Milton's Paradise Lost : Satan’s Speeches Reflect His Personality



If William Blake ever declared that Milton, ‘was of the Devil’s party without knowing it’ (The Marriage of Heaven and Hell), the judgment stems chiefly from the fact that Satan’s speeches were so admirable and arousing that even the devout of Christians would not be able to refrain from holding Satan in great esteem. Though some critics like C.S. Lewis may arraign Satan for his ‘blatant lies’ (A preface to paradise lost), it must be conceded that Satan believed at least sound of his arguments to be true. Further at would be naïve to expect a leader, and particularly one of satanic stature, to adhere only to facts, Satan is a leader of the rebels, and a leader’s success lies in motivating his people. Satan’s speeches, magnificent as they are in their psychological insight, passionate feeling and rhetorical grandeur, must be judged only by that yardstick.
John Milton
 The first speech of Satan comes after he has been’ Hurled headlong flaming from the ethereal sky’ god Satan indicates that his change is external rather than internal, physical rather than psychological. He has still ‘that fired mind,/ and high disdain from sense of injured merit,/ That with the Mightiest raised me to contend’. They may have lost the ‘glorious enterprise’ of ousting God from heaven because of the strength of God’s thunder, but that would not cause him to admit final defeat. To his followers he makes it clear, that he is almost as talented as God himself and it is the sense of ‘injured merit’ which makes him decide to wage another battle.
In lines resounding with virile vigour he exhorts them on:
“Awake, arise or be fallen!
For him it is better to reign in
Hell than to serve in Heaven”
But Satan’s speeches are occasionally, intentionally sarcastic. When he addresses his followers as ‘immortal spirits’, he is actually stimulating them by his oblique suggestion that they do not deserve that name. He praises them in the most exalted in terms:
         “Princes, potentates
Warriors, the flower of Heaven once
Yours now lost -- - - -- “
But subsequently, he ironically tells them that they must now be reposing and slumbering after the toil of battle. They Might even be lying prostrate because that would be the most Fitting posture ‘to adore the conqueror”
In the final speech, his fifth in Book I, his concern is to encourage his army by hinting at ultimate victory. He also vindicates his own leaders his by suggesting that the defeat was not due to his lack of foresight or courage. So effective is this last speech of his acting cumulatively with others that ‘millions of flaming words’ are drawn from the thighs of the assembled fallen angels to confirm and to approve of Satan’s words. Satan has been able to motivate them to such an extent that they immediately begin to toil and build a fabulous palace
‘pandemonium; so as to chart out a
Course of defiance.’
The magnificence Satan’s speeches both in terms of their demagogic skill and in their actual affect in such as to transcend the boundaries of time, space and specific event, as William Empson has noted in Milton’s God, even refugees from the Japanese in the second world was reacted with fierce enthusiasm when they heard this speech.



 Ardhendu De
ref: Encarta, Wiki
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An English Teacher;    M. A.(English) , D. Ed., B. Ed., UGC- NET Qualified

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