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Satans Speech
(Comment)
These lines of Satans speech to the fallen angels describe the consequence of their rebellion against God. After
fighting against God and his son, Satan and his angels are defeated. For nine days and nine nights they fall down
and at last they land in Hell.
In the first lines Satan asks himself if that is the region where he and his lost angels are
condemned to live in change of Heaven: Is this the region, this the soil, the clime ............. ?. Then,
through the use of contrasting images, he underlines the difference between Heaven and Hell: the first is defined as
Celestial Light and Happy Fields, the second as mournful gloom and infernal world.
After that he accepts his fate because in Hell, far from God, he will be able to decide and be free. Satan doesnt
seem to be scared of God, whom he considers superior to him only in strength and power, but not as regards mind
and reason. He claims to own a mind that doesnt change according to place and time and can make a Heaven of
Hell and vice versa. To reign secure in Hell is worth the ambition in Satans opinion, who concludes his speech
with those words that best synthesize/summarize his figure of brave epic hero: Better to reign in Hell than to serve
in Heaven. Satan, more than a fallen angel, represents the traditional hero, the proud rebel who fights in defence of
his cause and, though defeated, will never submit.
The figure of Satan also contains elements of Miltons autobiography and reflects events of his life, as for
example the destruction of his political hopes. He is represented as a rebellious and heroic figure who fights against
Gods absolute power, just as Milton spent his life in a battle against royal despotism.
Satan
Some readers consider Satan to be the hero, or protagonist, of the story, because he struggles to overcome his own
doubts and weaknesses and accomplishes his goal of corrupting humankind. This goal, however, is evil, and Adam and
Eve are the moral heroes at the end of the story, as they help to begin humankind's slow process of redemption and
salvation. Satan is far from being the story's object of admiration, as most heroes are. Nor does it make sense for readers
to celebrate or emulate him, as they might with a true hero. Yet there are many compelling qualities to his character that
make him intriguing to readers.
One source of Satans fascination for us is that he is an extremely complex and subtle character. It would be difficult,
perhaps impossible, for Milton to make perfect, Infallible characters such as God the Father, God the Son, and the angels
as interesting to read about as the flawed characters, such as Satan, Adam, and Eve.
Satan, moreover, strikes a grand and majestic figure, apparently unafraid of being damned eternally, and uncowed by
such terrifying figures as Chaos or Death. Many readers have argued that Milton deliberately makes Satan seem heroic
and appealing early in the poem to draw us into sympathizing with him against our will, so that we may see how
seductive evil is and learn to be more vigilant in resisting its appeal.
Milton devotes much of the poem's early books to developing Satan's character. Satan's greatest fault Is his pride. His
ability to think so selfishly in Heaven, where all angels are equal and loved and happy, is surprising.
His confidence in thinking that he could overthrow God displays tremendous vanity and pride. When Satan shares his
pain and alienation as he reaches Earth in Book IV, we may feel somewhat sympathetic to him or even Identify with him.
But Satan continues to devote himself to evil. Every speech he gives is fraudulent and every story he tells is a lie. He
works diligently to trick his fellow devils in Hell by having Beelzebub present Satan's own plan of action.
Satans characteror our perception of his characterchanges significantly from Book Ho his final appearance in
Book X. In Book I he is a strong, imposing figure with great abilities as a leader and public statesmen, while In the end
he slinks back to Hell in serpent form. Satans gradual degradation
is dramatized by the sequence of different shapes he assumes. He begins the poem as a just-fallen angel of enormous
stature, looks like a comet or meteor as he leaves Hell, then disguises himself as a more humble cherub, then as a
cormorant, a toad, and finally a snake. His ability to reason and argue also deteriorates. In Book I, he persuades easily
the devils to agree to his plan. In Book IV, however, he reasons to himself that the Hell he feels inside of him is reason to
do more evil. When he returns to Earth again, he believes that Earth is more beautiful than Heaven, and that he may be
able to live on Earth after all. Satan, removed from Heaven long enough to forget its unparalleled grandeur, is completely
demented, coming to believe In his own lies. He is a picture of incessant intellectual activity without the ability to think
morally. Once a powerful angel, he has become blinded to God's grace, forever unable to reconcile his past with his
eternal punishment.
John Milton divided the characters in his epic poem Paradise Lost into two sides, one side under God representing good,
and the other side under Satan representing evil and sin. Milton first introduced the reader to the character Satan, the
representative of all evil, and his allegiance of fallen angels that aided in his revolt against God .
Satan, as a character, has been satirized, mocked and made foolish in our modern world. John Milton, however,
presents quite a different Satan from the devil-on-your-shoulder image people are used to seeing. In Paradise Lost,
Milton draws on the Bible for his source of Satan's character, thereby creating a horrifyingly corrupt Satan. Despite this
portrayal, readers often find themselves sympathizing with Satan's cause, and his determination, viewing him as a hero
for his cause, as evidenced by his long, brave speeches. Later, however Satan's speeches begin to show signs of regret,
making the reader question their initial reaction to him. In the end the image of Satan is further skewed by his own
incriminating speech. Thus, the speeches of Satan, which initially draw readers to be supportive of his plight, later reveal
his truly destructive character, resulting in the reader disliking Satan more than if he initially presented himself as a
coward.
Early on in Paradise Lost, Satan is found in conversation with his right hand man, Beelzebub, plotting another attack on
Heaven. In this conversation, Satan establishes himself as a defender of freedom, a role that is attractive to readers. This
is demonstrated in his speech in Book 1, where he says, describing Hell:
"Here at least We shall be free. 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 so that in hell at last they will have the freedom to do what they
wish.
The above lines describe the consequence of the angels rebellion. After fighting against God and his Son for two days, on.
the third they are defeated. Heaven opens and they plunge down through space. For nine days and nine nights they fall and
finally land in Hell, where they lie, for another nine days and nights, on a burning lake in a gloomy region of fire and ice. The fallen
angels are confounded and dismayed, but Satan stands up and revives them with fiery words culminating in the famous
sentence "better to reign in Hell than serve in Heaven (I. 48). '
Satan sums up the divine drama of the fall of the angels as opposed to the human drama of Adam and Eve. Yet, more than a
fallen angel, he looks like the traditional heroic leader who struggles in defence of his cause, after the model already present in
Genesis B (see page 26). He is the prototype of the proud rebel who, though defeated, will never submit.
To emphasize his strength, Milton first describes his surroundings. Hell is first introduced indirectly through the angels
feelings. Such words as affliction", "dismay", "lasting pain" prepare us for the successive more precise definitions of the place,
"Dungeon, "Furnace", Prison. Little by little Milton completes the concrete image of Hell involving our senses: we smell the
stench of the ever-burning sulphur (I. 20), we feel the angels pain and torture without end (I. 18); despite the-<dark we can
even see the dismal place (I. 11). Indeed darkness itself becomes visible" (I. 14).
This vision of Hell as well as the cosmological conception of Milton is quite different from those we find in Dante, whose
underworld is well defined and organized. Milton s Hell precedes the creation of the world and is obviously still dominated by
chaos. In this chaos Satan rises and speaks. His voice masters the elements. After a first moment of dismay, (II. 27-30) he
resumes his strength and even welcomes the horrible place (I. 35). His words are full of pride. He feels equal to God, who
defeated him only with His force, not with His reason (I. 33). What is important is the power of the mind, because it can modify the
outer world and make a heaven of a hell (I. 40). So, what does it matter where he reigns, as long as he can reign and equal God?
(I. 41).
Satan is a great dramatic figure, in a way the real hero of Paradise Lost. Even though, in the course of the other books of the
poem, he loses his heroic dimension and even turns into a guileful serpent, we tend to remember him as he is in the first book:
brave, gallant and with a dignity of his own. His Titanism has inspired a lot of writers, especially the Romantics, and has given life
to more than one interpretation. In turn he has been seen as:
- the symbol of passion in conflict with reason;
- the champion of individualism;
- the advocate of freedom;
- a new Prometheus;
- the personification of the Puritan spirit.
He is certainly all this and much more, too. He is daring and resolute, the embodiment of strength and greatness, inferior only
to God. Milton endows him with so many heroic attributes that we cannot help thinking that, perhaps unconsciously, he modelled
him on himself, infusing into him his own undaunted spirit and heroic energy.
i

