Mascot for #DevilDiss

Mascot for #DevilDiss
Mascot for #DevilDiss

Sunday, April 25, 2010

“Pondering his voyage” : The Evolution of the Character of Satan from Genesis B: Christ and Satan to Paradise Lost

“Pondering his voyage” : The Evolution of the Character of Satan from Genesis B: Christ and Satan to Paradise Lost


Current scholarship in Milton studies focuses on several related topics Paradise Lost’s function as a polemic, Paradise Lost as anti-royalist writing, Satan as a revolutionary and the use of Satanic subjects as a way of illustrating Milton’s heretical tendencies. These topics can be seen in Lander’s Inventing Polemic: Religion, Print, and Literacy Culture in Early Modern England (2006), Bryson’s The Tyranny of Heaven: Milton’s Rejection of God as King (2004), Achinstein’s Milton and the Revolutionary Reader (1994), Lieb’s Theological Milton: Deity, Discourse and Heresy in the Miltonic Canon (2006), Loewenstein and Marshall’s Heresy, Literature and Politics in Early Modern English Culture (2007) and Achinstein and Sauer’s Milton and Toleration (2007). These works tend to look at Paradise Lost as either a way to view the other political writings of the time or as proof of Milton’s heretical leanings. Some writers, most notably and recently Neil Forsyth in The Old Enemy and The Satanic Epic, have looked at what sources Milton may have used in creating his compelling character of Satan. Scholarly work on Milton’s character of Satan has restricted itself to sources or analogues that Milton probably used or had access to rather than examining how the character of Satan was portrayed in British literature up to, and including Milton’s portrayal. Milton both created an entirely new character and fused multiple past aspects of devils with his representation. He took a flat, stereotypical character and created a dynamic, compelling character. As Blake is often quoted “people are guilty of knowing their Milton better than their Bible”. To many, Milton’s portrayal of Satan is the one most people think is described in the Bible and it is the portrayal seen the most in literature since. For this reason, it is important to understand what ideas and concepts Milton drew on from folklore and literature and how he used these to create an entirely new character.

While the most recent scholarship focuses on political ramifications and issues, there are two notable exceptions: Forsyth, who has analyzed possible sources and analogues for Milton’s Satan, and Russell, who has researched the more general devil character. While Forsyth’s The Satanic Epic (2003) focuses mainly on how Paradise Lost functions as an epic, the opening chapter addresses the origins of the character of Satan. Forsyth begins examining Satan chronologically so that he can trace Milton’s sources. He begins with the Adversary, in the Book of Job, Origen’s work where Satan is first seen as a rebel, he then looks at the comparison of rebellious Satan to Zeus, and Prometheus and Icarus, compares God to the Titans and Zeus to Satan. He goes on to state that Milton followed the shape of ancient mythic epics such as the Illiad and the Aeneid, as well as the heroes in them, in creating Satan. Then Forsyth states that Satan was used by the early and medieval church as a representation of heresy and argues that the story of Satan evolved through the middle ages into the story presented in Genesis B (Christ and Satan), which solidifies the idea of Satan as a rebellious angel. Forsyth’s work focuses on the “type” of character Satan is while ignoring the specific characterizations and how they are part of the character’s evolution.

Russell explores similar source territory as Forsyth with his book Lucifer: The Devil in the Middle Ages (1984), where he researches the concept of evil as reflected in the figure of the devil in popular literature, art and during the middle ages. He looks at worldwide sources, and examines the devil in medieval art, poetry, and drama. Russell covers a large field, but unfortunately there are gaps in his coverage; it would have been illuminating if instead of rehashing old material, he had focused more on unexplored material, such as looking at the visual representations of the devil through this period since this is a topic rarely discussed. Both Russell and Forsyth provide the reader with background information on the types of sources Milton might have used but both focus on specific literature for references and what gets neglected are the ideas and concepts that were present in folklore about how the devil was viewed and presented.

Most of the work involving analyzing sources for Milton’s Paradise Lost was written in the first half of the 20th century. Some scholars have examined the character of Satan in general, not specific to Milton’s portrayal such as Le Bosquet’s “The Evil One: A Development” (1912), Caldwell’s series “The Doctrine of Satan: In the Old and New Testament” (1913), Kellogg in “Satan, Langland, and the North” (1949), and Stein’s “Satan: The Dramatic Role of Evil” (1950). During the second half of the twentieth century, scholarship has focused on Satan as an epic or anti-hero or on comparing Paradise Lost to Judaic and Biblical writings. The current trend of viewing Paradise Lost through a political lens has dominated scholarly work lately. An examination of the character of the devil from Christ and Satan, up to Milton’s portrayal has not been pursued.

Some individual scholars such as Lever, Woolf, Rohrich, Laoire, Potter, and Edden have looked at singular sources for the devil. Lever examines the similarities between the characters of Satan in Christ and Satan and Paradise Lost; Woolf compares the character of Satan to Loki; Rohrich examines the character of the devil in the Germanic literary tradition; Potter argues that the devil in English folktales is the same as was portrayed in drama; Edden examines how the devil was portrayed in English medieval sermons and to return to folktale; and Laoire describes the character of the devil in Irish folklore. These individual examinations are valuable, but they do not give the big picture, and the big picture is what this project will produce.

Textual analysis between Milton’s characterization and previous characterizations of the devil are invaluable because they allow us to trace how the character evolved and allows us to analyze what the presented characterizations meant within their own context. Perhaps the closest comparison is between Milton’s Satan, and the Satan of Genesis B: Christ and Satan. Lever addresses this issue in “Paradise Lost and the Anglo-Saxon Tradition” (1947), where he spends the entire article addressing the similarities between Satan in Christ and Satan and Satan in Paradise Lost; however, he counters himself at the end by stating that the similarities are simply coincidence, as should be expected of something addressing common Christian themes, a statement he does not elaborate on. Lever argues that while Milton may have been familiar with the Genesis B text, this is an unimportant point, as the commonalities of language are simply due to the similar subject matter. Despite his contradictory theories, Lever’s work is important to mine for the textual analysis of Satan in Christ and Satan.

Woolf, on the other hand, in “The Devil in Old English Poetry” (1953) states that similarities in characterization between Satan and Loki are due to Loki myths and Satan (in Christ and Satan) emerging at the same time. He argues that the origins of Satan as a hero possibly began with the Anglo Saxons, as they would have seen his actions as heroic for how he dealt with his inevitable expulsion from heaven. Woolf also addresses the fact that Christian doctrine and Loki mythology would have coincided and compares the similarities between the two characters. His evidence of both characters acting as tempters, shapeshifters, and sly and cunning characters provides an excellent source for the character of Milton’s Satan.

