Paradise Lost "Could Make The Worse Appear The Better Reason"

John Milton

"Could Make The Worse Appear The Better Reason"

Context: Upon completion of Pandemonium, their capital in Hell, the rebel angels hold a council, opened by their leader, Satan. The first to speak after Satan is Moloch, who fears nothing; he advocates open war, to be carried on by incessant guerrilla action. He is followed by Belial, a skillful debater, who answers Moloch point by point without any apparent design. He argues well, in the manner of the ancient soplusts. Plato uses much the same words in discussing the Greek soplusts; Drogines Laeitius, in his Socrates, mentions that Aristophanes, the comic playwright, made Socrates appear ridiculous for "making the worse appear the better reason." Of Belial, Milton writes:

. . . he seemed
For dignity composed and high exploit:
But all was false and hollow; though his tongue
Dropped manna, and could make the worse appear
The better reason, to perplex and dash
Maturest counsels.