Importance of Debate in John Milton’s Paradise Lost

Importance of Debate in John Milton’s Paradise Lost

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Importance of Debate in John Milton’s Paradise Lost

Paradise Lost Is an epic novel depicting the creation of the world and Man's fall from grace. It also shows the fall of Lucifer and his entrapment in Hell with other arch demons. Though Lucifer was one of the most beautiful angels, he became the most hideous of creatures in hell as Satan, the most powerful demigod-god. Satan resents God for the punishment that he has received and seeks revenge on Him. Satan knows, however, that he and his forces are no match for the might of Heaven, so he calls for a debate among his devilish council to work through their options. John Milton portrays the arch-demons of hell like members of the Senate, toiling over how to get back at God. The arguments are similar only in that they all believe that some course of action must be taken, but in most ways they are vastly different. Each debate builds on the last until the best compromise is met.

Satan begins the debate with his opening remarks. He sounds hopeful, even though he knows that Hell is no match for God. Satan then yields the floor to Moloch, who argues the most extreme course of action. He believes that a full out war on Heaven is the only way to seek revenge on God. Moloch's speech was the first argument so the other demons were the most open minded about his ideas. Belial then took the stand, though he had a far different view than Moloch's.

Belial can see that they are no match for the power of God, and therefore denizens of Hell should be benign and hope that God pities them. In other words, Belial is ready to give up because he recognizes that their hands are tied. He is hoping that God wants them to realize this and will allow them back into heaven for admitting that He is superior. Belial's argument is the complete opposite of Moloch's in that he believes in repentance, not revenge.

Mammon disagrees totally with Belial's argument. He thinks that because they have been banished from heaven and become so obviously hideous, there is no longer any place for them there. He believes that they are forever banished to Hell and they should make the most of their situation. Repentance is not an option in his mind. According to Mammon, the arch-demons should make the most of a bad situation.

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After Mammon's argument, all the demons seemed in complete disagreement. Hell's great compromiser, Beelzebub, entered the picture to add a little cohesiveness to their thoughts. He agrees with Mammon that there is no place for them in Heaven and also with Moloch that they should seek revenge on God. He disagrees, however, that they should wage a full out war on Heaven because he agrees with Belial that they are no match for God's power. Beelzebub then plants his demon seed. God holds Man very precious as his creation. If the arch-demons attack man, an easy target, they can get to God. This is an ingenious plan which utilizes the ideas brought up by the other arguments. Beelzebub finds a common theme among the other demon's thought's and emphasizes the similarities. Satan agrees with Beelzebub's plan whole heatedly, and volunteers to go to Earth and tempt man.

Satan played on the other demons intelligence. He knew all along that they were no match for God, but he thought it would be better if they decided that for themselves rather than telling them right out. It would leave Satan open for criticism if he dictated what they should do, but if the deduce it for themselves, then they have only themselves to blame if their ideas are incorrect. Similarly, Satan knew that the best way to get to God was through man. It would not be in his best interest to submit the idea and then go carry it out because it would not make him seem like he is taking as big a risk. If he were to plant the idea in Beelzebub's head, when he volunteered to go to Earth it would make him seem like a heroic leader and not a dictitorial one.
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