Paradise Lost Book IV, Part I

Milton’s “Paradise Lost” is an exquisitely detailed masterpiece of epic literature that outlines the fall of mankind as depicted in the Bible. The poem is divided into twelve books, the fourth of which describes how the story’s infamous antagonist Satan ventures to Earth to contrive a way he can bring about ruin to the creation of God he has heard about. Satan was once loved by God, but was condemned when his aspirations to rule led him to attempt an overthrow of God’s kingdom. Feeling unjustly punished for his crime, Satan’s purpose is motivated by a thirst for revenge, and Milton’s work of character description goes above and beyond the duty of a poet to bring to the reader a Satan who is at once, solemn yet resolute in his plot to wreak havoc against a God who has cast him from the face of heaven.

When Satan reaches Mt. Niphates, a tragic side of himself is revealed in a moment of reflection. He sees the sun and is touched by memories of Heaven’s glory and his once valued position before God. Satan’s mood adopts human characteristics of remorse by these memories, and he is somehow saddened in spite of his malicious plan to lash out at God. But his fury is ignited once more when he deigns that God must have somehow endowed him with a powerful will to rebel, though he is frustrated by this circular logic. “O had his powerful destiny ordained me some inferior angel,” he states during his soliloquy upon the mountain; Satan is under the complete impression that by being created with the intrinsic nature to fail as a spirit-child of God, he has somehow been short-changed by some manipulative, ulterior motive. Although these ideas enrage him within, his thoughts allow him to ponder whether or not he could claim redemption. When he concedes to himself that his very nature, whether preordained or not, is subject to rebelliousness no matter the condition, his thoughts quickly revert to ferocious hate. Satan’s anger at God is so deeply rooted that he perceives the notion of redemption as ultimately futile. Satan fully understands the omnipotence of God’s power, and he not only surmises that God has already thought all of this through, but he becomes resolute in fulfilling God’s all-knowing predictions with the most nefarious of his malice. If God has somehow chosen Satan to enact a crucial part of some grand scheme to play out over time, the fury of Satan has become the essential impetus to initiate the plan into action.

Milton paints the figure of Satan vividly during this moment of self-reflection, employing facial descriptions of “ire, envy, and despair.” Such emotions are not pleasing to experience, and yet they act as a sort of morbid inspiration for the devil’s purpose. Satan is soon an ambitious, curious spirit who wanders about the Garden of Eden, recovered and reequipped with his natural instincts of cunning and avaricious malice. He is in no hurry to return to Hell, and the hope of discovering a means to create problems for God drive him to watch and wait. The fascination with which he catalogues the wonders of Eden in his mind is testament to the intelligence level that Satan possesses; Satan is acutely enlightened to the awesome power of God. His intelligence is tickled when his eyes fall upon Adam and Eve, at which he gazes with surprise and subtle wonder; they appear unbelievably divine to him. Though Satan’s intelligence level provides him the patience to simply observe with a sense of skeptical awe, his innate haughtiness drives him to inwardly and immediately vow to a state of ruin for the both of them. Satan’s jealousy has been inflamed by the exasperating breadth of their beauty, and his motivation to destroy becomes ever so decisive that he perceives victory before even knowing the exact means by which he will do so.

Advertisements

Paradise Lost Book IV, Part II

Satan’s plan becomes etched in stone when he eavesdrops on Adam speaking to Eve. But first he is appalled by how disgustingly good and beautiful God has made them, and is mildly infuriated by a contrasting, mental picture of their luxurious Eden to his ugly Hell; Adam and Eve are living with lavishing gifts from God while he, a spirit-child once dearly loved, has been cast from grace without forgiveness. Immersed in a cool and collected jealousy, his emotional flare-up does not cause him to overreact. His thoughts instead process the information he has gained concerning the forbidden fruit of the Tree of Knowledge. By now his ruminations on the possibility of redemption have long since fled, and Satan’s mind is now capitalizing on the prospect of temptation; since the fruit of the tree is forbidden by penalty of death, he will tempt them with eating the fruit by suggesting that to do so would be perfectly harmless. His eavesdropping, however, has provided more than just the means by which he will ruin what he fiendishly terms, the “gentle pair,” but has given him insight into whom his trickery will work best.

When the dialogue unfolded between the lovers, Satan seemed to discern that Eve must be of the weaker sex. Adam spoke of his knowledge of the rules of the forbidden fruit, which possibly indicated to Satan that he must know more than Eve. Satan understands that knowledge is power, for God has great knowledge and power, but he may have reinforced this view of inequality between the two when Eve spoke of her encounter with a reflection of herself in the water. She revealed how she was startled, knowing not what the image was, but was somehow enlightened as to the explanation and implications of the reflection that was herself. The event tells of the susceptibility to confusion she possessed at the time, a type of uncertainty she may be predisposed to possess again in the future. Continuing in her words, Eve described how she “yields” to her lover, wherein Satan must have ultimately concluded that Eve does not quite hold the same level of ethereal status as Adam. Satan configures these conclusions into a course of action that is realized when Ithuriel and Zephon find Satan “squat like a toad, close at the ear of Eve.” Satan has made his job as easy as possible by choosing Eve as the subject of his temptation because he senses that through her, he will meet with a more likely chance of success.

