions like this one. When people make fun of the Prince, she despises him, especially because often the prince takes insults like a meek child. Yelling at the Prince, she says, "Why are you abasing yourself, setting yourself lower than them? Why have you got everything twisted up inside, why is there no pride in you?" She is a proud woman, and although she loves the prince, she will not be seen as an idiot's suitor. What she does not see is the subtle dignity the Prince maintains, even though it may seem he is easily submitting.
The plot thickens between Aglaya and the Prince. Aglaya accuses her mother, sisters, and the prince of scheming to get Aglaya to wed the Prince. (No such scheme has been thought up at all.) Turning to the prince, she tells him that she won't marry him for anything, that no matter how much they all tease her, she will never accept his hand. To this, the prince suddenly replies, "I haven't asked you, Aglaya Ivanovna." At this, Aglaya appears to calm down and even starts to laugh. The party decide to go for a walk to the park, and as they leave, Aglaya says to the Prince: "prince, you will escort me. May he, maman? A suitor who has refused me? You have rejected me for good haven't you now, Prince."
They all go to see the bands in the pleasure garden. Aglaya, walking with the Prince hand in hand, points out a green bench in the park where she goes to every morning. The prince doesn't grasp that she is alluding to a rendezvous she has in mind. Later, when the Prince gets a note from Aglaya which asks him to meet her at that bench the next morning, Aglaya is disgusted in the fact that she had to tell him everything, that the prince couldn't figure out what she was up to himself. At the bandstand an interesting incident takes place: Nastasya Fillipnova appears there in the flesh. The Yepanchin group is flabbergasted to see before them the woman who has been acting on their fate. Nastasya has already planted a shadow of doubt in the Yepanchin's minds, concerning Radomsky's character, by associating herself with him. She is looked upon as a disgrace to the high society and as a fallen creature. Nastasya approaches Radomsky and mocks him with the news of his uncle's suicide. Nastasya's reason for pestering Radomsky is she hopes to cast him down from the eyes of the Yepanchins. He is a perspective suitor to Aglaya, and therefore is regarded with high esteem by the Yepanchins. If she is successful in blemishing his character, he will not get to marry Aglaya, which will leave Prince Myshkin as her only suitor. Nastasya, as she confesses later, simply cannot marry the Prince. She loves the prince, and because she does, she wants him to be happy. And Nastasya doesn't believe she could ever make the prince happy, but she sees that Aglaya can. If the Prince marries Aglaya, whom he loves, he will be happy. Nastasya wants the prince to be happy and, if this marriage took place, she would therefore gain the liberty to do anything. This freedom, of course, is an illusion for she herself loves the Prince dearly. Prince Myshkin is disconcerted at having Aglaya and Nastasya present at the same place at the same time.
A scandal follows Nastasya's conversation with Radomsky. A friend of Radomsky can't help insulting Nastasya, who in turn strikes him across the face with a riding crop. The young officer is about to strike her when the prince interrupts, and holds him back. The officer shoves the prince back, but then Keller comes to the prince's rescue. The prince gets involved in the incident and now is thus at the risk of a duel with the officer.
On the same evening the prince receives a note from Aglaya telling him to meet her at the green bench the following morning at seven o'clock. That night, Prince Myshkin wanders to the green bench, where he mysteriously comes upon Rogozhin. The prince hasn't seen Rogozhin since the night in the hotel corridor, where Rogozhin attempted to murder him. The prince has forgiven Rogozhin however. He says to him: "the only Parfion Rogozhin I know is the one I exchanged crosses with that day in brotherhood." He also says that he himself is just as much of a sinner as Rogozhin is, because he suspected that Rogozhin would kill him that day, he had a suspicion towards his brother. Rogozhin tells the prince that Nastasya wishes to see him immediately, and the prince replies that he will go to see her tomorrow. Rogozhin then reveals that Nastasya and Aglaya have been corresponding through letters.
The prince returns with Rogozhin to his lodging at Lebedev's house. There, a party is taking place to celebrate the prince's birthday. The highlights of this gathering are:
(1) Lebedev's interpretation of St. John's Revelation (Apocalypse)
Lebedev points out that the growing scientific rational, the spreading idea that self-interest comes before anything else, and the diminishing love of humanity are all signs that the Apocalypse is near. People becoming too commercial; people weighing everything against self-interest and self-preservation-these are signs that symbolize, (according to Lebedev), that the age of the last horseman is here. He sees a breakdown of humanity, a once great entity that for centuries held together human beings.
