An Analysis of Satan's Final Speech in Milton’s Paradise Lost

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An Analysis of Satan's Final Speech in Milton’s Paradise Lost

Satan's final speech to Eve, 11. 679-732, Book IX, in Milton's Paradise Lost, is a persuasive masterpiece carefully structured to appeal to her ambitious tendencies and to expand her already existing doubts (which Satan has implanted) as to the perfect nature of God. Satan begins by worshipping the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, as Eve will do after she has made her choice. Throughout the remainder of the speech, he attempts to present the tree as an alternative focus of her faith. Satan endeavours to weaken Eve's admiration and fear of God, and to reinforce her faith in herself, or the potential of what she could be if she had the courage to eat of the fruit. Satan's
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This is characteristic of much of his dialogue. He selectively intersperses truth with falsehood to achieve what appears to be a wholly genuine argument. However, although Satan's claim that Eve will not physically die is accurate, this does not necessarily entail that God has deceived her. Some aspect of her will die when she eats of the fruit, including her innocence and closeness to God. In effect, the essence of what Eve is will perish. Satan manipulates God's words and chooses to interpret them literally when they were intended as a figurative warning. Satan's assurance that the fruit "gives you life to knowledge" (11. 686-87) is also correct. Eating of the tree will give Eve a new life, marked by an increased enlightenment. However, he neglects to mention that this new life will occasion a death to her previously untroubled existence. With knowledge comes a great burden.

God is referred to as "the Threatener" (1.687), rather than by His proper title. This label diminishes Him enormously. It implies that God does not follow through on his threats or promises. He scolds, nags, and dominates Adam and Eve without justification, and uses fear to keep them in their place. Eve has presumably never come across any derogatory references to her Creator before she comes into contact with Satan. As a result, his words affect her deeply. Satan is opening up an entire line of thinking that Eve has never considered. He is sowing within her seeds of doubt in
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