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Paradise Lost

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John Milton's epic poem Paradise Lost is extremely similar to the Bible's story of creation in many ways, but its most apparent difference is character structure. Milton uses soliloquies in order to give the reader insight to Satan's emotions and motives. They also reveal his tragic flaws: envy, pride, and ambition towards self-glorification. It is these character flaws that allow him to "pervert his perceptions and judgment, allowing him to validate his battle against God" (Rowlands, Liz). Satan is portrayed as an attractive character, showing the reader the seductive appeal of sin, particularly pride, which Satan has in abundance. Throughout the epic, Satan's character deteriorates from high bravado in Books I and II, but by Book IV his bravado shows signs of cracking, with his soliloquies beginning to reveal his inner torment and self-doubt.

Milton begins Book I with the first of the epic invocations, describing the basic topic of the poem: "Man's first disobedience, and the fruit/ Of that forbidden tree", or the Biblical story of the creation of Adam and Eve, the first created humans. The reader first encounters the character of Satan, king of the fallen rebel angels and the originator of sin, after he has fallen from Heaven into the burning lake of Hell, after he and his co-conspirators were defeated in their "impious war" (I. 43). Satan, along with one-third of Heaven that fell with him, find themselves chained to the fiery lake of Hell, a situation that stuns Satan, for he thought himself to be equal to God. This fall from Heaven, and eternal banishment to Hell however, does not teach Satan humility; rather it only strengthens his resolve to never bow to the Almighty. It seems, though, that Satan quickly comes to terms with his banishment,

Above his equals, Farewell happy Fields

Where Joy for ever dwells: Hail horrors, hail

Infernal world, and thou profoundest Hell

Receive thy new Possessor: One who brings

A mind not to be chang'd by Place or Time.

The mind is its own place, and in itself

Can make a Heav'n of Hell, a Hell of Heav'n. (I. L.249-255)

While it may occur that Satan has accepted his banishment, it has not taught him humility, he instead remains proud in the fiery pit that is Hell, "Better to reign in Hell, then serve in Heaven" (I. 263). Satan also sees the banishment as a good thing; he and the other fallen angels no longer have to obey God.

In Satan's first soliloquy in Book IV, the reader gains new insight into Satan's character. The reader is given insight into the torment of his sinfulness and the conscious decision he has made to sin. When we were first introduced to Satan, he was a confident, prideful character, but when we encounter him again in Book IV, his thoughts and actions have undergone a dramatic change. "As his steadfastness wavers, some of his initial charisma also diminishes, as we become more aware of his fallibility," (Rowlands). His pride shows signs of wavering, when he is reminded of his disobedience when he sees the beauty and innocence of earth, causing him to admit that it was his pride that ultimately caused his fall from Heaven to Hell:

O Sun, to tell thee how I hate thy beams

That bring to my remembrance from what state

I fell, how glorious once above thy Sphere;

Till Pride and worse Ambition threw me down

Warring in Heav'n against Heav'n's matchless King.

Ah wherefore! He deserv'd no such return

From me, whom he created what I was

In that bright eminence, (IV. L.37-44)

Satan reasons that his ambition would always result in his demise, as he would freely make the same choice. Essentially Satan is the embodiment of Hell, as he cannot escape it even from his own psyche. "It is Satan's despair that comes forth more potently



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