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Paradise Lost, Book II, lines 11-42

Page history last edited by Sandra 8 years, 6 months ago

Book II, Lines 11-42, Close Reading


  • 1. SummarySatan opens Book II as the newly appointed leader of the "fallen angels." He is deliberating with them in an open assembly regarding their war with Heaven, his place on the throne, and his follower's emotions toward both his leadership and the possibility of a second war. Satan is a motivational and confident leader, telling his people that "Celestial Virtues rising will appear" (line 15) referring to the fallen angels' powers and what they could overcome if they unite togetherHe says they must "trust themselves" (line 16) in order to conquer but more so, in this passage he reflects on how he was the chosen one of the fallen to rule. The footnote helps the reader conclude that by free will and with the help of his numerous achievements, he has gained merit amongst his followers and therefore was granted the title as their leader. Although his throne is an "unenvied" one, (line 23) Satan compares his position to God's by saying if he were the ruler of Heaven, instead, perhaps his role would be envied. Satan reiterates that as a "fraction" (line 32) they will have no chance at standing up against God and winning the war, but "with this advantage then to / To union and firm faith," (lines 35-6) they will not only have a fighting chance, but, as he boasts, they will claim their "just inheritance" (line 38) and conquer. The final lines, then, assures the reader that although Satan is set in his belief of this war, he wants to see who is on his side or who will join him and therefore 'opens the floor,'  to the rest of the fallen angels to see who will be opposed to war and who, ultimately, will stand with him. 


  • 2.  summary -  In book II, milton focuses on Satan's  wanting to  rise to redemption. The main theme of the reading is revenge. It almost seems Satan is not very confident in waging the war to heaven. From lines 11-42, he ask for opinions on whether or not to wage this war. However in  line 16 "and trust themselves to fear no second fate" , almost as if he fears there will be a second fate but with trust in themselves the falling angels might just overcome any fear of loosing this second war. From lines 16 to 39, he (Satan) brags of how heaven would be a better place if he took over, in line Milton states " surer to prosper than prosperity"  but there is some sort of uncertainty in the lines that follow " We now debate. Who can advise may speak." Satan wants to be the ultimate leader but yet is not sure if it is a good idea to wage this war to heaven and it seems he speaks highly of how him and his falling angels can concquer the heavens but yet there seems to be uncertainty in his views. The phrase "who can advise may speak" makes his leadership skill seem poor because a leader does not seek advise from the ones below him, he gives orders and makes sure things go accordingly. His uncertainty of waging the war is made evident when he questions how God should be attacked "whether of open war or covert guile" (line 41). A true leader should not seek the advice of others to figure out how to attack an enemy.


  • 3. Importance to the larger workAlthough we're still  just beginning Paradise Lost, and this passage exemplifies Satan's character very much earlier on, it is of great significance to the rest of the work. Having just been recently appointed as the leader of the fallen angels, what really came across as poignant to Satan's character is how persuasive and confident he is. He is a man of action and of great speech, seeing as his introductory passage to the others is 42 lines; Milton clearly did this purposefully. He starts his speech by acknowledging that, yes,  "though oppressed and fall'n" (line 13) there will still be an opportunity for justice on their behalf. Milton depicts Satan's character through word choice similar to military speech such as "merit," "strive," "strife," "ambitious," "advantage," and so forth. Despite this militant portrayal, there is also the frequent use of hierarchy diction to symbolize Satan's power: "Throne," "leader," "fixed laws," etc. By painting such a powerful image of Satan earlier on in the books, the reader has a better understanding of the kind of influence and trust Satan has over/from his people. Saying that, in the final lines of the passage, Satan opens up a "debate" (line 42) amongst the fallen to reflect on everyone's stance on the war. The final line, for me, is a moment of clarity for the reader referencing to future moments; although Satan possesses a leadership role, he is still open to other's opinions which gives him a humanistic and relatable quality that I don't think people expect to find in his character. In doing this, Milton makes Satan a character that will have readers rooting for him in the long run. 

  • It is important to view Satans speech in different ways. He seems to be confident but yet questions others on his plot to wage the war on heaven. Satans found it oppressive for God to have power over everyone but yet is proclaimed as the leader of pandemonium. For me personally my interpretation of Satan's speach was rather weak for the mere fact that his is very unsure of himself but yet he ask his fallen angels " and trust themselves to fear nosecond fate". In order to instill trust in someone, one must be able to try themselves first before asking someone else to trust that nothing bad will happen. If he is not confident in himself he can not seek confidence in others. 


  • 4. Discussion questions -  
    • After Satan's speech, are you for or against him seeking justice? Why or why not
    • Do you view Satan's speech conviencing in his plot to win this war ?
    • Can Satan's lack of confidence lead to another fall ? 
    • Do you feel Satan truly believes in what he is saying, or is he using his role as a way to manipulate the fallen to follow him? What lines from the passage are evidence to that? 

Comments (2)

Jackie Marro said

at 11:37 am on Feb 28, 2012

As you can see, I've conducted a response for question one and am currently in the process of revising/finishing question two. I'm going to add some discussion questions as well, but if you see anything that needs to be added/edited, please feel free to do so. Also, I left question three open for you but as I mentioned, if you want to make any changes to the former questions, that's alright with me. Thanks!

Sandra said

at 3:18 pm on Feb 28, 2012

I am reading this differently so it is hard for me to edit or agree with the point you have, but they are very interesting and good.

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