Folklore provides some of the richest research into the character of the devil and in “German Devil Tales and Devil Legends” (1970), Rohrich argues that devil tales and legends have stopped being folklore and have become part of the historical record. He gives a detailed description of how these devil tales and legends evolved as well as makes a reference to connections to medieval sermons.. He ends his argument by citing Grimm’s fairy tales as evidence of the popularity of these tales and legends. While the Grimm brothers did not compile their tales until the early 1800s, the sources for their tales (the Germanic literary tradition) had been around for much longer and therefore these tales and legends are an excellent source for comparison to Milton.

While both Woolf and Rohrich’s focus on Germanic/Norse myths would seem to exclude their research from the scope of this project, it is important to realize that these tales would have been known to the Anglo Saxons and therefore are an important part of the literary tradition. The influence of the stereotypical characterization of the devil in folklore on Paradise Lost has not been examined in depth despite the similarities. For instance, in Book 9, when Satan goes to tempt Eve, Milton changes from referring to Satan as “the Enemy” and instead refers to him as “the Tempter”. In light of Loki’s reputation as a tempter, prankster and cunning creature, it’s hard not to draw a connection. When Milton uses words such as “the spirited sly snake” (613), “the wily adder” (625) to describe Satan and says he leads Eve “To mischief swift” (633) it becomes easy to recognize the parallels to Loki.

Another source for comparison is the portrayals of the devil/Satan in drama. In “Three Jacobean Devil Plays” (1931), Potter argues that it was the devil of English folklore that was represented on the English stage, a devil that was instantly recognizable by his physical appearances and starred in comedies of the time. The devil of these plays did not depend upon a magician to conjure him up; the action of the play begins in Hell and despite the fact that it is accepted that the devil can change his shape, he is recognized by his eyes, animal-like sounds, and the thunder or lightning that accompanies his appearance. These devils were self-possessed characters of their own merit and not dependent upon humans, although humans were often the butt of the individual devil’s jokes. These dramas served not only to show the devil of English legend and folklore but also to forward the life of the character. Which characteristics of the devil were forwarded and which weren’t is also of interest. When looking at the evolution of the character, many of these characterizations are similar to how Loki is portrayed in folklore. Cawley points out that Loki is characterized as defying Odin’s order, sly and treacherous, known as a shape shifter, as well as a tempter who possibly heralds the end of the world, Ragnarok. Milton’s Satan defies God’s order, is sly, treacherous, changes his shape so that he won’t be recognized by the angels guarding Earth and tempts Eve in the Garden. Due to these similarities, these dramas, as well as the folktales that inspired them, are worth examining.

Valerie Edden explores a previous gap in the scholarship by looking at the sermon stories of the middle ages for references to devils in “Devils, Sermon Stories, and the Problem with Popular Belief in the Middle Ages” (1992). These stories were written by religious in the vernacular between 1400-1475 and had an audience of parish clergy and lay audiences. These sermon stories had their basis in folklore and legend (214) as the Jacobean plays did but were “remade” for the church’s purposes. Edden argues that these texts are as “important for what they leave out as for what they say” (215) and notes that just because a sermon story had a characterization of a devil did not mean that the reader could assume a belief system of the original medieval reader based on this because these stories were used by the Church and it’s impossible to distinguish between their purpose and what would have been the audience’s response.

Edden’s work is valuable because she forwards several collections of these medieval sermon stories: The Alphabet of Tales, Jacob’s Well, and BL MS Cotton Cleopatra Dviii and examines the language used to describe these devils (“demon”, “Satan”, “fiend”, “little black boy”). (217). She states that medieval readers would have seen devils and angels as good and bad spirits; however, she counters the popularly held idea that medieval readers would have seen any mention of devils or angels as representative of a dualistic model in which God and the devil were always in opposition over man. She states that devils were not described as in opposition to God, but rather as parallel to angels, and as thus, were able to contend for the soul of a man without involving a conflict with God and that the medieval readers did not view the world in a dualistic manner and that to assume that they held such beliefs based on these medieval sermon stories of devils is to base an opinion on insufficient facts. While these stories were not consistent in their treatment of devils, many include the traditional role of tempter, similar to that of Woolf’s description of Loki. She also states that many stories dealt with the devil as a shape shifter, the theme of the persistence of the devil and the importance of always being vigilant. This led to two types of stories, one where men were deceived by the disguises of the devil and one where a man who was seduced by a beautiful woman who turned out to be a devil. Edden’s work is of note because it argues the opposite of how Milton chose to portray angels and demons so it is interesting that Milton chose not to follow the model of the medieval church, perhaps because of its popishness. Milton does portray Satan and the fallen angels as in opposition to and in fact, at war with, God, as can be seen in Book 1 where the fallen angels are described as “Who durst defy th’ Omnipotent to arms” (49) and in Book 6 when Raphael is describing the war in Heaven “The great Archangel from his warlike tail/ Surceased, and glad as hoping here to end/ Intestine was in Heav’n, the Arch-Foe subdued/ Or captive dragged in chains” (257-260).

In “That Be’t Banagher and Banagher Be’t the Devil. An International Devil Tale in Irish Tradition” (1994/1995) Laoire examines an Irish folktale, The Old Woman as Trouble Maker, that has dual duty as a folktale and a religious tale as it deals with the devil and the power of evil and states that this story was used as an exemplum “in sermons from at least the thirteenth century onwards” (189). She says that there are more than 59 variants of the story and the tale occurs throughout Ireland. In the tale, the devil spends a long time trying to interfere with a married couple. In many of the stories, the devil enlists the help of a woman who, either by lying to the husband or the wife, makes them believe their spouse is cheating which results, in most variants, in the death of said spouse. In some variants, the devil sends a female helper and in some, the devil condemns this helper to Hell, as she has proven herself more wicked than he is; while in others, the devil promises his female helper a reward if she does his bidding. The moral of the story rests not on the married couple (whose sins and downfalls differ with the variants) but on the woman who has fallen into “the devil’s clutches” (196). This single tale manages to touch on several different aspects of the devil tradition in Ireland though most important to my purpose is the fact that the devil is described as a trickster, a trait shared with Loki, German and English folklore, as well as Milton’s portrayal. This work along with Edden’s, addresses the gap of written references to the devil in literature in the medieval and middle ages.

