The question, ‘Satan as a seducer?’ is a very different and unique angle to view his character. To some extent, he does play a role as a seducer in certain parts of Books I and II of Milton’s poem, ‘Paradise Lost’. Somehow he manages to make other people believe and furthermore trust in him. Deception is the most obvious weapon the Satan utilizes to persuade some of the characters in the poem. Nearly every statement he makes can be seen either as a lie or a delusion.
The first and earliest proof of Satan’s achievement as being a seducer was seen in Book I, when Milton writes,
“Who first seduc’d them to that foul revolt?
Th’infernal Serpent; he it was, whose guile
Stird up with Envy and Revenge, deceiv’d
The Mother of Mankind” (Book I, 33-36).
These lines illustrate that Man’s disobedience which therefore caused the loss of Paradise, where he was placed in was due to the successful attempt of the Serpent, played by Satan, to tempt Eve and, through her, Adam, to commit the Original Sin. Satan’s jealousy and desire for retribution towards God drove him to seduce Eve by deceiving her.
Satan revolted from God and manages to draw to his side many Legions of Angels. Then, God drove Satan and his followers out of Heaven and into the place of utter darkness, filled with misery, called Chaos. Milton’s expression of the condition of Satan’s followers in this new place is, “… now they lye Groveling and prostrate on yon Lake of Fire” (Book I, 279-80). Despite this wretched place, Satan tries to revitalize their spirits by preaching,
“… Here at least
We shall be free … we may reign secure, and in my choyce
To reign is worth ambition though in Hell” (Book I, 257-61).
He also tells them that they “Can make a Heav’n of Hell, a Hell of Heav’n” (Book I, 255). This inspiring speech is directed by Satan to seduce his followers, that at the time seemed to have lost all hope in regaining happiness. Whether his remarks were true or not, he doesn’t care, as long as it gives them encouragement and motivation so that they will believe him and have faith that they can gain their joy again by helping Satan go to war against God. He continues this method, trying to rebuild the spirits of his distressed and unhappy followers because he knows that he cannot fight a war with God on his own, and so he wants their support. In a way, he was sort of playing a psychological game with the ‘fallen angels’ by telling them good things about the dreaded place that God had sent them to. Satan’s speech successfully managed to convince and comfort them with the new hope of regaining Heaven.
The part of Satan’s commentary that favoured the hearts of his followers, and at the same time effectively persuaded them that they still had a chance of obtaining happiness was when he ended his speech with a profound announcement. He informed them of the New World and the new creature that would be created, “There went a fame in Heav’n that he ere long Intended to create … plant A generation … equal to the Sons of Heaven” (Book I, 651-5). This was their chance to retaliate by using this new Creature to fight God. Satan’s idea to meddle with God’s plan finally made his followers confer their miserable fall as he says,
“Our first eruption, thither or elsewhere:
For this Infernal Pit shall never hold
Caelestial Spirits in Bondage, nor th’ Abyss
Long under darkness cover … Peace is despaird,
For who can think Submission? Warr then, Warr
Open and understood must be resolv’d” (Book I, 657-62).
He was reassured of his successful attempt to seduce his followers to go to war when they responded with full of excitement, as though thunder struck on the burning Lake where they lay miserably, and awoke them all. They enthusiastically began their mission to enter war, “Millions of flaming swords, drawn from the thighs…Hurling defiance toward the vault of Heav’n” (Book I, 663-9).
Besides seeking for their lost happiness, Milton nearly always writes about rest, peace and ease, which indirectly relate to each other. The meaning of rest emerges in Book I when Hell is first described, “Regions of sorrow … where peace And rest can never dwell, hope never comes That comes to all” (Book I, 65-7). The repetition of never, contrasts the happy eternity of Heaven, but Satan urges his followers towards the ‘dready Plain’ because “There rest, if any rest can harbour there” (Book I, 183-5). Satan manipulates their minds with delusions of rest, peace and ease so that they will follow him, and seek a haven from the stormy ocean.