The events that outline this hateful mode of behavior clearly reveal a Satan who is immensely distraught by the circumstances that he realizes, are largely a result of his own actions. This fact does not change the sheer hatred Satan has developed for all things Godly. That Adam and Eve talk of their love for each other only serves to propel Satan’s desire to destroy them even further; their love is grotesquely representative of God’s goodness, and this fills him with a dire sense of loathing. Satan is renowned for his jealousy and fierce ambition to take over Heaven, and his inclination to harness this type of behavior materializes yet again when he observes the two lovers engaged in their acts of devotion to one another and to God. An odd part of him feels that God’s paradise is so replete with perfection that to bring about destruction would be a travesty, that only his impassioned, unchanging fate as a servant of evil demands that he attempt to do so. Yet another part of him feels he is only passing on the torch of God’s fate, that he has been composed with all of the mental components to be demonically evil. Ultimately his conviction to defy God remains as pronounced and steadfast as from the very meeting with his cohorts that defined him as king of Pandemonium in the first place. The panoramic vistas of paradise inflame his emotions with resentment when he thinks on the ugliness of Hell, and his jealousy skyrockets when he considers the tender love extending between Adam and Eve that makes him so sick. This classic tapestry of ill-fated emotions entangled with such extreme portraits of goodness present to the reader a Satan who has become acutely resolute in achieving success toward anything that may ease the pangs of his troubled mind. Where the aspects of what is good and what is evil have collided, Satan’s inwardly response is likened unto the result of some explosive, chemical reaction.

Satan does well at justifying his behavior when confronting Gabriel, in the process completing the outline that defines him as the prime candidate for bringing about the fall of mankind. “Lives there who loves his pain?” inquires Satan, speaking to the arch-angel who has momentarily captured him. This is Satan’s champion statement and open confession: Satan is a being with nothing to lose. He has his hatred of all things good, he has his resentment toward a God who refuses to forgive him, he has the creaturely creations of God at his disposal to destroy if he can only manage to succeed, and he has an eternity of time to go about the process with seemingly nothing better to do.

Iago & Othello, Part I

othello

In Scene Four, Act One of William Shakespeare’s “Othello,” Iago leads Othello in a train of thought that causes him to mimic Iago’s pattern of rhetoric. Iago is the villain of the story and has vowed revenge against General Othello, whom he feels overlooked him with respect for a promotion in the service of the military. Othello is known for his valiant and honest disposition, but these characteristics have made him credulous to Iago’s scheming. The two of them have known each other for many years, a span of time that has allowed a bond of trust to form, but for Othello, the trusting nature of this bond is what provides the medium for Iago to enact his vengeance upon him for what he feels was an unfair exchange of duty in friendship. That Iago is wholly trusted by Othello is Iago’s power to deceive him with near impunity.

By the time this scene appears, Iago has already met with success concerning the outcome of his destructive plans thus far, and appears to have developed a rhythm in his pattern of deceit. When Othello mimics Iago’s words, Othello is unwittingly allowing Iago’s manipulative tactics to flood his thoughts with appalling and intolerable revelations that fuel his suspicion. The mimicry is charged with apprehension, where each heightened response to Iago’s suggestions are loaded with Othello’s reaction to the alleged situation of his wife’s infidelity. For Othello, the very hint of such a situation is to be deplored. Othello has known Desdemona for a considerable amount of time so that a deep, emotional attachment has formed; their love is more than one of lovers infatuated by the flesh, rather, their love has taken on characteristics of devotion, honor and sincerity for one another. “I cannot speak enough of this content,” declares Othello in Act Two, Scene One, speaking on the joy of seeing his wife after being separated during their journeys. These deeply seated feelings lie at the root of Othello’s flare in listening to Iago unsettling implications.

Iago, on the contrary, is fueled by the notion that Othello is succumbing to the charms of his nefarious work. His behavior has already shown him to be a feisty, industrious person. He has expended clever, zealous effort to make sure Roderigo and Cassio fight, and has even taken the initiative to perform the risky task of planting evidence in Cassio’s room. Having these incidents already panned out for him have allowed the force of his intentions to propel his scheming right along. When he gets Othello alone, he utilizes the platonic intimacy that spans between them to play him, where Iago’s feistiness drives his tactical use of rhetoric to incite suspicion and anger in Othello. Iago is intellectually quick, and with each spoken confirmation of Othello’s excited thoughts, Iago quickly fills in the spaces with inflammatory suggestions that further Othello’s distrust in Desdemona.

