[Milton-L] Satan

Carol Barton cbartonphd at earthlink.net
Tue Feb 15 17:44:12 EST 2005


Rose is certainly correct in her reasoning: the whole point of Milton's
portrayal of Satan is that evil -- and sin/Sin -- *are* attractive (modern
readers need only think of the devil in "The Passion of the Christ" to
understand what Milton is doing). Stanley Fish has certainly never argued
otherwise: on the contrary, he sees the attractiveness of Satan and his
coercions in both _Paradise Lost_ and _Paradise Regained_. (For example, in
what is in my view one of his all-time most compelling analyses, Fish points
out that morally, feeding the hungry is a good thing, but as Jesus
recognizes, there is a higher moral principle involved in the temptation of
the flesh. Obedience to God vs. obedience to Satan trumps the injunction to
"feed the hungry" -- and Jesus thus refuses to do Satan's bidding, though
from a non-demonic character, such a request would be virtuous and "right").
Bunyan's Despair is the same sort of character: repulsive to his readers
because we know who he is, and what he is up to, but attractive to his
victims because the temptation to despair is part of human existence;
likewise, Spenser's Archimago. Eve's naive arguments about why she should be
allowed to go off into the garden alone reflect her perception of evil as a
morality-play figure: Satan is hypocrisy personified, a "whited sepulchre,"
not a scarlet caricature with goatee, horns, and a pitchfork. Fish, as a
matter of fact, would argue that those readers who cannot see Satan's
attractiveness (even in his resemblance to Aeneas) are mis-readers.

So would I.

All best,

Carol Barton


----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Rose Williams" <rwill627 at cox.net>
To: "John Milton Discussion List" <milton-l at lists.richmond.edu>
Sent: Tuesday, February 15, 2005 5:22 PM
Subject: Re: [Milton-L] Satan


> The thinkers among my various theological professors and pastors always
said
> that Satan is attractive -- if he were as openly repulsive as depicted in
> some medieval portraits, we might have fewer sinners. These teachers of
mine
> said that only on closer acquaintance, sometimes over a period of time,
did
> the true destructiveness of evil become apparent. Perhaps Milton is
> following this reasoning.
> Rose Williams




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