Satan in “Paradise Lost” – Milton’s Epic Poem Essay

Satan is one of the central characters of Milton’s epic poem Paradise Lost which is based on the Christian story of the fall of humanity. Making Satan the main antagonist of the poem, Milton shows the inner struggle in the character’s soul and the process of his devolution, depicting him as a fallen angel gradually transforming into a devil.

The beginning of the process of Satan’s devolution is depicted in the first book when this character starts forming an army of fallen angels, planning a rebellion against God. The main factors which influenced Satan’s decision to organize an attack on God were his arrogance, enviousness and unruliness. The main fallen angel prefers reigning in Hell to serving in Heaven.

Even coming to realization that God’s power cannot be overcome, Satan suggests uniting the efforts of all his followers for planning a rebellion against God. Convincing his followers to make evil out of good, Satan sounds persuasive.

In general, Milton’s presentation of the main negative character in the first book surprisingly makes Satan look as a hero of the poem. Showing how powerful Satan is and even comparing him to titans, the author describes the process of devolution of the main antagonist.

Presenting Satan as a military hero who manages to unite hundreds of thousands of fallen angels for creating a powerful army of demons in the first book, Milton shows the inner processes in the soul of the main negative character which preconditioned his devolution.

The process of Satan’s devolution continues in Milton’s second book which illuminates the debates in Hell concerning the plans of taking revenge on God by doing harm to a new race called Man. After building the Pandemonium, the castle of devils, some of the fallen angels settled down and offered to stop their struggle against God, satisfying with what they have. Satan, as the leader of Hell, could not be satisfied with the achieved results and his inner suffering makes him continue his planning of rebellions.

God’s power remained the object of Satan’s envy, and along with Satan’s hurt pride, it motivated the main negative character to build plans for making evil out of good and taking a revenge on God. Thus, the process of Satan’s devolution was not over and at this stage, Satan’s plans become more sophisticated. The main antagonist realizes that the direct attacks of God are senseless and decides to use alternative methods.

The direct protests and attacks are replaced with the insidious plans of tempting men and hurting the feelings of God who favors this newly created race. Satan’s continuing devolution prevents him from putting an end to the struggle against God and motivates him to invent new more sophisticated methods of attacks.

With all the attempts of making evil out of good which were not crowned with success, the tension in Satan’s soul grew, continuing the process of his degradation. In the fourth book, Milton shows Satan’s despair which intensifies suffering of the main negative character and catalyzes his insidious attacks of God.

At this stage the process of Satan’s devolution is irreversible and he will never be forgiven by God. “Farewel Remorse: all Good to me is lost;/ Evil be thou my Good; by thee at least” (Milton Book IV). Mentioning remorse in the fourth book, the author implies that previously the main fallen angel hesitated about his actions and his degradation can be regarded as a gradual process.

The despair which overwhelms Satan in the fourth book is expressed in his soliloquies. Milton’s depiction of Satan cannot be regarded as single-valued. Demonstrating the inner struggle and suffering of Satan, the author tries to view the evil from various perspectives, not limiting the depiction of the fallen angel to mere presentation of his actions.

Initiating the readers into the processes in the inner world of the main antagonist, Milton allows them to understand the preconditions of his disobedience, drawing the parallels with their own weaknesses.

With the continuing process of Satan’s devolution, in the ninth book he is deprived of the feelings of remorse and his inner struggle is almost over. Good is lost for the fallen angel forever and will never enter his soul again. The view of the beauty of earth makes Satan feel anguish. He cannot enjoy the beauty of this wonderful world and this is the only reason for his hesitation before proceeding to actions this time.

Preoccupied with making evil out of good and fulfilling his insidious plans, the fallen angel forgets about remorse and there is no inner struggle in him anymore. The absence of doubts concerning his evil inclinations in the ninth book shows the final stage of Satan’s devolution when the back side has overcome the good side of his soul entirely.

Showing the gradual process of Satan’s devolution which started from the inner struggle in the character’s soul and finished when the good was forever lost to him, Milton made his main antagonist a complex and dynamic character which transforms from an angel into a devil.

Works Cited

Milton, John. “Paradise Lost”. Dartmouth College Website. Web.

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Home › Literature › Analysis of John Milton’s Paradise Lost

Analysis of John Milton’s Paradise Lost

By NASRULLAH MAMBROL on July 12, 2020 • ( 0 )

Paradise Lost is a poetic rewriting of the book of Genesis. It tells the story of the fall of Satan and his compatriots, the creation of man, and, most significantly, of man’s act of disobedience and its consequences: paradise was lost for us. It is a literary text that goes beyond the traditional limitations of literary story telling, because for the Christian reader and for the predominant ethos of Western thinking and culture it involved the original story, the exploration of everything that man would subsequently be and do. Two questions arise from this and these have attended interpretations of the poem since its publication in 1667. First, to what extent did Milton diverge from orthodox perceptions of Genesis? Second, how did his own experiences, feelings, allegiances, prejudices and disappointments, play some part in the writing of the poem and, in respect of this, in what ways does it reflect the theological and political tensions of the seventeenth century?

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Paradise Lost was probably written between 1660–65, although there is evidence that Milton had had long term plans for a biblical epic: there are rough outlines for such a poem, thought to have been produced in the 1640s, in the Trinity MS, and Edward Phillips (1694:13) claims that Milton had during the same period shown him passages similar to parts of Book IV of the published work. The first edition (1667) was comprised of 10 books and its restructuring to 12 book occurred in the 1674 edition.

Paradise Lost Study Guide

Prefatory material

There are two significant pieces of prefatory material; a 54-line poem by his friend Andrew Marvell (added in 1674) and Milton’s own prose note on ‘The Verse’ (added to the sixth issue of the 1667 first edition).

Marvell’s poem is largely a fulsome tribute to Milton’s achievement but this is interposed with cautiously framed questions which are thought to reflect the mood of awe and perplexity which surrounded Paradise Lost during the seven years between its publication and the addition of Marvell’s piece (lines 5–8, 11–12, 15–16).

Milton’s own note on ‘The Verse’ is a defence of his use of blank verse. Before the publication of Paradise Lost blank verse was regarded as occupying a middle ground between poetic and non-poetic language and suitable only for plays; with non-dramatic verse there had to be rhyme. Milton claims that his use of blank verse will overturn all of these presuppositions, that he has for the first time ever in English created the equivalent of the unrhymed forms of Homer’s and Virgil’s classical epics. He does not state exactly how he has achieved this and subsequent commentators (see particularly Prince 1954 and Emma 1964) have noted that while his use of the unrhymed iambic pentameter is largely orthodox he frames within it syntactic constructions that throughout the poem constitute a particular Miltonic style. In fact ‘The Verse’ is a relatively modest citation of what would be a change in the history of English poetry comparable with the invention of free verse at the beginning of the twentieth century. Effectively, Paradise Lost licensed blank verse as a non-dramatic form and without it James Thomson’s The Seasons (1730), William Cowper’s The Task (1785) and William Wordsworth’s Tintern Abbey (1798) and The Prelude (1850) would not be the poems that they are.

The first twenty-six lines of Book I introduce the theme of the poem; ‘man’s first disobedience, and the fruit/Of that forbidden tree, whose mortal taste/Brought death into the world…’ (1–3) – and contain a number of intriguing statements. Milton claims to be pursuing ‘things unattempted yet in prose or rhyme’ (16) which can be taken to mean an enterprise unprecedented in non-literary or literary writing. While theologians had debated the book of Genesis and poets and dramatists engaged with it, no-one had, as yet, rewritten it. This raises the complex question of Milton’s objectives in doing so. He calls upon ‘the heavenly muse’ to help him ‘assert eternal providence,/And justify the ways of God to men’ (25–6). Both of these statements carry immense implications, suggesting that he will offer a new perspective upon the indisputable truths of Christianity. The significance of this intensifies as we engage with the developing narrative of the poem.

In lines 27–83 Milton introduces the reader to Satan and his ‘horrid crew’, cast down into a recently constructed hell after their failed rebellion against God. For the rest of the book Milton shares his third person description with the voices of Satan, Beelzebub and other members of the defeated assembly.

The most important sections of the book are Satan’s speeches (82–124, 241–264 particularly). In the first he attempts to raise the mood of Beelzebub, his second in command, and displays a degree of heroic stoicism in defeat: ‘What though the field be lost?/All is not lost’ (105–6). His use of military images has caused critics, William Empson particularly, to compare him with a defeated general reviewing his options while refusing to disclose any notion of final submission or despair to his troops. By the second speech stubborn tenacity has evolved into composure and authority.

The mind is its own place, and in itself Can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven What matter where, if I be still the same, And what I should be, all but less than he Whom thunder hath made greater? Here at least

We shall be free; the almighty hath not built Here for his envy, will not drive us hence: Here we may reign secure, and in my choice To reign is worth ambition though in hell: Better to reign in hell, than serve in heaven.

(I: 254–63)

While not altering the substance of Genesis, Milton’s style would remind contemporary readers of more recent texts. Henry V addressing his troops, Mark Antony stirring the passions of the crowd, even Richard III giving expression to his personal image of the political future, all exert the same command of the relation between circumstance,rhetoric and emotive effect. Milton’s Satan is a literary presence in his own right, an embodiment of linguistic energy. In his first speech he is inspired yet speculative but by the second the language is precise, relentless, certain: ‘The mind is its own place … We shall be free… We may reign secure ’. The arrogant symmetry of line 263 has turned it into an idiom, a cliché of stubborn resistance: ‘Better to reign in hell, than serve in heaven’. The question raised here is why Milton chose to begin his Christian epic with a heroic presentation of Satan.

The most striking and perplexing element of Book I is the fissure opened between Milton’s presence as guide and co-ordinator in the narrative and our perception of the characters as self-determined figures. Consider, for example, his third-person interjection between Satan’s first speech and Beelzebub’s reply:

So spake the apostate angel, though in pain, Vaunting aloud, but racked with deep despair.

Milton is not telling anyone familiar with the biblical account anything they do not already know, but he seems to find it necessary to restrain them, to draw them backs lightly from the mood of admiration that Satan’s speeches create. When he gives an itemised account of the devils, he begins with Moloch.

First Moloch, horrid king besmeared with blood Of human sacrifice, and parents tears.

This version of Moloch is accurate enough but Milton is being a little imaginative with chronology, given that at this point in the history of the cosmos children, parents and the blood of human sacrifice did not yet exist. Indeed, his whole account of the sordid tastes and activities of the devils is updated to give emphasis to their effects upon humanity.Again, we have cause to suspect that Milton is attempting to match the reader’s impulse to sympathise with the heroic (in Satan’s case almost charismatic) condition of the devils with a more orthodox presentation of them as a threat to human kind, moral, physical and spiritual. Later (777–92) he employs a mock heroic style and presents them as pygmies, shrunk to a physical status that mirrors their spiritual decadence. Here it could be argued that he is attempting to forestall the reader’s admiration of the efforts and skill in the building of Pandemonium (710–92) by ridiculing the builders.

In Book I Milton initiates a tension, a dynamic that will attend the entire poem, between the reader’s purely literary response and our knowledge that the characters and their actions are ultimates, a foundation for all Christian perceptions of the human condition. The principal figures of Homer’s and Virgil’s poems are our original heroes. The classical hero will face apparently insurmountable tasks and challenges and his struggles against the complex balance of fate and circumstance will cause us to admire, to identify with him. Milton in Book I invoked the heroic, cast Satan and his followers as tragic, defeated soldiers, and at the same time reminded the Christian reader that it is dangerous to sympathise with these particular figures. Throughout the book we encounter an uncertainty that is unmatched in English literature: has the author unleashed feelings,inclinations within himself that he can only partially control, or is he in full control and cautiously manipulating the reader’s state of perplexity?

Book II is divided into two sections. The first (1–628) is the most important and consists of a debate in which members of the Satanic Host – principally Satan, Moloch, Belial, Mammon and Beelzebub – discuss the alternatives available to them. There are four major speeches. Moloch (50–105) argues for a continuation of the war with God. Belial (118–228) and Mammon (237–83) encourage a form of stoical resignation – they should make the best of that to which they have been condemned. It is Beelzebub (309–416) who raises the possibility of an assault upon Earth, Eden, God’s newest creation. Satan, significantly, stays in the background. He favours Beelzebub’s proposal, which eventually wins the consensual proxy, but he allows his compatriots freedom of debate,and it is this feature of the book – its evocation of open exchange – that makes it important in our perception of Paradise Lost as in part an allegory on contemporary politics. Milton’s attachment to the Parliamentarians during the Civil War, along with his role as senior civil servant to the Cromwellian cabinet, would have well attuned him to the fractious rhetoric of political discourse. Indeed, in the vast number of pamphlets he was commissioned to write in defence of the Parliamentarian and Republican causes, he was a participant, and we can find parallels between the speeches of the devils and Milton’s own emboldened, inspirational prose.

For example, one of Milton’s most famous tracts Eikonoklastes [38– 9], in which he seeks to justify the execution of Charles I, is often echoed in Moloch’s argument that they should resume direct conflict with God. Milton invokes the courageous soldiers who gave their lives in the Civil War ‘making glorious war against tyrants for the common liberty’ and condemns those who would protest against the killing of Charles ‘who hath offered at more cunning fetches to undermine our liberties, and put tyranny into an art, than any British king before him’. For Milton the Republicans embody ‘the old English fortitude and love of freedom’ ( CPW, III: 343–4). Similarly Moloch refers to those who bravely fought against God and now ‘stand in arms, and longing wait/The signal to ascend’ (55–6). Charles, the author of ‘tyranny’ in Milton’s pamphlet, shares this status with Moloch’s God; ‘the prison of his tyranny who reigns/By our delay …’ (59–60). Both Milton and Moloch continually raise the image of the defence of freedom against an autocratic tyrant.

Later in the book when Beelzebub is successfully arguing for an assault upon Earth he considers who would best serve their interests in this enterprise:

… Who shall tempt with wandering feet The dark unbottomed infinite abyss And through the palpable obscure find out His uncouth way, or spread his airy flight Up borne with indefatigable wings Over the vast abrupt, ere he arrive The happy isle; what strength, what art can then

Suffice, or what evasion bear him safe Through the strict sentries and stations thick Of angels watching round? … for on whom we send The weight of all our last hope relies.

(II: 404–16)

The heroic presence to whom Beelzebub refers is of course Satan, their leader. In Milton’s pamphlet A Second Defence of the English People (1654) he presents England as almost alone in Europe as the bastion of liberty and he elevates Cromwell to the position of heroic leader.

