4

Related: Is John Milton's Lucifer a tragic hero?

Towards the end of book 1 (starting around line 600 in my edition), Satan addresses his followers.

Above them all th' Arch-Angel: but his face
Deep scars of Thunder had intrencht, and care
Sat on his faded cheek, but under Brows
Of dauntless courage, and considerate Pride
Waiting revenge: cruel his eye, but cast
Signs of remorse and passion to behold
The fellows of his crime, the followers rather
(Far other once beheld in bliss) condemn'd
...He now prepar'd
To speak; whereat thir doubl'd Ranks they bend
...
Thrice he assay'd, and thrice in spite of scorn,
Tears such as Angels weep, burst forth; at last
Words interwove with sighs found out their way

Is Satan expressing genuine remorse here? Is the text attributing to him genuine courage and compassion for his followers?

0

1 Answer 1

2

Milton is using a couple of these attributes in senses that are now archaic. In “considerate Pride”, I think that it works best if we take “considerate” in the sense

considerate, adj. 1. Marked by consideration or thought; well-considered, careful, deliberate.

Oxford English Dictionary.

and not in the modern sense of “showing consideration for others”. And in “Signs of remorse and passion to behold the fellows of his crime” we need to take “remorse” in the sense

remorse, n., 5. Sorrow, pity, compassion.

Oxford English Dictionary.

and not in the sense “regret or guilt for doing something morally wrong”. Satan is looking at his fallen companions and feeling sorrow (“remorse”) at how they have suffered, and anger (“passion”) at how they have been treated.

The OED gives us another citation from Paradise Lost for this sense of “remorse”, from book V, where Raphael says:

Sad task and hard: For how shall I relate
To human sense the invisible exploits
Of warring Spirits? how, without remorse,
The ruin of so many glorious once
And perfect while they stood?

This leaves us with “dauntless courage” which seems fair: it required great courage for Satan to rebel against the power of almighty God.

So I think that the text does attribute to Satan genuine courage and compassion for his followers. Paradise Lost narrates the fall of the rebel angels, and the more “glorious once and perfect” Satan and his comrades stood (as Raphael puts it in the passage from book V quoted above), the more tragic and pitiable their fall. In book I, the rebels are in some sense mid-way through their fall: although they have fallen corporeally to the depths of Hell, they have not yet completely fallen morally, so that they still retain some of their angelic attributes.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.