At the beginning of Book IV, Satan reminisces about who he once was amidst a deep internal conflict before entering the Garden of Eden. Has your opinion of Satan’s character changed from Books I and II? Do you now see him as more tragic and sympathetic or is he just more evil for going along with his plan?
I do not think my opinion of Satan has changed, but I was already viewing him as a tragic character. The passage you mentioned certainly helps that view. Milton describes Hell as being within Satan, which prevents him from redemption. Milton writes, “Me miserable! which way shall I fly / Infinite wrath, and infinite despair? / Which way I fly is Hell; myself am Hell” (4.73-75). Satan cannot escape Hell no matter where he goes, and that makes him infinitely more tragic, in my opinion.
It probably has something to do with how I viewed Satan prior to reading “Paradise Lost,” because I thought of him as only evil and barbarous, but I still believe that Satan is an evil being. Even though he has an internal conflict and is remembering how things used to be, he is still evil and one can see this because of how he tricks Uriel into believing that he is a cherub and gets Uriel to tell him where Paradise is. He is so good at deceiving people, that Uriel doesn’t even see through Satan’s lie at first (until he sees Satan’s conflicting facial expressions). It is evident that Satan doesn’t feel any remorse for what he had already done and he definitely doesn’t feel bad about what he is going to do either because he still continues to carry out his corrupt plans. So, overall I would say that my opinion on him has not changed.
In my opinion, tragedy spurs out of a terrible outcome that couldn’t be avoided. Romeo and Juliet are tragic lovers because, despite their best efforts, it was fate that they couldn’t be together, and as such the only possible outcome of their situation was heartbreak and ruin. Along those same lines, Satan has become more of a tragic character because, despite all of his pride and anger and will for revenge, the beginning of Book IV shows that he’s finally realizing the daunting task he has ahead of him and how he hasn’t the slightest chance of victory. When he was in Hell surrounded by his demons, it was easy to decide to go up and reap revenge on the one he sees has done him wrong. But now that he’s actually escaped from Hell and is out searching for Eden, we see Satan looking up to the sky and the sun beams of Heaven, and he does something we haven’t seen him do in the books previously. He doubts himself. After cursing Heaven and the events that lead to his position, Satan considers giving up his crusade and asking forgiveness for his crimes. “O, then, at last relent: Is there no place / Left for repentance, none for pardon left? / None left but my submission; and that word / Disdain forbids me, and my dread of shame / Among the spirits beneath, whom I seduced / With other promises and other vaunts / than to submit, boasting I could subdue / Th’ Omnipotent. Ay me!” (4. 79-86).
Satan knows that a single apology would be all it would take to end everything, but his pride keeps him from doing so. He doesn’t want to suffer the indignity of submitting to God, which is his true crime here, but he also feels guilty for having instigated the other angels to fall with him. He’s ashamed that there’s a legion of fallen angels waiting for him in Hell that he falsely promised he could win the battle, and he feels responsible not to let them down. Now, the audience understands the turmoil going on within him, but also that the flaws of his nature prohibit him from peacefully resolving the solution. With his innate pride, there was no way to avoid his fall from grace, just as there’s no stopping him from going on to try and seduce all of mankind to Hell. We as the audience recognizes this inevitability just as well as God does. But this one moment where he stops to consider the repercussions of his actions shows that he is not truly “pure evil.” He does care about his comrades, he does recognize that he doesn’t stand a snowball’s chance in Hell at success, but ultimately his own pride and concern for himself above all others condemns him to the role of the villain, which in my mind makes him a tragic character.
My view of Satan hasn’t changed since book 1 and 2. Even though Satan cannot escape from hell because it will always be within him, doesn’t make me feel bad for him. Satan continues to lie and trick angels until he gets his way. Also knowing that Satan can’t renter Heaven ever because God knows he will try to overthrow him and take over. Satan is filled with envy, and hopelessness. When he see Adam and Eve in paradise and clearly in love and enjoying life and God Satan remarks it as a “Sight hateful, sight tormenting.” At that moment I felt bad for Satan, for he can never experience joy and paradise. But then Satan continues on to trick them so he goes back to his devilish self.
Satan’s character in Paradise Lost has always been a bit more dynamic than the traditional, Christian telling of this same story. His indecisiveness and sense of humanity throughout the poem has made him seem less like an embodiment of evil and more ambiguous. Time and time again Satan weighs the idea of asking God forgiveness but ultimately goes ahead with his evil plans because it seems he can no longer look back. I think this sympathy the audience feels for Satan is intended by Milton, showing that not all is black or white, evil or good.