You alone remain. On you has fallen the whole burden of our affairs. On you alone they depend. In unison we acknowledge your unexcelled virtue … Such have been your achievements as the greatest and most illustrious citizen … Your deeds surpass all degrees, not only of admiration but surely of titles too, and like the tops of pyramids bury themselves in the sky, towering above the popular favour of titles. ( CPW , IV: 671–2)

The parallels between Beelzebub’s hyperbolic presentation of Satan and Milton’s of Cromwell are apparent enough. Even Milton’s subtle argument that Cromwell deserves a better status than that conferred by hereditary title echoes the devil’s desire to find their own replacement for the heavenly order, with Satan at its head. It is likely that many early readers of Paradise Lost would spot the similarities between the devils’ discourse and Milton’s, produced barely fifteen years before – which raises the question of what Milton was trying to do.

To properly address this we should compare the two halves of Book II. The first engages the seventeenth-century reader in a process of recognition and immediacy; the devils conduct themselves in a way that is remarkably similar to the political hierarchy of England in the 1650s. In the second, which describes Satan’s journey to Earth, the reader is shifted away from an identification with the devils to an abstract, metaphysical plane in which the protagonists become more symbolic than real. Satan is no longer human. At the Gates of Hell he meets Sin, born out of his head when the rebellion was planned, and Death, the offspring of their bizarre and inhuman coition (II: 666–967). Then he encounters Chaos, a presence and a condition conducive to his ultimate goal (II: 968–1009).

Book II is beautifully engineered. First, we are encouraged to identify with the fallen angels; their state and their heroic demeanour are very human. Then their leader, Satan, is projected beyond this and equated with ultimates, perversely embodied abstracts; Sin,Death and Chaos. One set of characters have to deal with uncertainties, unpredictable circumstances, conflicting states of mind. The others are irreducible absolutes.

Milton is establishing the predominant, in effect the necessary, mood of the poem. For much of it, up to the end of Book IX when the Fall occurs, the Christian reader is being projected into a realm that he/she cannot understand. This reader has inherited the consequences of the Fall, a detachment from any immediate identification with God’s innate character, motives and objectives. On the one hand our only point of comparison for the likes of Satan (and eventually God and his Son) is ourselves; hence Milton’s humanisation of the fallen angels. On the other, we should accept that such parallels are innately flawed; hence Milton’s transference of Satan into the sphere of ultimates, absolutes, metaphysical abstracts.

Critics have developed a variety of approaches to this conundrum. Among the modern commentators, C.S. Lewis read the poem as a kind of instructive guide to the self-evident complexities of Christian belief. Waldock (1947) and Empson (1961) conducted humanist readings in which Satan emerges as a more engaging character than God. Blake(followed by Coleridge and Shelley) was the first humanist interpreter, claiming that Milton was of the ‘Devil’s Party’ without being able to fully acknowledge his allegiance [137–8]. Christopher Hill (1977), a Marxist, is probably the most radical of the humanist critics and he argues that Milton uses the Satanic rebellion as a means of investigating his own ‘deeply divided personality’.

Satan, the battleground for Milton’s quarrel with himself, saw God as arbitrary power and nothing else. Against this he revolted: the Christian, Milton knew, must accept it. Yet how could a free and rational individual accept what God had done to his servants in England? On this reading, Milton expressed through Satan (of whom he disapproved) the dissatisfaction which he felt with the Father (whom intellectually he accepted). (366–7)

It begins with the most candid, personal passage of the entire poem, generally referred to as the ‘Address to Light’ (1–55). In this Milton reflects upon his own blindness. He had already done so in Sonnet XVI. Before that, and before his visual impairment, he had in‘L’Allegro’ and ‘Il Penseroso’ considered the spiritual and perceptual consequences of, respectively, light and darkness. Here all of the previous themes seem to find an apotheosis. He appears to treat his blindness as a beneficent, fatalistic occurrence which will enable him to achieve what few if any poets had previously attempted, a characterisation of God.

So much the rather thou celestial light Shine inward, and the mind through all her powers

Irradiate, there plant eyes, all mist from thence Purge and disperse, that I may see and tell Of things invisible to mortal sight.

(III: 51–55)

Milton is not so much celebrating his blindness as treating it as a fitting correlative to a verbal enactment of ‘things invisible to mortal sight’, and by invisible he also means inconceivable.

God’s address (56–134) is to his Son, who will of course be assigned the role of man’s redeemer, and it involves principally God’s foreknowledge of man’s Fall. The following is its core passage.

So will fall He and his faithless Progeny: whose fault? Whose but his own? Ingrate, he had of me All he could have; I made him just and right, Sufficient to have stood, though free to fall. Such I created all the etherial powers And spirits, both them who stood and them who failed;

Freely they stood who stood, and fell who fell. Not free, what proof could they have given sincere Of true allegiance, constant faith or love, Where only what they needs must do, appeared, Not what they would? What praise could they receive?

What pleasure I from such obedience paid, When will and reason (reason also is choice) Useless and vain, of freedom both despoiled, Made passive both, had served necessity, Not me.

(III: 95–111)

The address tells us nothing that we do not already know, but its style has drawn the attention of critics. In the passage quoted, and throughout the rest of it, figurative,expansive language is rigorously avoided; there is no metaphor. This is appropriate, given that rhetoric during the Renaissance was at once celebrated and tolerated as a reflection of the human condition; we invent figures and devices as substitutes for the forbidden realm of absolute, God-given truth. And God’s abjuration of figures will remind us of our guilty admiration for their use by the devils.

At the same time, however, the language used by an individual, however sparse and pure, will create an image of its user. God, it seems, is unsettled: ‘whose fault?/Whose but his own?’ He is aware that the Fall will occur, so why does he trouble himself with questions? And why, moreover, does God feel the need to explain himself, to apparently render himself excusable and blameless regarding events yet to occur: ‘Not me’. If Milton was attempting in his presentation of the devils to catch the reader between their faith and their empirical response, he appears to be doing so again with God. Critics have dealt with this problem in different ways. C.S. Lewis reminds the reader that this is a poem about religion but that it should not be allowed to disturb the convictions and certainties of Christian faith.

The cosmic story – the ultimate plot in which all other stories are episodes – is set before us. We are invited, for the time being, to look at it from the outside. And that is not, in itself, a religious experience … In the religious life man faces God and God faces man. But in the epic it is feigned for the moment, that we, as readers, can step aside and see the faces of God and man in profile.

Lewis’s reader, the collective ‘we’, is an ahistorical entity, but a more recent critic, Stanley Fish (1967) has looked more closely at how Milton’s contemporaries would have interpreted the passage. They, he argued, by virtue of the power of seventeenth-century religious belief, would not be troubled even by the possibility that Milton’s God might seem a little too much like us. William Empson (1961) contends that the characterisations of God and Satan were, if not a deliberate anticipation of agnostic doubt, then a genuine reflection of Milton’s troubled state of mind; ‘the poem is not good in spite of but especially because of its moral confusions’ (p.13).

Such critical controversies as this will be dealt with in detail in Part 3, but they should be borne in mind here as an indication of Paradise Lost’s ability to cause even the most learned and sophisticated of readers to interpret it differently. Lewis argues that Milton would not have wanted his Christian readers to doubt their faith (though he acknowledges that they might, implying that Milton intended the poem as a test), while Fish contends that querulous, fugitive interpretations are a consequence of modern, post-eighteenth-century, states of mind (a strategy generally known of Reader-Response Criticism). Empson, who treats the poem as symptomatic of Milton’s own uncertainties, is regarded by Fish as an example of the modern reader.

The first half of the Book (1–415) comprises God’s exchange with the Son and includes their discussion of what will happen after the Fall, anticipating the New Testament and Christ’s heroic role as the redeemer. The rest (416–743) returns us to Satan’s journey to Earth, during which he meets Oriel, the Sun Spirit, disguises himself and asks directions to God’s newest creation which, he claims, he wishes to witness and admire. By the end of the Book he has reached Earth.

Here the reader is engaged in two perspectives. We are shown Adam and Eve conversing,praying and (elliptically described) making love, and this vision of Edenic bliss is juxtaposed with the arrival and the thoughts of Satan. Adam’s opening speech (411–39) and Eve’s reply (440–91) establish the roles and characteristics that for both of them will be maintained throughout the poem. Adam, created first, is the relatively experienced,wise figure of authority who explains their status in Paradise and the single rule of obedience and loyalty. Eve, in her account of her first moments of existence, discloses aless certain, perhaps impulsive, command of events and impressions.

That day I oft remember, when from sleep I first awaked, and found myself reposed Under a shade of flowers, much wondering where And what I was, whence thither brought, and how.

Not distant far from thence a murmuring sound Of waters issued from a cave and spread Into a liquid plain, then stood unmoved Pure as the expanse of heaven; I thither went With unexperienced thought, and laid me down On the green bank, to look into the clear Smooth lake, that to me seemed another sky. As I bent down to look just opposite A shape within the watery gleam appeared Bending to look on me; I started back, It started back, but pleased I soon returned, Pleased it returned as soon with answering looks Of sympathy and love; there I had fixed Mine eyes till now, and pined with vain desire, Had not a voice thus warned me, What thou seest,

What there thou seest fair creature is thyself, With thee it came and goes: but follow me, And I will bring thee where no shadow stays They coming, and thy soft embraces, he Whose image thou art, him thou shall enjoy Inseparably thine, to him shalt bear Multitudes like thyself, and then be called Mother of human race: what could I do, But follow straight, invisibly thus led? Till I espied thee.

(IV: 449–77)

This passage is frequently cited in feminist surveys of Milton [166– 74]. It introduces his most important female figure, indeed the original woman, and it does so by enablingher to disclose her innate temperamental and intellectual characteristics through her useof language.

We do not require textual notes or critical commentaries to tell us that Eve’s attraction to her own image in the water (460–5) is a straight-forward, indeed candid, disclosure of narcissism. Her first memory is of vain self-obsession. However, before we cite this as evidence of Milton’s portrayal of Eve, who will eat the forbidden fruit first, as by virtue of her gender the prototypical cause of the Fall, we should look more closely at the stylistic complexities of her speech.

For example, when she tells of how she looked ‘into the clear/Smooth lake’ (458–9) she is performing a subtle balancing act between hesitation and a more confident command of her account. ‘Clear’ in seventeenth-century usage could be both a substantive reference to clarity of vision (‘ the clear’) and be used in its more conventional adjectival sense (‘clear smooth lake’). Similarly with ‘no shadow stays/Thy coming’ (470–1), the implied pause after ‘stays’ could suggest it first as meaning ‘prevents’ and then in its less familiar sense of ‘awaits’. The impression we get is confusing. Is she tentatively feeling her way through the traps and complexities of grammar, as would befit her ingenuous, unsophisticated state as someone recently introduced to language and perception? Or is Milton urging us to perceive her as, from her earliest moments, a rather cunning actress and natural rhetorician, someone who canuse language as a means of presenting herself as touchingly naïve and blameless in her instincts? In short, is her language a transparent reflection of her character or a means by which she creates a persona for herself?

This question has inevitably featured in feminist readings of the poem [168–9], because it involves the broader issue of whether or not Milton was creating in Adam and Eve the ultimate and fundamental gender stereotypes – their acts were after all responsible for the postlapsarian condition of humankind.

To return to the poem itself we should note that it is not only the reader who is forming perceptions of Adam and Eve. Satan, in reptilian disguise, is watching and listening too.Beginning at line 505, Milton has him disclose his thoughts.

all is not theirs it seems: One fatal tree there stands of knowledge called,

Forbidden them to taste: knowledge forbidden?

Suspicious, reasonless. Why should their Lord Envy them that? Can it be sin to know, Can it be death? And do they only stand By ignorance, is that their happy state, The proof of their obedience and their faith? O fair foundation laid whereon to build Their ruin! Hence I will excite their minds With more desire to know …

(IV: 513–24)

Without actually causing us to question the accepted facts regarding Satan’s malicious, destructive intent Milton again prompts the reader to empathise with his thoughts – and speculations. Satan touches upon issues that would strike deeply into the mindset of the sophisticated Renaissance reader. Can there, should there, be limits to human knowledge?By asking questions about God’s will and His design of the universe do we overreach ourselves? More significantly, was the original act of overreaching and its consequences– the eating of the fruit from the tree of knowledge as an aspiration to knowledge –intended by God as a warning?

The rest of the book returns us to the less contentious, if no less thrilling, details of the narrative, with Uriel warning the angel Gabriel of Satan’s apparent plot, Gabriel assigning two protecting angels to Adam and Eve, without their knowledge, and Gabriel himself confronting Satan and telling him that he is contesting powers greater than himself.

Before moving further into the poem let us consider whether the various issues raised so far in the narrative correspond with what we know of Milton the thinker and not simply our projected notion of the thoughts which underlie his writing of the poem. Most significantly, all of the principal figures – Satan, God, Adam and Eve – have been caused to affect us in ways that we would associate as much with literary characterisation as with their functions within religious belief; they have been variously humanised. In one of Milton’s later prose tracts, De Doctrina Christiana ,  begun, it is assumed, only a few years before he started Paradise Lost, we encounter what could be regarded as the theological counterparts to the complex questions addressed in the poem. In a passage on predestination, one of the most contentious topics of the post-reformation debate, Milton is, to say the least, challenging:

Everyone agrees that man could have avoided falling. But if, because of God’s decree, man could not help but fall (and the two contradictory opinions are sometimes voiced by the same people), then God’s restoration of fallen man was a matter of justice not grace. For once it is granted that man fell, though not unwillingly, yet by necessity, it will always seem that necessity either prevailed upon his will by some secret influence, or else guided his will in some way. But if God foresaw that man would fall of his own accord, then there was no need for him to make a decree about the fall, but only about what would become of man who was going to fall. Since, then, God’s supreme wisdom foreknew that first man’s falling away, but did not decree it, it follows that, before the fall of man, predestination was not absolutely decreed either. Predestination, even after the fall, should always be considered and defined not so much the result of an actual decree but as arising from the immutable condition of a decree.

( CPW, VI: 174)

If after reading this you feel rather more perplexed and uncertain about our understanding of God and the Fall than you did before, you are not alone. It is like being led blindfold through a maze. You start with a feeling of relative certainty about where you are and what surrounds you, and you end the journey with a sense of having returned to this state,but you are slightly troubled about where you’ve been in the meantime. Can we wrest an argument or a straightforward message from this passage? It would seem that predestination (a long running theological crux of Protestantism) is, just like every other component of our conceptual universe, a result of the Fall. Thus, although God knew that man would fall, He did not cause (predetermine) the act of disobedience. As such, this is fairly orthodox theology, but in making his point Milton allows himself and his readers to stray into areas of paradox and doubt that seem to run against the overarching sense of certainty. For instance, he concedes that ‘it will always seem that necessity either prevailed upon his (man’s) will by some secret influence, or else guided his will in someway’. Milton admits here that man will never be able to prevent himself (‘it will always seem’) from wondering what actually caused Adam and Eve to eat the fruit. Was it fate,the influence of Satan, Adam’s or Eve’s own temperamental defects?

