Satan Tells his Side of the Story
Satan is also renowned for his literary endeavours. In 1658, the poet John Milton (1608-74) sat down to write an epic poem in blank verse that came to be known as Paradise Lost. Milton had lived through the terrors of the English Civil War, which saw widespread death and destruction alongside religious schism and the beheading of King Charles I. Milton was deeply saddened by what he saw, and felt that the country was plummeting towards atheism. After all, where was God in all this? The pious Milton thus wrote Paradise Lost to ‘justify the ways of God to men’.
Paradise Lost tells the story of man’s fall from the Garden of Eden across an astonishing 10, 550 lines. To give the full picture, Milton goes back to the creation of the angels, and the Fall of Satan and the rebel angels. In Milton’s narrative, Satan, formerly God’s favourite angel before he rose up against Him, watches the creation of man with envy, and vows to take his revenge. The poem begins in hell, with Satan and his minions lamenting their misfortune and plotting against Adam and Eve. In imitation of Homer and Virgil, Satan becomes a tragic hero.
He has many speeches, and is a bigger character than God in the poem. Whilst this makes for a great poem, many suspected that The Devil had spoken through Milton. As William Blake explained, ‘the reason Milton wrote in fetters when he wrote of Angels & God, and at liberty when of Devils & Hell, is because he was a true Poet and of The Devil’s party without knowing it’. That is, The Devil took the opportunity to tell his side of the story, and did so through the hand of the unwitting John Milton, and subtly through other poets.