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Paradise Lost by John Milton - Barron's Booknotes
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LINES 657-802. SATAN ASSEMBLES HIS FORCES

Satan is also awake, but he isn't singing praises. He is stung with envy and hatred because another angel-not him-has been declared coequal with God. He is plotting how to strike back.

It isn't hard to identify with Satan's feelings. In fact, it's really more difficult to understand why God so abruptly elevated the Son, without explanation to Lucifer, as Satan was known in Heaven. We are given no reasons for God's preference. But that is part of what Milton wants us to understand about his God: we all must accept with obedience and grace whatever he decides.

Lucifer can't accept it. He feels like a child rejected in favor of another sibling. You may perhaps be familiar with another evil figure, Iago in Shakespeare's Othello. Iago's only motivation for the terrible destruction he brings about is that Othello promoted someone else instead of him. In Iago's case, like Lucifer's, the fury seems out of all proportion to the apparent cause.



Lucifer was "of the first / If not the first Archangel." Now he will be the first in opposition to God's will. He whispers to his closest companions a command to bring their forces to the North, the region traditionally connected with Satan. They will gather there to prepare a special welcome for the Son, he says.

But God is not deceived. As one-third of the angels follow Lucifer (now Satan), God warns his Son that a great battle is coming. The Son-in sharp contrast to Satan-never argues or contradicts his Father but assures him he will be equal to the challenge.

So, Raphael continues (using Adam's name in line 751 to remind us that we're following a story within a story), Satan took his numberless army to the North, where he set up a palace in imitation of the Mount of God. Satan addresses his followers, using the great line naming all the orders of angels: "Thrones, Dominations, Princedoms, Virtues, Powers." These impressive titles may not mean much now that the Son has usurped "All Power." How can we get free of their power, which was bad enough with one supreme authority and is unendurable now that God is double? His argument is based on the meaning of "peer," which means an equal. (Peers in a kingdom are those people equal to the king in political importance.) Satan's equality with God has been violated.

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