My perspective of Satan as an evil figure still has not changed, despite his internal conflict and reminiscence. Satan made the conscious decision to turn against God in rebellion, illustrating his lack of discipline and self-control. If anything, I am more inclined to be less sympathetic toward him. His monologue proves that he has the intellectual depth to comprehend the severity and wrongness of his choice, as illustrated when he reflects on the motivation behind his initial decision to reject God, understanding it was a personal choice as opposed to one driven by circumstance: “But other Powers as great / Fell not, but stand unshak’n, from within / Or from without, to all temptations arm’d” (63-65). While I can appreciate his knowledge and depth of understanding, I think it makes it all the easier to find fault with his choices.
I still see Satan as an evil character. The fact that he has doubts before entering the Garden of Eden does not sway my opinion because of the fact that his doubts only strengthen his ideals of evil in the end. He even says at one point “myself am Hell,” (75) implying that he truly embodies Hell and all the evil that it contains. He can never be good because he knows he has gone too far. He can never get a pardon from God because he knows his repentence won’t be sincere anyways. He eventually concludes near the end of his speech that “all good to me is lost; Evil, be thou my good,” (109-110). He accepts his unwavering evil state and vows to take down the human race.
My opinions of Satan have evolved between Books I & II, and Books III & IV, but Satan has also “evolved” between those books. Satan’s backstory was tragic in books 1-2, and remains so in books 3-4, making it easier to sympathize with him. He originally waged war with God for both selfish reasons, but also for the good of his followers, so he epitomized the idea of a leader when he took responsibility for their failure in book 2. His failure is ingrained into his mind as a “bitter memorie of what he was” (4. 24-25). One could sympathize with Satan in books 1 and 2 because he was an arguable anti-hero, one who commits heinous acts (in this case, against God), but for admirable reasons (i.e. the best interest of his constituency). Unfortunately, Satan’s reasoning for a “rematch” against God, is, by contrast, entirely un-admirable and selfish; Satan’s true evil nature manifests in books 3 and 4, with him becoming a villain, rather than an anti-hero. For example, he is now “inflam’d with rage,” bent “on desperate revenge,” and with “much more envy” (3. 84-553; 4. 9). Satan taking up war with God in books 3-4 is considerably more selfish than his reasoning for war in books 1-2, decreasing my sympathy towards him. Furthermore, I would argue that those who continue to view Satan as a tragic character worthy of sympathy throughout books 3 and 4 have fallen for Satan’s tricks, victims of his “purpose to assay if [man] by force he can destroy, or, worse, by some false guile pervert: and shall pervert; for man will hearken to his glozing lies” (3. 87-93).
Despite the progression of the text, I still continue viewing Satan as an evil character. I believe that Milton carefully crafted the image of Satan to have similarities with humans and thus create conflict in how we ourselves accept the image of Satan. Satan has significantly evolved from Books I and II to the portrayal of him in Books II and IV. In the first two books, Satan was portrayed as an anti-hero and thus was easy to sympathizes with some aspects of actions. His reasons for waging conflict against God were done so for his followers and he took on the role of a hero. Later in Books III and IV, his reasons for waging war became for selfish reasons. This shows how Satan truly evolved into the villain that we would associate him with today. This rids one of any sympathy towards him. He even goes onto saying that “all good to me is lost” which shows how he finally accepts becoming truly evil (109).
I don’t think my opinion has changed about how Satan is portrayed in book IV. He is still very evil and in some ways portrays the attitude of a defiant adolescent. He still hates heaven but in the same light he misses his placement he once had there and that doesn’t make him remorseful it just makes him angry. For example book IV line 95-99, Satan expresses how it would make no sense for him to repent and join heaven again because he would just have high thoughts of taking over besides the fact he could never goes so far of doing that because his hate is too deep. I don’t think he’s more sympathetic I just believe he’s very angry and vengeful as he has always been since the beginning of the epic. There was never a time that satan wasn’t going to find a way to wreak havoc, any suggestion of bowing out gracefully and creating his own realm in hell was dismissed.
My views of Satan never change throughout the reading. To me, the fact that he is so conflicted when he first enters the Garden of Eden and feels remorse that he would not be able to love God’s creations like the other angels but in the end those feelings simply fuels his hatred even more is proof that he is purely evil. And through watching Adam and Eve, he is able to determine just how he will get the two of them to fall away from God. He is even caught by two angels already whispering into Eve’s ear.