While the above scholarship gives detailed information on devil characterizations in individual sources, what is not present in the scholarship is a comprehensive examination of the evolution of the character of Satan since Genesis B and how the character culminates with Milton’s new fusion of characteristics in his portrayal. This is important because it opens up a whole new set of questions in regards to examining Paradise Lost and the character of Satan. Some of these questions are: how is the character used to personify a particular religious or political figure of the time (pope, anti-royalist)? How does the author of any given source or analogue use the character of Satan (as a figure to be feared, a moral lesson, as an anti-hero) and how seriously does the author treat the character of Satan? What role did the character play in nationalistic arguments? How was the character of Satan used to mask dangerous political positions in literature? How did the character evolve as time went by?

In not addressing these questions, scholars have failed to be able to fully place Milton fully in context. Examining classical and biblical sources Milton may have used only goes part of the way. To appreciate Milton’s new creation with the character of Satan, one must understand that he took the flat, stereotypical character as seen in folklore and early literature and made him a dynamic and compelling character that became the modern definition of Satan. In neglecting this course of study, scholars are also deprived of a course of study in examining the devil in literature that came after Milton and was influenced by Paradise Lost.

In this paper, I will look at the major characterizations of Satan in folklore and literature from Genesis B to Paradise Lost in order to understand the evolution of the character. This project will have three chapters, each focusing on a specific topic: physicality, actions and personality as seen chronologically within the following works in order to show how the character evolces and how each portrayal builds on its predecessors:

 Genesis B: Christ and Satan (7th century)

 the myths of Loki in Poetic Edda (13th century)

 the Third Vision: The Quest for Dowel, Passus VIII; the Fifth Vision, Passus XVI and the Sixth Vision, Passus XVIII of Piers Plowman (1369-1387)

 the York plays, specifically The Fall of the Angels (1463-1477)

 Malleus Maleficarum (1486), a handbook for identifying and hunting down devils, demons and witches

 Daemonologie (1597), King James’ handbook on demons and devils and how to identify and destroy them

 Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus (1604)

 The King James Bible (1611)

 Jonson’s The Devil is an Ass (1667).

The primary focus will be on comparing the character of Satan in these works with Milton’s characterization in Paradise Lost by looking at how the character is described, both by the character himself and by other characters. A secondary focus will be the gap that exists between the 7th and 13th century in which Satan was mainly appropriated by the Catholic Church. Thirdly, I will look at how individual scholars have addressed some of these individual sources and analogues.



Bibliography

Achinstein, Sharon and Elizabeth Sauer. Milton and Toleration. New York: Oxford University Press, 2007.

Achinstein, Sharon. Milton and the Revolutionary Reader. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1994.

"Arnold Stein." PMLA, Vol. 65, No. 2 (1950): 221-231.

Bosquet, John Edwards Le. "The Evil One: A Development." Harvard Theological Review Volume 5 (1912): 371-384.

Bryson, Michael. The Tyranny of Heaven: Milton's Rejection of God as King. Newark: University of Delaware Press, 2004.

Caldwell, William. "The Doctrine of Satan: I. In the Old Testament." The Biblical World Vol. 41, No. 1 (Jan 1913): 29-33.

Cawley, Frank Stanton. "The Figure of Loki in Germanic Mythology." The Harvard Theological Review Vol. 32, No. 4 (1939): 309-326.

Edden, Valerie. "Devils, Sermon Stories, and the Problem of Popular Belief in the Middle Ages." The Yearbook of English Studies Vol.22 (1992): 213-225.

Forsyth, Neil. The Satanic Epic. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2003.

Kellogg, Alfred L. "Satan, Langland, and the North." Speculum, Vol. 24, No. 3 (1949): 413-414.

Lander, Jesse M. Inventing Polemic: Religion, Print, and Literary Culture in Early Modern England. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2006.

Laoire, Lillis O. "That Be't banagher and Banagher Be't the Devil. An International Devil Tale in Irish Tradition." Bealoideas Vol 62/63, Glortha on Osnadur: Paipeir a cuireadh i lathair ag an Siomposium Nordach-Ceilteach (1994/1995): 189-198.

Lever, J.W. "Paradise Lost and the Anglo-Saxon Tradition." The Review of English Studies (1947): 97-106.

Lieb, Michael. Theological Milton: Deity, Discourse and Heresy in the Miltonic Canon. Pittsburgh: Duquesne University Press, 2006.

Lowenstein, David and John Marshall. Heresy, Literature and Politics in Early Modern English Culture. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007.

Potter, Russell. "Three Jacobean Devil Plays." Studies in Philology Vol. 28, No. 4 (1931): 730-736.

Rohrich, Lutz. "erman Devil Tales and Devil Legends." Journal of the Folklore Institute, Vol. 7, No. 1 (1970): 21-35.

Russell, Jeremy Burton. Lucifer: The Devil in the Middle Ages. Ithaca: Cornell University Press , 1986.

Woolf, R.E. "The Devil in Old English Poetry." The Review of English Studies (1953): 1-12.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Prospectus v7: "Pondering his voyage": Satan's Evolution from Genesis B to Milton's Portrayal (I'm starting to lose count)

Current scholarship in Milton studies focuses on several related topics Paradise Lost’s function as a polemic, Paradise Lost as anti-royalist writing, Satan as a revolutionary and the use of Satanic subjects as a way of illustrating Milton’s heretical tendencies. These topics can be seen in Lander’s Inventing Polemic: Religion, Print, and Literacy Culture in Early Modern England (2006), Bryson’s The Tyranny of Heaven: Milton’s Rejection of God as King (2004), Achinstein’s Milton and the Revolutionary Reader (1994), Lieb’s Theological Milton: Deity, Discourse and Heresy in the Miltonic Canon (2006), Loewenstein and Marshall’s Heresy, Literature and Politics in Early Modern English Culture (2007) and Achinstein and Sauer’s Milton and Toleration (2007). These works tend to look at Paradise Lost as either a way to view the other political writings of the time or as proof of Milton’s heretical leanings. Some writers, most notably and recently Neil Forsyth in The Old Enemy and The Satanic Epic, have looked at what sources Milton may have used in creating his compelling character of Satan. Scholarly work on Milton’s character of Satan has restricted itself to sources or analogues that Milton probably used or had access to rather than examining how the character of Satan was portrayed in British literature up to, and including Milton’s portrayal. Milton both created an entirely new character and fused multiple aspects of devils with his representation. He took a flat, stereotypical character and created a dynamic, compelling character. Blake said that people were guilty of knowing their Milton better than their Bible, to expand this idea, Milton’s portrayal of Satan is the one seen the most in literature since. For this reason, it is important to understand what ideas and concepts Milton drew on from folklore and literature and how he used these to create an entirely new character.


