Milton’s Pandemonium


Milton’s Satan and His Pandemonium

Milton’s Satan

Pandemonium is the name invented by John Milton for the capital of Hell, “the High Capital, of Satan and his Peers”, built by the fallen angels at the suggestion of Mammon at the end of Book I, Paradise Lost (1667). Book II begins with the debate among the “Stygian Council” in the council-chamber of Pandæmonium. The demons built it in about an hour, but it far surpassed all human palaces or dwellings; it may have been small, however, as the demons are described as shrinking from their titanic size in order to fit in.

Franciscus Junius is a French Protestant philosopher who was the owner of an important piece of Christian literature called the MS Junius 11 or Caedmon Manuscript. In this manuscript’s Genesis B part there is a full description of Lucifer’s fall. It is believed that this is the first literary explanation of Lucifer’s fall. Milton was knew Junius, thus some critics believe (and there are some similarities between both of the texts) that he affected from this manuscript. If Milton hadn’t known this poem then those similarities are interesting.

Milton’s Satan captures human’s “organ of fancy”, because Satan believes that he had been victimized and his defiance against God will continue forever. He has the rich texture of his personality, his rebellious and dauntless spirit, his unconquerable pride, his boundless egotism, and the intensity of his suffering and also his peculiar situation: He is the link between Heaven and Hell.

Some readers and critics believe that Satan is the protagonist or the hero of the story. In The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, Blake said “the reason Milton wrote in fetters when he wrote of angels and God and at liberty when of devils and hell is because he was a true poet and of the devil’s party without knowing it.” Urgan’s essay quotes the critics who believe that Satan is a faithful reflection of Milton’s own personality. They assert that Milton had like Satan an independent spirit; like Satan he was by nature a great rebel; like Satan he disdained moral conventions; Satan had revolted against the order of heaven and the authority of God, Milton had revolted against the political order of his own time and the authority of the king…and the list goes on.

Maybe it seems like Milton supports Satan in Book I & II, but we know that Milton is not in Satan’s side. He shows us Satan’s self-delusional words:

Better to reign in Hell than serve in Heaven.
(B I, line 263)

Satan even believes that he and his legions almost won the war in Heaven:

Be it so, since he
Who now is Sovran can dispose and bid
What shall be right: fardest from him is best
Whom reason hath equald, force hath made supream
Above his equals.
(B I, line 245-249)

Satan is not only deceives himself, but he also deceives the fallen angels and Eve:

But of the Fruit of this fair Tree amidst
The Garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat
Thereof, nor shall ye touch it, least ye die.
(B IX, line 661-663)

Also from the time Satan gets the sack from Heaven he began to diminish as physically and spiritually. He was the most beautiful angel in Heaven and later on, while his soul swelling with mischief his body shrinks. And in the end he and his followers turn into serpents.

All those reasons and those, which I won’t list, here, Milton cannot be in Satan’s party. Those people who believe that Milton supports Satan read only first two books, I believe. But the fact is the hero of Book I & II is Satan without any doubt, but later the central interest of Paradise Lost shifts to Adam and Eve.


What is Pandemonium?

The dictionary meaning, according to OED is; the abode of all the demons; a place represented by Milton as the capital of Hell, containing the council-chamber of the Evil Spirits; in common use, = hell or the infernal regions. Word coined by Milton in 17th century for Paradise Lost. A simple etymological explanation is; “pan” in Greek means “all”, “demonium” in Gr. “evil spirits”; “all-demons”.

This palace is in the centre of Hell, and all the demons help to build it. Its main architect is Mulciber who is “known in Heaven by many a towered structure high” and also “in Ancient Greece; and in Ausonian land”. Mulciber’s character is based on a Greek mythological figure known for being a poor architect, but in Milton’s poem he is one of the most productive and skilled devil in Hell. His task is to build a palace in Hell “with his industrious crew”. Mulciber was the first to learn what the concept of “transferability of skills” meant: what he learned in Heaven would also be useful in Hell.

Pandemonium builds in a very short time with all the demons’ help. The aim in building this palace is that they were in need of a place to debate their problems like a parliament. When there is a parliament the political regime of Hell becomes democracy. This democratic system works like today’s parliamentary system. There is a leader who decides everything but let the members to speak up their ideas on the subject. Satan and his peers’ biggest problem are what they going to do in Hell.

