Discuss how the devils build pandemonium in Paradise Lost Book 1, identifying Milton's attitude towards wealth and materialism as revealed here.

davmor1973 | Student

Pandemonium, derived from the Greek meaning 'all the demons,' is the capital of Hell. What is particularly pertinent to the question is that 'the High Capital, of Satan and his Peers' is built at the suggestion of Mammon, a fallen angel who personifies greed and the worship of wealth. As a staunch Protestant with an in-depth knowledge of scripture Milton was fully aware of the strictures against the worship of riches in Matthew 6:24-

No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon. (King James Version).

Milton's Protestantism is also much in evidence in his Baroque conception of the architectural scale and design of Pandemonium. His visit to Rome as a young man left a profound impression on him. In particular it was the sheer vastness of the recently completed St. Peter's that left an indelible mark upon his literary and religious consciousness, and which also epitomised for him the monumental greed, corruption and worldliness of the Catholic Church.

Unlike St. Peter's however, Pandemonium in Paradise Lost is built extraordinarily quickly. The fallen angels, under the restless supervision of architect Mulciber, set to work with remarkable resourcefulness and speed as they set about prettifying their counterfeit kingdom.

How Satan's minions set about their task provides a vivid illustration of Milton's attitude to materialism. The fallen angels delve deep into the earth, uncovering precious gemstones and gold with which they will adorn their shiny new monumental folly. Milton's description of this process positively drips with contempt:

 a second multitude
With wondrous Art found out the massie Ore,
Severing each kind, and scum'd the Bullion dross:

Suddenly, the monstrous edifice rises up out of the earth, ready for the host of fallen angels to enter and begin their deliberations. Though undoubtedly an imposing structure, Pandemonium possesses only a superficial grandeur, constructed as it was by a cast down pagan deity at the behest of Mammon, and the crude, vulgar materialism he represents.

Indeed, the haste with which Pandemonium appears serves to highlight its lack of permanence and the underlying instability of its foundations. This is a fake construction; an attempt to replicate the splendours of heaven. Yet this it can never do as it has been put together by mere worldly materials, and as such can never provide more than a glittering facade for the evil machinations of Satan and his devilish acolytes. Milton helps us see beyond this facade and, in doing so, provides an abiding insight into the things that truly matter.