To expound on the character of Iago, the soliloquy following his moment with Roderigo at the beginning of the play reveals something of a supercilious person enraptured by the power that his diminished sense of self has created. After being looked over for a promotion in Othello’s service, he capitalizes on his suspicion of Othello having once slept with his wife to further justify his hatred of him. This is Iago utilizing what he can to heighten the vengeful emotions that blanket his underlying feelings of inferiority. He admits to using Roderigo for his money, an admission that presents his inclination for abnormal thinking. That he is unwilling to suggest a healthy way for Roderigo to accept he will never have Desdemona, and that he seeks to use these frustrations to his advantage, playing on Roderigo’s naiveté to plot small portions of a larger scheme to bring Othello down, make Iago unstable. These aspects and intentions incline his personality toward the sociopathic; he is truly uncaring of another’s feelings and emotions.

Later, the true monster in Iago is revealed through literal acts of physical aggression. During an ambush to end Cassio’s life, Iago sneaks from the shadows to slash his leg when he figures out that matters aren’t going as planned. The act is cowardly but decisive, and is representative of the sociopathology working within him, making him adaptable to such unforeseen circumstances in the most heinous of ways. As soon as he calculates the risk of having his plot uncovered by the mishap in what should have been Cassio’s death, he commits his most depraved act: he murders Roderigo. This hasty and callous behavior is Iago the megalomaniac out of control. The act of murder with no hesitation nor conscience is the culminating result of Iago’s mentally disfigured way of thinking.

Iago & Othello, Part II

ken_laurence

The character of Othello stands in contrast to Iago, but only to a certain degree before both of their behaviors become similar in methodology. Othello is a general in the Venetian Military, a worthy accomplishment that extends from the days when he was a foot soldier, a time when he was even taken captive during battle and sold into slavery. He speaks of “distressful strokes” that occurred in his childhood to Desdemona, details that add to the tale of his path to glory through struggle and hardship. Othello is also moor, meaning he is from a land where the people have darker skin color, a fact that implies the specter of racism he has had to contend with through the years. In spite of his proclivity for struggle, Desdemona’s father is a senator who once loved Othello, as this was the chance circumstance by which the two lovers met. That this senator loved Othello, and that Othello ultimately became a general, are honors that show Othello was able to face daunting challenges and overcome them, all the while earning his fair share of respect in the process.

Standing in opposition to Othello’s valiance as a distinguished individual are the shadows of his aggravations that have made him who he is. Othello’s path to becoming a general was embroiled in conflict and tactical toiling. The ability of a general is to make critical and expedient decisions in the face of these often trying situations, a trait that Othello appears to have possessed, but one that does not serve him well in his personal affairs. Not long after Iago begins to coax him into believing Desdemona is sleeping with Cassio, does his ability to think critically dissipate into curious, irrational behavior. Othello’s demand for results on the battlefield is such an ingrained component of his ego, that when he is not able to compute the meaning of Desdemona‘s platonic affection for Cassio, the soldier and general in him perceives an enemy and demands for a resolution. In battle, he may have acted on impulse with regard to an impacting, devastating event; in the case of his wife championing Cassio, he impulsively hits her across the face. This preview into the realm of domestic violence is a preview into the demise of Othello. That Othello is subject to this type of behavior makes him unstable, and not far in disposition from that of his enemy, Iago.

By the end of the play, Othello and Iago have developed similar behaviors that signal the success of Iago’s devilish machinations. Both have become servants to the sin of murder. The sad irony is the drastic change that evolved in Othello’s disposition as a person. Where he was once able to negotiate conflict, he is now a part of the conflict. Where he was once communicable and enjoined with the love of his life, he is now the one who is to plot her murder. Where he was once of the type to be recognized as a voice of authority, he is now the subject of authority. The change speaks volumes in the overall personality of Othello, of whose trials and tribulations of soldiering and problems of racism have seeped to the surface of his temperament as impatience and the incapability and unwillingness to seek out, validate, and truly understand his wife’s behavior. Though Iago’s revenge lies at the foundation of Othello’s madness, Othello himself is ultimately and truly the one responsible for the malaise that is his enraged jealousy.

Both Iago and Othello have dealt with issues that have caused them to experience inner conflict, character traits that make them alike as much as they are different. Othello’s aspect of skin color juxtaposes Iago’s situation of inferiority: Iago’s struggle with being a second rate individual as a common soldier to that of Cassio’s elitist standing, is similar to Othello’s life as a colored person among a largely non-colored populous. Othello’s jealousy at Desdemona is also not far from different to Iago’s jealousy of Cassio: to be jealous in general is a symptom of pent-up, life-circumstantial struggle. Therefore, the verdict is that both Othello and Iago are guilty of themselves, where either of them could have faced their situations with level-headedness and rationale. Though Iago’s mental instability was observable throughout the entire play, Othello’s rapid change from a relatively calm individual to a person willing to commit murder is confirmation of unresolved issues that consequently, as is evident in the both of them, have manifested themselves in negative, volatile behavior.