While the most recent scholarship focuses on political ramifications and issues, there are two notable exceptions: Forsyth, who has analyzed possible sources and analogues for Milton’s Satan, and Russell, who has researched the more general devil character. While Forsyth’s The Satanic Epic (2003) focuses mainly on how Paradise Lost functions as an epic, the opening chapter addresses the origins of the character of Satan. Forsyth begins examining Satan chronologically so that he can trace Milton’s sources. He begins with the Adversary, in the Book of Job, Origen’s work where Satan is first seen as a rebel, he compares the rebellious Satan to Zeus, Prometheus and Icarus, draws parallels between God and the Titans and Zeus and Satan. He goes on to state that Milton followed the shape of ancient mythic epics such as the Illiad and the Aeneid, as well as the heroes in them, in creating Satan. Then Forsyth states that Satan was used by the early and medieval church as a representation of heresy and argues that the story of Satan evolved through the middle ages into the story presented in Genesis B (Christ and Satan), which solidifies the idea of Satan as a rebellious angel. Forsyth’s work focuses on the “type” of character Satan is while ignoring the specific characterizations and how they are part of the British literary tradition.

Russell explores similar source territory as Forsyth with his book Lucifer: The Devil in the Middle Ages (1984), where he researches the concept of evil as reflected in the figure of the devil in popular literature, art and during the middle ages. He looks at worldwide sources, and examines the devil in medieval art, poetry, and drama. Russell covers a large field, but unfortunately there are gaps in his coverage; it would have been illuminating if instead of rehashing old material, he had focused more on unexplored material, such as looking at the visual representations of the devil through this period since this is a topic rarely discussed. Both Russell and Forsyth provide the reader with background information on the types of sources Milton might have used but both focus on specific literature for references and what gets neglected are the ideas and concepts that were present in folklore about how the devil was viewed and presented.

Most of the work involving analyzing sources for Milton’s Paradise Lost was written in the first half of the 20th century. Some scholars have examined the character of Satan in general, not specific to Milton’s portrayal such as Le Bosquet’s “The Evil One: A Development” (1912), Caldwell’s series “The Doctrine of Satan: In the Old and New Testament” (1913), Kellogg in “Satan, Langland, and the North” (1949), and Stein’s “Satan: The Dramatic Role of Evil” (1950). During the second half of the twentieth century, scholarship has focused on Satan as an epic or anti-hero or on comparing Paradise Lost to Judaic and Biblical writings. The current trend of viewing Paradise Lost through a political lens has dominated scholarly work lately. An examination of the character of the devil from Christ and Satan, up to Milton’s portrayal has not been pursued.

Some individual scholars such as Lever, Woolf, Rohrich, Laoire, Potter, and Edden have looked at singular sources for the devil. Lever examines the similarities between the characters of Satan in Christ and Satan and Paradise Lost; Woolf compares the character of Satan to Loki; Rohrich examines the character of the devil in the Germanic literary tradition; Potter argues that the devil in English folktales is the same as was portrayed in drama; Edden examines how the devil was portrayed in English medieval sermons and to return to folktale; and Laoire describes the character of the devil in Irish folklore. These individual examinations are valuable, but they do not give the big picture, and the big picture is what this project will produce.

Textual analysis between Milton’s characterization and previous characterizations of the devil are invaluable because they allow us to trace how the character evolved and allows us to analyze what the presented characterizations meant within their own context. Perhaps the closest comparison is between Milton’s Satan, and the Satan of Genesis B: Christ and Satan. Lever addresses this issue in “Paradise Lost and the Anglo-Saxon Tradition” (1947), where he spends the entire article addressing the similarities between Satan in Christ and Satan and Satan in Paradise Lost; however, he counters himself at the end by stating that the similarities are simply coincidence, as should be expected of something addressing common Christian themes, a statement he does not elaborate on. Lever argues that while Milton may have been familiar with the Genesis B text, this is an unimportant point, as the commonalities of language are simply due to the similar subject matter. Despite his contradictory theories, Lever’s work is important to mine for the textual analysis of Satan in Christ and Satan.

Woolf, on the other hand, in “The Devil in Old English Poetry” (1953) states that similarities in characterization between Satan and Loki are due to Loki myths and Satan (in Christ and Satan) emerging at the same time. He argues that the origins of Satan as a hero possibly began with the Anglo Saxons, as they would have seen his actions as heroic for how he dealt with his inevitable expulsion from heaven. Woolf also addresses the fact that Christian doctrine and Loki mythology would have coincided and compares the similarities between the two characters. His evidence of both characters acting as tempters, shapeshifters, and sly and cunning charactersprovides an excellent source for the character of Milton’s Satan.

Folklore provides some of the richest research into the character of the devil and in “German Devil Tales and Devil Legends” (1970), Rohrich argues that devil tales and legends have stopped being folklore and have become part of the historical record. He gives a detailed description of how these devil tales and legends evolved as well as makes a reference to connections to medieval sermons.. He ends his argument by citing Grimm’s fairy tales as evidence of the popularity of these tales and legends. While the Grimm brothers did not compile their tales until the early 1800s, the sources for their tales (the Germanic literary tradition) had been around for much longer and therefore these tales and legends are an excellent source for comparison to Milton. While both Woolf and Rohrich’s focus on Germanic/Norse myths would seem to exclude their research from the scope of this project, it is important to realize that these tales would have been known to the Anglo Saxons and therefore are an important part of the literary tradition. The influence of the stereotypical characterization of the devil in folklore on Paradise Lost has not been examined in depth despite the similarities. For instance, in Book 9, when Satan goes to tempt Eve, Milton changes from referring to Satan as “the Enemy” and instead refers to him as “the Tempter”. In light of Loki’s reputation as a tempter, prankster and cunning creature, it’s hard not to draw a connection. When Milton uses words such as “the spirited sly snake” (613), “the wily adder” (625) to describe Satan and says he leads Eve “To mischief swift” (633) it becomes easy to recognize the parallels. Milton.

Another source for comparison is the portrayals of the devil/Satan in drama. In “Three Jacobean Devil Plays” (1931), Potter argues that it was the devil of English folklore that was represented on the English stage, a devil that was instantly recognizable by his physical appearances and starred in comedies of the time. The devil of these plays did not depend upon a magician to conjure him up; the action of the play begins in Hell and despite the fact that it is accepted that the devil can change his shape, he is recognized by his eyes, animal-like sounds, and the thunder or lightning that accompanies his appearance. These devils were self-possessed characters of their own merit and not dependent upon humans, although humans were often the butt of the individual devil’s jokes. These dramas served not only to show the devil of English legend and folklore but also to forward the life of the character. Which characteristics of the devil were forwarded and which weren’t is also of interest. When looking at the evolution of the character, many of these characterizations are similar to how Loki is portrayed in folklore. Milton’s Satan in the latter half of Paradise Lost exhibits many of these English folklore characteristics and so these dramas, as well as the folktales that inspired them, are worth examining.