(2) Ippolit's confession and his attempted suicide
Ippolit reads an open letter (an epigraph) to all his friends. His writing has greatly to do with his approaching death. The letter is full of the delusions and despair of a dying man. It retails horrifying nightmares and imaginings. But it also poses some interesting ideas. Ippolit, a man with few months to live, looks around him at people who are healthy, and wonders why they don't live life to it's fullest. In his own words, "I knew for a fact that I had consumption and was incurable. I didn't deceive myself and I understood the position clearly. But the clearer it became to me, the more feverishly I longed to live; I clung to life and wanted to live, come what mayI couldn't comprehend, for example, why these people with so much life at their disposal were incapable of getting richWhose fault is it if they are unhappy and incapable of living, though they each have sixty years of life ahead of them?If he's alive, everything must be within his power! Whose fault is it that he doesn't understand that?" And most strikingly, Ippolit states: "What matters is life, life alone, the continuos and infinite process of discovering it, not the discovery itself." Also, Ippolit comments on Holbein's painting, and he, like prince Myshkin, is greatly affected by it. The painting has the power to shake down faith in God. The letter also speaks of a good deed Ippolit did, helping a poor man get a good job. Finally, Ippolit writes: "What is there for me in all this beauty, when I am forced to be aware every minute, every second, that even this tiny fly bussing in the sunbeam near me, even that is a participant in all this festival and chorus, knows its place, loves it, and is happy, while I am the sole outcast, and only my cowardice has prevented me from wanting to face it before." This comment especially strikes the prince, for he has experienced what Ippolit describes before. While in Switzerland, and even at times now, the prince feels like an outcast, separate from all of humanity and the entire world. In this way, Prince Myshkin and Ippolit are the same. The letter also reveals Ippolit's plans to kill himself in the morning as soon as the sun rises.
Suicide is a recurring theme in Dostoevsky's novels. It is a proof that a person has attained the status of a superman-that is, he can take life, something that God gave him, and because he can take it, he's like God. One has such powerful control over oneself that suicide is possible. Suicide signifies the epitome of one's disbelief in God. Ippolit, at this point, is certainly one who has no conviction of God.
The people gathered at the house plead with Ippolit not to commit suicide. Ippolit appears to consent, but when the sun rises, he runs out of the house, pulls out his pistol, aims the barrel at his head, and pulls the trigger. The gun doesn't go off because there is no firing cap in the bullet. Ippolit's friends are left to formulate their opinion about him. Some criticize him and jeer, while the prince and others believe him and sympathize. But the majority of people hold that Ippolit was only showing off, and had no intention of really killing himself.
The second most important even in book three occurs after the melodrama involving Ippolit. The prince goes to see Aglaya in the morning. The bizarre love triangle of Aglaya, the prince, and Nastasya is better revealed during this meeting. Aglaya vaguely confesses her love to the prince by proposing to run away with him. He declines. Then Aglaya gives the prince all the letters Nastasya has written to her. Aglaya knows that Nastasya loves the prince, but wants the prince to marry Aglaya. Aglaya does love the prince, but she wants him to love him by his own free will, not because others want him too. The prince, it must be remembered, is bent on being Nastasya's savior. This rendezvous between the prince and Aglaya is interrupted by Mrs. Yepanchin.
When the prince reads the letters Nastasya wrote to Aglaya, he finds they praise Aglaya, and speak of how the prince loves her (Aglaya). Nastasya maintains throughout that she is merely trying to make the prince happy, a person who knows how unhappy she is and who has sympathy for her. The Nastasya of these letters, beseeching and humble, is not the Nastasya we have seen elsewhere in the book.
The problem, of course, isn't to be solved easily, for the prince insists
on saving Nastasya. Nastasya know she cannot love anyone but the prince.
The prince is vague and naïve when it comes to love for a woman, not
just compassion for a woman. The love he knows is the Christian ideal.
Aglaya is in love with Myshkin, but cannot stand the presence of Nastasya,
a woman whom Myshkin
The Book of Revelation
An Interpretation of The Four Horsemen of Apocalypse