Character Estimation of Beelzebub in John Milton's "Paradise Lost ( Book I)"

The word Beelzebub means ' The god of flies ' in Hebrew. He was worshiped at Ekron , a city of the Philistines as a fertility god. Beelzebub is called is Matthew, xii, 24, 'The prince of the devils’; hence he is represented by Milton as next to Satan in power and in crime. The crime is the crime of rebellion against god. Beelzebub followed Satan, next in the act of rebellion. Next to Satan, Beelzebub shared the greatest responsibility for the rebellion against god and overthrow of the angels.

Beelzebub is one of the rebel angels, the chief of Satan’s fellow conspirators in Heaven. In Hell also he remains Satan’s chief follower. Beelzebub is also a bold leader of the rebel angels. Above all, he is a wise and sagacious counselor of Satan an able minister who has always his master's interest at heart. Satan, however, has not Beelzebub's wisdom and practical sense. For example, Satan rejoices at the immortality of the rebel angels, and hopes that they will thus be able to vex god through eternity Beelzebub at once points out that the immortality of the rebel angels also means eternal torture for them. Satan declares that the fallen angels will always be doing evil, thus vexing god. Beelzebub shrewdly observes that their very opposition may be turned by god into the furtherance of his own glory. Bold, proud and ambitions, Satan is at his best on a throne or at the head of an army. The proper place for the wise and sagacious Beelzebub is the council chamber.

Beelzebub's first speech [lines 128 - 155] proves that he knows better than to oppose directly his leader and thwart his will. He knows that the best way to rule a bold chief is by way of persuasion. He humours Satan and seems at first to agree with him. But then with his wise foresight Beelzebub comes forward with shrewd hunts of doubt about the future. His character, as revealed in the speech, is one of Milton's subtlest. He is not a base coward like Belial. Nor has he the rash and unthinking courage of Moloch. He is rather the wise, practical councilor who has the good of his chief at his heart. Beelzebub also knows that a great disaster has overwhelmed them. We may note in this connection that most unlike Satan, he does not minimize the overthrow and defeat of the angels.

Satan proposes to summon his followers who are still confounded that they may either share misery with him in Hell or prepare for another contest with god. In reply to this, Beelzebub highly praises Satan as their leader: 'Leader of those armies bright, / Which but th' omnipotent none could have foil’d. In his second speech [lines 271 -282 ] , Beelzebub assures Satan of the fallen angels ' undying allegiance and devotion to Satan . In their with gods host, they had been cheered up by Satan’s voice. This time also they will rise from their stupefied condition on the lake of fire at their leader's call. To quote from Prof. Raleigh's Milton, ' His followers are devotedly attached to him: they admire him that for the general safety he [Satan] despised his own.’

Satan and Beelzebub are the mightiest of the rebel angels that fell from Heaven. They tower above the rest. Satan is the king of the fallen angels; Beelzebub is their Deputy. In physical strength and splendour Beelzebub is Satan's inferior. Satan is the first of the fallen angels to recover from the stupor, Beelzebub is the second. Satan is also prouder and more courageous than Beelzebub. Even after the fall from Heaven Satan meditates revenge, whereas Beelzebub is obviously despaired.

Ardhendu De

Ref: 1. A. R. Waller: The Writings of John Milton
          2. H. R. Mead: Biography of  John Milton