Answerable Style: Essays on Paradise Lost

By Arnold Stein | Go to book overview

THE FALL

THE angels fall by their "own suggestion" and "self-tempted." Man falls "deceived" by Satan. This must mean, what Milton never tries to make dramatically real, that Satan is only the spokesman of the consciousness of his followers -- an internal agent rather than an external agent. The temptation must have been a kind of spontaneous mass contagion -- their "own suggestion." In hell and in Paradise Satan does not maintain the relationship toward his followers that God in His omniscience has revealed. But then Satan, under conscious guilt, has partly separated himself from himself. He assumes the role of external guilty agent who tempted the part of himself represented by his followers; and being incapable of repentance, he must play out the tangled game of separate selves; his responsibility toward them will furnish him with the external moral sanction he needs in order to act, though he will then be dependent upon their dependence upon him. But Satan's followers are quite minor characters in the drama and Milton is not much concerned, it seems, with their original motivation. For Satan the fact remains: he fell self-tempted, himself (and his followers and Sin) the inner agent, with no external agent.

Adam falls deceived by an external agent, Satan. But there is an inner agent, too, for Adam is tempted by Eve and Eve is part of himself; in these terms Adam also is self-tempted -- with the necessary addition, both dramatic and theological, that there is an external agent who presses home the self-temptation. It is a classic

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Answerable Style: Essays on Paradise Lost
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Preface vii
  • Contents xi
  • Satan 3
  • The War in Heaven 17
  • A Note on Hell 38
  • The Garden 52
  • The Fall 75
  • Answerable Style 119
  • Notes 163
  • Index 165
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