The passage certainly does not resolve the uncertainties encountered in the first four books, but it does present itself as a curious mirror-image of the poem. Just as in the poem the immutable doctrine of scripture sits uneasily with the disorientating complexities of literary writing, so our trust in theology will always be compromised by our urge to ask troubling questions. Considering these similarities it is possible to wonder if Milton decided to dramatise Genesis in order to throw into the foreground the very human tendencies of skepticism and self-doubt that exist only in the margins of conventionalreligious and philosophic thought. If so, why? As a form of personal catharsis, as an encoded manifesto for potential anti-Christianity, or as a means of revealing to readers the true depths of their uncertainties? All of these possibilities have been put forward by commentators on the poem, but as the following pages will show, the decision is finally yours.

Books V–VIII

These four books, the middle third of the poem, will be treated as a single unit because they are held together by a predominant theme; the presence of Raphael, sent by God to Paradise at the beginning of book V as Adam and Eve’s instructor and advisor. The books show us the growth of Adam and Eve, the development of their emotional and intellectual engagement with their appointed role prior to the most important moment in the poem’s narrative, their Fall in book IX. At the beginning of book V God again becomes a speaking presence, stating that he despatches Raphael to ‘render man inexcusable … Lest wilfully transgressing he pretend/Surprisal, unadmonished, unfore-warned’ (244–5). Line 244 offers a beautiful example of tactical ambiguity. Does ‘Lest’ refer to man’s act of ‘transgressing’? If so, we are caused again to consider the uneasy relation between free will, predestination and God’s state of omniscience: surely God knows that man will transgress. Or does ‘Lest’ relate, less problematically, to man’s potential reaction to the consequences of his act?Once more the reader is faced with the difficult choice between an acceptance of his limited knowledge of God’s state and the presentation to us here of God as a humanised literary character.

The arrival of Raphael (V: 308–576) brings with it a number of intriguing, often puzzling, issues. Food plays a significant part. Eve is busy preparing a meal for their first guest.

She turns, on hospitable thoughts intent What choice to choose for delicacy best, What order so contrived as not to mix Tastes, not well-joined, inelegant, but bring Taste after taste upheld with kindliest change.

This passage might seem to be an innocuous digression on the domestic bliss of the newlyweds – with Eve presented as a Restoration prototype for Mrs. Beaton or Delia Smith – but there are serious resonances. For one thing her hesitant, anxious state of mind appears to confirm the conventional, male, social and psychological model of ‘female’ behaviour – should we then be surprised that she will be the first to transgress, given her limitations? Also, the passage is a fitting preamble for Raphael’s first informal act of instruction. Milton sets the scene with, ‘A while discourse they hold;/No fear lest dinner cool’ (395–6), reminding us that fire would be part of the punishment for the Fall; before that neither food nor anything else needed to be heated. The ‘discourse’ itself, on Raphael’s part, treats food as a useful starting point for a mapping out of the chain of being. Raphael, as he demonstrates by his presence and his ability to eat, can shift between transubstantial states; being an angel he spends most of his time as pure spirit. At lines 493–9 he states that

Time may come when men With angels may participate, and find No inconvenient diet, nor too light fare; And from these corporal nutriments perhaps Your bodies may at last turn to spirit, Improved by tract of time, and winged ascend

Raphael will expand upon this crucial point throughout the four central books: it is God’s intention that man, presently part spirit, part substance, will gradually move up the chain of being and replace Satan’s fallen crew as the equivalent of the new band of angels. How exactly this will occur is not specified but Raphael here implies, without really explaining, that there is some mysterious causal relationship between such physical experiences as eating and the gradual transformation to an angelic, spiritual condition: his figurative language is puzzling. It would, however, strike a familiar chord for Eve, who atthe beginning of the book had described to Adam her strange dream about the forbidden fruit and an unidentified tempter who tells her to ‘Taste this, and be henceforth among the gods/Thyself a goddess, not to earth confined’ (V: 77–8). Later in Book IX, just before she eats the fruit, Satan plays upon this same curious equation between eating and spirituality, ‘And what are gods that man may not become/As they, participating godlike food?’ (IX: 716–17).

Milton appears to be sewing into the poem a fabric of clues for the attentive reader,clues that suggest some sort of causal, psychological explanation for the Fall. In this instance it might appear that Raphael’s well meant, but perhaps misleading, discourse creates for Eve just the right amount of intriguing possibilities to make her decision to eat the fruit almost inevitable. In consequence, God’s statement that Raphael’s role is to ‘render man inexcusable’ sounds a little optimistic.

Books VI–VIII are concerned almost exclusively with Raphael’s instructive exchanges with Adam; Eve, not always present, is kept informed of this by Adam during their own conversations. Book VI principally involves Raphael’s description of Satan’s revolt, the subsequent battles and God’s victory. Book VII deals mainly with the history of Creation and in Book VIII Raphael explains to Adam the state and dimensions of the Cosmos. The detail of all this is of relatively slight significance for an understanding of the poem itself.Much of it involves an orthodox account of the Old Testament story of Creation and the only notable feature is Milton’s decision in Book VIII to follow, via Raphael, the ancient theory of Ptolemy that the earth is the centre of the universe. Copernicus, the sixteenth-century astronomer, had countered this with the then controversial model of the earth revolving around the sun, which Raphael alludes to (without of course naming Copernicus) but largely discounts. Milton had met Galileo and certainly knew of his confirmation of the Copernican model. His choice to retain the Ptolemaic system for Paradise Lost was not alluded to in his ex cathedr awriting and was probably made fordramatic purposes; in terms of man’s fate the earth was indeed at the centre of things.

More significant than the empirical details of Raphael’s disclosures is Adam’s level of understanding. Constantly, Raphael interrupts his account and speaks with Adam about God’s gift of reason, the power of the intellect, which is the principal distinction between human beings and other earthbound, sentient creatures. At the end of Book VI Raphael relates reason (563–76) to free will (520–35). Adam is told (and the advice will be oft repeated) that their future will depend not upon some prearranged ‘destiny’ but upon their own decisions and actions, but that they should maintain a degree of caution regarding how much they are able, as yet, to fully comprehend of God’s design and intent. In short, their future will be of their own making while their understanding of the broader framework within which they must make decisions is limited and partial. At the end of Book VI, for example, after Raphael has provided a lengthy account of the war in heaven he informs Adam that he should not take this too literally. It has been an allegory, an extended metaphor, a ‘measuring [of] things in Heaven by things on Earth’. (893)

In Book VIII, before his description of the Cosmos, Raphael again reminds Adam that he is not capable of fully appreciating its vast complexity.

The great architect Did wisely to conceal, and not divulge, His secrets to be scanned by them who ought

Rather admire; or if they list to try Conjecture, he his fabric of the heavens Hath left to their disputes, perhaps to move His laughter at their quaint opinions wide

(VIII: 72–8)

This is frequently treated as an allusion to the ongoing debate on the validity of the Ptolemaic or the Copernican models of earth and the planets, but it also has a rhetorical function in sustaining a degree of tension between man’s gift of reason and the at once tantalising yet dangerous possibilities that might accompany its use. All of this carries significant, but by no means transparent, relevance from a number of theological issues with which Milton was involved; principally the Calvinist notion of predestination versus the Arminianist concept as free will as a determinant of fate [9–11].

Later in Book VIII (357–451) Adam tells Raphael of his first conversation with God just prior to the creation of Eve, which resembles a Socratic dialogue. Socrates, the Greek philosopher, engaged in a technique when instructing a pupil of not imposing a belief but sewing his discourse with enough speculations and possibilities to engage the pupil’s faculties of enquiry and reason. Through this exchange of questions and propositions they would move together toward a final, logically valid conclusion. God’s exchange with Adam follows this pattern. The following is a summary of it.

Adam laments his solitude. God says, well you’re not alone, you have other creatures,the angels and me. Yes, says Adam, but I want an equal partner. God replies: Considermy state. I don’t need a consort. Adam returns, most impressively, with the argument that God is a perfect self-sufficiency, but man must be complemented in order to multiply. Quite so, says God. This was my intention all along. And He creates Eve.

The relevance of this to Adam’s ongoing exchange with Raphael is unsettling. Stanley Fish suggests that it is meant to offer a further, tacit reminder to the reader of the rulesand preconditions that attend man’s pre-fallen state. ‘If the light of reason coincides with the word of God, well and good; if not reason must retire, and not fall into the presumption of denying or questioning what it cannot explain’ (1967:242). It reminded William Empson (1961) of the educational phenomenon of the Rule of Inverse Probability, where the student is less concerned with the attainment of absolute truth than with satisfying the expectations of the teacher: in short, Adam has used his gift of reason without really understanding what it is and to what it might lead. Is Adam being carefully and adequately prepared for the future (Fish) or is Raphael’s instruction presented to us as some kind of psychological explanation for the Fall (Empson)?

This interpretative difference underpins our reading of Books V– XII, and, to complicate matters further, indeed to heighten the dramatic tension of the narrative,Milton places Adam’s account of his exchange with God not too long before a similar conversation takes place between Eve and Satan, in Book IX just prior to her decision to eat the fruit.

Eve’s conversation with Satan (532–779) is the most important in the poem; it initiates the Fall of mankind. Satan’s speeches, particularly the second (678–733), display an impressive and logical deployment of fact and hypothesis. Eve does not understand the meaning of death, the threatened punishment for the eating of the fruit, and Satan explains:

ye shall not die: How should ye? By the fruit? It gives you life To knowledge. By the threatener? Look on me, Me who have touched and tasted, yet both live, And life more perfect have attained than fate Meant me, by venturing higher than my lot. Shall that be shut to man, which to the beast Is open?

(IX: 685–93)

Having raised the possibility that death is but a form of transformation beyond the merely physical, he delivers a very cunning follow-up.

So ye shall die perhaps, by putting off Human, to put on gods, death to be wished, Though threatened, which no worse than this can bring.

And what are gods that man may not become As they, participating godlike food?

(IX: 713–17)

In short, he suggests that the fruit, forbidden but for reasons yet obscure, might be the key to that which is promised.

Eve’s reply to Satan’s extensive, even-handed listing of the ethical and practical considerations of her decision is equally thoughtful. She raises a question, ‘In plain then, what forbids he but to know/Forbids us good, forbids us to be wise? (758–9) and expands, ‘What fear I then, rather what know to fear/Under this ignorance of good and evil, /Of God or death, of law or penalty?’ Adam and Eve have continually been advised by Raphael of their state of relative ignorance while they have also been promised enlightenment. It is evident from Eve’s speech that she regards the rule of obedience as in some way part, as yet unspecified, of the existential puzzle which their own much promoted gift of reason will gradually enable them to untangle. They are aware that their observance of the rule is a token of their love and loyalty, but as Satan implies, such an edict is open to interpretation.

What can your knowledge hurt him, or this tree

Import against his will, if all be his? Or is it envy, and can envy dwell In heavenly breasts?

(IX: 726–30)

Eve’s exchange with Satan inevitably prompts the reader to recall Adam’s very recent account of his own with God and, indeed, his extended dialogue with Raphael. In each instance the human figure is naïve, far less informed than their interlocutor, while the latter both instructs and encourages his pupil to rationalise and speculate. (Eve is unaware of Satan’s identity. He is disguised as a serpent and is, for all she knows, another agent of wisdom.) These parallels can be interpreted differently and the archetypal difference is evident between Christian and humanist readers. Of the former, Lewis argued that the parallels were meant to be recognised but were intended by Milton as a kind of re-enactment of the poem itself: the Christian reader – and in Lewis’s view the poem was intended only for Christian readers – should perceive him/herself as a version of Adam and Eve and resist the temptation to overreach their perceptual and intellectual subservience to God’s wisdom. Lewis held that the poem’s moral of obedience and restraint has the ‘desolating clarity’ of what we are taught in the nursery. Children might be incapable of understanding the ethical and moral framework which underpins their parents’ rules and edicts but they should recognise that these apparently arbitrary regulations are a reflection of the latter’s protective love. Empson countered this as follows: ‘A father may reasonably impose a random prohibition to test the character of his children, but anyone would agree that he should then judge an act of disobedience in the light of its intention’ (1961:161). Empson perceives the exchanges, particularly between Satan and Eve, not only as mitigating factors in Milton’s particular account ofthe Fall but also as explanations of how the Fall was made inevitable by God himself.Both agree that the reader is prompted to question God’s omniscient planning and strategies, while Lewis sees this as a warning and reminder that blind faith should be ouronly proper response and Empson that doubt informs Milton’s own rendering of the story.

Eve does of course eat the fruit, and during lines 896–1016 she confronts Adam with her act. Adam’s response and his eventual decision to follow Eve are intriguing because while the misuse, or misunderstanding, of the gift of reason was the significant factor forher Adam is affected as much by emotional, instinctive registers.

I feel The link of nature draw me: flesh of flesh, of my bone thou art, and from thy state

Mine never shall be parted, bliss or woe.

(IX: 913–16)

This is addressed ‘to himself’, and then to Eve he states that

So forcible within my heart I feel The bond of nature draw me to my own, My own in thee, for what thou art is mine; Our state cannot be severed; we are one, One flesh; to lose thee were to lose myself.

(IX: 955–9)

And the episode is summed up by Milton:

She gave him of that fair enticing fruit With liberal hand: he scrupled not to eat Against his better knowledge, not deceived,

But fondly overcome with female charm.

(IX: 996–9)

These passages raise questions about chronology and characterisation. We already know from Book VIII (607–17) that Adam appreciates that the love he feels for Eve (partly physical) partakes of his greater love for God (mutual and transcendent) and we might wonder why and how Adam seems able to move so rapidly to a state of almost obsessive physical bonding with her: ‘The link of nature’, ‘flesh of flesh’, ‘The bond of nature’, ‘My own in Thee’, ‘One flesh’. Moreover, during Milton’s description in Book IV of Adam and Eve’s innocent act of sexual liaison we were informed that the base, lust-fulfilling dimension of sex is a consequence of the Fall, and this is confirmed shortly after he too eats the fruit and they engage in acts ‘of amorous intent’ (IX: 1035). It seems odd, therefore, that Adam, still unfallen, seems to be persuaded to eat the fruit by the post-lapsarian instinct of pure physical desire.

One explanation of why Milton offers this puzzling, slightly inconsistent scenario could be implicit in his own rationale of Adam’s decision; ‘not deceived/But fondly overcome with female charm’ (998–9). From this it would seem that her explanation of the act of disobedience is of virtually no significance compared with the sub-rational power of attraction that she shares, or will share, with the rest of her gender.