Valerie Edden explores a previous gap in the scholarship by looking at the sermon stories of the middle ages for references to devils in “Devils, Sermon Stories, and the Problem with Popular Belief in the Middle Ages” (1992). These stories were written by religious in the vernacular between 1400-1475 and had an audience of parish clergy and lay audiences. These sermon stories had their basis in folklore and legend (214) as the Jacobean plays did but were “remade” for the church’s purposes. Edden argues that these texts are as “important for what they leave out as for what they say” (215) and notes that just because a sermon story had a characterization of a devil did not mean that the reader could assume a belief system of the original medieval reader based on this because these stories were used by the Church and it’s impossible to distinguish between their purpose and what would have been the audience’s response.

Edden’s work is valuable because she forwards several collections of these medieval sermon stories: The Alphabet of Tales, Jacob’s Well, and BL MS Cotton Cleopatra Dviii and examines the language used to describe these devils (“demon”, “Satan”, “fiend”, “little black boy”). (217). She states that medieval readers would have seen devils and angels as good and bad spirits; however, she counters the popularly held idea that medieval readers would have seen any mention of devils or angels as representative of a dualistic model in which God and the devil were always in opposition over man. She states that devils were not described as in opposition to God, but rather as parallel to angels, and as thus, were able to contend for the soul of a man without involving a conflict with God and that the medieval readers did not view the world in a dualistic manner and that to assume that they held such beliefs based on these medieval sermon stories of devils is to base an opinion on insufficient facts. While these stories were not consistent in their treatment of devils, many include the traditional role of tempter, similar to that of Woolf’s description of Loki. She also states that many stories dealt with the devil as a shape shifter, the theme of the persistence of the devil and the importance of always being vigilant. This led to two types of stories, one where men were deceived by the disguises of the devil and one where a man who was seduced by a beautiful woman who turned out to be a devil. Edden’s work is of note because it argues the opposite of how Milton chose to portray angels and demons so it is interesting that Milton chose not to follow the model of the medieval church, perhaps because of its popishness. Milton does portray Satan and the fallen angels as in opposition to and in fact, at war with, God, as can be seen in Book 1 where the angels are described as “Who durst defy th’ Omnipotent to arms” (49) and in Book 6 when Raphael is describing the war in Heaven “The great Archangel from his warlike tail/ Surceased, and glad as hoping here to end/ Intestine was in Heav’n, the Arch-Foe subdued/ Or captive dragged in chains” (257-260).

In “That Be’t Banagher and Banagher Be’t the Devil. An International Devil Tale in Irish Tradition” (1994/1995) Laoire examines an Irish folktale, The Old Woman as Trouble Maker, that has dual duty as a folktale and a religious tale as it deals with the devil and the power of evil and states that this story was used as an exemplum “in sermons from at least the thirteenth century onwards” (189). She says that there are more than 59 variants of the story and the tale occurs throughout Ireland. In the tale, the devil spends a long time trying to interfere with a married couple. In many of the stories, the devil enlists the help of a woman who, either by lying to the husband or the wife, makes them believe their spouse is cheating which results, in most variants, in the death of said spouse. In some variants, the devil sends a female helper and in some, the devil condemns this helper to Hell, as she has proven herself more wicked than he is; while in others, the devil promises his female helper a reward if she does his bidding. The moral of the story rests not on the married couple (whose sins and downfalls differ with the variants) but on the woman who has fallen into “the devil’s clutches” (196). This single tale manages to touch on several different aspects of the devil tradition in Ireland though most important to my purpose is the fact that the devil is described as a trickster, a trait shared with Loki, German and English folklore, as well as Milton’s portrayal. This work along with Edden’s work helps to address the gap of written references to the devil in literature in the medieval and middle ages.

While the above scholarship gives detailed information on devil characterizations in individual sources, what is not present in the scholarship is a comprehensive examination of the evolution of the character of Satan since Genesis B and how the character culminates with Milton’s new fusion of characteristics in his portrayal. This is important because it opens up a whole new set of questions in regards to examining Paradise Lost and the character of Satan. Some of these questions are: how is the character used to personify a particular religious or political figure of the time (pope, anti-royalist)? How does the author of any given source or analogue use the character of Satan (as a figure to be feared, a moral lesson, as an anti-hero) and how seriously does the author treat the character of Satan? What role did the character play in nationalistic arguments? How was the character of Satan used to mask dangerous political positions in literature? How did the character evolve as time went by?

In not addressing these questions, scholars have failed to be able to fully place Milton fully in context. Examining classical and biblical sources Milton may have used only goes part of the way. To appreciate Milton’s new creation of the character of Satan, one must understand that he took a flat, stereotypical character and made him a dynamic and compelling character that became the modern definition of Satan. In neglecting this course of study, scholars are also deprived of a course of study in examining the devil in literature that came after Milton and was influenced by Paradise Lost.

In this paper, I will look at the major characterizations of Satan that came before Milton’s from the British literary tradition in order to understand the evolution of the character. This paper will examine three topics: physicality, actions and personality as seen chronologically within the following works in order to show how the character evolces and how each portrayal builds on its predecessors:

 Christ and Satan (7th century)

 the myths of Loki in Poetic Edda (13th century)

 the Third Vision: The Quest for Dowel, Passus VIII; the Fifth Vision, Passus XVI and the Sixth Vision, Passus XVIII of Piers Plowman (1369-1387)

 the York plays, specifically The Fall of the Angels (1463-1477)

 Malleus Maleficarum (1486), a handbook for identifying and hunting down devils, demons and witches

 Daemonologie (1597), King James’ handbook on demons and devils and how to identify and destroy them

 Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus (1604)

 The King James Bible (1611)

 Jonson’s The Devil is an Ass (1667).

