Literary Analysis Essay on Paradise Lost by John Milton

Paper Type:  Essay
Pages:  9
Wordcount:  2272 Words
Date:  2022-11-26


There exists a mainstream orthodox representation of the devil in Western literature as a figure to be feared or condemned. Within that mainstream, a smaller movement presents itself, which recuperates a type of sympathy or an unconventional exploration of Satanic mentality and motivations. John Milton is essential to this tradition, for he is, for many later iterations, its point of origin. His epic poem, Paradise Lost, has created a poetics of influence of people returning to that text, being stimulated to their own creation in not just poetry, but poetics in a wider sense of the arts, media, and popular culture. Sympathy in this context is more of a praise of Satan, the fallen angel, and Milton shows the reader Satan as a paradoxical figure, and one way he does so is by illustrating his strengths and weaknesses. Hence, the main aspect of sympathy for the devil is the fact that the reader can identify with this character's personal qualities and motivation, in terms of self-confusion, charismatic speeches, etc.

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Sympathy for the Devil

There is a history of certain people who look at the devil as a potentially sympathetic figure that dates back to Milton and is even directly reliant on Miltonic techniques. Clearly, the dominant theological and literary representation of the devil simply damns and condemns the devil as hostile, that being the mainstream orthodox thought, and the centerpiece to illustrate this is through Dante's' Divine Comedy, as he addresses it in this sense by placing Lucifer at the bottom circle of Hell. Contrary to what the monotheistic religions describe, that is, that Satan was one of the most powerful angels in heaven and that, even in his condemnation, he retains a considerable portion of his strength, Dante illustrates a much less influential being. He does not rule over any underground kingdom. In fact, he is a prisoner of hell as well as the rest of the reprobate who inhabit it. The Satan of Dante and The Divine Comedy is a grotesque creature marked by tragedy. Dante's Hell is made up of Nine Circles. The Ninth, divided into four smaller rings, is marked by the depth in which the reprobates are submerged in the ice. Satan is located in the last Circle or Ring, called Judecca, surrounded by the worst sinners: the traitors. These traitors are clearly differentiated from fraudulent spirits since their betrayal consists of deceiving people with whom they had some kind of special relationship. The punishment of Satan has to do with his act of rebellion, with his desire to reach divine power. When he was expelled from the skies his fall excavated an abyss in the cosmos, where he fulfills a sentence that is not capricious, but in fact, balanced. There he pays his offense by going through a situation opposite to what he wanted to achieve by overthrowing God, that is, being above all creation. In the unimaginable isolation of the eons, Satan finds himself alone, and below all of Creation. It is Virgil, the guide of Dante in hell, who explains that the inhabitants of that region have lost goodness and intellect, that is, they have lost the capacity to love. At the apex of that absence of God is Satan.

Milton described a psychologically complex Lucifer in "Paradise Lost," which tells the story of Satan's fall from grace. While earlier religious texts had examined Satan's motivation to condemn him, Milton's Lucifer is an attractive and supportive character that embodies the rebellious feelings of seventeenth-century republicanism. For some Romantic and Enlightenment artists, Satan was a noble rebel who waged a battle against the tyrannical authority of God. Contrary to what the monotheistic religions describe, that is, that Satan was one of the most powerful angels in heaven and that, even in his condemnation, he retains a considerable portion of his strength, Dante illustrates a much less influential being. It does not rule over any underground kingdom. In fact, he is a prisoner of hell as well as the rest of the reprobate who inhabit it. This is what most Christian literature discussed: that is, the evil nature of Satan. However, Milton changed this in a radical way by creating an idiosyncratic kind of Satan. The current work will analyze parallel tradition in which there is sympathy for the devil, derived from Milton's precedent characterization and with a lively presence in contemporary popular culture in the study of Neil Gaiman's Lucifer in The Sandman Series.

Milton's Antihero: Satan as a Noble Rebel

In this way, Milton created an antihero, a character with attractive motives for many people, who tries to succeed in a crusade where the real chances of victory were tiny. The rebels of the era in which Paradise Lost appeared embraced this misunderstood character, far from the monster portrayed for centuries. Several later romantic poets extolled his figure like that of a brave man who confronts the status quo and puts himself at the head of a lost campaign in advance. He is no longer an evil Satan, but one worthy of admiration. That was the legacy of Milton in regard to this legendary figure, a legacy that has reached our days. Although it was not his intention since in his fight against God he uses the tricks of a coward, unable to face his enemy face to face. His strategy leads to defeat, but that was not enough to lose his appeal in the face of freethinkers of all subsequent epochs. Its cause has been taken by millions of people since the seventeenth century as that of a rebel worthy of respect, a champion of all those who feel differently about the order of society.