Charges of misogyny against Milton go back as far as Samuel Johnson and are generally founded upon the biographical formula that the failure of his first marriage to Mary Powell was the motive for his divorce tracts and that these personal and ideological prejudices spilled over into his literary writing. Since the 1970s more sophisticated feminist critics have argued that the distinctive, archetypal roles played out by Adam and Eve are less a consequence of Milton’s personal state of mind and more part of a shared, patriarchal dialectic in which ongoing social conventions are justified and perpetuated through a mythology of religion and culture [166–74].

Here the narrative of the Fall is continued, with God observing the act of disobedience and sending the Son to pronounce judgement on Adam and Eve. The death sentence is deferred and they, and their offspring, are condemned to a limited tenure of earthly existence, much of it to be spent in thankless toil and sorrow (103–228). There then follows a lengthy section (228–720) in which Satan and his followers have their celebrations ruined by being turned into serpents and beset by unquenchable thirst and unassuagble appetite – so much for victory. The most important part is from 720 to the end of the book, during which Adam and Eve contemplate suicide. Adam considers this in an introspective soliloquy.

But say That death be not one stroke, as I supposed,

Bereaving sense, but endless misery From this day onward, which I feel begun Both in me, and without me, and so last To perpetuity.

(X: 808–130)

Adam is aware that self-inflicted death will involve a perpetuation, not a completion, of his tortured condition. This realisation prompts the circling, downward spiral of his inconclusive thoughts, until Eve arrives. She readily accepts blame for their condition.Adam is eventually moved by her contrition and they comfort each other. Crucially, the factor that enables Adam to properly organise his own thoughts is Eve’s proposition that rather than kill themselves they should spare their offspring the consequences of their act and refuse to breed; ‘Childless thou art, childless remain’ (989). Adam points out that this would both further upset the God-given natural order of things and, most importantly, grant a final victory to Satan. He seems at last to be exercising his much promoted gift of reason in a manner that is concurrent with the will of God, which implies that reason is tempered by thoughtful restraint not through any form of enlightenment, but from punishment. This impression finds its theological counterpart in what is termed ‘The Paradox of the Fortunate Fall’. This notion was first considered in depth by St.Augustine, and A.O. Lovejoy (1945 and 1960) traces its history up to and including Paradise Lost . The Fall is both paradoxical and fortunate because in the latter case it wasa necessary stage in man’s journey toward wisdom and awareness, while in the former it reminds us that we should not continually question and investigate God’s will.

Again we are returned to the conflict between Christian and humanist readings of the poem. The Augustinian interpretation would be a reminder that we should not concern ourselves too much with the apparent inconsistencies and paradoxes sewn into the poem,while a humanist reading would raise the question of why Milton deliberately,provocatively accentuates such concerns.

At the end of the book (1041–96) we are offered the spectacle of Adam and Eve no longer pondering such absolutes as the will of God and the nature of the cosmos but concentrating on more practical matters, such as how they might protect themselves from the new and disagreeable climate by rubbing two sticks together. Is Milton implicitly sanctioning the Augustinian notion of investigative restraint or is he presenting the originators of humanity as embodiments of pathetic, pitiable defeat?

Books XI and XII

In these the angel Michael shows Adam a vision of the future, drawn mainly from the Old Testament but sometimes bearing a close resemblance to the condition of life in seventeenth-century England. Kenneth Muir (1955) argued that although the two closing books were essential to the scriptural scheme of the poem they are ‘poetically on a much lower level’. What he means is that there is no longer any need for Milton to generate dramatic or logical tension: the future, as disclosed by Michael, has already arrived.

Adam is particularly distressed by the vision of Cain and Abel (XI: 429–60), the ‘sight/Of terror, foul and ugly to behold/Horrid to think, how horrible to feel!’ (463–5). Michael has already explained how, by some form of genetic inheritance, Adam is responsible for this spectacle of brother murdering brother. And we should remind ourselves that many of the first readers of this account had memories of brothers, sons and fathers facing one another across English battlefields; indeed its author’s own brother was on the Royalist side.

These two are brethren, Adam, and to come

Out of thy loins; the unjust the just hath slain,

For envy that his brother’s offering found From heaven acceptance; but the bloody fact Will be avenged, and other’s faith approved.

(XI: 454–8)

The tragic consequences of a perpetual rivalry between two figures who believe that theirs is the better ‘offering’ to God might easily be regarded as a vision of the consequences of the Reformation. The specific description of war (638–81) pays allegiance to the Old Testament and Virgil but would certainly evoke memories of when Englishmen, barely a decade earlier,

Lay siege, encamped; by battery, scale and mine,

Assaulting; others from the wall defend With dart and javelin, stones and sulphurous fire;

On each hand slaughter and gigantic deeds.

(XI: 656–9)

One wonders if Milton’s own experience of the Civil War, the Cromwellian Commonwealth and the Restoration, when death and destruction were perpetuated by man’s perception of God’s will, was in his mind when he wrote these passages. Hill, the Marxist historian, (1977) is in no doubt that it was and he devotes a subsection to apolitical-historical decoding of Books XI and XII (380–90). Hill concludes that

They [the books] represent Milton’s attempt to be utterly realistic in facing the worst without despair. It seemed to be true that there was a cyclical return of evil after every good start … God’s people in England after 1660 must learn to escape from history as circular treadmill, must become free to choose the good, as the English people had failed to chose it during the Revolution. (386)

For Hill, Milton regarded the political swings and catastrophes of the previous three decades as a concentrated version of man’s perpetual struggle and continual failure to build something better from his fallen condition. Moreover, Hill argues that the essential parallel between Adam’s vision of the future and Milton’s own of the recent past was that Milton perceived both as part of an extended process of man’s ‘reeducation and ultimate recognition of God’s purposes.’ (387) In short, the Cromwellian Revolution failed because man was not yet able to fully comprehend and engage with the legacy of the Fall.

Alongside the particulars of war and destruction Adam is shown more general, but no less distressing, pictures of the human condition. After enquiring of Michael if there arenot better ways to die than in battle Adam is presented with the following.

A lazar house it seemed, wherein were laid Numbers of all diseased, all maladies Of ghastly spasm, or racking torture, qualms Of heart-sick agony, all feverous kinds, Convulsions, epilepsies, fierce catarrhs Intestine stone and ulcer, colic pangs, Demoniac frenzy, moping melancholy And moon-struck madness, pining atrophy, Marasmus, and wide wasting pestilence, Dropsies, and asthmas, and joint racking rheums.

Dire was the tossing, deep the groans, despair Tended the sick busiest from couch to couch; And over them triumphant death his dart Shook, but delayed to strike, though oft invoked With vows, as their chief good, and final hope.

(XI: 479–93)

Disease, disablement, terminal illness and much pain will be inescapable and the onlymeans by which their worst effects might be moderated is through abstinence andrestraint: the pursuit of sensual pleasure brings its own form of physical punishment. Justprior to disclosing the ‘lazar house’ to Adam Michael informs him that he is doing so ‘that thou mayst know/What misery the inabstinence of Eve/ Shall bring on men’ (475–7) and yet again the reader feels a puzzling engagement with narrative chronology. At no point in Eve’s book IX exchange with Satan does she even inadvertently disclose that hedonism plays some part in her desire to eat the fruit, but Michael clearly presents acausal relation between what she did and the self destructive in abstinence of man’s fallen state. During his conversations with Raphael, before the Fall, Adam might well have enquired about such apparent discontinuities, but not now because as becomes evident in Book XII Michael’s instructive regimen is informed by, and apparently achieves, a different purpose.

Most of Book XII charts a tour of the Old and parts of the New Testament – Noah, The Flood, the Tower of Babel, the journey to the Promised Land and the coming of Christ –but its most important sections are towards the end when Adam is given the opportunityto reflect on what he has seen.

How soon hath thy prediction, seer blest, Measured this transcient world, the race of time,

Till time stand fixed: beyond is all abyss, Eternity, whose end no eye can reach. Greatly instructed I shall hence depart, Greatly in peace of thought, and have my fill Of knowledge, what this vessel can contain; Beyond which was my folly to aspire. Henceforth I learn, that to obey is best, And love with fear the only God, to walk As in his presence, ever to observe His providence, and on him sole depend.

(XII: 553–64)

Michael answers, approvingly:

This having learned, thou hast attained the sum

Of wisdom; hope no higher.

(XII: 575–6)

Without actually comparing his experiences with Michael with those before the Fall Adam is clearly aware that the cause of the Fall was his inclination to ‘aspire’ to an over-ambitious, extended state of ‘knowledge’. One significant difference between Raphael’s and Michael’s methods of instruction is that while the former operated almost exclusively within the medium of language, the principal instrument of speculation and enquiry, the latter relies more upon empirical and tangible evidence, pictures. This is appropriate,given that Michael’s intention is to present Adam with indisputable, ineluctable facts, matters not open to debate, and in doing so to reinforce the lesson that ‘wisdom’ has its limits; ‘hope no higher’. The question that has attended practically all of the critical debates on the poem is encapsulated in three lines at the centre of Adam’s speech.

Greatly instructed I shall hence depart, Greatly in peace of thought, and have my fill Of knowledge.

(XII: 537–9)

The question is this: does Adam speak for the reader? And there are questions within the question. Did Milton intend the reader to share Adam’s state of intellectual subordination to a mindset ‘beyond which was [his] folly to aspire’? Are the tantalising complexities of the poem – the presentations of God and Satan, the intricate moral and theological problems raised in the narrative – designed to tempt the reader much as Adam had been tempted, and to remind us of the consequences? Or did Milton himself face uncertainties and did he use the poem not so much to resolve as to confront them? As Part III will show, these matters, after 300 years of often perplexed commentary and debate, remain unsettled.

