The Romantic poet William Blake said of Paradise Lost, "The reason Milton wrote in fetters when he wrote of Angels & God, and at liberty when of Devils & Hell, is because he was a true Poet and of the Devil’s party without knowing it." Write your own response to Blake's observation, paying special attention to how Milton portrays Satan and God throughout the epic. You may agree or disagree with Blake's critique, but make sure to fully support your analysis with specific details from Paradise Lost.

While William Blake believed Milton was "of the devil's party without knowing it," one could argue that Milton makes Satan attractive so that the audience is just as taken in by his deception as Adam and Eve are.

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William Blake claimed Milton was "of the devil's party without knowing it" because Milton's portrait of Satan and his fellow fallen angels is more compelling than his depiction of God, the Son, and the non-fallen angels. For Blake, Satan is the poem's tragic hero, an anti-establishment figure rebelling against an...

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William Blake claimed Milton was "of the devil's party without knowing it" because Milton's portrait of Satan and his fellow fallen angels is more compelling than his depiction of God, the Son, and the non-fallen angels. For Blake, Satan is the poem's tragic hero, an anti-establishment figure rebelling against an inflexible God.

Whether or not one agrees with Blake's assessment is of course a deeply personal matter. Some argue that Blake makes Satan the most initially attractive figure because most of the time, evil is attractive, even glamorous. After all, no one would be tempted to do evil if evil seemed repulsive from the start. Like Eve, the reader is supposed to be seduced by Satan's powerful command of language and persuasive argument. Only as the story progresses does Satan lose his allure, finally stooping to transforming into a serpent to corrupt Eve.

While Milton's God is less complicated a figure than Satan, Milton would likely point out that God the Father emphasizes free will for humanity. In book 3, God says outright that Adam and Eve are strong enough to withstand temptation and whether or not they do so is their own fault:

Whose fault? Whose but his own? Ingrate, he had of me
All he could have; I made him just and right,
Sufficient to have stood, though free to fall.

Blake and his ilk might argue that God is still guilty of being unjust since, as an omnipotent being able to see the past, present, and future all at once, God would be well aware that Adam and Eve were going to make the wrong decision. Some might even argue their punishment is much too harsh for their crime. And others still might counter that the Son's intervention is God's way of making sure humanity can be rescued from its own fallen state.

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