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.

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.