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Tabada Literature 3 (2:30-4:00 TF)
July 10, 2012
Satan in Milton, Dante and Blake’s Perspective
In the beginning of time, angels were created by God to serve him and be his companions in Heaven. For millions of years, all ethereal beings were living in peace and harmony until one charismatic and ambitious angel by the name of Satan envisioned himself as someone higher than the Creator. He persuaded and encouraged his fellow angels with cunning words to accompany him in the war that he will raged against God to fight for the throne of Heaven. He promised them full authority to rule Heaven and he succeeded with his plan to gain followers but one thing that he did not though of was what he stands to lose if they fail to win the battle. Hence, with Satan leading them, they set forth with their ambitious plan and waged a terrible war against the almighty God and at the end, they failed. Satan and his followers, due to the great anger and disappointment of God, were banished from the Heavenly Paradise and were thrown into the depths of Hell, their glorious wings were cut off from their shoulders and the light that has illuminated their body was also taken away replaced by a shroud of darkness that represents their unrepentant souls.1 More often than not, when the word Satan is mentioned we’re reminded of the times when our parents or some elderly scare us with his name and tells us that if we don’t obey our parents or the people older than us and if we disobey the orders of God we will be taken away by Satan into the depths of hell. Satan’s name represents something dark, sinful, evil and dangerous. More or less, Satan’s name is used as a scary reminder of what happens to those who are disobedient and unkind. Although the Bible has enough information about the validity of Satan’s existence and the story of his existence, people of the late centuries were still in ignorance or in denial of Satan’s existence hence, great writers such as John Milton, Dante Alighieri and William Blake wrote narrative poems about the existence of the invisible but powerful beings such as God and Satan and the existence of Heaven and Hell. The three writers gave out different perspectives on the character of Satan but one thing that makes their Satan similar is that he is brought out as a manifestation of evil and plague humankind to get revenge. Satan in their perspective represents someone who is against God and therefore sinful. The three writers’ Satan is different in the way he is depicted in the story. In Milton’s epic poem the Paradise Lost, Satan is a fallen angel, the most beautiful one, who lead the failed rebellion to gain control of Heaven against their creator which is the almighty and all-knowing God. He is characterized as someone who is deeply arrogant, powerful, charismatic, cunning and deceptive. He is powerful and charismatic in a way that he was able to convince his fellow angels to deny God’s authority over them and was still capable of rallying demons to continue with their rebellion against God. Although Milton’s purpose for Paradise Lost is to defend God’s goodness and justify his ways to man, Satan’s character in the poem is
Milton, John. Paradise Lost. Complete Poems and Major Prose. Ed. Merritt Y. Hughes. Indianapolis, IN: Hackett Publishing Co., 1957. 206-469.
Sarah Aurora W. Tabada Literature 3 (2:30-4:00 TF)
July 10, 2012
more like that of a hero because his point of view is the most often pointed out in the story and his character remind me of one. On the basis of Aristotle’s hamartia which states that “heroes are appealing people who make mistakes; who enjoy favor and prosperity and who are inhibited and limited by a character flaw which jeopardizes their situation and forces them to test their own competence”, one could relate heroes to humans and humans to Satan.2 In short, like humans Satan also has his flaws such as being misguided but was still able to fight all odds hence, some can see him as a heroic figure. One can admire his compelling qualities (though there is no sense of emulating evil deeds) quick mind and fearlessness in his quest to find the answers to the questions that has raced in his mind. Thus, Milton has portrayed Satan in his literary work as a being with heroic tendencies, misguided it maybe, and at the same time he turns him into a metaphor for the ultimate sinner; that is, the human being who acts on his own will alone and continuously refuses God’s offer of merciful forgiveness and redemptive salvation. At the end of reading, I’ve realized that Milton’s purpose in portraying Satan as a misguided heroic figure was to make the readers see Satan at his lowest, see how cunning and deceptive he could be and make us reflect on our actions and what we stand to lose if we sin. In Dante’s Divine Comedy, Satan is portrayed as a grotesque giant beast with three heads entrapped frozen mid-ice in the very depths of hell. He is depicted more as a victim of Hell’s torturous pain. Moreover, Dante made out Satan to be the ultimate sinner and made the readers understand the agonizing pain and suffering that Satan has to endure for waging war against God. Dante placed Satan at the center of hell and reduce him to a less powerful being to make his readers realize that Satan represents Hell and to follow Satan’s ways means to live in Hell for the rest of our afterlife. Lastly, in William Blake’s Marriage of Heaven and Hell, Satan is portrayed as a role model to the act of fighting against authority. Blake portrayed Satan in an unconventional manner which really confuses the readers but what he actually wants the readers to understand is that Satan can be really cunning in his way of charming humans to do evil deeds by making us, humans, think of his voice as the voice of reason and we must be aware of it. In his poem, Blake created a more powerful Satan compared to Milton’s but in the sense that he wants to unite his and Milton’s concerns relating to Satan as to be able to liberate mankind from the clutches of Satan and become to closer to God. In an overall evaluation of the three writers’ way of conceptualizing Satan, Dante’s was more effective because he was able to portray Satan in his lowest form and his perception of Satan was easier to understand than that of the other two whose Satan was more complex and hard to understand unless you have deeply internalize the entire poem. Overall, the three writers were very impressive with their writing skills to show their readers a better version of the Bible in a way that they were able to give characteristics to invisible beings like God and Satan. They were able to give a bigger stronghold to Christianity by telling us of the misguided and deceptive ways of Satan. Nevertheless, they have created an image of Satan that will last forever which will help in the liberation of mankind from evil.