BIBLIOGRAPHY Aers, D. and Hodge, B., ‘“Rational Burning”: Milton and Sex and Marriage’ (1981), References from Zunder (1999). Barker, A.E., Milton and the Puritan Dilemma, Toronto: University of Toronto Press (1942). Barker, F., The Tremulous Private Body: Essays on Subjection, London: Methuen (1984). Belloc, H., Milton, London: Cassell (1935). Belsey, C., John Milton. Language, Gender, Power, Oxford: Blackwell (1988). Bennett, J.S., ‘God, Satan and King Charles: Milton’s Royal Portraits’, PMLA 92 (1977) pp. 441–57. Blamires, H., Milton’s Creation, London: Methuen (1971). Bloom, Harold, The Anxiety of Influence, Oxford: Oxford University Press (1973). Bradford, R., ‘Milton’s Graphic Poetics’, in Nyquist and Ferguson (1987). Bradford, R., Paradise Lost. An Open Guide, Buckingham: Open University Press (1992). Bradford, R., Silence and Sound. Theories of Poetics from the 18th Century, London: Associated University Presses (1992). Bridges, R., Milton’s Prosody, Oxford: Oxford University Press (1921). Brooks, C., The Well Wrought Urn. Studies in the Structure of Poetry, London: Methuen (1968, first published 1947). Brown, C., John Milton. A Literary Life, London: Macmillan (1995). Burnett, A., Milton’s Style, London: Longman (1981). Bush, D., John Milton. A Sketch of His Life and Writings, London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson (1964). Champagne, C., ‘Adam and his “Other Self” in Paradise Lost: A Lacanian study in Psychic Development’, in Zunder (1999). Corns, T., ‘Milton’s Quest for Respectabiltiy’, Modern Language Review 77 (1982). Corns, T., Milton’s Language, Oxford: Blackwell (1990). Danielson, D. (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Milton, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press (1989). Darbishire, Helen (ed.), The Early Lives of John Milton, London: Constable (1932). Davie, D., ‘Syntax and Music in Paradise Lost’, The Living Milton, ed., F. Kermode, Oxford: Oxford University Press (1960). Davies, S., Milton, London: Harvester (1993). Dyson, A.E. and Lovelock, J. (eds), Milton: Paradise Lost. A Casebook, London: Macmillan (1973). Eagleton, T., ‘The God That Failed’, in Nyquist and Ferguson (1987). Eliot, T.S., ‘Milton I’ (1936); ‘Milton II’ (1947), in On Poetry and Poets, London: Faber (1957). Eliot, T.S., ‘The Metaphysical Poets’ (1921), in Selected Essays, London: Faber (1961). Ellwood, T., History of the Life of Thomas Ellwood, London (1714). Emma, R.D., Milton’s Grammar, The Hague: Mouton (1964) Empson, W., Milton’s God, London: Chatto (1961). Evans, J. Martin, Milton’s Imperial Epic, Ithaca: Cornwell University Press (1996). Fallon, R.T., Captain or Colonel, Columbia: Missouri University Press (1984). Ferry, A., Milton’s Epic Voice: The Narrator in Paradise Lost, Cambridge, MA: Yale University Press (1963). Fish, S., ‘What its Like to Read L’Allegro and I’l Penseroso’ (1975), in Is There a Text in This Class? Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press (1980). Fish, S., Surprized By Sin: The Reader in Paradise Lost, London: Macmillan (1967). Fixler, M., Milton and the Kingdoms of God, Northwestern University Press (1964). Fletcher, H.F., The Intellectual Development of John Milton, Illinois: Illinois University Press (1956). Forgacs, D., ‘Marxist Literary Theories’, in Modern Literary Theory, (eds) A. Jefferson and D. Robey, London: Batsford (1982). French, J.M. (ed.), Life Records of John Milton, New Jersey: Rutgers University Press (1949–58). Froula, C., ‘When Eve Reads Milton: Undoing the Canonical Economy’ (1983). References from Patterson (1992). Geisst, C., The Political Thought of John Milton, London: Macmillan (1984). Gilbert, S., ‘Patriarchal Poetry and Women Readers: Reflections on Milton’s Bogey’, PMLA 93 (1978), pp.368–82. Graves, Robert, Wife to Mr. Milton, London: Cassell (1942). Greenlaw, E., ‘A Better Teaching Than Aquinas’ Studies in Philology, 14 (1917), pp. 196–217 Halkett, J., Milton and the Idea of Matrimony, New Haven: Yale University Press (1970). Halpern, R., ‘The Great Instauration: imaginary narratives in Milton’s “Nativity Ode”’, in Nyquist and Ferguson (1987). Hanford, J., John Milton, Englishman, New York: Crown (1949). Hartman, G., ‘Adam on The Grass with Balsamora’ (1970) in Zunder (1999). Havens, R.D., The Influence of Milton on English Poetry, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press (1922). Hayley, W., Life of Milton, London (1794). Hill, Christopher, Milton and the English Revolution, London: Faber and Faber (1977). Honigman, E.A.J. (ed.), Milton’s Sonnets, London: Macmillan (1966). Hooker, E.N. (ed.), The Critical Works of John Dennis, 2 Vols, Baltimore: John Hopkins Press (1939–43). Hopkins, G.M., Selected Letters, ed. C. Phillips, Oxford: Oxford University Press (1990). Hunter, W.B. (ed.), A Milton Encyclopedia, 7 Vols, London: Associated University Presses (1978). Ivimay, Joseph, John Milton: His Life and Times, Religious and Political Opinions, London (1833). Jameson, F., ‘Religion and Ideology: A Political Reading of Paradise Lost’ (1986). References from Zunder (1999). Johnson, S., Lives of the Poets, 1779–81; references from reprints in Oxford Anthology of English Literature, Vol. I, ed. Kermode, F. et al., Oxford: Oxford University Press. Kelley, M., This Great Argument, New Jersey: Princeton University Press (1941). Kendrick, C., Milton. A Study in Ideology and Form, New York: Methuen (1986). Kermode, F. (ed.), The Living Milton: Essays by Various Hands, London: Routledge (1960). Kerrigan, W., The Sacred Garden, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press (1983). Landy, M., ‘Kinship and The Role of Women in Paradise Lost’, Milton Studies 4 (1972), pp.3–18. Le Comte, E., Milton and Sex, London: Macmillan (1978). Leavis, F.R. Revaluation, London: Chatto (1936). Leishman, J.B., Milton’s Minor Poems, London: Hutchinson (1969). Levi, P., Eden Renewed. The Public and Private Life of John Milton, London: Macmillan (1996). Lewalski, B.K., ‘Milton on Women – Yet Once More’, Milton Studies 6, (1974), pp.3–20. Lewalski, B.K., Milton’s Brief Epic, Providence (1966). Lewis, C.S., A Preface to Paradise Lost, Oxford: Oxford University Press (1942). Lovejoy, A.O., The Great Chain of Being: A Study in the History of an Idea, New York: Harper and Row (1960). Macauley, T., The Works of Lord Macauley, ed. Lady Trevelyan, Vol. 5, London: Longman (1875). Martz, L., ‘The Rising Poet, 1645’ (1965), in Poet of Exile: A Study of Milton’s Poetry, New Haven: Yale University Press (1980). Masson, D., Life of Milton, 7 Vols, London (1859–94). McColley, D., Milton’s Eve, Champagne: Illinois University Press (1983). Milner, A., John Milton and the English Revolution, London: Macmillan (1981). Milton, John, The Complete Prose Works of John Milton, ed. D.M. Wolfe, 8 Vols, New Haven: Yale University Press (1953–82). Milton, John, The Poems, eds J. Carey and A. Fowler, London: Longman (1968). Milton, John, The Works of John Milton, ed. F.A. Patterson, 20 Vols, New York: Columbia University Press (1931–40). Muir, K., John Milton, London: Longman, Green & Co (1955). Myers, W., Milton and Free Will: An Essay in Criticism and Philosophy, London: Croom Helm (1987). References from Patterson (1992). Newlyn, L., Paradise Lost and the Romantic Reader, Oxford: Oxford University Press (1993). Nicolson, M., A Reader’s Guide to John Milton, London: Thames and Hudson (1964). Norbrook, D., ‘The Politics of Milton’s Early Poetry’, (1984). References from Patterson (1992). Nyquist, M. and Ferguson, M. (eds), Re-Membering Milton. Essays on the Texts and Traditions, London: Methuen (1987). Nyquist, M., ‘Fallen Differences, Phallogocentric Discourses: Losing Paradise Lost to History’ (1988). References from Patterson (1992). Nyquist, M., ‘The Genesis of Gendered Subjectivity in the Divorce Tracts and in Paradise Lost’, in Re-Membering Milton, eds Nyquist and Ferguson, London: Methuen (1987). References from Zunder (1999). Oras, A., Milton’s Editors and Commentators from Patrick Hume to Henry John Todd 16959–1801, Tartu (1930). Oras, A., Milton’s Blank Verse and the Chronology of His Major Poems, Gainsville: University of Illinois Press (1953). Parker, W.R., Milton. A Biography, Oxford: Oxford University Press (1968). Patrides, C.A. (ed.), Approaches to Paradise Lost, London: Edward Arnold (1968). Patrides, C.A., Adamson, J.H. and Hunter, W.B., Bright Essence. Studies in Milton’s Theology, Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press (1971). Patrides, C.A., Milton and the Christian Tradition, Oxford: Oxford University Press (1966). Patterson, A. (ed.), John Milton: Longman Critical Reader, London: Longman (1992). Phillips, E., Life of Milton, (1694). References from Darbishire (1932). Prince, F.T., The Italian Element in Milton’s Verse, Oxford: Oxford University Press (1954). Quint, D., ‘David’s Census: Milton’s Politics and Paradise Regained’, in Nyquist and Ferguson (1987). Rajan, B., Paradise Lost and the 17th Century Reader(1947). Referenes from Dyson and Lovelock (1973). Raleigh, W., Milton, London (1900). Rapaport, H., Milton and the Post Modern, Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press (1983). Revard, S.P., The War in Heaven, Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press (1980). Richmond, H., The Christian Revolutionary: John Milton, Berkeley: University of California Press (1974). Ricks, C., Milton’s Grand Style, Oxford: Oxford University Press (1963). Ricks, C., Tennyson, London: Macmillan (1972). Riggs, W.G., The Christian Poet in Paradise Lost, Berkeley: University of California Press (1972). Ross, M., Milton and Royalism, Ithaca: Cornell University Press (1943). Rowse, A.L., Milton the Puritan, London: Macmillan (1977). Rudrum, A. (ed.), Milton. Modern Judgements, London: Macmillan (1968). Saintsbury, G., A History of English Prosody, 3 Vols, London (1906–10). Schwartz, R., Remembering and Repeating: Biblical Creation in Paradise Lost, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press (1988). Sewell, A., A Study of Milton’s Christian Doctrine, Oxford: Oxford University Press (1939). Shawcross, J.T. (ed.), Milton. The Critical Heritage, Vols I and II, London: Routledge (1970 and 1972). Smart, John (ed.), The Sonnets of Milton, Glasgow (1921). Spencer Hill, J., John Milton: Poet, Priest and Prophet, London (1979). Sprott, S.E., Milton’s Art of Prosody, Oxford: Oxford University Press (1953). Stein, A., Answerable Style, University of Minnesota Press (1953). Stocker, M., Paradise Lost: The Critics’ Debate, London: Macmillan (1988). Stroup, T.B., Religious Rite and Ceremony in Milton’s Poetry, Lexington: University of Kentucky Press (1968). Svendsen, K., Milton and Science, New York: Greenwood Press (1956). Tillyard, E.M.W., Milton, London: Chatto and Windus (1930). Tillyard, E.M.W., The Miltonic Setting, Past and Present, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press (1938). Treip, M., Milton’s Punctuation and the Changing English Usage, London: Methuen (1970). Turner, J.G., One Flesh: Paradisal Marriage and Sexual Relations in the Age of Milton, Oxford: Oxford University Press (1987). Tuve, R., Image and Themes in Five Poems By Milton, Oxford: Oxford University Press (1957). Waldock, A.J.A., Paradise Lost and its Critics, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press (1947). Webber, J.M., ‘The Politics of Poetry: Feminism and Paradise Lost’, Milton Studies 14 (1980), pp.3–24. Wedgwood, C.V., Milton and His World, London: Lutterworth (1969). Whiting, G.W., Milton’s Literary Milieu, New York: Russell and Russell (1964). Wilding, M., ‘Milton’s Early Radicalism’ (1987) in Patterson (1992). Wilding, M., ‘Milton’s Radical Epic’, in Writing and Radicalism, (ed.) J. Lucas, London: Longman (1996). Wilson, A.N., The Life of John Milton, Oxford: Oxford University Press (1983). Wittreich, J. (ed.), The Romantics on Milton, Cleveland: Case Western Reserve University Press (1970). Wittreich, J., Feminist Milton, Ithaca: Cornwell University Press (1987). Wittreich, J., Milton’s Tradition and his Legacy, California: Huntingdon Library (1979). Wright, E., ‘Modern Psychoanalytic Criticism’ in Modern Literary Theory, eds A. Jefferson and D. Robey, London: Batsford (1982). Zunder, W. (ed.), Paradise Lost. New Casebooks, London: Macmillan (1999).

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Paradise Lost

John milton, everything you need for every book you read., satan quotes in paradise lost.

Hierarchy and Order Theme Icon

Fall’n Cherub, to be weak is miserable Doing or suffering: but of this be sure, To do aught good never will be our task, But ever to do ill our sole delight, As being the contrary to his high will Whom we resist. If then his Providence Out of our evil seek to bring forth good, Our labour must be to pervert that end, And out of good still to find means of evil…

Disobedience and Revolt Theme Icon

The mind is its own place, and in itself Can make a Heav’n of Hell, a Hell of Heav’n… Here we may reign secure, and in my choice To reign is worth ambition though in Hell: Better to reign in Hell, than serve in Heav’n.

Hierarchy and Order Theme Icon

Thus Beelzebub Pleaded his devilish counsel, first devised By Satan, and in part proposed; for whence, But from the author of all ill could spring So deep a malice, to confound the race Of mankind in one root, and earth with Hell To mingle and involve, done all to spite The great Creator? But their spite still serves His glory to augment.

If him by force he can destroy, or worse, By some false guile pervert; and shall pervert; For man will hearken to his glozing lies, And easily transgress the sole command, Sole pledge of his obedience: so will fall He and his faithless progeny: whose fault? Whose but his own? Ingrate, he had of me All he could have; I made him just and right, Sufficient to have stood, though free to fall.

Be then his love accursed, since love or hate, To me alike, it deals eternal woe. Nay cursed be thou; since against his thy will Chose freely what it now so justly rues. Me miserable! Which way shall I fly Infinite wrath, and infinite despair? Which way I fly is Hell; myself am Hell; And in the lowest deep a lower deep Still threat’ning to devour me opens wide, To which the Hell I suffer seems a Heav’n.

Love and Marriage Theme Icon

And should I at your harmless innocence Melt, as I do, yet public reason just, Honour and empire with revenge enlarged, By conquering this new world, compels me now To do what else though damned I should abhor.

Will ye submit your necks, and choose to bend The supple knee? ye will not, if I trust To know ye right, or if ye know yourselves Natives and sons of Heav’n possessed before By none, and if not equal all, yet free, Equally free; for orders and degrees Jar not with liberty, but well consist. Who can in reason then or right assume Monarchy over such as live by right His equals, if in power and splendour less, In freedom equal?

Unjust thou say’st Flatly unjust, to bind with laws the free, And equal over equals to let reign, One over all with unsucceeded power. Shalt thou give law to God, shalt thou dispute With him the points of liberty, who made Thee what thou art, and formed the Powers of Heav’n Such as he pleased, and circumscribed their being?

O foul descent! that I who erst contended With Gods to sit the highest, am now constrained Into a beast, and mixed with bestial slime, This essence to incarnate and imbrute, That to the heighth of Deity aspired… Revenge, at first though sweet, Bitter ere long back on itself recoils; Let it; I reck not, so I light well aimed, Since higher I fall short, on him who next Provokes my envy, this new favourite Of Heav’n, this man of clay, son of despite, Whom us the more to spite his Maker raised From dust: spite then with spite is best repaid.

Queen of this universe, do not believe Those rigid threats of death; ye shall not die: How should ye? by the fruit? it gives you life To knowledge. By the Threat’ner? look on me, Me who have touched and tasted, yet both live, And life more perfect have attained than Fate Meant me, by vent’ring higher than my lot. Shall that be shut to man, which to the beast Is open? or will God incense his ire For such a petty trespass, and not praise Rather your dauntless virtue, whom the pain Of death denounced, whatever thing death be…

O Eve, in evil hour thou didst give ear To that false worm, of whomsoever taught To counterfeit man’s voice, true in our Fall, False in promised rising; since our eyes Opened we find indeed, and find we know Both good and evil, good lost, and evil got, Bad fruit of knowledge, if this be to know…

Fair daughter, and thou son and grandchild both, High proof ye now have giv’n to be the race Of Satan (for I glory in the name, Antagonist of Heav’n’s Almighty King) Amply have merited of me, of all Th’ infernal empire, that so near Heav’n’s door Triumphal with triumphal act have met, Mine with this glorious work, and made one realm Hell and this world, one realm, one continent Of easy thoroughfare.

Paradise Lost PDF

  • Paradise Lost

John Milton

  • Literature Notes
  • Poem Summary
  • About Paradise Lost
  • Character List
  • Summary and Analysis
  • Character Analysis
  • Character Map
  • John Milton Biography
  • Critical Essays
  • Milton's Universe
  • Major Themes in Paradise Lost
  • Milton's Grand Style
  • Full Glossary for Paradise Lost
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Character Analysis Satan

Probably the most famous quote about Paradise Lost is William Blake's statement that Milton was "of the Devil's party without knowing it." While Blake may have meant something other than what is generally understood from this quotation (see "Milton's Style" in the Critical Essays), the idea that Satan is the hero, or at least a type of hero, in Paradise Lost is widespread. However, the progression, or, more precisely, regression, of Satan's character from Book I through Book X gives a much different and much clearer picture of Milton's attitude toward Satan.

Writers and critics of the Romantic era advanced the notion that Satan was a Promethean hero, pitting himself against an unjust God. Most of these writers based their ideas on the picture of Satan in the first two books of Paradise Lost . In those books, Satan rises off the lake of fire and delivers his heroic speech still challenging God. Satan tells the other rebels that they can make "a Heav'n of Hell, a Hell of Heav'n" (I, 255) and adds, "Better to reign in Hell than serve in Heav'n" (I, 263). Satan also calls for and leads the grand council. Finally, he goes forth on his own to cross Chaos and find Earth. Without question, this picture of Satan makes him heroic in his initial introduction to the reader.

Besides his actions, Satan also appears heroic because the first two books focus on Hell and the fallen angels. The reader's introduction to the poem is through Satan's point of view. Milton, by beginning in medias res gives Satan the first scene in the poem, a fact that makes Satan the first empathetic character. Also, Milton's writing in these books, and his characterization of Satan, make the archfiend understandable and unforgettable.

These facts certainly make Satan the most interesting character in the poem — but they do not make him the hero. Because the reader hears Satan's version first, the reader is unaware of the exaggerations and outright lies that are parts of Satan's magnificent speeches. Moreover, the reader can easily overlook the fact that Milton states that, whatever powers and abilities the fallen angels have in Hell, those powers and abilities come from God, who could at any moment take them away.

