After having suffered defeat at the hands of God, Satan has now settled into his life as king of the underworld. What similarities and differences are revealed by the juxtaposition of God as the ruler of Heaven and Satan as the ruler of Hell? How so?
As he ventures out on his journey to find Earth, Satan is described as “Hell’s dread emperor” (510). Conversely, later in the book Satan refers to God as the “ethereal king” (978). Both Satan and God are supreme rulers of their respective dominions, Satan as the emperor of Hell and God as the king of Heaven, but the adjective modifying their title says much about their rulership. The word dread has a negative connotation suggesting evil, death, and impending doom, while the word ethereal has a strictly positive tone bringing to mind images of light, goodness, and heavenliness. God as a ruler of Heaven rules justly, but also in a delicate manner. Satan as a ruler of Hell lives to destroy. As the dread emperor, he wants to bring evil and pervert any potential goodness that the ethereal king may bring.
I definitely agree with what you’re saying about the quotes that compare Satan and God as “emperor” and “king,” but there is another way these two are compared. In the Bible, God is described as the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. God sends His Son down to earth to live among men and eventually die for their sins. In a similar way, Satan is sacrificing himself to protect the devils that follow him. He allows himself to be the scout to check out the creation of this new world God is going to create. On his journey, he meets new creatures: Sin, Death, Chaos, and Night, who, with little persuasion, follow him in the same manner that the disciples follow Jesus.
God and Satan do have some similarities, for example, they both are the ruler of a specific place or area (God obviously controlling Heaven and Satan controlling Hell) and they also have subjects that are willing to follow their lead. However, we can see that God and Satan are very different from each other and rule differently as well. For example, it seems to me like God is the “hands-off” kind of ruler in a way because he does rule over people and make decisions, but he doesn’t really come to the front line of battles and confrontations and other things. Whereas Satan seems more “hands-on” because he is the one directly speaking to his followers telling them what he wants from them and what they should do. There is also the obvious fact that Satan would be the “bad” and evil ruler, telling people to do things that are considered wrong and immoral and he is doing so because it is something that he desires for his own personal gain. And on the other hand, one could say that the reason that God does what He does is for the good of everyone, never for Himself. So, in other words, Satan is immoral and evil, and God is good and just and they are, in most ways, polar opposites when it comes to how they act and how they rule as well.
Satan and God, though both celestial rulers, have very different governing styles. Both are addressed in military terms, but Satan seems to be more engaged with his populace. The fallen angel hosted a conference to get opinions on the options facing the denizens of Hell, and, after all choices have been laid on the table, “with full assent / they vote” (lines 388-389). Even if the demons’ votes seem inconsequential, the fact that Satan even originated the discussion is oddly democratic . Of course, he is trying to break away from God, and that includes in the way he rules. God passes down judgements and decisions; Satan allows others’ opinions and undertakes the difficult work to escape Hell all by himself (and this is important because the theoretically could have commanded another fallen angel to do it, but he did not). As an active and involved general, Satan follows the tradition of epic leaders who are very engaged in ruling their provinces.
Though both God and Satan are rulers, and they do rule their respective regions or planes in different ways, it’s not necessarily true that one is better than the other. God has above been presented as the better ruler, and yes, his descriptions are always positive while Satan’s are negative, but his style of leadership is not what defines him as good. God’s intentions are to benefit all of those around him, it is true, as Satan’s intentions are to destroy, but neither side can be considered completely pure when it comes to war. Satan does not seek to destroy his demons; his goals are to destroy mankind in order to revenge himself and his comrades on Heaven, preserving himself and his demons, not destroying them. He works hard himself as a member of that society, not as an uninvolved figure high above it. Satan does have more involvement with the population that he rules over, involving them in the decision making process, which is not something that God does. What does this say about democracy and Milton’s views towards it?
God and Satan are juxtaposed as the ruler of the light versus darkness, good versus evil. This is seen when Satan adventures out during night. They are both similarly revealed as the best fit rulers of each domain, with each being the leader of the battle against their enemy (good or evil). Satan is unexpectedly perceived as a war hero of sorts, telling his troops to chose “Turning our tortures to horrid arms / Against the Torturer” (102-103), and God as the torturer who put them in Hell. Another thing that sets Satan as the proper ruler of Hell in the way God is the proper ruler of Heaven is that his followers completely devote themselves to them, and devotion is something they both have in common although not in a good way for Hell.
God is able to defeat Satan in battle reinforcing his role as the ruler and protector of the Universe. In Heaven, God is able to rule over the still faithful angels in a fortress impregnable to the forces of evil. The King of Heaven rules over his creations with an all seeing benevolence even Satan envies. As the fallen angel of God, Satan too finds himself ruler of a peoples although his lot are comprised of hideous malformations and wickedness incarnate. Beyond the Gates of Hell, Satan rules in what many as a reader must interpret as usual proceedings during the afterlife. Yet, our time spent at the court of Satan serves to better develop a character whom is still to be characterized as such in any previous work. His operations, having once served God directly, mimic those in Heaven. Yet as we see numerous times over and specifically in line 184 when Beezelbub explains to his master, “To mingle and involve, done all to spite) it is clear that the court of Satan has only revenge and destruction on their mind. While their job titles could not be completely different it is clear that Satan tries to rule for the wrong reasons in the way God taught him. Conversely, God wishes for his creatures to act in his image rather than destroy things in the name of Satan,
Satan, as the ruler of Hell, has proven himself to be a charismatic and indeed, a self-sacrificing leader as he volunteers to venture out of Hell in search of the “new world” that God is creating. Through these attributes he appears to be more of an approachable leader, less lofty and untouchable than God is portrayed yet still described as “majestic, though in ruin” (305). It is also interesting how much heed that Satan pays to his followers; one would expect the Lord of Darkness to reign as more of a tyrant than the democratically minded leader he appears to be. This willingness to collaborate as well as his relatively approachable demeanor contrasts him against God who’s word is quite literally law in the biblical connotation.
I found an interesting comparison when, after Satan decides to take the dangerous journey to Earth upon himself, the other fallen angels begin to sing. Instead of a sort of hellish or demonic scene, they actually begin to “sing / With notes angelical to many a harp” (547-548). Others contemplate their fate in “discourse more sweet” (555) and “thoughts more elevate” (558). It’s almost as if they are still trying to emulate more Heavenly behavior for angels, even though they’ve been banished to Hell. But, as Milton writes, it is “Vain wisdom all, and false philosophy!” (565)
Now that Satan and his devils have settled into their new “home,” it becomes clear that they have fashioned Hell to resemble an eerie reflection of the kingdom they were banished from. Obviously, Satan is the leader of Hell as God is of Heaven, and has his own legions of fallen angels at his command. He even allows them to publicly debate about their next move, whether to or not to wage a second attack against Heaven, further resembling the state of their humble beginnings. “…the fixed laws of Heav’n, / Did first create your leader – next, free choice / With what besides in council or in fight / Hath been achieved of merit” (18-21). This gives the fallen angels the impression that Satan is a just and fair ruler, where in reality, he simply gives them the impression of free choice before he reveals his underlying plan he had all along – to seduce God’s new creations, Man, in order to further wound Him. Here is where we see the difference between Heaven and Hell – God gives free will to his creations while expecting nothing in return, whereas Satan gives the illusion of choice in order to better serve his own purposes.