Paradise Lost Essay, Research Paper
In Paradise Lost, John Milton gives great eminence to the character of Satan. The author divides the characters in his epic poem into two sides: one side under God representing good and eternal providence, and the other side under Satan, representing evil and sin. This creature went from a beautiful, perfect being named Lucifer, living in the light and glory of heaven, to Satan, the prince of darkness who was banished to the earth. Essentially, Satan became the representative of all evil who allied with the fallen angels that aided in his revolt against God. Not only is Satan given the most important role in Milton s famous epic, but the author draws upon the psychological states of Satan. The reader is able to identify and sympathize with Satan as he appears to be very attractive, intelligent, and manipulative. Nonetheless, Satan is an endlessly intriguing character who possesses the complexity of humanistic features as his emotions and attitudes are explored by the author.
One of Satan s most prominent characteristics is deception. In Paradise Lost, he manages to make other people believe and furthermore, trust in him. Deception is the most obvious weapon that Satan utilizes to persuade some of the characters in the poem. Nearly every statement he makes can be seen as a lie or delusion. Milton first describes him as Who first seduced them to that foul revolt? Th infernal serpent; he it was, whose guile/ Stirred up with envy and revenge, deceived/ The mother of mankind (Book I, 33-36). These lines illustrate Satan s successful attempt of playing the serpent who tempts Eve and, through her, Adam, into committing the Original Sin. As a result of their curiosity, temptation, and indulgence, Adam and Eve cause the downfall of man. This in a way is the death of the perfect man. It is at this point that mankind s progenitors get a new perspective on their emotions. They are no longer tempted nor are they curious; they can more easily distinguish what they should have done. This change is initiated by their change of emotions, not because God instilled this knowledge in them. As a result, mankind has the capacity of free will and choice. Consequently, it is through Satan s jealousy and desire for retribution towards God that drove him to his seduction of Eve by deceiving her.
Another distinguished feature of Satan is his power of persuasion. He tries to use logical explanations to accumulate the trust and faith of his legions of angels in order to help him fight to regain Heaven. Satan persuades them to go to war in his speech where he argues that he has established in a safe unenvied throne (Book II 23). According to him, it seems as though the misery of the rebels is complete, therefore no one would actually envy the throne of Satan. Every improvement in Heaven s state must tend to weaken Hell s authority, and since every misery is its basis, then to exhaust the firmness of Satan s union is the very ground required for Heaven s hope of victory. Satan says, With this advantage we now return/ To claim our just inheritance of old,/ Surer to prosper then prosperity/ Could have assured us; and by what best way,/ Whether of open Warr or covert guile (Book II, 35-41). The aim of Satan s speech is to instill a mood and to cheer spirits as he makes Hell seem almost a haven. Satan s false spontaneous reasoning was meant solely to serve as one of his methods to influence the minds of his fellow followers.
On the whole, Satan has been portrayed as a richly conniving deceiver and manipulator. However, Milton characterizes Satan in a different view at the beginning of
Book IV by presenting Satan s remorse when he is on earth, looking at the Garden of Eden. Satan is reminded of his disobedience when he sees the beauty and innocence of Earth where he once lived. He says, O sun, to tell thee how I hate thy beams/ That bring to my remembrance from what state/ I fell, how glorious once above thy sphere;/ Till pride and worse ambition threw me down (Book IV, 38-41). Satan reasons that his ambition would always bring about his downfall because he would freely make the same choice. Essentially, Satan is the embodiment of Hell as Hell cannot even escape from his own psyche. In the end, Satan says, Farewell remorse: all good to me is lost;/ Evil be thou my good; by thee at least/ Divided empire with heav n s Kings I hold/ By thee, and more than half perhaps will reign; As man ere long, and this new world shall know (Book IV, 109-113). Since Satan commits himself to evil, he is in a continual state of revenge, remorse and envy.
In Paradise Lost, Milton is successful in portraying humanistic features in the character of Satan, thereby enabling readers to identify with him and to see the contrast between good and evil. The author tends to focus on the characterization of Satan rather than God in order to justify some of the natural states of mankind. Milton also shows Satan s ways of deceit, jealousy, and destruction through various dreadful acts and he is presented as a magnificent rebel. Overall, Satan can be seen as a successful military leader and an accomplished politician. His complex character changes from an arrogant revenge seeker, representing a commander whose voice alone gives hope and renewed life to his followers, to the clever manipulator of parliamentary action during the Consultation, and then a creature who showed great confidence who eventually goes through remorse. It is quintessential to believe that he accomplished all that just by seducing and manipulating the characters in the poem. Perhaps the greatest accomplishment of Milton s portrayal of Satan is that he is viewed and identified as a person. With the powerful character representation by Milton, the reader is able to see the bad in evil and sin through Satan, and the good and justifications in the judgments of God.