Analyze the character of Beelzebub in Paradise Lost.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Beelzebub's name means "lord of the flies," and this second-in-command to the devil is the most competent of the swarm of vicious demons that surround Satan in hell. He is a loyal sycophant who is both swayed by Satan's charismatic and commanding presence and willing to flatter him, saying,

Leader of those Armies bright,
Which but th' Onmipotent none could have foyld [foiled] . . .

Satan doesn't need Beelzebub's praise to believe he is the greatest of beings, and he is probably a bit annoyed that Beelzebub's flattery puts him second to God. Nevertheless, Beezlebub does support Satan's schemes for upsetting God's most cherished plans.

Like a good propagandist, Beezlebub is able to present a somewhat smooth and commanding front that masks his inner darkness, and he is able to employ his persuasive powers to sway the other demons to follow Satan's lead.

He is an evil character who willingly participates in spreading misery and thwarting (he thinks) God's plans, but he also accepts that he is second to Satan, showing he does not have Satan's overwhelming pride.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Beelzebub is presented to us as the second-in-command of Satan. He is the very first fallen angel to come to after the shock of being expelled from heaven and sent down to the fiery land of hell. His value and significance in the epic is linked to the character of Satan. As the first to join Satan's rebellion in heaven, it seems only fitting that he is the second-in-command, and the first of the fallen angels to form an audience for Satan's musings on his new identity and home after his failure to conquer God.

Also, if we examine his role and what he does, he seems to be content to copy the behaviour of Satan. For example, in Book II, at the council of the fallen angels when they discuss what they can do, Beelzebub is happy to be silent and to let others voice their opinions. As the final person to contribute any ideas, he speaks in a serious, majestic voice that shows his charismatic personality and contrasts him favourably with the other fallen angels who voiced their ideas. He is therefore a master of diplomacy and loyal to Satan, as he effectively manipulates the other fallen angels into accepting Satan's plan for gaining revenge against God.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial