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An Analysis of Satan's Final Speech in Milton’s Paradise Lost

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An Analysis of Satan's Final Speech in Milton’s Paradise Lost


Satan's final speech to Eve, 11. 679-732, Book IX, in Milton's Paradise Lost, is a persuasive masterpiece carefully structured to appeal to her ambitious tendencies and to expand her already existing doubts (which Satan has implanted) as to the perfect nature of God. Satan begins by worshipping the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, as Eve will do after she has made her choice. Throughout the remainder of the speech, he attempts to present the tree as an alternative focus of her faith. Satan endeavours to weaken Eve's admiration and fear of God, and to reinforce her faith in herself, or the potential of what she could be if she had the courage to eat of the fruit. Satan's speech is primarily interrogative - - he poses provocative questions, and then provides what he represents as all of the possible answers. Of course, every solution he offers supports her tasting of the tree. By the close of the oration, whether or not we have any Biblical knowledge, it is evident that Eve cannot possibly resist the brilliance of Satan's argument.

Satan's first words are addressed not to Eve but constitute an exultation of the tree. He speaks of the power it has provided, of the near ecstasy and knowledge that has welled up within him since (allegedly) tasting the fruit. Satan's emphasis on the power that the tree contains is perhaps a shrewd recognition of Eve's feelings of inferiority. He realizes that Eve agonizes over Adam's predominant position, and possibly even resents the supremacy of God Himself. Satan indirectly presents the tree as a means of bridging this gap. Through one simple action, she can instantly assert her independence, as well as acquire the wisdom and ...


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...ever been exposed to evil, and cannot recognize it. She is an easy target. Satan introduces ideas that had never occurred to her before in the form of questions in order to latch Eve's mind onto these concepts and to have her mull them over. However, he does not give her much room for independent thought - Satan provides the answers to all of the questions he has posed. Eve is pressured to make a decision as soon as possible, and is not awarded the leisure to work out the fallacies in his argument. She does not have the tools to combat Satan's superior intellect. With Eve's faith in God severely shaken and her hopes raised for the future, her decision to eat of the tree is a foregone conclusion.

Works Cited

Milton, John. Paradise Lost. The Norton Anthology of English Literature: The Major Authors. Ed. M. H. Abrams. 6th ed. New York: Norton, 1990. 770-71.


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