Characters
In Paradise Lost there are the certainty of evil
hanging over mankind, the hope for redemption
and the belief in Divine Providence. Although it
is absurd to suggest that Milton intended Satan to
be the hero of his masterpiece, nevertheless the
Satan of Books I and II has many of the
characteristics of the epic hero (@ t42):
leadership^ initiative, courage which refuses to
accept defeat, a willingness to undertake the
desperate enterprise to escape from Hell and
attacks Gods creation, Man.
Milton put a great deal of his own soul into this
character. As he was a rebel against the political
authority of the king and the religious authority
of the Church of England, His sympathy was for
Satan, the rebel.
William Blake. Illustration of Paradise
Lost, 1804-11. California Henry Huntington
Library and Art Gallery.

Answer the following questions.
1. How man/ books is Paradise Lost divided into?
2. Why did Milton choose the epic form for his masterpiece?
3. How does this poem start?
4. Where does this epic take place?
5. Where did Milton base the universe of Paradise Lost on? W
6. What features does Satan, share with the epic hero?
7. Why did Satan mirror Miltons character?
8. What are the most important differences between Dante:
and Milton's? .
9. What are the most important characteristics of Miltons st

There is also a sympathy with Adam (@ t43),
whose choice in disobeying God gives him his
full frail humanity.
Satan: an| instrument in Dante and
Milton
John Miltons version of Hell in Paradise Lost
appeared about three hundred years after
Dantes image of pain in his Inferno. Not only
were the two works inspired by different
artistic visions, but divergences in culture and
religion; however both authors were religious
and claimed divine inspiration was rooted in
their works. They had contrasting ideas as
regards Satans physical appearance and
dwelling: the most notable, difference is that
Dantes Satan becomes a means of punishment
while Miltons is a twofold symbol of Gods
eternal justice, being cast out of Heaven
himself and later forcing Adam and Eve out
of Eden. Dantes Satan resembles a mythic
monster, and he describes him as a massive>
three-headed winged creature with a body
like that of a medieval satyr. Satan
dwells in the very lowest circle of
Hell, the City of Dis in the centre of
the earth, and is bound in ice for all
ever.
.. . Miltons Satan takes several
form: he is first presented as a
fallen angel who finds himself in a
newly created Hell (@ t42); later in
the poem, he is lowered to the
inhuman form of an animal of prey,
and in the ninth book, he undergoes
further degeneration, taking the
classic form of a snake.
Style
The style of this poem is elevated and
| matches the seriousness of the
universal j subject of the fall of man;
the poet used a j new kind of
blank-verse of sonorous
magnificence. The poetic diction he
employed is very far from common
speech: it abounds with polysyllabic
Latinisms, inversions, and
circumlocutions.