In book four of Paradise Lost, we see Satan struggling with himself over what has happened so far: his fall from heaven and what exactly he is about to do, and his completely setting himself against God. In our world, Satan is purely the devil, and that is that. But Milton presents a quite different Satan than we have perceived. Milton gives Satan human-like characteristics, allowing us as readers to sympathize with his determination to repent through his long, emotional monologues. Milton’s constant use of enjambment gives Satan’s speeches a sort of spontaneous, narrative-like quality that portrays his regrets and conflicts, making him relatable to readers. As Satan speaks, we often find that he stops his thoughts quite frequently with either a question or an exclamation, showing us readers that he is confused, and he either needs to question his motives or explain and defend them.
As Satan is journeying toward Eden, he is bombarded with various, conflicting thoughts: his hatred for the sun’s light, his love/hate relationship with God and his disobedience toward him, and his reasoning for his rejection from Heaven. One thing that really gets under his skin is the difficulty he found in his duty of gratitude he owed to God as one of Heaven’s angels. He is clearly conflicted about it. On one hand, nothing could be easier than serving God: “nor was his service hard” (45). But, on the other hand, the duty of gratitude was just so aggravating to Satan: “yet all his good proved ill in me,/And wrought but malice; lifted up so high/I ‘sdained subjection, and thought on step higher/Would set me highest, and in a moment quiet/The debt immense of endless gratitude,/So burthensome still paying, still to owe…” (48-53). Here, we are brought into the inner most evil thoughts of Satan. Within these 5 lines, he expressed two completely conflicting thoughts, and the use of enjambment here allowed us to really get a feeling for just how confused he is. He rebelled then, because gratitude was a burden…he got sick and tired of always having to say ‘thank you.’ If he only could rise one step higher, he might be “quit” from the duty of gratitude, a duty that seemingly exhausted him.
He then goes on searching for blame. “O had his powerful Destiny ordained/ Me some inferior angel, I had stood/Then happy; no unbounded hope had raised/Ambition. Yet why not? some other Power/As great might have aspired, and me though mean/Drawn to his part; but other Powers as great/Fell not, but stand unshaken…” (58-64). Here, Satan’s thoughts continue to flow endlessly, and he’s contemplating what would have been, had God made him a lesser angel. Maybe it is God’s fault that he is so ambitious. But then maybe another angel would have done what he did, had ne not, and he would end up just a follower of him. But, he continues on, there were other angels who were as powerful as him, but they never rebelled against God. “Hadst thou the same free will and power to stand?” (66). Basically, Satan is saying “I had the same free will as they did, so what do I have to blame for my fall?” It is only human to look for someone to blame for our mistakes and problems. And the enjambment and the questioning add to his human-like confusion and make him relatable to readers.
Towards the end of the speech, Satan shows his true colors to the reader, making us wonder why we ever pitied him from the start, causing us to dislike him even more. (I know I’m kind of jumping ahead here….) “O then at last relent! is there no place/Left for repentance, non for pardon left?/None left but by submission; and that word/Disdain forbids me…” (79-82). Basically, Satan is asking, “What can I do? Is there any way out of this?” He then answers his own question, by saying: “Yes, by begging for forgiveness, but the thought sickens me. What shame I would feel before all my followers.” Satan, throughout this speech, falls into many doubts with himself, but at the end confirms himself evil. The enjambment just allows us readers to go along for the ride, and really feel as though Satan, in a sense, is venting to us.