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Paradise Lost, Book III, lines 654-680

Page history last edited by Brian Johnson 8 years, 4 months ago

1.     Satan disguises himself as a cherub and approaches Uriel, an Archangel that guards Earth (Paradise/Eden) where God has created Man (Adam).  Satan begins  to con Uriel into letting him see God's newest and most beloved creation.  Satan uses convincing rhetoric to get Uriel to allow him to see "His wondrous works (but chiefly Man)" (2.663).  Satan claims to have come down from Heaven, impelled by "unspeakable desire to see and know" (2.662) what God's "new happy race of men" (2.679) look like.  Satan concludes his conversation with Uriel by flattering God (sarcastically, of course).  He refers to God as "the great Creator" (2.673) and mentions that God was correct in driving out the devils (him) and replacing the fallen angels with humans.  Satan's final comment in disguise notes that in reference to God, "wise are all His ways" (2.680).


2.     This passage is important to the larger work because it illustrates that Satan is able to deceive good/innocent characters and manipulate them via language in order to reach his evil goals.  He is able to trick Uriel, an Archangel, easily and get closer to Paradise to execute his evil plan to corrupt and destroy Man.  Satan is a powerful figure and Adam and Eve have no chance of defeating his influence because as Milton says:


So spake the false dissembler [Satan] [goes] unperceived,

For neither man nor angel can discern

Hypocrisy, the only evil that walks

Invisible except to God alone

By His permissive will through Heav'n and Earth.  (2.681-85)




Satan, an archangel who believed he could challenge God, takes the form of a lowly cherub. Although he is the paragon of pride and sin, he is able to portray false humility and innocence.  His words as the cherub are of utter reverence and submission to God, which stand in stark contrast to his actual beliefs. Satan's fraud is so convincing that it even fools Uriel who is described as " Interpreter, through highest heaven" (2.657.). If God is all seeing and all knowing, this section demonstrates that God allowed Satan into the garden to tempt man to their coming fall.


Even though he is the interpreter of God's will, Uriel is blind to God's true motives. So too is he blind to evil as it appears before him. This section also seems like it could be easily taken as an argument for Protestantism against the Catholic Church. Milton seems to argue that only God truly knows God's will, and that those who claim to speak for him may be deceived by evil. Satan's words are ones of empty flattery, which may suggest that empty recitation of prayers hold less meaning than a true, personal devotion to God.


(Brian Johnson)


4.     Satan concludes his conversation with Uriel with two curious comments:


     1) He mentions God's righteous defeat of the devils.

     2) He infers that God has created Man as a response/consolation to the devils' disobedience and that this new race will "serve Him better" (2.680).

     Why does Satan end the conversation in this way, what purpose (if any) does it serve?    


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