Paradise Lost, 2 April: Mammon

Near the beginning of Book 2 of Milton’s “Paradise Lost”, Mammon delivers a speech. Paying attention to lines 269 through 277 (“As He our darkness, cannot we see His light [...] As soft now sever, our temper changed into their temper”), what do you think Mammon is saying about the situation? Do you sense an optimism or a pessimism (or neither) at play here? What do you think Mammon might be saying about Heaven?

7 thoughts on “Paradise Lost, 2 April: Mammon

  1. This conclave of demons is quite interesting as they bicker and debate over which is the right course of action to pursue since the exile from heaven. Certainly out of all the declarations of possible courses of action, mammon wanting to develop separate from heaven is the most different compared to the usual stories of heaven and hell. When he moves to advice such as, “Compose our present evils, with regard Of what we are and where, dismissing quite All thoughts of war” (282-284) I believe he is pointing to optimism. I think Mammon is against waging further war with heaven because he acknowledges the futility of the battling. This unique approach to building a new heaven of sorts is highly progressive, especially given any sort of progression by a demonic force would be seen as possibly heretical. The fact that all the other demons were willing to give this a try also gives power to this viewpoint. Mammon acknowledges heaven is a superior power, so rather than fight it, he would rather emulate it in his own way.

  2. During Mammon’s speech, I sense optimism in his argument that they should attempt to industrialize and build Hell up to imitate the greatness of Heaven. He says that Hell has just as much “hidden lustre, gems, and gold” as Heaven does and that the devils skill is equal to the angels (271). He suggests they use what they have to their advantage and build up a kingdom of their own rather than try to continue warring with God. I think that although Mammon recognizes that Heaven is currently superior to them and it would be unwise to challenge Heaven again, he does not think it will be that way forever. He thinks that with enough hard work put into making Hell great, they could perhaps be just as powerful if not more so than Heaven is. This positive attitude and idea of building Hell up out of the ruins is a very different concept than what we normally think of when considering Hell and the demons who reside there. I think we typically view them as desiring only evil and the ruin of others. However, this perspective shows the devils to be more human and interested in not only power but also making the most out of their situation.

  3. I have a similar opinion concerning Mammon’s tone in Book II of “Paradise Lost”. Although the demons will be forever denied from Heaven, Mammon’s words portray it as an undesirable place. Mammon offers, “How wearisome eternity so spent in worship paid to whom we hate!” (247-48). His speech is motivational, and he rallies his fellow demons by reassuring them that with the creation of Hell, they can “Thrive under evil, and work ease out of pain” (261). According to Mammon, their version of Heaven will “Remove the sensible of pain” (278). The final lines of his speech are equally powerful. He calls for the demons to “Compose our present evils…[and dismiss]…all thoughts of war” (282-283). In many parts of his speech, Mammon’s tone suggests he is excited and hopeful about establishing a counterpart to Heaven.

  4. Rather than wage war on heaven and risk being granted access back into heaven, Mammon prefers “hard liberty before the easy yoke/ Of servile pomp” (256-7). He would rather be miserable in hell than falsely serve under God in heaven. Mammon’s speech provides an interesting contrast to Belial’s speech that came before him. Belial also proposed not going to war, but unlike his fake and sugary words, Mammon is much more real. Instead of the laziness Belial is advocating, Mammon says they should create their own kingdom in hell “through labour and endurance” (262). He also suggests that they will soon be accustomed to the hardships of hell. In the light of the rest of the demons his speech is positive–it advocates peace and looks forward to a more comfortable hell. His speech could be saying that heaven could just as easily have been created by demons as by God which blurs lines between good and evil.

  5. I think that Mammon’s speech, and all the demons’ speeches, indicate just how much they hate God and Heaven. Furthermore, the variety in their ideas shows how there are different ways they conceive to challenge God and Heaven. I think a typical audience would expect the demons to be very one-sided and flat characters who would all vocalize the exact same expressions of evil and hatred. However, these speeches show there to be much greater complexity to Hell and its inhabitants. Mammons’ speech in particular offers an interesting angle. I agree with Tanna Bolin in saying that Mammon would rather be miserable in Hell than to falsely serve God. However, he also is not content with being miserable. He is confident that they do not need God to imitate His glory: “cannot we His light/ Imitate when we please? This desert soil/ Wants not her hidden lustre, gems and gold;/ /Nor want we skill or art from whence to raise/ Magnificence; and what can Heav’n show more?” (269-73). This concept of self-sufficiency is very prideful; although industrious, Mammon is not expressing virtue.

  6. Mammon, the third to speak after Satan, has a somewhat different opinion than his previous peers. Though he agrees with Belial in the fact that they should call Hell there new home, but not with the intent that God may forgive them eventually. First he explains why living in Heaven would be no better than Hell because up in Heaven they would have to obey God’s stringent laws and “to His godhead sing Forced hallelujahs, while He lordly sits Our envied Sovereign,” (242-244.) Relaying the idea that it is better to live in the fiery recesses of Hell than to be ruled by a being that everyone hates. As for the tone of his speech it is overall very optimistic. He states that Hell has many “gems and gold” to be raised from the ground for their magnificence. Mammon continues by saying that maybe in time Hell want be seen as inferior, but will give rise to a great kingdom that rivals all of Heaven.

  7. Mammon is saying they can’t beat God by battling, because the battle “by force” would be “impossible” (250). However they can thrive where he’s placed them for punishment, which in a way, defeats God. There’s nothing God could do to hurt them, because they are in control of their domain, and in this way, they still triumph over God. Mammon pleads for a “settled state of order” and “how in safety best we may carry out our evils” (280-281). Mammon is not a risk taker. He wishes to remain where he believes they will be able to create their own world, where they are in control, rather than risk servitude to God once again. He wants to stay where it’s “safe” (which is ironic, because it’s hell) but to him, safety means control. He’d rather be in control and create his own world, rather than risk being under one “whom [he] hates” (249).

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