How do Satan's and Beelzebub's characters, views of their exile from heaven, and belief in their mission to reenter heaven differ in Paradise Lost?

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Jamie Wheeler eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Satan, perhaps unsurprisingly, is quite full of himself. After all, anyone with an ego large enough to challenge the Supreme Creator has to have quite the nerve, right? For his part, Satan is absolutely flabbergasted that he has lost the battle for Heaven. He is completely blinded by his own pride, and fails to understand that his army, no matter how strong they are, are no match for God. Satan wonders, 

"How such united force of gods, how such

As stood these, could ever know repulse?" (1.629-30). 

Of his own ability to get back into Heaven, Satan is just as confident, despite all evidence to the contrary. He feels that while he and minions have lost the battle, they have yet to lose the war. So great is Satan's ego that he fails to realize that those who have deserted God with him are only a small fraction of the angelic host who remained loyal to their Creator. Consider this bold, misguided declaration from Book I, lines 631-34:

"For who can yet believe, though after loss,
That all these puissant legions whose exile
Hath emptied Heav'n shall fail to re-ascend,
Self-raised, and repossess their native seat?"

Beelzebub, Satan's chief lieutenant, does not quite posses his boss's sense of self-importance. While he never defies his leader, he is less sure of the outcome of their mission. Beginning in 1.128-156, Belzeebub expresses his reservations about success and his fear of what punishment will befall him. He asks Satan,

"What can it then avail though yet we feel 

Strength undiminished, or eternal being

To undergo eternal punishment?"

Despite his reservations and fear, Beelzebub carries out Satan's orders.  

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Paradise Lost

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