Discussion Topic

Character analysis and description of Beelzebub in John Milton's Paradise Lost

Summary:

In John Milton's Paradise Lost, Beelzebub is portrayed as Satan's primary lieutenant and second-in-command. He is depicted as clever and persuasive, often acting as a voice of reason and strategy among the fallen angels. Beelzebub's loyalty to Satan is unwavering, and he plays a crucial role in the council of demons, advocating for the corruption of mankind as a form of revenge against God.

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Can you provide a detailed description of Beelzebub from John Milton's Paradise Lost?

While many authors use Beelzebub and Satan interchangeably, in Milton's Paradise Lost, they are two separate characters.  In Book One, after Milton describes the serpent's act in the Garden of Eden, he flashes back to the original battle between God and Satan and describes in detail where Satan currently resides.

After the description of Hell, the poet describes Satan's fellow prisoner.  He writes,

One next himself in power, and next in crime,
Long after known in Palestine, and nam'd / Beelzebub. (79-81)

As Beelzebub sits in the darkness of the pit, he laments his fate and questions whether he will ever be allowed to leave his "prison." He even admits that perhaps God is the Almighty and, therefore, unconquerable.

Satan quickly silences Beelzebub and tells him that it is:

Better to reign in Hell, than to serve in Heav'n. (263)

He chides Beelzebub for being weak, and from then on in the poem, Beelzebub is a sounding board for Satan's schemes and a rather weak follower.

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Analyze Beelzebub's character in Paradise Lost.

Beelzebub's name means "lord of the flies," and this second-in-command to the devil is the most competent of the swarm of vicious demons that surround Satan in hell. He is a loyal sycophant who is both swayed by Satan's charismatic and commanding presence and willing to flatter him, saying,

Leader of those Armies bright,
Which but th' Onmipotent none could have foyld [foiled] . . .

Satan doesn't need Beelzebub's praise to believe he is the greatest of beings, and he is probably a bit annoyed that Beelzebub's flattery puts him second to God. Nevertheless, Beezlebub does support Satan's schemes for upsetting God's most cherished plans.

Like a good propagandist, Beezlebub is able to present a somewhat smooth and commanding front that masks his inner darkness, and he is able to employ his persuasive powers to sway the other demons to follow Satan's lead.

He is an evil character who willingly participates in spreading misery and thwarting (he thinks) God's plans, but he also accepts that he is second to Satan, showing he does not have Satan's overwhelming pride.

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Analyze Beelzebub's character in Paradise Lost.

Beelzebub is presented to us as the second-in-command of Satan. He is the very first fallen angel to come to after the shock of being expelled from heaven and sent down to the fiery land of hell. His value and significance in the epic is linked to the character of Satan. As the first to join Satan's rebellion in heaven, it seems only fitting that he is the second-in-command, and the first of the fallen angels to form an audience for Satan's musings on his new identity and home after his failure to conquer God.

Also, if we examine his role and what he does, he seems to be content to copy the behaviour of Satan. For example, in Book II, at the council of the fallen angels when they discuss what they can do, Beelzebub is happy to be silent and to let others voice their opinions. As the final person to contribute any ideas, he speaks in a serious, majestic voice that shows his charismatic personality and contrasts him favourably with the other fallen angels who voiced their ideas. He is therefore a master of diplomacy and loyal to Satan, as he effectively manipulates the other fallen angels into accepting Satan's plan for gaining revenge against God.

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