The primary focus will be on comparing the character of Satan in these works with Milton’s characterization in Paradise Lost by looking at how the character is described, both by the character himself and by other characters. A secondary focus will be the gap that exists between the 7th and 13th century in which Satan was mainly appropriated by the Catholic Church. Thirdly, I will look at how individual scholars have addressed some of these individual sources and analogues.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Writing Journal 8: “’All Things Visible in Heaven, or Earth’: Reading the Illustrations of the 1688 Edition of Paradise Lost" Thomas Anderson

In “’All Things Visible in Heaven, or Earth’: Reading the Illustrations of the 1688 Edition of Paradise Lost Thomas Anderson argues that Eve’s characterization in Paradise Lost as illustrated in the 1688 edition provides clues as to how to “read” her character in order to open up an avenue of analysis. Anderson begins by talking about scholars frustration with Eve’s “ambivalence” (163) how the 1688 illustrations provide clues as to how to analyze the contextual clues and then goes on to analyze the specific illustrations that feature Eve and how they can open a door to analysis of the text. Anderson’s purpose appears to be to suggest a new way to examine Milton’s text, using the illustrations as a lens. The intended audience is one that is familiar with both the poem and the 1688 edition’s illustrations.


This article was of interest to me because it was recommended by someone on the list serv in response to a posting I made about the analysis of the 1688 illustrations in regards to the characterization of Satan. Part of the reason I was interested was due to the fact that I’ve decided to use illustrations from the different time periods to preface the chapters of my thesis/dissertation. However, it proved not to fit my project once I read it. For one, it focuses on the character of Eve, with only a bare mention of Satan in relationship to Eve. Also, there is quite a lot of literary theory used in analyzing the art which is not a tact I agree with in regards to either the illustrations or the text. While the material was interesting, it ended up not being something I could use and I was a bit disappointed that the person on the list serv misunderstood my topic interest, on the other hand, I was pleased that I received a personal response and felt as though I was participating in a professional conversation. While the subject matter was not something that I found helpful, the form and shape of Anderson’s analysis was helpful as it gave me a model for how to formulate my own arguments when dealing with the illustrations that deal with the character traits of the devil in my project.

In the article, Anderson forwards the text of Paradise Lost the most, but also the artists of the 1688 edition with the use of the illustrations in the article.. He also forwards McColley, Froula, Guillory and Swartz’s interpretations and criticisms of Milton’s text. Anderson comes to term with the text by quoting sections of Paradise Lost and uses them to place in context his arguments about the specific illustrations. For the most part he relies on his own analysis of the text, using the illustrations as an in. He places his argument in context as well by forwarding these scholars’ opinions as well as using their arguments to point out the problem that Eve as a character represents. This article was unique in the fact that it was concerned with the illustrations and their analysis and the text was only to support the argument about the illustrations, therefore, Harris’ moves are difficult to apply.

Monday, March 29, 2010

1688 Images take 2

Since its publication, Paradise Lost has inspired artists to give form to the descriptions Milton provides. In 1688, the very first edition of Paradise Lost appeared with illustrations, one for each book (begun by Dr. Aldrich and completed by Medina and Lens) the illustrations are worth analyzing in relation to the text. Past scholarship has focused on the relationship between the art and the text while I will focus on analyzing the specific character traits that these illustrators chose to highlight and how these clarify how the character of Satan should be viewed.


In Book I, the image is an illustration of Satan and his legions. However, there are some interesting things of note in the illustration; Satan is seen as piercing the bodies of his legions who writhe in pain on the ground. There is no evidence of the chains with which they are supposed to be bound, although the lakes of fire figure in the background along with figures that appear on thrones in the distance. Satan himself is portrayed with mostly human characteristics, except for his small horns, pointed ears and wings. He seems taller than the legions at his feet, and in fact is drawn as though he towers over them. The expression on his face seems bland, with little to no emotion. The form is modeled after St. Michael and the Devil, by Raphael. Now, if you flip forward to the illustration for Book IX which illustrates the Fall, there is a marked difference in how Satan is portrayed. He walks on two legs, but there is something animal to the musculature of the legs. His horns feature prominently on his head, and are much more pronounced as are the pointed ears. The artist has shaded him so that he appears darker than the rest of the picture and there is the addition of a long tail. He is in the foregraound and while not centered, he is definitely at the center of the action. Wendy Furman-Adams states that part of what makes this piece so powerful us the implementation of the medieval technique of synoptic narration, where several different scenes are all portrayed in one coherent design.

Analyzing these illustrations in relation to Paradise Lost is important because it provides an artist’s perspective on the changes in Satan’s character through the books, as well as highlighting the unique characteristics that Milton created in Satan. Rather than just analyze the relationship of these illustrations with the text as past scholars have, this presentation will examine the textual descriptions that Milton provides, and then compare these to the characteristics that the illustrator chose to highlight in the 1688 edition.

Loki and Satan Proposal take 2

In the early half of the twentieth century, several scholars began to explore the similarities between the Norse god Loki and the devil character of folklore. Woolf makes the argument that the similarities between Loki and Satan in Christ and Satan cannot be ignored and that the Anglo Saxons would have seen in Satan a familiar character due to these similarities, while Cawley explains how the role of tempter for the devil appears to have originated with Loki, which the Anglo Saxons would have carried over with them. Milton’s Satan is often viewed as a new character or at the very least, a reimagining of an old character, as Milton fused characteristics together that had never been combined before- he is charming, and seductive and intelligent, however, if one looks at the character of Loki, Milton’s Satan begins to look less new and avant garde.


Cawley examines how the Loki of myth can most easily be compared to Prometheus, a clever man who defies the gods in order to serve man. She also points out that Loki is characterized as sly and treacherous, known as a shape shifter, as well as a tempter who possibly heralds the end of the world, Ragnarok. Milton’s Satan defies God’s order, is sly, treacherous, changes his shape so that he won’t be recognized by the angels guarding Earth and tempts Eve in the Garden. Given that Anglo Saxons would been familiar with Loki myths, despite their Germanic origins, it is important to understand the impact of Norse myths on the British literature tradition, specifically how the devil characters were portrayed.

In the last half of the twentieth century, this comparison, and the analysis of the impact has been largely ignored. I believe that through an understanding of the folklore/mythic characteristics that Milton drew on can only enhance a reading of Paradise Lost. Investigating the impact that Anglo Saxon myths had on the British Literature tradition, and how this culminates with Milton’s portrayal of Satan is a section of scholarship, that while incredibly valuable has been mostly ignored of late. This presentation will analyze the characteristics of Loki in Poetic Edda and compare them to Milton’s portrayal of Satan in Paradise Lost, arguing the similarities.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Writing Journal 7: Suzanne Boorsch's“The 1688 Paradise Lost and Dr. Aldrich” (1972)

Suzanne Boorsch states in “The 1688 Paradise Lost and Dr. Aldrich” (1972) that the illustrations for Book I, II and XII differ considerably from the illustrations for the rest of the books and therefore John Baptist de Medina could not have been the artist for them. Instead, she argues that Dr. Aldrich, a canon of Christ Church was the illustrator. She cites several handwritten inscriptions in books that point to this, as well as citing other Oxford residents that were aware of Aldrich’s engraving plate collection that served as the model for many engravings created at Oxford Press where Aldrich supervised many of the engravings. She lays out these primary sources in order to argue that due to his proximity and the fact that the plates for Book I, II and XII have similarities with classical plates Aldrich owned, that he must have been the designer. The intended audience is one who is familiar with the process of engraving to a certain extent, and the classical art works that are referenced as models for Aldrich’s Paradise Lost engravings.


