Satan in Milton’s Paradise Lost
Milton presents Satan as a complex character from the beginning. Not only is Satan a complex character, but also Satan is intelligent enough to persuade Eve to eat the fruit. At the beginning of the epic, Satan speaks to himself; as if he feels sorry to be fallen from Heaven and says that:
Is this the Region this the soil, the Clime,
Said then the lost Arch-Angel, this seat
For that celestial light?
(Book I, 1.242-245)
In this statement, we see that Satan is not pleased to be in hell. However then Satan immediately changes his mood and says in my opinion, it is better to reign in hell rather than serve in heaven.
Besides in Book IV, we see that Satan again feels sorry for his situation and says:
Me miserable! which way shall I fly
Infinite wrath, and infinite despair?
Which way I fly is Hell; myself am Hell
But of course he never regrets and continues to convince himself that it is good to be in Hell. He says this is my kingdom I can choose to be where I want; I am free so Hell is Heaven to me. He deceives himself so much that even he gathers a council in Hell to satisfy himself, because he says there will be no envy in hell and everyone will be equal. However, Satan himself is a sign of inequality, because, Satan sits on a throne in hell to satisfy himself about his kingdom in hell.
To which the Hell I suffer seems a Heav’n.
O then at last relent: is there no place
Left for Repentance, none for Pardon left?
Then to submit, boasting I could subdue
(Book IV, 1.78-86)
In respect of these quotations, it is clear that Satan understands that there is no way to return to Heaven. Since he is disobedient and arrogant he says I will not “repent” because there is no option to be forgiven for me; if I obey God, I feel ashamed because I know God will never forgive me so there is no logic to beg for forgiveness.
At the beginning, Satan thought he can be powerful as God, but now he sees the truth.
Although he understood that he can never be a God, but also he never gave up his arrogance. But at least Satan knows that even if he “repent”, God would not believe him because God knows that he is not sincere, therefore Satan knows that God would not accept his “repentance.”
Satan’s jealousy increased after the creation of men and Satan starts to challenge God and says that now you have Heaven, I have Hell so let see who will get bigger population from this new humankind. Besides, Satan says that God created you in six days and I will take you in one day; and this shows his arrogance, jealousy and anger.
Satan is clever enough to make Eve suspicious about God’s guidelines. Satan one by one finds logical contradictions about God’s prohibition; for example, Satan said that since God knows that if you have knowledge of good and bad both, you will be a god as well. So that is why God does not want you to eat the fruit. Besides, Satan tries to decrease Eve’s fears because she thinks if she eat the apple so, she will die. But Satan says I ate and did not die so why would you? And those contradictions made Eve believe Satan. That is to say Satan is so cunning that even he can declare God’s statements to be false or untrue.
Satan is always in a friendly manner. He approaches Eve as if he is her friend. While he is trying to deceive Eve, he says that I am your friend so I want to share this apple with you because it gave me the knowledge; now I am wiser than I was before and even it gave me the ability of communication. Actually, this friendly manner reminds me, Iago from Shakespeare’s Othello. Satan is considered as a good friend like Iago. In Othello, Iago, as well, approaches Othello in a friendly manner. Therefore, the friendly manner can be considered as a characteristic of villains; they show the friendly manner in order to deceive people. And this ability – making people believe in their friendliness is the most striking characteristic of villains.
Besides, this ability of using people’s weaknesses, turning them into badness and also the ability of deceiving people by approaching them in a friendly manner improved my understanding of villain because it reminds me that how villains are close to us.
Milton,John. Paradise Lost. The John Milton Reading Room. Ed.Thomas H.Luxon. Trustees of Dartmouth College. Web. 20 Dec 2014.