During the consultation in Book II, Satan debates whether another battle was to be hazarded for the recovery of Heaven. He manages to help make the situation of the rebels interesting and enhances their dignity in debate so he could persuade his followers that they have hope of improving their status. This is seen when he says, “Or if our substances be indeed Divine, And cannot cease to be” (Book II, 99) or “We overpower? Suppose he should be relent, And publish Grace to all, on promise made, Of new Subjection” (Book II, 237-9). Those words make them think that maybe they have a chance to achieve victory when at war with God. That cleared some of the doubt left in their minds about fighting another war.
Satan persuades them to go to war in his speech where he argues that his throne is safe and unenvied (Book II, 23), because according to Him, it seems as though the misery of the rebels is complete and who would actually envy the throne of Satan? As the verse continues, it follows that every improvement in Heaven’s state must tend to weaken Hell’s authority, so since every misery is its basis, then to exhaust the firmness of Satan’s union is the very ground required for Heaven’s hope of victory. He ends by saying,
“With this advantage … we now return
To claim our just inheritance of old,
Surer to prosper then prosperity
Could have assur’d us; and by what best way,
Whether of open Warr or covert guile” (Book II, 35-41).
The aim of the entire speech, obviously, is to instil a mood, and to cheer spirits. He tries to use logical explanations in order to accumulate their trust and faith so they would help him fight to regain Heaven. Satan’s false spontaneous reasoning was meant solely to serve as one of his methods to influence the minds of his fellow followers. This rather misleading speech shows the desperateness of the situation.
Finally it was decided that they would attack the New World. Then, Satan begins to anticipate the trials awaiting him as he heads toward his journey as he accepts “alone the dreadful voyage” (Book II, 426). He knows that he has to overcome many obstacles before being able to enter the New World. In Satan’s speech to his angels, he makes Hell seem almost a haven, compared to the dangers awaiting him outside. Satan’s seductive and persuasive ways is again seen when he meets with Sin and Death.
When Satan first sees Sin, a combination of an old sea serpent with scary folds and a dream-figure, the seductress and enchantress, he discovers that he is her Father. She was sent down by God to guard Hell’s Gates, so no one would escape. Then, she introduces Satan to Death. After Satan heard Sin complain about her misery as when she says “Rest or intermission none I find” (Book II, 802), Satan of course, being Satan, uses her sadness and vulnerability to get his way through those gates. He convinces her that he came to relieve her from her pain and suffering. He cleverly seduces and manipulates her by saying,
“I come no enemie, but to set free
From out this dark and dismal house of pain,
Both him and thee … and this once known, shall soon return,
And bring ye to the place where Thou and Death
Shall dwell at ease, and up and down unseen” (Book II, 822-41).
After hearing his extremely caring and concern argument for entering the New World, Sin and her son, Death were very pleased because they too, want to leave the horrible place in which they were put in. Death expresses his gratuity to Satan as he, “Grinnd horrible a gastly smile, to hear His famine should be fill’d, and blest his mawe Destin’d to that good hour” (Book II, 845-7). Then, Sin also bought Satan’s argument and even began to praise Him,
“Thou art my Father … whom should I obey
But thee, whom follow? thou wilt bring me soon
To that new world of light and bliss, among
The Gods who live at ease, where I shall Reign
At thy right hand voluptuous, as beseems
Thy daughter and thy darling, without end” (Book II, 864-70).
And with that, she used the ‘Fatal Key’ and opened the gates of Hell. Sin and Death were nave enough to believe that Satan’s main purpose of going to the New World was to help them. Satan was smart because he found a weakness in Sin and utilised it to for his own benefit. He knew she was unhappy and desperate to leave Hell, so he used that as an excuse for him to enter the New World in order for her to open the gates of Hell.
Satan portrays a magnificent rebel in Books I and II. He was a successful military leader, an accomplished politician, and a very daring explorer. His complex character changes from an arrogant revenge seeker in Book I, representing a commander whose voice alone gives hope and renewed life to his followers, to the clever manipulator of parliamentary action during the Consultation in Book II, and then a smooth, dissembling hypocrite in the scene with Sin and Death on his journey to the New World. It is amazing to believe that he accomplished all that just by seducing and manipulating the characters in the poem.
Milton, John. Paradise Lost. 2nd edition. London; Longman 1998, Books I and II.