The reason I chose this article was because it analyzes a set of illustrations for Paradise Lost and I think that said illustrations are an excellent source for clarifying what characteristics of Milton’s Satan have been focused on, and thus serve as a means to look backward at sources and analogues. It does not fit my project in that it does not relate to the literature that references devils or the character of Satan previous to Milton’s portrayal however my project does focus on the specific traits of these characters and art, from multiple time periods serves as a way to focus on that. Also, I came across this article after I decided to draft my conference proposal for SMLA whose theme is the way texts interact and are reflected in art therefore this article seemed an excellent bridge between these two aspects of my project. Boorsch also references scholars who have analyzed the connections between the illustrations and the texts which I plan on researching before finalizing my conference proposals.

Boorsch begins her article by coming to terms with the subject by explaining the history of illustrations for Paradise Lost and then moves on to point out the gap- that three of the engravings do not fit with the others and she explains the stylistic differences. She gives some background information about the man, Medina who illustrated the other plates and then brings up the question as to who could have illustrated these three mystery plates. She forwards a book inscription that makes mention of Aldrich and forwards a letter from Atterbury to Tonson, from Atterbury to his father, a contemporary who mentions Aldrich’s role in producing the almanacs published during Aldrich’s time at Christ College, and an Oxford antiquarian. She also exposes a gap when she states that twentieth century writers discussed the Oxford almanacs but with no apparent knowledge of how Aldrich was involved, citing scholars. She also counters Hiscock’s claim that Aldrich designed the composition for Book I because Boosch argues that there were models in Aldrich’s plate collection from which the design for Book I can be traced. Boosch then forwards an unpublished dissertation that mentions what the inspiration for the Book I illustration was. She ends with postulating why Aldrich would have completed these three plates, but not the others. She suggests that it’s possible that Aldrich, being quite the Renaissance man with his interests was either uninterested in such a long project or was incapable of it.

Conference Proposal: An Artist’s Perspective: How Images from the 1688 Edition of Paradise Lost Reflect Milton’s Unique Characterization (SMLA maybe?)

Since its publication, Paradise Lost has inspired artists to give form to the descriptions Milton gives. In 1688, the very first edition of Paradise Lost appeared with illustrations, one for each book and while there is debate about who the artist is, there is no doubt that the illustrations are worth analyzing in relation to the text.


In Book I, the image is an illustration of Satan and his legions. However, there are some interesting things of note in the illustration; Satan is seen as piercing the bodies of his legions who writhe in pain on the ground. There is no evidence of the chains with which they are supposed to be bound, although the lakes of fire figure in the background along with figures that appear on thrones in the distance. Satan himself is portrayed with mostly human characteristics, except for his small horns, pointed ears and wings. He seems taller than the legions at his feet, and in fact is drawn as though he towers over them. The expression on his face seems bland, with little to no emotion. Now, if you flip forward to the illustration for Book XII, there is a marked difference in how Satan is portrayed. He walks on two legs, but there is something animal to the musculature of the legs. His horns feature prominently on his head, and are much more pronounced as are the pointed ears. The artist has shaded him so that he appears darker than the rest of the picture and there is the addition of a long tail.

Analyzing these illustrations in relation to Paradise Lost is important because it provides an artist’s perspective on the changes in Satan’s character through the books, as well as highlighting the unique characteristics that Milton created in Satan. This presentation will examine the textual descriptions that Milton provides, and then compare these to the characteristics that the illustrator chose to highlight in the 1688 edition.

Conference Proposal: Loki and Satan Comparison (MTSU maybe?)

In the early half of the twentieth century, several scholars began to explore the connection between the Norse god Loki and the devil character of folklore. Woolf makes the argument that the similarities between Loki and Satan in Christ and Satan cannot be ignored and how the Anglo Saxons would have seen in Satan a familiar character, while Cawley explains how the role of tempter for the devil appears to have originated with Loki, which the Anglo Saxons would have carried over with them. Milton’s Satan is often viewed as a new character or at the very least, a reimagining of an old character, as Milton fused characteristics together that had never been combined before- he is charming, and seductive and intelligent.


Cawley examines how the Loki of myth can most easily be compared to Prometheus, a clever man who defies the gods in order to serve man. She also points out that Loki is characterized as sly and treacherous, known as a shape shifter, as well as a tempter who possibly heralds the end of the world, Ragnarok. Milton’s Satan defies God’s order, is sly, treacherous, changes his shape so that he won’t be recognized by the angels guarding Earth and tempting Eve in the Garden. Given that Anglo Saxons would have known these tales, despite their Germanic origins, it is important to the understand these folktales and myths in order to understand the British Literature tradition.

In the last half of the twentieth century, this comparison, and the analysis of the impact has been largely ignored. I believe that understanding the folklore characteristics that Milton drew on can only enhance a reading of Paradise Lost. Investigating the impact that Anglo Saxon myths had on the British Literature tradition, and how this culminates with Milton’s portrayal of Satan is a section of scholarship, that while incredibly valuable has been mostly ignored of late. This presentation will analyze the characteristics of Loki in Poetic Edda and compare them to Milton’s portrayal of Satan in Paradise Lost, arguing the similarities.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Writing Journal 6: Nathan Johnstone's "The Protestant Devil: The Experience of Temptation in Early Modern England"

In “The Protestant Devil: The Experience of Temptation in Early Modern England” (2004), Nathan Johnstone argues that the devil the Protestants in 16th and 17th centuries England imagined existed solely in their minds and was accompanied by no physical descriptions; very different from the devil of the 14th and 15th centuries that depended very much upon physical description. The role of the devil to the Protestants was as a tempter and therefore spoke to them and tempted their thoughts without any physical manifestation. Johnstone makes this argument in order to illustrate that demonism was a very real part of a Protestant of this time’s understanding of the world, a fact that may have been glossed over due to the subtle nature of their beliefs. The expected audience is one that would be aware of the history behind English Protestantism and the belief system they followed, as well as one with a passing knowledge of how devils would have been viewed in the previous centuries.


