Ian Richardson reads from Milton's Satan, "Paradise Lost" Book 1


Immediately after the characterization of the author which opens Paradise Lost, the personality of Satan emerges as one of Milton's most notorious and vivid studies in morbid psychology. For Satan rationalizes his definitive failure, fall and ruin as validation for compulsive destructiveness in terms so plausible that revolutionaries such as the poet Shelley have equally deceived themselves into thinking that Milton, even if subconsciously, has made Satan the hero of the epic. Of course, in Paradise Regained Milton reasserts his awareness that the Son is the ultimate hero of the whole story. Indeed, if we are concerned about subtle characterization, the progression of Eve's initiatives makes her the most interesting character, if that status is not assigned to the Narrator himself, since the epic evokes Milton's own previous progression, from hellish despair at his blindness and political failure, to a transcendent acceptance of God's will, as reflected in his earlier sonnet on his blindness. The relevance of Satan's deluded rhetoric to modern politics is plausibly explained by Armando Iannucci in his commentary.



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