Paradise Lost - What Do We Learn About Satan's Character from Line 84 To Line 191?

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Question: What Do We Learn About Satan's Character from Line 84 To Line 191? Milton's portrait of Satan has fascinated critics since Paradise Losts first publication, leading some in the romantic period to claim that Satan is, in fact, the heroic protagonist of the whole work. Certainly Milton's description of Satan has greatly influenced the devil's image in western art and literature since the book's publication. From lines 84 to 191 in Paradise Lost Book 1, we are introduced to the character of Satan, who has just been hurled from heaven, 'because he trusted to have equalled the Most High'. As a reader, one first meets a stunned Satan, chained down to the fiery lake of hell, surrounded by his co-conspirators. From lines 84 to 127, where Satan is speaking to his good friend, 'Beelzebub', Milton presents him as being nostalgic about heaven, 'Myriads, though bright...' - something one sees significantly for the first and last time throughout the poem.


In my opinion however, Satan's brave face is merely superficial. Beneath, he is racked with 'deep despair', his essential spiritual condition. His 'public face', is that of supreme dissembler, and it is impossible to know the extent to which he is deceived by his own rhetoric. This idea, creates effects of sympathy towards Satan's character as it almost suggests that he is hopeless and possibly even doomed. Throughout this particular speech, Milton in my opinion, indirectly forces juxtaposing emotions upon his readers in relation to the character of Satan - being that of sympathy Vs admiration. The feeling of sympathy, as he seems so determined to be a successful leader, however it is clear that he does not really know himself where he is leading to. Even though one might feel this pity, the admiration of his great courage to rebel against authority makes Satan more appealing and likable as a rebel. From lines 128 - 55, Beelzebub, the born second-in-command replies to Satan beginning by being sycophantic towards him, and then continuing the myth that their rebellion had 'endangered' god.


This shows us that Satan has great leadership skills, in that he holds the situation together and persuades his friends to follow his plans. Overall, I believe that from lines 84 to 191, Milton offers his readers an extremely complex and diverse view of Satan's character, indicating rather important aspects that his personality appears to dominate. As the image created is rather dependable, my personal attitude towards him so far is greatly ambiguous, feeling both attraction, and repulsion - many people, it is relevant to add feel the same about snakes. The most notable aspects that have so far had effect shaping my view of his personality are his sheer courage and energy - that he appears to have on such an enormous scale. However, when analysing the value of these qualities in themselves one is forced to question their significance. In actual fact, when studying all major aspects of Satan's character so far - the discussion of him rapidly turns into a series of endless questions, which I hope will soon be answered as the poem develops.

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