The Poem

Paradise Lost, by John Milton, is one of the most famous narrative poems in world literature. With its more than ten thousand white verses, Paradise Lost is more than an epic poem, one of the greatest exponent of heroic poetry, whose vast tradition extends to an incredibly remote past, and whose echoes resonate in eternity. In the poem, Milton develops the central point of biblical myth (St Hilarie 33). The poem brings into play the parallel story of a double fall, that of Satan (to whom divine wrath will precipitate the abysses furthest from Heaven to the mourning depths over which the fallen angel will reign throughout the eternity, wounded in its pride and plotting an endless revenge) and that of Adam and Eve (who will be expelled from earthly Paradise and thrown into mortality, into a world already inhabited by ruin, finitude and sin. the rebellious angel provokes the destruction of the new creature (which will always carry within himself that double nature, angelic and infernal) and opens a new game board for his eternal dispute with God.

Satan's Attraction and Seduction of Eve

Milton's greatest success is Satan. A dangerous devil attractive and fascinating to the highest degree, despite being surrounded by bad adjectives; a tragic character and a subtle evil: often all his actions, even unintentionally, seem (seem) virtuous and heroic within his misfortune. His speech tries to induce reason and be convincing. Although the seduction of Eva is rather simple, her monologues against God seem radiant with justice and if one is careless comes to question the validity of God (Carol and Stephen 1). Although Milton repeatedly raises the "just reason" as a man's path and lifeline, what his work says in a more discreet way is that we must be careful with reason. The logic is a rigid structure very easy to twist. Logic, justice, reason, coherence, all these are essentially human concepts that constitute weaknesses. There are things that are as they are, because of yes and period (Carol and Stephen 1). Climax of the work, a reminder of "Christian resignation" (and of several other systems), a moral teaching, a Michael who plays the executioner warns Adam that having understood that his greatest duty is to love, fear and obey God is the greatest wisdom man will achieve, so he (man) should get to know all the mysteries of the airs and seas, the name of each star and the interior of each being.

Seen from a modern perspective that may seem to some that Milton presents Satan with sympathy, as an ambitious and proud being, who challenges his tyrant creator, omnipotent God, and makes war in Heaven, only to be defeated and thrown out by land. In fact, William Blake, a great admirer of Milton and the illustrator of the epic, says of Milton that "he was a true poet, and on behalf of the devil, without knowing it,"

At first, Paradise Lost places the reader in hell, shortly after the end of the Celestial Wars, when Satan and his followers were precipitated into the abyss. Most demons are totally defeated by defeat before angels loyal to God. However, Satan, the insurgent hero, rises like a thundering voice in the dark wasteland, stimulating his brothers in rebellion (Wirenius 27). Through an impressive speech, full of cunning and wisdom, Satan manages to raise the morale of his defeated army. Faced with the impossibility of a direct confrontation with God and his angels, especially the archangel Michael, who defeated him in singular combat, the prince of darkness decides to avenge himself by hitting the beings most loved by the creator: Adam and Eve. In this way, Satan reaches Paradise. God observes him, naturally, and Christ, long before knowing that he should incarnate on earth, also sets his eyes on him.

Satan learns the language of Adam and manages to find out the prohibition that weighs on the Tree of Good and Evil, also known as Tree of Knowledge. At this point, John Milton imagines an overwhelming Satan, totally perplexed by creation, and especially by the delicate beauty of Adam and Eve (Milton 111). The archangel Rafael arrives at Paradise with important news: he must warn the first human beings of the arrival of Satan. Here the story of the fallen angel is told extensively. Paradise Lost slowly turns into a poetic epic that transcends the limits of the majestic: At last, Satan finds Eve, alone, and seduces her, inviting her to savor the prohibition with these terrible words (Milton 242-3):

What does it prohibit us to know? Does it forbid us good, forbids us to be wise? Has the serpent died, by chance? He has eaten, and he lives, he knows, he speaks, he reasons, he discerns, when until here it was irrational. Has not death been invented more than for us? Or is it that the intellectual food that is denied to us is reserved for the beasts? What, then, is what I fear? Do I know what I must do in the ignorance in which I find good and evil, of God or of death, of law or of punishment? Here the remedy of everything grows; that divine fruit, of pleasing aspect, that flatters the appetite, and whose virtue communicates the wisdom. Who prevents me from taking it and feeding the body and soul at the same time?

The argument of Milton's poem is known: this vast composition, as epic as it is excessive, introduces the reader to a particular, complex and glorious vision of creation, starting from the story of Genesis. Satan appears here as a rich, complex, libertarian character; opposed to a cold divinity, exactly mathematical and implacable in the realization of his purposes. Thus, the assimilation of the hero to the Promethean myth arises; and to that extent, it is almost impossible to escape the fascination with the rebellious angel and his followers (Singleton 179). After an invocation in the purest style of the Greco-Latin classics, in which the Muse is identified by the poet with the Holy Spirit, the object of the work is proposed: the explanation of the origin of evil in the world. However, as we get deeper into the text, that clear purpose seems to vanish. Maybe because as William Blake proposed in his Marriage of Heaven and Hell: "The reason why Milton wrote in shackles when referring to the Angels and God, and in freedom when he did about the Devils and Hell is because He was a true poet and was on the side of the Devil without knowing it" (p. 89).

The reader is introduce...

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