Discuss thirst for power in Milton's Paradise Lost.

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The most powerful character in Paradise Lost is clearly God. Not only is he the most powerful, but there is a sense that he is the only powerful character since he controls everything. God has no need to thirst for power and sometimes appears rather burdened by the power he...

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The most powerful character in Paradise Lost is clearly God. Not only is he the most powerful, but there is a sense that he is the only powerful character since he controls everything. God has no need to thirst for power and sometimes appears rather burdened by the power he has. When Adam complains that he is lonely, having no equal among all the creatures on earth, God replies:

What thinkest thou then of me, and this my state?
Seem I to thee sufficiently possessed
Of happiness, or not? who am alone
From all eternity; for none I know
Second to me or like, equal much less.

The great contrast to God, in his attitude to power as in everything else, is Satan. It is Satan's ambition and thirst for power that cause his fall. He makes the best of this by declaring, in some of the poem's most famous lines:

To reign is worth ambition, though in Hell:
Better to reign in Hell than serve in Heaven.

Satan knows that this is not true. At the beginning of book II he says so himself, making the point that no one will envy or seek to usurp his position as king of Hell, since this role condemns him to the greatest share of both danger and pain:

The happier state
In Heaven, which follows dignity, might draw
Envy from each inferior; but who here
Will envy whom the highest place exposes
Foremost to stand against the Thunderer's aim
Your bulwark, and condemns to greatest share
Of endless pain?

Although Satan knows this, and has always understood the folly of his rebellion, his thirst for power continually overwhelms his reason. It was strong enough to persuade him to initiate a conflict he knew he could not win, and, even when he is in despair, his ambition is strong enough to fuel his constant machinations against the will of God throughout the poem.

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