Friday, December 17, 2010

The Satan of "Paradise Lost"

In John Milton's epic "Paradise Lost", one highly identifiable character would be Satan. During the story, he is referred to by several names, all of them associated with his opposition to God. A few names given to him by the author would be arch-fiend and apostate angel. He is also compared in size and intent to evil creatures such as the Titans Briareos or Typhon, or "that sea-beast/ Leviathan, which God of all his works/ created hugest that swim th' ocean stream," (Greenblatt et al, 2006, p. 1836). All of the recurrent motifs related to Satan showcase his ego and his aim to overthrow God. By comparing him to large creatures, he is center-stage and hard to miss. Not only that, but the creatures Satan was compared to have Christian ties to "Satan's revolt and punishment," (Greenblatt et al, 2006, p. 1836).

The reader is always reminded of Satan's combative nature with God, especially when his kingdom is described to be filled with lakes of fire, volcanoes, raging winds, stench and smoke, (Greenblatt et al, 2006, p. 1837). Satan himself details what Heaven looks like, and it is nothing like the Hell in which he must now reside: "that celestial light [...] Farewell happy fields/ Where joy forever dwells: Hail horrors, hail/ infernal world, and thou profoundest Hell," (Greenblatt et al, 2006, p. 1838). He has no problem renouncing the light of Heaven for darker pastures. Satan enjoys being as far away from God as possible, since distance is another form of rebellion.

Greenblatt, et al. (Eds.). (2006). Teaching with the Norton anthology of English literature (8th ed.).New York, NY: W. W. Norton & Company

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