Mar 22: Paradise Lost: Book 1

Describe Satan’s character in book 1 of Paradise Lost. How is Milton’s description of him different than how you would envision Satan? Or is it the same?

13 thoughts on “Mar 22: Paradise Lost: Book 1

  1. As characterized by Milton in Paradise Lost, Satan is chaotic and manipulative, but also brilliant and charismatic. Milton offers an intriguing take on Satan, giving him depth and complexity beyond previous iterations of the fallen angel. Milton’s Satan is in line with my personal conception of Satan, largely due to my experiences with popular culture. Paradise Lost was a huge influence on the depiction of Satan, and the portrayal of Satan as a somewhat sympathetic character arose chiefly from Milton’s epic poem, as did the conflation of the fallen angel, Lucifer, with the ruler of hell, Satan. Today, most popular works that involve Satan follow in Milton’s tradition, with a trickster-like figure whose downfall came about because of his own excessive pride. With such lines as “The mind is its own place, and in itself / Can make Heav’n of Hell, a Hell of Heav’n,” Milton creates a sympathetic character from a figure meant to be evil incarnate (lines 254-255).

  2. I definitely agree with Hannah about how Milton continually reminds the reader about how Lucifer is a fallen angel and even though there are some “bad” traits, like the previously mentioned ones of being chaotic and manipulative (and also the implied ones like devious, disobedient, and unrepentant coming from him not listening to God and showing no remorse for the wrongs he had done), but Milton also brings some to light that are “good.” Lucifer is portrayed, for one, as intelligent and having leadership qualities when he brings together the other fallen angels and makes his own army and like Hannah said before, he is shown to be charismatic and sympathetic. I do not have as positive of a view of Lucifer as depicted in Paradise Lost. This is partially because of the fact that my family is not overtly religious and it was not common for us to go to church. And as a result, what comes to mind when I think of Satan is not necessarily the fallen angel view, at least not the same as Milton’s. Most of my ideas about Lucifer come from the television show “Supernatural,” which does remind the viewer that he is a fallen angel but really emphasizes his dark side. He is shown to be manipulative, aggressive, sadistic, and barbarous (as well as other negative qualities). There are absolutely no positive characteristics depicted of him in this show, which is pretty much in line with the way that I envision him.

  3. The Satan in Milton’s Paradise Lost is in some ways everything we would expect him to be; he is manipulative, subtle, and incredibly prideful, so much so as to think he actually stood a chance rebelling against God himself. But he is also different, because Milton portrays the story from his point of view, making him sympathetic and relatable, while also giving him a level of complexity that may not be initially expected. All of Book 1 is completely in the perspective of Satan and his legions of fallen angels after they were cast into Hell, exploring the things they went through and the reactions they had after being defeated. We see Satan rallying these fallen angels towards a common goal – of doing evil for the rest of eternity and doing everything they can to inconvenience God as revenge for their punishment. He is clearly not a good character, and we see from the very beginning how he is defined by his pride and his vow to commit atrocities for the rest of time, but by putting it in his perspective, the audience has to see through his eyes and perceive the situation as he does, thus creating empathy for him and his fallen angels. We feel the absence of God’s presence as they do, as he is only mentioned throughout this book. Milton utilizes this empathy to let us understand Satan, as one cannot truly resist sin if they don’t understand where it came from and how it works.

  4. In Paradise Lost, Satan is presented as a complex character, rather than a one-dimensional entity embodying the concept of evil. This contrasts with my prior experience as a Catholic, in that we are taught that Satan is the antithesis of God, the true culmination of all evil in the world. The figure of Satan as an almost sympathetic character, therefore, is an interesting perspective for me.

    • I agree that this portrayal of Satan is interesting to say the least. First of all it is quite unusual in religious texts to even have Satan’s as a perspective. That in and of itself certainly stands out as Satan is usually just a figure that creates problems or as said above the antithesis of God. However I found particularly interesting the portrayal of Satan’s consultations with his cohort Beelzebub. Here we see Satan’s self doubt and concerns about the outcome of his battle with God. This consideration already separates Satan from his bull-like blind evil portrayals we see in other texts. It is interesting indeed to see a battle between God and Satan written about like epic storytelling rather than bible verse.

  5. When I think of the devil, I often think of a red character with horns and a pitchfork. However, from literature, I have also come to think of the devil as sly and manipulative, so in this way, Milton’s depiction of the devil is in line with my previous thoughts. But, as my classmates have pointed out, Milton does a great job of creating Satan as a multidimensional character and one we can feel sympathy for as well. Milton’s Satan is given a strong voice and a large stage presence so we see more of his points of view rather than a biblical or moral point of view.
    It’s also clear that he has the strong personality that I’m sure we’re all accustomed to, too, especially when he says things like “The mind is its own place, and in itself/ Can make a Heav’n out of Hell, a Hell out of Heav’n” but to me these lines seem to put him in a more intellectual or sympathetic light rather than an evil one (254-255).

