Paradise Lost

The Mystery of Identity: An Essay on Satan's struggle against God the Son

Mel Gibson's recent film, The Passion of the Christ, opens with an ominous scene where Satan endeavours to dissuade Jesus from bearing the cross for the entire human race. What is peculiar about Satan's temptation are the questions that he addresses to the Son: "Who are you?" and "Who is your father?" It seems militarily unwise for Satan to even attempt to challenge an opponent whose identity to him is as obscure as the night fog. Likewise, John Milton's audience sees the same ignorance in Satan, which inflames his animosity towards the Son in the extensive epics entitled Paradise Lost and Paradise Regained, in which Satan's incomplete knowledge of the Godhead deeply affects his thoughts and actions. In particular, because Milton's Satan believes himself to be another son of God, his interaction with the true Son makes a dramatic impression on Milton's reader: the fraternal conflict between the disfavoured prince and the rightful successor of the king. While Satan's initial combat with the Son in Paradise Lost results in his defeat, the Prince of Darkness resumes his confrontation with the Son in Paradise Regained, unraveling his identity behind a human mask. Like the futile...

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