"Rhetoric and sophistry testify to the fact that the world in which we live is a
world of speech, that the clever man can compose at will in order to trick others." 1
Speech was perhaps the most important medium for Milton. As a blind poet, his lack of visual faculties was augmented by a renewed importance on auditory paths to enlightenment, especially the communicative. Therefore, contemplation of dialogue in Paradise Lost becomes an essential tool for developing a correct understanding of the characters, as Milton would have intended. Nowhere is this truer than with the character of Satan. Throughout the text, his rhetoric exists as a window to the nature of his being, and thus evil itself. Milton, through his depictions of Satan's communications with his comrades, the newly formed humans, and even himself (through soliloquy), shows us that evil, as incarnate in the character of Satan, cannot pursue truth, but rather must always focus on deception.
Our introduction to Satan comes in a dramatic setting, a 'moralized landscape' of grandiose scale, but attention is immediately removed from striking images of a "fiery Deluge, fed With ever-burning Sulphur" (Book I, Lines 68-9) and focused upon Satan's conversation with Beëlzebub, showing that dialogue will be the center of attention. The core of Satan's speech to his lieutenant is his confidence in the fact that their struggle with God is not over, and that they will eventually win.
All is not lost; the unconquerable will,
And study of revenge, immortal hate,
And courage never to submit or yield:
And what is else not to be overcome?
That glory never shall his wrath or might
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...ey any form of truth.
Bloom, Harold. "Milton and His Precursors." Elledge 555-68.
Elledge, Scott, ed. Paradise Lost. By John Milton. 1674. New York: Norton, 1993.
Fish, Stanley. "Speech in Paradise Lost." Elledge 526-36.
Johnson, Samuel. "[Paradise Lost]." Elledge 482-92.
Lewis, C. S. A Preface to Paradise Lost. New York: Oxford UP, 1970.
Milton, John. Paradise Lost. Elledge 3-304.
Patrick, J. Max, and Roger H. Sundell, eds. Milton and the Art of Sacred Song. Madison: U of Wisconsin P, 1979.
Shawcross, John T. " Deception in Paradise Lost." Patrick and Sundell 137-47.
Steadman, John M. Milton's Biblical and Classical Imagery. Pittsburgh: Duquesne UP, 1984.
1 Georges Gusdorf, Speaking (La Parole) 20 (Evanston, Illinois: Northwestern University Press, 1965)(P. Brokelman translator.)
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