At the beginning of Book II, “Satan debates whether another battle is to be hazarded for the recovery of Heaven: some advise it, others dissuade.” First, Moloch argues the case for immediate open warfare. He has no fear of death, as it is preferable to serving as inferior to God. Moloch has no wish to remain in the “opprobrious den” of Hell, but describes graphically the glorious martial deeds in which he will attempt to regain Heaven. Moloch claims from the notion that the natural motion of angels is upward, that re-ascent will be easier than fall. As the devils have nothing to lose, they should not fear battle. He reasons that nothing, even their destruction, could be worse than Hell, thus they have nothing to lose by another attack.

Belial cunningly demolishes Moloch’s argument and shows how Moloch’s main reason for making war is a better reason for avoiding it. Belial argues that a second attempted revolt could lead to far harsher punishment from God, and describes some of the awful torments the devils might bring on themselves by open war. His speech is far more persuasive than Moloch’s and he makes use of the words of the earlier speaker, twisting them to serve his own arguments.

Mammon indicates that the devils cannot hope to dethrone God until Chaos regains the rule of things. He points out, further, that, even if God should excuse the devils on condition they return to their former allegiance, this would not be tolerable. He claims that it is better to enjoy the freedom of Hell, being “to none accountable”. Mammon prefers to peacefully advance their freedom and asks the devils to be industrious in Hell; they can copy features of Heaven using the natural resources of Hell. His argument found a great support among the fallen angels.

Later on, the second-in command of the Archfiend, Beelzebub begins to talk; he addressed the fallen angels by calling them with a new title “Princes of Hell”. Like the other speakers have, he claims, as good as decided to stay in Hell and found a new empire there. He indicates that if they stay in Hell it may prove merely their dungeon, and God will reign “first and last”. He begins to outline what Satan has earlier told him the story of God’s creation of new world and man. He suggests investigating of this world and its inhabitants, in the hope of finding some weakness and spoiling this creation. Like Archfiend said:

To do ought good never will be our task,
But ever to do ill our sole delight,
As being the contrary to his high will
Whom we resist
(Book I, line 159-162)

Beelzebub ends his speech by asking a rhetorical question:

Advise if this be worth
Attempting, or to sit in darkness here
Hatching vain Empires.
(B II, line 376-378)

Beelzebub’s proposal is supported by the fallen angels’ vote. He asks who will undertake this perilous mission? None of the devils dare to challenge Satan for the honour.

Then Satan “…rais’d / above his fellows, with Monarchal pride” (B II, line 427-428) and begins by saying how reasonable it is that devils should fear so perilous a venture, but argues he would not deserve to be leader if he were to shrink from the task. He insists that none of the devils have to share this danger with him.

All the demons’ suggestions are one of the objects of “seven deadly sins”: Moloch represents wrath; Belial represents sloth; Mammon shows avarice; Beelzebub has envy; Satan is the pride.

Actually, Satan knows that he will be the one who goes to find Earth. But he listens all the demons to speak up what they want. Satan is accusing God as being a “tyrant of Heaven” but he turns into another tyrant who is in Hell. There is no difference between them in this perspective. Demons vote but Satan already decided what to do with this problem. Thus the voting is only a ceremony like in today’s parliaments. I believe what Milton is criticizing is this nominal system of parliament of his own time. A simple minded reader can think Milton praising Satan because of he build a parliament in Hell but as literature students we should consider that what sort of a parliament is this. Satan’s parliament is only for show; it has no function; for the reason Satan does not consider any of the demons’ ideas.

In Milton’s time for the first time in English history a king dethroned and beheaded. Because of Milton’s passion for freedom, he wanted the Commonwealth govern the country. Again for his passion of freedom he was against the Anglican Church to interfere the relationship between God and his liege, and supported the Puritans.

As an end, I can say Paradise Lost is Milton’s biggest work. He cleverly chooses a great subject for it. He is not in the party of Satan like some critics said, this will be his a great irony. Milton lived his life as a good Puritan; we can see its evidences from his corpus. Milton describes even his enemies in a democratic way, Pandemonium. Milton believes deeply in democracy and freedom. But the Pandemonium is almost identical with the today’s or Milton’s time’s parliament. This democracy is nominal; only the leader’s wishes come true. Thus we can eliminate the option of “Milton is in Satan’s side”. If Milton really supported Satan, he would make him as if Satan is the only democratic figure in his epic. But we saw that Satan has no difference from today’s politicians.


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