Paradise Lost

Under Satan’s Skin: Milton’s Portrayal of a Pathetic “Prince of Darkness”

Satan is no longer to be feared: he is to be jeered, scorned, and mocked! At least this is the attitude shared by notable scholars like C.S. Lewis, Martin Luther, and Thomas More. Lewis devoted a whole book, The Screwtape Letters, to the cause; Luther once said, “The best way to drive out the devil, if he will not yield to the texts of Scripture, is to jeer and flout him, for he cannot bear scorn”; and Thomas More said, “The devil… the prowde spirite… cannot endure to be mocked.” In Paradise Lost, John Milton seems to agree with these esteemed scholars, creating a Satan who is so unsure of his actions that he needs to use his own rhetorical tactics on himself to feel confident. Milton’s narrator in Paradise Lost, especially during the end of Book III and the beginning of Book IV, prepares the reader for seeing Satan with a clarity that can only be found by getting under his skin and taking a genuine look at the feelings of his heart. Satan’s speech atop Mt. Niphates affirms the narrator’s introduction of a sad, pathetic, and continually submissive Satan who reveals a sense of inner clarity through his soliloquy. This pathetic “Prince of Darkness” who realizes the truth about his actions, lack of any real Prince-like power, and...

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