Paradise Milton clears God’s supreme being from anysuspicion
Paradise Lost is a monumental epic poem in twelve books of blank verse. ParadiseLost is based on the Bible and other writings available in the Renaissance Era.The Epic begins with Milton’s Intentions for “Paradise Lost.” Asstated in the beginning of the first book of Paradise Lost, Milton’s intentionsfor writing his religious epic are to “assert Eternal Providence / Andjustify the ways of God to men” (Book I, ll.
25-26). Milton’s audience, ofcourse, is a fallen audience, like the narrator of the epic. Therefore, becausethe audience is essentially flawed there is a danger that we may not read thetext as it was supposed to be read. Some may think Satan is the hero of theepic. Others may tend to blame God for allowing the falls to occur.
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However,both of these readings are thoughtless and are not what Milton has explicitlyintended. Therefore, to prevent these prodigious readings, Milton has cleverlyinterwoven a theme of personal responsibility for one’s actions throughout theepic. In this manner, Milton neutralizes God from any unfair blame, exposesSatan for the ill-Deceiver he is, and justifies the falls of both Angel and Man.A careful reading by the post-lapsarian audience reveals the author’sintentions. First and foremost, Milton clears God’s supreme being from anysuspicion of blame by post-lapsarian readers for “letting” the Angelsrebel or Man eat of the forbidden fruit. Milton skillfully defends God’sknowledge in Book III, when God says to His Son, .
. . they rebel angelsthemselves decreed Thir own revolt, not I: if I foreknew, Foreknowledge had noinfluence on their fault, Which had no less prov’d certain unforeknow.
my boldBook III, ll. 116-119 The concept of free-will is of utmost importance to God,and it is the key to justifying the falls and properly placing blame.Free-willing behavior is the wellspring of joy from which God drinks, but it isalso the justification for His punishment against those who disobey His order.As Milton continually notes, God takes His greatest pleasure in honoring andloving His faithful creations. Nowhere in the epic does Milton have God sayingHe thoroughly enjoys punishing the disobedient. Love, honor, and integrity arethe main reasons that angels and men are manifested with the ability to freelychoose their actions in the first place.
As God rhetorically speaks of all ofHis creations in Book III, I made him Man just and right, Sufficient to havestood, though free to fall. Such I created all th’ Ethereal Powers And Spirits,both them who stood and them who fail’d; Freely they stood who stood, and fellwho fell. Not free, what proof could they have giv’n sincere Of true allegiance,constant Faith or Love, Where only what they needs must do, appear’d, Not whatthey would do? what praise could they receive? What pleasure I from suchobedience paid, When Will and Reason (Reason also is choice) Useless and vain,of freedom both despoil’d, Made passive both, had serv’d necessity, Not mee. mybold Book III, ll. 98-111 God does not desire empty servitude. Forced praise,faithfulness, or adoration are empty and bordering with forced predestination:it obliterates free-will and any pleasure derived from it. Rather, God enjoysgenuine love and honest faithfulness from His creations.
The most obvious anddeceitful sinner of God’s will is Satan. Milton portrays Satan as a seeminglypowerful and noble character who claims to have been wrongfully mistreated bythe Almighty. His speech is loaded with appearance to reason and his argumentsappear to be sound to the unobservant reader. One of many examples of histwisted speech occurs in the first book, in which Satan says, “Nor. . .
do Irepent or change, Though chang’d in outward luster; that fixt mind And highdisdain, from sense of injur’d merit, That with the mightiest rais’d me tocontend, And to the fierce contention brought along Innumerable force of Spiritsarm’d That durst dislike his reign, and mee preferring, His utmost power withadverse power oppos’d In the dubious Battle on the Plains of Heav’n, And shookhis throne. my bold Book I, ll. 95-105 Contrary to his speech, Satan’s was notmistreated by God, nor was his force numerous, nor was the outcome of the battleperplexed, and neither did they shake God’s mighty throne.
Perhaps Miltonpurposely creates the persona of Satan as an attractive smooth conversationalistin order to show how easily one may be duped by seeming reason. However, anattentive and moral post-lapsarian reader, one of Milton’s “fit audience. ..
, though few” (Book VII, l. 31), will understand that Satan and his hostfell from grace through their own folly. Even Satan himself momentarily admitsthis. In a hesitant moment in Book IV, Satan finally admits that his fall is notGod’s fault, but his own, and that the punishment he and his crew are sufferingis just. This occurs at a pivotal point in the epic: Satan reaches the boundaryof Eden and notices the splendor of the Sun, and he is self-debating about goingthrough with his initial plan of deceiving man. He soliloquizes, O Sun,.
. .howI hate thy beams That bring to my remembrance from what state I fell, howglorious once above thy Sphere; Till Pride and worse Ambition threw me downWarring in Heav’n against Heav’n’s matchless Ah, wherefore! he deserv’d no suchreturn From me, whom he created what I was In that bright eminence, and with hisgood Upbraided none; nor was his service hard. What could be less than to affordhim praise, The easiest recompense, and pay him thanks, How due! yet all hisgood prov’d ill in me. . . .
my bold Book IV, ll. 38-49 In this vital passage,Satan, the ill-Deceiver and father of Sin, admits that he has fallen through hisown pride and ambition. Just as important, Satan also sounds remorseful forrebelling against God, whose service is privately admitted as not difficult andjustly due to God. Further in the same soliloquy he says, . . .
but other Powersas great Fell not, but stand unshak’n, from within Or from without, to alltemptations arm’d. Hadst thou the same free Will and Power to stand? Thou hadst:whom hast thou then or what to accuse By Heav’n’s free Love dealt equally toall? Be then his Love accurst, since love or hate To me alike, it deals eternalwoe. Nay curs’d be thou; since against his thy will Chose freely what it now sojustly rues. my bold Book IV, ll. 63-72 In this passage, Satan not only admitspersonal responsibility for his fall, but also validates the faithful angels’reward for choosing to remain true to God.
And finally, the Fiend admits thathis punishment is just, thus approving God’s decision to cast them down fromHeaven’s high walls. But Satan’s admittance of his fault should not be confusedfor repentance, the next step for achieving Divine Forgiveness. Satan says thereis no pardon . .
.left but by submission; and that word Disdainforbids me, andmy dread of shame Among the Spirits beneath. .
. . my bold Book IV, ll.
81-83In conclusion, from the start Milton makes his intentions for Paradise Lostcrystal clear. Milton intends to explain God’s Providence and His ways, notglorify Satan or shift the blame for the falls away from the individual and ontoGod. Of course, there will always be the danger of a reader getting wrapped-upin the drama of the epic or misreading the author’s intentions, but throughskillful descriptions, beneficial narrative tags, and striking comparison ofscenes, Milton makes sure he aims the reader in the right direction.BibliographyMilton, John. Paradise Lost. John Milton: Complete Poems and Major Prose.
Ed.Merritt Y. Hughes. New York: Macmillan Publishing Company, 1957. pp.