An Analysis of Satan’s Soliloquy in John Milton’s “Paradise Lost”

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An Analysis of Satan’s Soliloquy in

John Milton’s “Paradise Lost

        In the eighty-two lines that consist of Satan’s famous soliloquy in Book IV (lines 32 to 113) of John Milton’s Paradise Lost, one is given a great deal to think about.  Obviously, first and foremost, one gets a deeper look at the character of the “tragic hero” of Milton’s epic, who is consumed by his jealousy of God’s new creation, Mankind.  Also, by seeing more of Satan’s character, one also sees Satan’s reasons for sinning, how sin originally began, and in a sense, he establishes a defence for his own, ill-thought-out actions.  And finally, Satan’s soliloquy was a vehicle for Milton to further establish the main theme of his epic, which is, as one reads in Book I, to “justify the ways of God to men.” (I.26)

        Above all, this deeper glimpse of Satan shows the reader that he (Satan) is quite intelligent.  We see cunning skills of logic while he debates with himself the pros and cons of every point that he raises.  The reader also sees in Satan that one thing that Adam and Eve crave so dearly -- self-awareness.  But this self-awareness that Satan possesses does not seem to enlighten him, as Adam and Even hope it will; in fact, he seems tortured by it, as he banters back and forth with himself.  This same self-awareness also enable him to see that although he has a throne in Hell, where the Spirits beneath adore him, he pays a dear penalty for boasting that he could conquer God.  In this, his self-awareness is his own Hell: “Which way I fly is Hell; myself am Hell.” (line 75)

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        An overall sense of guilt prevails through most of Satan’s speech -- here Milton allows the reader to see that the “Arch-Fiend” was, at one time, not pure evil, but that he did understand the stupidity of his actions.  He hates the Sun because it makes him remember how wonderful it was to be so close to God as he tells the Sun in lines 37 to 39; and he feels very guilty about warring against God -- in lines 42 and 43, he exclaims that God did not deserve such actions from Satan, especially in light of all ...

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