  6. I think that Milton’s Satan, though somewhat rueful of being banished from the “happy realms of light” (85) in Heaven, is ultimately defiant and confident of his abilities as a new leader. He refuses to be weak and has a sort of maniacal glee about doing ill to others, or the “contrary to His high will / Whom we resist” (161-162). I liked Milton’s description of the very beginnings of Hell (or Chaos)–instead of this fiery pit that most people associate with Hell in which Satan was immediately cast down, Satan awakens slowly and must gradually get his bearings before building his new empire of shadows.

  7. I think that Milton’s depiction of Satan is interesting in the sense that he is portrayed in almost a heroic light as opposed to existing as simply a one-dimensional evil being. This heroism is illustrated when Satan reflects, “What though the field be lost? All is not lost: the unconquerable will, And study of revenge, immortal hate, And courage never to submit or yield” (105-108). His desire to avoid submission is a heroic quality and makes him a more admirable character, which is an odd dichotomy when you consider the fact that the traditional image of Satan is one of hatred, deception, and aggression. His portrayal as heroic works to depict Satan as relatable and consequently, creates sympathy for his character.

  8. Milton depicts Satan as a more of a prideful, rebellious character than someone who is simply evil for evil’s sake. He certainly isn’t painted in the best light as he claims “to do ill [is] our sole delight” (160). His and his angels’ ills aren’t performed for mere want of human suffering however, they are done as a direct jab at God. Satan holds the idea of being ruled over in contempt and his hatred is focused towards God (being the ruler of all creation). Satan is less overtly evil in Milton’s depiction and more vengeful for his expulsion from heaven and ambitious in his attempts to undermine God.

  9. My own personal view of Satan is disobedient and charismatically evil. I think the story does a good job with both of these things, but somehow makes me dislike this version of Satan. He is more relatable and the reader almost feels empathetic towards his loss and despair. His sly and charismatic nature is further highlighted as he causes havoc on Earth. This is especially seen in both his ability to corrupt those related to prominent Bible characters as well as extremist such as Molorch, who “besmeared with blood Of human sacrifice, and parents’ tears” (392-393) regularly burns children. He is thirsty for revenge and begins this process by weaving his way throughout Earth’s people, sort of like a snake slithering through a forest, which is where the sly imagery comes from.

  10. Milton depicts Satan as the wicked character we have been taught to believe is the adversary of God and all of His Creation. Cast down from heaven with his rebellious lot, Satan is banished to suffer the pains eternal damnation. Milton paints an unfamiliar picture when we the reader are shown the fallen angels point of view as he comes to a realization of his surroundings. In lines164-165 when Satan tell his minions, “Out of our evil seek to bring forth good, Our labor must be to pervert that end,” He admits the benevolent power of God but recognizes himself as a fallen Seraphim to be the perfect candidate of God’s creation to eternally be the thorn in his side. Where Milton surprises me in Satan’s description is the immense size of the Beast. Stretching as large as the fiery lake, Satan is enormous when scaled to the realm of men. While he may never be more powerful then God, his enduring strength even in Hell is descibed as capable of corrupting Man.

  11. Milton’s description of Satan gives the reader a sense that he is a heroic character by describing him in a very powerful light. During one part, he is described as a Leviathan, or some kind of large sea creature that some sailors mistake for an island. I think these images are meant to be unsettling to show that we may not know how big and powerful Satan really is. Satan is compared to creatures of many sizes, so the reader is left confused as to how powerful Satan really it. This confusion reflects Milton’s genuine attempt to describe these things that are obviously elusive to him, as well.

  12. Satan is characterized as very smart and arrogant to me. When they describe how God threw him and other defying followers out of heaven he boasts about how God can’t keep him from which he was created (not sure if i interpreted creation or just living there for a very long time wrong). Satan is also depicted to me as a lost ego. In this sense he shows that even though he’s been thrown out he longs to be back there because to be honest who continuously rants about a place they have no desire of having access to anymore. I also believe he is jealous of the creations that have the potential to go back to heaven so he focuses his goals in tormenting and persuading people to do things that would revoke them access to the kingdom just like his own situation. Milton’s description is some what different than what I depicted in a sense Satan seems more of an annoying adversary than dangerous if we were just looking at the threat to God. He’s more of an influential illusion in the eyes of the people. The free will factor is the only thing that he’s banking on to see if he can persuade people to do wrong and join him. If people just saw his persuasion or forms of it for what it was he would be powerless and just an annoying entity in the background lost forever.

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