Paradise Lost "Better To Reign In Hell, Than Serve In Heaven"
by John Milton

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"Better To Reign In Hell, Than Serve In Heaven"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: Satan, an epitome of independence, is unrepentant when thrust into Hell, after being defeated in his attempt to wrest power and authority from God in Heaven. He speaks proudly from the very fires of Hell to Beelzebub, one of his chief lieutenants among the rebel angels, seeking to keep up the morale of the defeated host. Satan seeks to persuade his followers that Hell is a better place than Heaven, for here the rebels are free and, he thinks, guardians of their own destiny. Little do they realize that even in Hell are they to be, as the poet shows, the instruments of Divine Will. Satan encourages his followers with these words:

Here at least
We shall be free; the Almighty hath not built
Here for his envy, will not drive us hence:
Here we may reign secure, and in my choice
To reign is worth ambition though in Hell:
Better to reign in Hell, than serve in Heaven.