John Miltons epic poem Paradise Lost is extremely similar to the Bibles story of creation in many ways, but its most apparent difference is character structure. Milton uses soliloquies in order to give the reader insight to Satans emotions and motives. They also reveal his tragic flaws: envy, pride, and ambition towards self-glorification. It is these character flaws that allow him to pervert his perceptions and judgment, allowing him to validate his battle against God (Rowlands, Liz).
Satan is portrayed as an attractive character, showing the reader the seductive appeal of sin, particularly pride, which Satan has in abundance. Throughout the epic, Satans character deteriorates from high bravado in Books I and II, but by Book IV his bravado shows signs of cracking, with his soliloquies beginning to reveal his inner torment and self-doubt. Milton begins Book I with the first of the epic invocations, describing the basic topic of the poem: Mans first disobedience, and the fruit/ Of that forbidden tree, or the Biblical story of the creation of Adam and Eve, the first created humans.
The reader first encounters the character of Satan, king of the fallen rebel angels and the originator of sin, after he has fallen from Heaven into the burning lake of Hell, after he and his co-conspirators were defeated in their impious war (I. 43). Satan, along with one-third of Heaven that fell with him, find themselves chained to the fiery lake of Hell, a situation that stuns Satan, for he thought himself to be equal to God.
This fall from Heaven, and eternal banishment to Hell however, does not teach Satan humility; rather it only strengthens his resolve to never bow to the Almighty. It seems, though, that Satan quickly comes to terms with his banishment, Above his equals, Farewell happy Fields Where Joy for ever dwells: Hail horrors, hail Infernal world, and thou profoundest Hell Receive thy new Possessor: One who brings A mind not to be changd by Place or Time. The mind is its own place, and in itself Can make a Heavn of Hell, a Hell of Heavn.
While it may occur that Satan has accepted his banishment, it has not taught him humility, he instead remains proud in the fiery pit that is Hell, Better to reign in Hell, then serve in Heaven (I. 263). Satan also sees the banishment as a good thing; he and the other fallen angels no longer have to obey God. In Satans first soliloquy in Book IV, the reader gains new insight into Satans character. The reader is given insight into the torment of his sinfulness and the conscious decision he has made to sin.
When we were first introduced to Satan, he was a confident, prideful character, but when we encounter him again in Book IV, his thoughts and actions have undergone a dramatic change. As his steadfastness wavers, some of his initial charisma also diminishes, as we become more aware of his fallibility, (Rowlands). His pride shows signs of wavering, when he is reminded of his disobedience when he sees the beauty and innocence of earth, causing him to admit that it was his pride that ultimately caused his fall from Heaven to Hell: O Sun, to tell thee how I hate thy beams That bring to my remembrance from what state I fell, how glorious once above thy Sphere; Till Pride and worse Ambition threw me down Warring in Heavn against Heavns matchless King.
Ah wherefore! He deservd no such return From me, whom he created what I was In that bright eminence, (IV. L. 37-44) Satan reasons that his ambition would always result in his demise, as he would freely make the same choice. Essentially Satan is the embodiment of Hell, as he cannot escape it even from his own psyche.
It is Satans despair that comes forth more potently than his evil intentions, (Rowlands), By change of place: Now bitter memory/Of what he was, what is, and what must be (IV. 23-25). He has also begun to question his decision not to repent after his banishment to Hell, and begins to wonder if it was a mistake and what might have been if he had, But say I could repent and could obtain/By Act of Grace my former state; how soon/Would higheth recall high thoughts, how soon unsay/What feignd submission swore (IV. 93-96).
While it does appear that Satan is remorseful, only several lines after this statement, his pridefulness begins to show through, So farewell Hope, and with Hope farewell Fear, Farewell Remorse: all Good to me is lost; Evil be thou my Good: by thee at least Divided Empire with Heavns King I hold By thee, and more than half perhaps will reign. As Man ere long, and this new World shall know. (IV. L. 107-113) Satan has committed himself to evil, imprisoning himself in a perpetual state of envy, remorse and the quest for revenge.
He also wishes to pervert Gods will and instill evil in all good things that He has created. Satan is also not as bold as he once was, he has sank to low cunning, (Anstice, Robert H). The most obvious difference between Heaven and Hell is how they are the reverse of each other; what was luminous light in Heaven is now darkness in Hell and Angels who were once beautiful and glorious are now ugly and disfigured in Hell. Not only does Satans character change from Book I to Book IV, but syntax does also.
In Book I, Satan is described as a lost Arch-Angel but by Book IV he has become an inferior Angel. Satan has fallen in status from one of power gone astray to someone of inferiority. The descriptions of Heaven and Hell also change between Books I and IV. In Book I, Satan describes Hell as a mournful gloom and unhappy Mansion. In contrast, he describes Heaven as celestial light. In Book IV however, Satan describes himself as the embodiment of Hell, which way I fly is Hell; myself am Hell (IV. 74).
He also changes his description of Heaven and Hell in Book IV, To which the Hell I suffer seem a Heaven (IV. 78). Miltons greatest accomplishment in the portrayal of Satan is that the reader views and identifies him as a person. Milton paints an intricate characterization of Satan, successfully portraying Satans humanistic features. In the beginning, he is a charismatic, persuasive character, who the reader almost feels sympathy for, but several books later he has become a remorseful and a character whom the reader no longer feels pity for.