In essence then, Milton's grand poetic style sets Satan up as heroic in Books I and II. The presentation of Satan makes him seem greater than he actually is and initially draws the reader to Satan's viewpoint. Further, because all of the other characters in the poem — Adam, Eve, God, the Son, the angels — are essentially types rather than characters, Milton spends more artistic energy on the development of Satan so that throughout the poem, Satan's character maintains the reader's interest and, perhaps, sympathy — at least to an extent.

No matter how brilliantly Milton created the character of Satan, the chief demon cannot be the hero of the poem. For Milton, Satan is the enemy who chooses to commit an act that goes against the basic laws of God, that challenges the very nature of the universe. Satan attempts to destroy the hierarchy of Heaven through his rebellion. Satan commits this act not because of the tyranny of God but because he wants what he wants rather than what God wants. Satan is an egoist. His interests always turn on his personal desires. Unlike Adam, who discusses a multiplicity of subjects with Raphael, rarely mentioning his own desires, Satan sees everything in terms of what will happen to him. A true Promethean / Romantic hero has to rebel against an unjust tyranny in an attempt to right a wrong or help someone less fortunate. If Satan had been Prometheus, he would have stolen fire to warm himself, not to help Mankind.

Milton shows his own attitude toward Satan in the way the character degenerates or is degraded in the progression of the poem. Satan is magnificent, even admirable in Books I and II. By book IV, he is changed. In his soliloquy that starts Book IV, Satan declares that Hell is wherever he himself is. Away form his followers and allowed some introspection, Satan already reveals a more conflicted character.

Similarly, Satan's motives change as the story advances. At first, Satan wishes to continue the fight for freedom from God. Later his motive for continuing the fight becomes glory and renown. Next, the temptation of Adam and Eve is simply a way to disrupt God's plans. And, at the end, Satan seems to say that he has acted as he has to impress the other demons in Hell. This regression of motives shows quite a fall.

Satan also regresses or degenerates physically. Satan shifts shapes throughout the poem. These changes visually represent the degeneration of his character. First, he takes the form of a lesser angel, a cherub, when he speaks to Uriel. Next, he is a ravening cormorant in the tree of life — an animal but able to fly. Then he is a lion and a tiger — earth-bound beasts of prey, but magnificent. Finally, he is a toad and a snake. He becomes reptilian and disgusting. These shape changes graphically reveal how Satan's actions change him.

Even in his own shape, Satan degenerates. When Gabriel confronts Satan in Book V, none of the angels initially recognize Satan because his appearance is noticeably changed. Likewise, in Book X, when Satan once again sits on his throne in Hell, none of the earlier magnificence of his physical appearance is left. Now he looks like a drunken debauchee.

Though Satan is not heroic in Paradise Lost , he at times does border on tragedy. Ironically, he also borders on comedy. The comic element associated with Satan derives from the absurdity of his position. As a rebel, he challenges an omnipotent foe, God, with power that is granted him by his foe. God simply toys with Satan in battle. Satan is, in fact, cartoonish when he and Belial gloat over the success of their infernal cannon in Book VI. Satan and Belial stand laughing at the disorder they have caused, but they are unaware of the mountains and boulders just about to land on their heads.

If all of Paradise Lost were on the level of the battle scene, the poem would be comic. But Satan's temptation of Adam and Eve moves the demon closer to tragedy. Satan's motives in destroying the human couple may be arguable, but the effect and its implications are not. Satan brings the humans down and causes their removal from Eden. In so doing, he also provides the way to salvation for those humans who choose freely to obey God. However, Satan provides nothing for himself. Hell is where Satan is because he has no way to rejoin God. Unlike humanity, Satan and the other fallen angels have already sealed their fates. They live always with the knowledge of Hell.

In the end, Satan calls to mind the Macbeth of Shakespeare. Both characters are magnificent creations of evil. Both are heroic after a fashion, but both are doomed. Both are fatalistic about the afterlife. Satan knows that he must remain in Hell; Macbeth says that he would "jump the life to come," if he could kill Duncan with no consequence on Earth. Both characters are the driving force in their own works. And finally both create a kind of Hell; Macbeth's on Earth, Satan's in the universe.

Previous Book XII

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Paradise Lost

Milton's presentation of evil through satan poppy may buels 12th grade.

Throughout book 9 of Milton’s ‘Paradise Lost’, Satan is generally presented as the personification of evil, largely fuelled by Milton’s own religious grounding. This pure evil is conveyed by Milton though Satan’s innate drive to destroy mankind and his manipulation and seduction of Eve. Although Milton adopts the traditional presentation of Satan, he also subtly suggests that Satan has a potential for good which is seen through his intense appreciation of Eve when he sees her for the first time.

Milton presents different ideas about evilness by exploring Satan’s innate desire to cause the fall of mankind. As Satan laments about the restriction that has been put upon him by God, he speaks of how ‘only in destroying I find ease’. Satan’s blatant admittance of his desire to cause destruction strengthens his biblical presentation. This destructive force could be considered innate because it brings Satan ‘ease’, suggesting he is in discomfort when he isn’t the cause of destruction. Similarly, Satan explains how he would rather make the world a more miserable place than make himself happier; ‘hope to be myself less miserable by what I seek, but others to make such’. Satan’s triviality is clearly seen here as the evil that resonates...

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paradise lost satan essay

Rutgers professors throwing day-long solar eclipse party with a twist

Two Rutgers University professors will be throwing a very literary party on campus during Monday's solar eclipse.

The Department of English scholars will be celebrating the astronomical event by staging a day-long, outdoor marathon reading of John Milton's epic poem, "Paradise Lost" − all 10,000-plus lines of it. Students, faculty, staff and members of the public are invited to join in the reading of the poem, which is filled with allusions to eclipses, as well as imagery of light and darkness.

As the moon hurtles through its orbit on a path that will inevitably lead it between the Earth and sun, members of Rutgers New Brunswick’s Department of English will mark this year’s solar eclipse in their own way. Gathering at Voorhees Mall, they will take turns reciting lines from “Paradise Lost,” one of literature’s best-known poems showcasing an epic battle between goodness, represented as light, and evil, depicted as darkness.

Participants will start at 9:30 a.m. and finish at about 6 p.m. In that time, they will read aloud all 12 books − every word of the blank verse poem that depicts the biblical fall from grace of Adam and Eve.

"It’s a perfect poem for somebody who’s 20 or 21 or 22," said English Professor Ann Baynes Coiro, a Milton scholar in the Rutgers School of Arts and Sciences. 

Coiro said her students are mesmerized by the 17th century poet’s masterpiece and will spend hours in class debating its ideas.

"It’s all about facing branching choices and knowing good by knowing evil − and learning to recognize that we can resent authority, especially when placed in a position of subservience, and that acquiring knowledge is the goal of education but that it complicates things," she said. 

More: Check out these solar eclipse events in Central Jersey on April 8

Despite its age, the poem is surprisingly modern.

“It’s a love story,” Coiro said. “It’s a brilliant portrayal of what seems like a 'real' couple – Adam and Eve love each other, and they have fights.”

Coiro, along with department colleague Brad Evans, selected Milton’s work for the celestial event because eclipse imagery is laced throughout the work. Near the start of Book One, Milton compares Satan to an eclipsed sun:

“As when the Sun new ris’n

Looks through the Horizontal misty Air

Shorn of his Beams, or from behind the Moon

In dim Eclips disastrous twilight sheds…

Dark’n’d so, yet shon

Above them all the’ Arch Angel…”

"Paradise Lost" solidified Milton’s reputation as one of the greatest of English poets. The author employed light and darkness as symbols of the eternal struggle between good and evil. Because he was blind, Milton wrote the poem to be read aloud, said Coiro.

With Milton providing the words and nature providing the lighting, the scholars hope participants will enjoy the spectacle of art mirroring nature, as the shadow of the eclipse swells, darkens the landscape, then ebbs, returning the light.

More: Solar eclipse 2024: What's the best time to view April eclipse? Browse by ZIP code

Viewers in the Garden State will see a partial eclipse, meaning that the moon will never fully block the sun. But astronomers say it is worth watching, as the Earth will still darken as the sun becomes partially obscured, and the sun will look as though a bite has been taken out of it.

At this solar eclipse party, expect to be handed eclipse glasses, folding chairs, books, a microphone – and apples.

Organizers will give free copies of the epic poem to the event’s volunteer readers, who will speak through a microphone while standing under a tent in front of Murray Hall.

At the peak of the solar eclipse, with maximum darkness at about 3:24 p.m., the readers will have reached Book Nine, the section of the poem considered to be its dramatic climax. The poem’s passages focus on Adam and Eve’s final moments in the Garden of Eden. Eve is tempted by Satan and convinces Adam to disobey God’s instructions. They eat a piece of fruit they were forbidden to pluck from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil and are cast forever from Paradise.

"We planned the event to showcase the entanglement of nature and culture—how our ideas about the world have been shaped by the stories we share together," said Evans, the director of undergraduate education for the Department of English.

At that moment, apples will be distributed to the crowd. Over time, Coiro said, the apple has come to be generally understood to be the forbidden fruit referred to in the Bible.

"We’ll be eating apples in darkness," Evans said.

More: Solar eclipse 2024: Early weather forecast for Central Jersey

The organizers are spurred by the success of a similar “Paradise Lost” reading marathon, which the department staged about 10 years ago, drawing a crowd. The department also has hosted reading marathons at Rutgers Day, entertaining audiences with literary selections including J.D. Salinger’s "Catcher in the Rye" and J.R.R. Tolkien’s "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy.

The eclipse read-a-thon is co-sponsored by the Rutgers School of Arts and Sciences Honors Program, the Center for Cultural Analysis, the Rutgers Honors College and the Rutgers Center for the Philosophy of Religion.

“You can drop by to listen,” Evans said. “And anyone can get in the queue to read a verse paragraph.” 

The event will occur from 9:30 a.m. to about 6 p.m. in front of Murray Hall on the College Avenue campus.

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Ronna McDaniel, TV News and the Trump Problem

The former republican national committee chairwoman was hired by nbc and then let go after an outcry..

This transcript was created using speech recognition software. While it has been reviewed by human transcribers, it may contain errors. Please review the episode audio before quoting from this transcript and email [email protected] with any questions.

From “The New York Times,” I’m Michael Barbaro. This is “The Daily.”


Today, the saga of Ronna McDaniel and NBC and what it reveals about the state of television news headed into the 2024 presidential race. Jim Rutenberg, a “Times” writer at large, is our guest.

It’s Monday, April 1.

Jim, NBC News just went through a very public, a very searing drama over the past week, that we wanted you to make sense of in your unique capacity as a longtime media and political reporter at “The Times.” This is your sweet spot. You were, I believe, born to dissect this story for us.

Oh, brother.

Well, on the one hand, this is a very small moment for a major network like NBC. They hire, as a contributor, not an anchor, not a correspondent, as a contributor, Ronna McDaniel, the former RNC chairwoman. It blows up in a mini scandal at the network.

But to me, it represents a much larger issue that’s been there since that moment Donald J. Trump took his shiny gold escalator down to announce his presidential run in 2015. This struggle by the news media to figure out, especially on television, how do we capture him, cover him for all of his lies, all the challenges he poses to Democratic norms, yet not alienate some 74, 75 million American voters who still follow him, still believe in him, and still want to hear his reality reflected in the news that they’re listening to?

Right. Which is about as gnarly a conundrum as anyone has ever dealt with in the news media.

Well, it’s proven so far unsolvable.

Well, let’s use the story of what actually happened with Ronna McDaniel and NBC to illustrate your point. And I think that means describing precisely what happened in this situation.

The story starts out so simply. It’s such a basic thing that television networks do. As elections get underway, they want people who will reflect the two parties.

They want talking heads. They want insiders. They want them on their payroll so they can rely on them whenever they need them. And they want them to be high level so they can speak with great knowledge about the two major candidates.

Right. And rather than needing to beg these people to come on their show at 6 o’clock, when they might be busy and it’s not their full-time job, they go off and they basically put them on retainer for a bunch of money.

Yeah. And in this case, here’s this perfect scenario because quite recently, Ronna McDaniel, the chairwoman of the Republican National Committee through the Trump era, most of it, is now out on the market. She’s actually recently been forced out of the party. And all the networks are interested because here’s the consummate insider from Trump world ready to get snatched up under contract for the next election and can really represent this movement that they’ve been trying to capture.

So NBC’S key news executives move pretty aggressively, pretty swiftly, and they sign her up for a $300,000 a year contributor’s contract.

Nice money if you can get it.

Not at millions of dollars that they pay their anchors, but a very nice contract. I’ll take it. You’ll take it. In the eyes of NBC execs she was perfect because she can be on “Meet the Press” as a panelist. She can help as they figure out some of their coverage. They have 24 hours a day to fill and here’s an official from the RNC. You can almost imagine the question that would be asked to her. It’s 10:00 PM on election night. Ronna, what are the Trump people thinking right now? They’re looking at the same numbers you are.

That was good, but that’s exactly it. And we all know it, right? This is television in our current era.

So last Friday, NBC makes what should be a routine announcement, but one they’re very proud of, that they’ve hired Ronna McDaniel. And in a statement, they say it couldn’t be a more important moment to have a voice like Ronna’s on the team. So all’s good, right? Except for there’s a fly in the ointment.

Because it turns out that Ronna McDaniel has been slated to appear on “Meet the Press,” not as a paid NBC contributor, but as a former recently ousted RNC chair with the “Meet The Press” host, Kristen Welker, who’s preparing to have a real tough interview with Ronna McDaniel. Because of course, Ronna McDaniel was chair of the party and at Trump’s side as he tried to refuse his election loss. So this was supposed to be a showdown interview.

From NBC News in Washington, the longest-running show in television history. This is “Meet The Press” with Kristen Welker.

And here, all of a sudden, Kristin Welker is thrown for a loop.

In full disclosure to our viewers, this interview was scheduled weeks before it was announced that McDaniel would become a paid NBC News contributor.

Because now, she’s actually interviewing a member of the family who’s on the same payroll.

Right. Suddenly, she’s interviewing a colleague.

This will be a news interview, and I was not involved in her hiring.

So what happens during the interview?

So Welker is prepared for a tough interview, and that’s exactly what she does.

Can you say, as you sit here today, did Joe Biden win the election fair and square?

He won. He’s the legitimate president.

Did he win fair and square?

Fair and square, he won. It’s certified. It’s done.

She presses her on the key question that a lot of Republicans get asked these days — do you accept Joe Biden was the winner of the election?

But, I do think, Kristen —

Ronna, why has it taken you until now to say that? Why has it taken you until now to be able to say that?

