Paradise Lost Questions and Answers
by John Milton

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Themes in Paradise Lost How does Satan show examples of his pride all throughout Paradise Lost?

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Satan's pride is the ultimate source of all his foolish actions in Paradise Lost. From a Christian standpoint the most blatant example of Satan's pride is his turning away from God. Though still furious at being cast down from Heaven, Satan has tried to console himself with the thought that he can build a counterfeit kingdom of his own in Hell. He's decided that he doesn't need God; he rejects him. Worse still, Satan and his diabolical council decide to take the fight to God, showing that they do not accept their place in the divine order. Satan and his minions think they're better than God, and if that isn't an example of pride then it's difficult to know what is.

During the war against Heaven, Satan is comprehensively defeated by the celestial forces of God ably led by the Archangel Michael. Yet still Satan refuses to yield to God. For as Beelzebub says,

From Heav'ns high jurisdiction, in new League Banded against his Throne, but to remaine / In strictest bondage, though thus far remov'd, Under th' inevitable curb, reserv'd His captive multitude: For he, be sure In heighth or depth, still first and last will Reign Sole King, and of his Kingdom loose no part / By our revolt, but over Hell extend His Empire, and with Iron Scepter rule Us here, as with his Golden those in Heav'n.

In other words, Satan's pride prevents him from accepting what he sees as the slavery involved in submitting to God. It also blinds him to the true nature of God's power and majesty. Satan's been cast down, defeated, completely and utterly vanquished, and yet still he believes, in the face of all evidence to the contrary, that he can defeat the almighty. Satan cannot relent; he cannot divest himself of his overweening pride and vanity. But what he can do is change his tactics. Although he still believes that he will ultimately prevail over the forces of light, he figures that it would be better to achieve victory through corrupting God's creation instead of embarking upon another pointless, full-frontal assault. Soon, he will infect humankind with the virus of his diabolical pride.

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lmetcalf eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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His pride is most evident in Book 1 after he is thrown from Heaven in his failed rebellion against God.  In an effort to rally his followers, he tells them that they are going to create their own kingdom to rule, and it will rival heaven, even though it is hell.  One of his most quotable lines is that the mind can "make a hell of heaven and a heaven of hell."  It is his pride that is taking him to this thought.  His most prideful statment is that "It is better to rule in Hell than serve in Heaven."  Here he is clearly staking his reputation on the idea of being the supreme being -- even if he is supreme only in hell.

His plans for revenge against God by corrupting God's creatures, Adam and Eve, are also evidence of his pride.  He is not satisified to just make a new life and kingdom for himself, he must destroy something just as he was destroyed.

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