I’m going to push back a little.

McDaniel gets defensive at times.

Because I do think it’s fair to say there were problems in 2020. And to say that does not mean he’s not the legitimate president.

But, Ronna, when you say that, it suggests that there was something wrong with the election. And you know that the election was the most heavily scrutinized. Chris Krebs —

It’s a really combative interview.

I want to turn now to your actions in the aftermath of the 2020 election.

And Welker actually really does go deeply into McDaniel’s record in those weeks before January 6.

On November 17, you and Donald Trump were recorded pushing two Republican Michigan election officials not to certify the results of the election. And on the call —

For instance, she presses McDaniel on McDaniel’s role in an attempt to convince a couple county commissioner level canvassers in Michigan to not certify Biden’s victory.

Our call that night was to say, are you OK? Vote your conscience. Not pushing them to do anything.

McDaniel says, look, I was just telling them to vote their conscience. They should do whatever they think is right.

But you said, do not sign it. If you can go home tonight, do not sign it. How can people read that as anything other than a pressure campaign?

And Welker’s not going to just let her off the hook. Welker presses her on Trump’s own comments about January 6 and Trump’s efforts recently to gloss over some of the violence, and to say that those who have been arrested, he’ll free them.

Do you support that?

I want to be very clear. The violence that happened on January 6 is unacceptable.

And this is a frankly fascinating moment because you can hear McDaniel starting to, if not quite reverse some of her positions, though in some cases she does that, at least really soften her language. It’s almost as if she’s switching uniforms from the RNC one to an NBC one or almost like breaking from a role she was playing.

Ronna, why not speak out earlier? Why just speak out about that now?

When you’re the RNC chair, you kind of take one for the whole team, right? Now, I get to be a little bit more myself.

She says, hey, you know what? Sometimes as RNC chair, you just have to take it for the team sometimes.

Right. What she’s really saying is I did things as chairwoman of the Republican National committee that now that I no longer have that job, I can candidly say, I wished I hadn’t done, which is very honest. But it’s also another way of saying I’m two faced, or I was playing a part.

Ronna McDaniel, thank you very much for being here this morning.

Then something extraordinary happens. And I have to say, I’ve never seen a moment like this in decades of watching television news and covering television news.

Welcome back. The panel is here. Chuck Todd, NBC News chief political analyst.

Welker brings her regular panel on, including Chuck Todd, now the senior NBC political analyst.

Chuck, let’s dive right in. What were your takeaways?

And he launches right into what he calls —

Look, let me deal with the elephant in the room.

The elephant being this hiring of McDaniel.

I think our bosses owe you an apology for putting you in this situation.

And he proceeds, on NBC’S air, to lace into management for, as he describes it, putting Welker in this crazy awkward position.

Because I don’t know what to believe. She is now a paid contributor by NBC News. I have no idea whether any answer she gave to you was because she didn’t want to mess up her contract.

And Todd is very hung up on this idea that when she was speaking for the party, she would say one thing. And now that she’s on the payroll at NBC, she’s saying another thing.

She has credibility issues that she still has to deal with. Is she speaking for herself, or is she speaking on behalf of who’s paying her?

Todd is basically saying, how are we supposed to know which one to believe.

What can we believe?

It is important for this network and for always to have a wide aperture. Having ideological diversity on this panel is something I prided myself on.

And what he’s effectively saying is that his bosses should have never hired her in this capacity.

I understand the motivation, but this execution, I think, was poor.

Someone said to me last night we live in complicated times. Thank you guys for being here. I really appreciate it.

Now, let’s just note here, this isn’t just any player at NBC. Chuck Todd is obviously a major news name at the network. And him doing this appears to just open the floodgates across the entire NBC News brand, especially on its sister cable network, MSNBC.

And where I said I’d never seen anything like what I saw on “Meet the Press” that morning, I’d never seen anything like this either. Because now, the entire MSNBC lineup is in open rebellion. I mean, from the minute that the sun comes up. There is Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski.

We weren’t asked our opinion of the hiring. But if we were, we would have strongly objected to it.

They’re on fire over this.

believe NBC News should seek out conservative Republican voices, but it should be conservative Republicans, not a person who used her position of power to be an anti-democracy election denier.

But it rolls out across the entire schedule.

Because Ronna McDaniel has been a major peddler of the big lie.

The fact that Ms. McDaniel is on the payroll at NBC News, to me that is inexplicable. I mean, you wouldn’t hire a mobster to work at a DA’s office.

Rachel Maddow devotes an entire half hour.

It’s not about just being associated with Donald Trump and his time in the Republican Party. It’s not even about lying or not lying. It’s about our system of government.

Thumbing their noses at our bosses and basically accusing them of abetting a traitorous figure in American history. I mean, just extraordinary stuff. It’s television history.

And let’s face it, we journalists, our bosses, we can be seen as crybabies, and we’re paid complaining. Yeah, that’s what we’re paid to do. But in this case, the NBC executives cannot ignore this, because in the outcry, there’s a very clear point that they’re all making. Ronna McDaniel is not just a voice from the other side. She was a fundamental part of Trump’s efforts to deny his election loss.

This is not inviting the other side. This is someone who’s on the wrong side —

Of history.

Of history, of these moments that we’ve covered and are still covering.

And I think it’s fair to say that at this point, everyone understands that Ronna McDaniel’s time at NBC News is going to be very short lived. Yeah, basically, after all this, the executives at NBC have to face facts it’s over. And on Tuesday night, they release a statement to the staff saying as much.

They don’t cite the questions about red lines or what Ronna McDaniel represented or didn’t represent. They just say we need to have a unified newsroom. We want cohesion. This isn’t working.

I think in the end, she was a paid contributor for four days.

Yeah, one of the shortest tenures in television news history. And look, in one respect, by their standards, this is kind of a pretty small contract, a few hundred thousand dollars they may have to pay out. But it was way more costly because they hired her. They brought her on board because they wanted to appeal to these tens of millions of Americans who still love Donald J. Trump.

And what happens now is that this entire thing is blown up in their face, and those very same people now see a network that, in their view, in the view of Republicans across the country, this network will not accept any Republicans. So it becomes more about that. And Fox News, NBC’S longtime rival, goes wall to wall with this.

Now, NBC News just caved to the breathless demands from their far left, frankly, emotionally unhinged host.

I mean, I had it on my desk all day. And every minute I looked at that screen, it was pounding on these liberals at NBC News driving this Republican out.

It’s the shortest tenure in TV history, I think. But why? Well, because she supports Donald Trump, period.

So in a way, this leaves NBC worse off with that Trump Republican audience they had wanted to court than maybe even they were before. It’s like a boomerang with a grenade on it.

Yeah, it completely explodes in their face. And that’s why to me, the whole episode is so representative of this eight-year conundrum for the news media, especially on television. They still haven’t been able to crack the code for how to handle the Trump movement, the Trump candidacy, and what it has wrought on the American political system and American journalism.

We’ll be right back.

Jim, put into context this painful episode of NBC into that larger conundrum you just diagnosed that the media has faced when it comes to Trump.

Well, Michael, it’s been there from the very beginning, from the very beginning of his political rise. The media was on this kind of seesaw. They go back and forth over how to cover him. Sometimes they want to cover him quite aggressively because he’s such a challenging candidate. He was bursting so many norms.

But at other times, there was this instinct to understand his appeal, for the same reason. He’s such an unusual candidate. So there was a great desire to really understand his voters. And frankly, to speak to his voters, because they’re part of the audience. And we all lived it, right?

But just let me take you back anyway because everything’s fresh again with perspective. And so if you go back, let’s look at when he first ran. The networks, if you recall, saw him as almost like a novelty candidate.

He was going to spice up what was expected to be a boring campaign between the usual suspects. And he was a ratings magnet. And the networks, they just couldn’t get enough of it. And they allowed him, at times, to really shatter their own norms.

Welcome back to “Meet the Press,” sir.

Good morning, Chuck.

Good morning. Let me start —

He was able to just call into the studio and riff with the likes of George Stephanopoulos and Chuck Todd.

What does it have to do with Hillary?

She can’t talk about me because nobody respects women more than Donald Trump.

And CNN gave him a lot of unmitigated airtime, if you recall during the campaign. They would run the press conferences.

It’s the largest winery on the East Coast. I own it 100 percent.

And let him promote his Trump steaks and his Trump wine.

Trump steaks. Where are the steaks? Do we have steaks?

I mean, it got that crazy. But again, the ratings were huge. And then he wins. And because they had previously given him all that airtime, they’ve, in retrospect, sort of given him a political gift, and more than that now have a journalistic imperative to really address him in a different way, to cover him as they would have covered any other candidate, which, let’s face it, they weren’t doing initially. So there’s this extra motivation to make up for lost ground and maybe for some journalistic omissions.

Right. Kind of correct for the lack of a rigorous journalistic filter in the campaign.

Exactly. And the big thing that this will be remembered for is we’re going to call a lie a lie.

I don’t want to sugarcoat this because facts matter, and the fact is President Trump lies.

Trump lies. We’re going to say it’s a lie.

And I think we can’t just mince around it because they are lies. And so we need to call them what they are.

We’re no longer going to use euphemisms or looser language we’re. Going to call it for what it is.

Trump lies in tweets. He spreads false information at rallies. He lies when he doesn’t need to. He lies when the truth is more than enough for him.

CNN was running chyrons. They would fact check Trump and call lies lies on the screen while Trump is talking. They were challenging Trump to his face —

One of the statements that you made in the tail end of the campaign in the midterms that —

Here we go.

That — well, if you don’t mind, Mr. President, that this caravan was an invasion.

— in these crazy press conferences —

They’re are hundreds of miles away, though. They’re hundreds and hundreds of miles away. That’s not an invasion.

Honestly, I think you should let me run the country. You run CNN. And if you did it well, your ratings —

Well, let me ask — if I may ask one other question. Mr. President, if I may ask another question. Are you worried —

That’s enough. That’s enough.

And Trump is giving it right back.

I tell you what, CNN should be ashamed of itself having you working for them. You are a rude, terrible person. You shouldn’t be working for CNN.

Very combative.

So this was this incredibly fraught moment for the American press. You’ve got tens of millions of Trump supporters seeing what’s really basic fact checking. These look like attacks to Trump supporters. Trump, in turn, is calling the press, the reporters are enemies of the people. So it’s a terrible dynamic.

And when January 6 happens, it’s so obviously out of control. And what the traditional press that follows, traditional journalistic rules has to do is make it clear that the claims that Trump is making about a stolen election are just so abjectly false that they don’t warrant a single minute of real consideration once the reporting has been done to show how false they are. And I think that American journalism really emerged from that feeling strongly about its own values and its own place in society.

But then there’s still tens of millions of Trump voters, and they don’t feel so good about the coverage. And they don’t agree that January 6 was an insurrection. And so we enter yet another period, where the press is going to have to now maybe rethink some things.

In what way?

Well, there’s a kind of quiet period after January 6. Trump is off of social media. The smoke is literally dissipating from the air in Washington. And news executives are kind of standing there on the proverbial battlefield, taking a new look at their situation.

And they’re seeing that in this clearer light, they’ve got some new problems, perhaps none more important for their entire business models than that their ratings are quickly crashing. And part of that diminishment is that a huge part of the country, that Trump-loving part of the audience, is really now severed from him from their coverage.

They see the press as actually, in some cases, being complicit in stealing an election. And so these news executives, again, especially on television, which is so ratings dependent, they’ve got a problem. So after presumably learning all these lessons about journalism and how to confront power, there’s a first subtle and then much less subtle rethinking.

Maybe we need to pull back from that approach. And maybe we need to take some new lessons and switch it up a little bit and reverse some of what we did. And one of the best examples of this is none other than CNN.

It had come under new management, was being led by a guy named Chris Licht, a veteran of cable news, but also Stephen Colbert’s late night show in his last job. And his new job under this new management is we’re going to recalibrate a little bit. So Chris Licht proceeds to try to bring the network back to the center.

And how does he do that?

Well, we see some key personalities who represented the Trump combat era start losing air time and some of them lose their jobs. There’s talk of, we want more Republicans on the air. There was a famous magazine article about Chris Licht’s balancing act here.

And Chris Licht says to a reporter, Tim Alberta of the “Atlantic” magazine, look, a lot in the media, including at his own network, quote unquote, “put on a jersey, took a side.” They took a side. And he says, I think we understand that jersey cannot go back on him. Because he says in the end of the day, by the way, it didn’t even work. We didn’t change anyone’s mind.

He’s saying that confrontational approach that defined the four years Trump was in office, that was a reaction to the feeling that TV news had failed to properly treat Trump with sufficient skepticism, that that actually was a failure both of journalism and of the TV news business. Is that what he’s saying?

Yeah. On the business side, it’s easier call, right? You want a bigger audience, and you’re not getting the bigger audience. But he’s making a journalistic argument as well that if the job is to convey the truth and take it to the people, and they take that into account as they make their own voting decisions and formulate their own opinions about American politics, if tens of millions of people who do believe that election was stolen are completely tuning you out because now they see you as a political combatant, you’re not achieving your ultimate goal as a journalist.

And what does Licht’s “don’t put a jersey back on” approach look like on CNN for its viewers?

Well, It didn’t look good. People might remember this, but the most glaring example —

Please welcome, the front runner for the Republican nomination for president, Donald Trump.

— was when he held a town hall meeting featuring Donald J. Trump, now candidate Trump, before an audience packed with Trump’s fans.

You look at what happened during that election. Unless you’re a very stupid person, you see what happens. A lot of the people —

Trump let loose a string of falsehoods.

Most people understand what happened. It was a rigged election.

The audience is pro-Trump audience, was cheering him on.

Are you ready? Are you ready? Can I talk?

Yeah, what’s your answer?

Can I? Do you mind?

I would like for you to answer the question.

OK. It’s very simple to answer.

That’s why I asked it.

It’s very simple. You’re a nasty person, I’ll tell you that.

And during, the CNN anchor hosting this, Kaitlan Collins, on CNN’s own air, it was a disaster.

It felt like a callback to the unlearned lessons of 2016.

Yeah. And in this case, CNN’s staff was up in arms.

Big shakeup in the cable news industry as CNN makes another change at the top.

Chris Licht is officially out at CNN after a chaotic run as chairman and CEO.

And Chris Licht didn’t survive it.

The chief executive’s departure comes as he faced criticism in recent weeks after the network hosted a town hall with Donald Trump and the network’s ratings started to drop.

But I want to say that the CNN leadership still, even after that, as they brought new leadership in, said, this is still the path we’re going to go on. Maybe that didn’t work out, but we’re still here. This is still what we have to do.

Right. And this idea is very much in the water of TV news, that this is the right overall direction.

Yeah. This is, by no means, isolated to CNN. This is throughout the traditional news business. These conversations are happening everywhere. But CNN was living it at that point.

And this, of course, is how we get to NBC deciding to hire Ronna McDaniel.

Right. Because they’re picking up — right where that conversation leaves off, they’re having the same conversation. But for NBC, you could argue this tension between journalistic values and audience. It’s even more pressing. Because even though MSNBC is a niche cable network, NBC News is part of an old-fashioned broadcast network. It’s on television stations throughout the country.

And in fact, those networks, they still have 6:30 newscasts. And believe it or not, millions of people still watch those every night. Maybe not as many as they used to, but there’s still some six or seven million people tuning in to nightly news. That’s important.

Right. We should say that kind of number is sometimes double or triple that of the cable news prime time shows that get all the attention.

On their best nights. So this is big business still. And that business is based on broad — it’s called broadcast for a reason. That’s based on broad audiences. So NBC had a business imperative, and they argue they had a journalistic imperative.

So given all of that, Jim, I think the big messy question here is, when it comes to NBC, did they make a tactical error around hiring the wrong Republican which blew up? Or did they make an even larger error in thinking that the way you handle Trump and his supporters is to work this hard to reach them, when they might not even be reachable?

The best way to answer that question is to tell you what they’re saying right now, NBC management. What the management saying is, yes, this was a tactical error. This was clearly the wrong Republican. We get it.

But they’re saying, we are going to — and they said this in their statement, announcing that they were severing ties with McDaniel. They said, we’re going to redouble our efforts to represent a broad spectrum of the American votership. And that’s what they meant was that we’re going to still try to reach these Trump voters with people who can relate to them and they can relate to.

But the question is, how do you even do that when so many of his supporters believe a lie? How is NBC, how is CNN, how are any of these TV networks, if they have decided that this is their mission, how are they supposed to speak to people who believe something fundamentally untrue as a core part of their political identity?

That’s the catch-22. How do you get that Trump movement person who’s also an insider, when the litmus test to be an insider in the Trump movement is to believe in the denialism or at least say you do? So that’s a real journalistic problem. And the thing that we haven’t really touched here is, what are these networks doing day in and day out?

They’re not producing reported pieces, which I think it’s a little easier. You just report the news. You go out into the world. You talk to people, and then you present it to the world as a nuanced portrait of the country. This thing is true. This thing is false. Again, in many cases, pretty straightforward. But their bread and butter is talking heads. It’s live. It’s not edited. It’s not that much reported.

So their whole business model especially, again, on cable, which has 24 hours to fill, is talking heads. And if you want the perspective from the Trump movement, journalistically, especially when it comes to denialism, but when it comes to some other major subjects in American life, you’re walking into a place where they’re going to say things that aren’t true, that don’t pass your journalistic standards, the most basic standards of journalism.

Right. So you’re saying if TV sticks with this model, the kind of low cost, lots of talk approach to news, then they are going to have to solve the riddle of who to bring on, who represents Trump’s America if they want that audience. And now they’ve got this red line that they’ve established, that that person can’t be someone who denies the 2020 election reality. But like you just said, that’s the litmus test for being in Trump’s orbit.

So this doesn’t really look like a conundrum. This looks like a bit of a crisis for TV news because it may end up meaning that they can’t hire that person that they need for this model, which means that perhaps a network like NBC does need to wave goodbye to a big segment of these viewers and these eyeballs who support Trump.

I mean, on the one hand, they are not ready to do that, and they would never concede that that’s something they’re ready to do. The problem is barring some kind of change in their news model, there’s no solution to this.

But why bar changes to their news model, I guess, is the question. Because over the years, it’s gotten more and more expensive to produce news, the news that I’m talking about, like recorded packages and what we refer to as reporting. Just go out and report the news.

Don’t gab about it. Just what’s going on, what’s true, what’s false. That’s actually very expensive in television. And they don’t have the kind of money they used to have. So the talking heads is their way to do programming at a level where they can afford it.

They do some packages. “60 Minutes” still does incredible work. NBC does packages, but the lion’s share of what they do is what we’re talking about. And that’s not going to change because the economics aren’t there.

So then a final option, of course, to borrow something Chris Licht said, is that a network like NBC perhaps doesn’t put a jersey on, but accepts the reality that a lot of the world sees them wearing a jersey.

Yeah. I mean, nobody wants to be seen as wearing a jersey in our business. No one wants to be wearing a jersey on our business. But maybe what they really have to accept is that we’re just sticking to the true facts, and that may look like we’re wearing a jersey, but we’re not. And that may, at times, look like it’s lining up more with the Democrats, but we’re not.

If Trump is lying about a stolen election, that’s not siding against him. That’s siding for the truth, and that’s what we’re doing. Easier said than done. And I don’t think any of these concepts are new.

I think there have been attempts to do that, but it’s the world they’re in. And it’s the only option they really have. We’re going to tell you the truth, even if it means that we’re going to lose a big part of the country.

Well, Jim, thank you very much.

Thank you, Michael.

Here’s what else you need to know today.


Over the weekend, thousands of protesters took to the streets of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem in some of the largest domestic demonstrations against the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu since Israel invaded Gaza in the fall.


Some of the protesters called on Netanyahu to reach a cease fire deal that would free the hostages taken by Hamas on October 7. Others called for early elections that would remove Netanyahu from office.

During a news conference on Sunday, Netanyahu rejected calls for early elections, saying they would paralyze his government at a crucial moment in the war.

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Home — Essay Samples — Literature — Paradise Lost — Satan, Sin and Death: The Hellish Trinity in Paradise Lost


Satan, Sin and Death: The Hellish Trinity in Paradise Lost

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Published: Jun 29, 2018

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Related Essays on Paradise Lost

An epic poem written by John Milton in 1667, presents the well-known biblical story of Adam and Eve. Throughout history, many authors have been inspired by this masterpiece and have offered their own interpretations of the [...]

Milton’s construction of Eve in Paradise Lost is beset with dithering ambiguity, with her identity being defined and redefined within. The text has been construed during the Restoration, on the backdrop of the libertine culture [...]

The theme of betrayal can be found at the heart of both Milton’s Paradise Lost and Ibsen’s A Doll’s House yet interestingly, the answer to whether these betrayals deserve to be forgiven has changed through time. Where Milton and [...]

Eden is at the very centre of all major events in Paradise Lost Book IX, and Milton proves keen to exploit its potency as a setting. The Garden represents both the glory of God’s Creation and the fragility of its existence. [...]

The originality of Milton’s Paradise Lost lies in its ability to transform the predominantly secular spirit of Homer, Virgil, Boiardo, and other masters of literary epic into a theological subject outside of the tradition. [...]

Paradise Lost, the epic poem written in blank verse by the 17th-century English poet John Milton narrates the biblical account of the Fall of mankind. Eve is the only character that is both female and human in the poem and [...]

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paradise lost satan essay


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  1. Satan in "Paradise Lost"

    Satan is one of the central characters of Milton's epic poem Paradise Lost which is based on the Christian story of the fall of humanity. Making Satan the main antagonist of the poem, Milton shows the inner struggle in the character's soul and the process of his devolution, depicting him as a fallen angel gradually transforming into a devil ...

  2. Satan Character Analysis in Paradise Lost

    Milton devotes much of the poem's early books to developing Satan's character. Satan's greatest fault is his pride. He casts himself as an innocent victim, overlooked for an important promotion. But his ability to think so selfishly in Heaven, where all angels are equal and loved and happy, is surprising. His confidence in thinking that ...

  3. Paradise Lost: Sample A+ Essay: The Mind Can "make a heaven of hell, a

    Satan's famous rallying cry in Book I, line 255 of Paradise Lost celebrates the power of the mind to overcome physical and emotional suffering. Milton puts Satan's words to the test by emphasizing the fallen angels' torment throughout the poem. Despite their suffering, Milton shows that the fallen angels have an indomitable will, capable ...

  4. Satan as a Tragic Hero in Paradise Lost

    Satan as a Tragic Hero in Paradise Lost. The tragic hero is a popular archetype of classic literature, generally referring to a character that embodies the qualities of a classic hero as well as a fatal flaw that dooms him to failure. In his epic poem Paradise Lost, John Milton illustrates Satan specifically as a tragic hero, which is most ...

  5. Analysis of John Milton's Paradise Lost

    Paradise Lost is a poetic rewriting of the book of Genesis. It tells the story of the fall of Satan and his compatriots, the creation of man, and, most significantly, of man's act of disobedience and its consequences: paradise was lost for us. It is a literary text that goes beyond the traditional limitations of….

  6. Sympathy for the Devil: An Analysis of Satan in "Paradise Lost"

    The reasons for Satan's two-faced attitude are explained in lines 4.82-83: "my dread of shame/Among the spirits beneath.". Satan is feeling dread, which means great fear or apprehension. The definition of "shame" is a painful feeling of humiliation or distress caused by the consciousness of wrong or foolish behavior.

  7. The Complex Character of Satan and His Motivation in Paradise Lost

    The character of Satan in Milton's Paradise Lost is a different portrayal than traditional biblical teachings imply. The Christian tradition provides a dichotomist view of heaven and hell, good and evil, God and Satan. Milton's theology is different in that it forces the reader to think more critically about the character of Satan, and how he fits in with the story of the fortunate fall.

  8. Paradise Lost: Mini Essays

    When Satan first sees Earth and Paradise in Book III, he is overcome with grief. His description of his situation is eloquent; his expression of pain is moving. Perhaps we pity Satan as he struggles to find his new identity while reflecting on his recent mistakes. Likewise, his feeling of despair resonates with feelings that all human beings ...

  9. Satan Character Analysis in Paradise Lost

    Satan Character Analysis. God 's greatest enemy and the ruler of Hell. Satan (his original name is erased; "Satan" means "Adversary") was one of the most powerful Archangels, but then became jealous of God and convinced a third of God's angels to rebel with him. Satan is cast into Hell, which he proudly rules until he realizes Hell ...

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    Satan degenerates from his former luster in Heaven. A. Pride brings him down. 1. Satan feels it is "better to reign in Hell than serve in Heaven.". 2. Satan denies that God created him. 3 ...

  11. Satan: Hero Or Anti-hero in Paradise Lost

    Satan is the hero in his own story, while he serves God's purpose of spreading evil across the world. Likewise, the combining of good and evil extends to heroism and villainy. Essentially, Satan acts as a paradox within Paradise Lost. When he rebelled, he aimed to upset the natural order of things.

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    Satan's Reason. The character of Satan in Milton's Paradise Lost is a different portrayal than traditional biblical teachings imply. The Christian tradition provides a dichotomist view of heaven and hell, good and evil, God and Satan. Milton's theology is different in that it forces the reader to think more critically about the character ...

  13. Satan

    Probably the most famous quote about Paradise Lost is William Blake's statement that Milton was "of the Devil's party without knowing it." While Blake may have meant something other than what is generally understood from this quotation (see "Milton's Style" in the Critical Essays), the idea that Satan is the hero, or at least a type of hero, in Paradise Lost is widespread.

  14. Satan as a Hero in Milton's Paradise Lost

    For Milton's part, Satan is dauntless, quick-witted and powerful and he is also an excellent leader. He is quite distinctive from the traditional heroes in many famous works. In Paradise Lost, the Genesis story upon the corruption of man was recreated by the author, as a matter of fact, caused by Satan.

  15. PDF On Milton's Satan In John Milton's Paradise Lost

    that Satan saw a different way to the one God had previously mapped out for all His subjects. Satan deplored God's reign and sought to "defy th' Omnipotent to arms." (Milton 1.49) Clearly, Satan had a different opinion, and in a world where diverse opinions are lauded, Satan's thoughts and actions are worthy of a standing ovation.

  16. Rediscovering The God/satan Dichotomy in Paradise Lost

    In Paradise Lost, Milton plays with the preconceived notions of his readers by presenting perspectives perhaps never before imagined. God is not strictly the protagonist and Satan is not strictly the antagonist, on the contrary Satan is presented in a triumphant, glorious manner though ironically he has just fallen from heaven and been condemned to hell.

  17. Paradise Lost, John Milton (Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

    Essays and criticism on John Milton's Paradise Lost - Paradise Lost, John Milton (Literary Criticism (1400-1800)) Select an area of the website to search Paradise Lost All Study Guides Homework ...

  18. Paradise Lost Essay

    Join Now Log in Home Literature Essays Paradise Lost The Mystery of Identity: An Essay on Satan's struggle against God the Son Paradise Lost The Mystery of Identity: An Essay on Satan's struggle against God the Son Anonymous. Mel Gibson's recent film, The Passion of the Christ, opens with an ominous scene where Satan endeavours to dissuade Jesus from bearing the cross for the entire human race.

  19. Paradise Lost Essay

    Throughout book 9 of Milton's 'Paradise Lost', Satan is generally presented as the personification of evil, largely fuelled by Milton's own religious grounding. This pure evil is conveyed by Milton though Satan's innate drive to destroy mankind and his manipulation and seduction of Eve. Although Milton adopts the traditional ...

  20. In a Marathon Reading of Milton's "Paradise Lost," Art Will Mirror

    The organizers are spurred by the success of a similar "Paradise Lost" reading marathon, which the department staged about 10 years ago, drawing a crowd. The department also has hosted reading marathons at Rutgers Day, entertaining audiences with literary selections including J.D. Salinger's Catcher in the Rye and J.R.R. Tolkien's The ...

  21. Satan's Personality in Paradise Lost by John Milton

    Paradise Lost, written by John Milton tells the same story from Genesis; Adam and Eve's creation. Milton's story is told by Satan's eyes, once called Lucifer; an angel and servant in Heaven, who had enough from being a 'pitiful' servant and tried to take God's authority position. Because of his demonic plan cast him out from Heaven.

  22. Solar eclipse party at Rutgers NJ features reading of 'Paradise Lost'

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  23. Paradise Lost: Full Poem Analysis

    Full Poem Analysis. John Milton's epic poem, Paradise Lost, relies on the underlying structure of ancient epics to portray the Christian worldview as noble and heroic, arguing that God's actions, for people who might question them, are justified, hinting that humankind's fall serves God's greater purposes. In his retelling of Adam and ...

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    The Sunday Read: 'My Goldendoodle Spent a Week at Some Luxury Dog 'Hotels.' I Tagged Along.'

  25. Satan, Sin and Death: The Hellish Trinity in Paradise Lost

    Milton's revisiting of the "hellish trinity" in Book X casts a dark shadow over the recently established sense of hope for mankind. The grim representation of Death, in particular, indicates how grave a mistake Adam and Eve have made. But in contrast to the explicitly "grotesque" depiction of Sin and Death in Book II, Milton here ...