This piece is helpful to my project because while I had planned on using the King James Bible and King James’ Daemonologie as primary sources for comparison, I did not have any scholarly commentary on the subject. This article points out that while the devil may have been a more subtle characterization than seen before, he was still a very real part of life in England. It also provides a nice tie in to the Catholic Church’s position on the devil, as it discusses the conflict that arose in Protestantism since it viewed anything Catholic as diabolical, including the Virgin Mary, saints, and the sacraments. The article focuses on the characteristic of tempter for the devil, and this pointed out to me that even if the characteristic was more of a role than a physical personality, it was still very important to the time period.

Johnstone forwards several other scholars, mainly historians for their work on the time period, and uses them as a way into the topic, as they set the stage for his argument. He also provides the opinion of Thomas who states that Protestants would have felt “powerless in the face of evil” (174) and uses this statement to point out that while many have come up with interpretations that counter Thomas, it has led to recent work on witchcraft and what that meant to “Protestant demonology” (174). Johnstone also refers to Russell, whose work I cite in my thesis prospectus, his work on the devil as a historical figure and uses this reference as a way to state that the character of the devil “pervaded the written culture of early modern England” being present in plays, sermons, tracts, diaries and ballads(175). Johnstone then goes on to form his argument that because the Protestant idea of demonology was more personal, as each person fought their own temptation, the perspective of how Protestants viewed the devil would not necessarily be found in these written works. Johnstone spends most of the article forwarding other scholars, most folklorists or historians in order to set the stage for the next stage of his own argument. He does counter Thomas and Russell’s ideas on “Protestantism as hostage to the Devil” (178), but seems to agree with some of their work as he forwards their other viewpoints. Johnstone also forwards several excerpts from personal diaries and church ballads to illustrate how Protestants of this time viewed the devil. He also forwards several examples of devotional literature that dealt with the devil as tempter. The end result of these moves is that he sets up each section of his article and uses them to move forward his own argument.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Writing Journal 5: Rohrich's "German Devil Tales and Devil Legends" (1970)

Lutz Rohrich in “German Devil Tales and Devil Legends” (1970) suggests that devil legends have stopped being part of current folklore, and instead have passed into historical material and that contrary to the literary tradition, the folk tradition has a more visual idea of the devil. Rohrich states that the devil of folktale is often recognized by his visual characteristics which come first in the late middle ages; horns, hook nose, clawed or cloven hoofs (23). He then brings up whether the devil of the middle ages is the same as the folk devil of today and says that these legends trace back to medieval sermons in which the lay people were warned against sinning for the devil would punish them. He goes on to illustrate that this time period is also when the idea of a devil’s pact was developed, in part due to the story of Dr. Faust but also states that the devil pact is found in tales and jokes where the devil is seen as a trickster hero. He then goes on to list the number of Grimm’s fairy tales in which this type of character appears, stating that the Grimm brothers were writing down older German legends and folktales. Perhaps one of Rohrich’s most important questions is whether this trickster devil has any connection with the tempter devil seen in the Bible and medieval theology (27)to which he says that while the trickster devil was present in many saint legends, the legends of the devil associated with pagan demons has its roots in Nordic legends and the character of Loki (29). Rohrich’s argument is that the devil is not a homogeneous figure and that so far there has been no attempt to “compile an intellectual history of devil tales (32). The intended audience is one that is not familiar with the subject matter as he does not refer to the tales in their original language or make references that an unfamiliar reader would have a hard time with.


This article helped to clarify several points with me in regards to my project; the first that I wanted to focus on the British literature tradition, as otherwise the project would be too broad. While at first glance this narrowing of topic would seem to exclude this article and its subject matter, it in fact does not because of the Nordic material that would have been familiar to Anglo Saxons. While the written tales of the Grimm brothers comes too late to be included in my research, the mentions of Loki and the similarities to the devil, as well as the mention of the devil in medieval sermons gives me more avenues to explore in my research. While Rohrich’s research focuses on the tales of Germany, it is interesting that the physical descriptions of the devil in the middles ages are the same as in England. So, while the particulars in this article are not relevant to my research, it did help me set up better parameters for my research.

Rohrich does not forward any scholars, instead forwarding other devil tales, such as seen in Thomas Mann’s Doctor Faustus, German folktales and the tales of the Grimm brothers. His largest move was to point out the gap in current scholarship, mainly that there has never been a comprehensive look at how devil tales and legends are portrayed throughout the historical ages. His approach is to look at specific descriptions of the devil, what the source of these descriptions are and what they say about the time period in which they appeared. He focuses mainly on the middle ages and then jumps forward to the 1800s with the Grimm’s tales, showing how the idea of the devil has been forwarded from oral tradition in folktales into the literary one. His approach as he describes it is a cultural-historical one that focuses not only on early and literary sources but also the “cultural-historical incidents in the tales themselves” (33). He ends his article with not only pointing out the major gap in the research, but also by stating a specific question that should be addressed- “Why does man relate one thing in a legend, another in an anecdote, and yet another in a tale?” (33). This idea of why certain information gets forwarded a certain way had not occurred to me, and I found that it offers another avenue into my own project.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Thesis Prospectus: The Evolution of Satan in the British Literature Tradition

Current scholarship in Milton studies focuses on several related topics; Paradise Lost’s function as a polemic, Paradise Lost as an anti-royalist writing, Satan as a revolutionary and the use of Satanic subjects as a way of illustrating Milton’s heretical tendencies. This can be seen in Achinstein’s Milton and the Revolutionary Reader (1994), Bryson’s The Tyranny of Heaven: Milton’s Rejection of God as King (2004), Lieb’s Theological Milton: Deity, Discourse and Heresy in the Miltonic Canon (2006), Lander’s Inventing Polemic: Religion, Print, and Literacy Culture in Early Modern England (2006), Loewenstein and Marshall’s Heresy, Literature and Politics in Early Modern English Culture (2007) and Achinstein and Sauer’s Milton and Toleration (2007). These works tend to look at Paradise Lost and Milton as either a way to view the other political writings of the time or as proof of Milton’s heretical leanings. Some writers, most notably and recently Forsyth in The Old Enemy and The Satanic Epic, have looked at what sources Milton may have used in creating his compelling character of Satan. Often what is not present is as telling as what is present and in this case, what is not seen is a comprehensive look at the evolution of the character of Satan in the British Literature tradition, how this led to Milton’s Satan and how his creation was a fusion of the characters that had come before.

In The Satanic Epic (2003), Forsyth focuses mainly on how Paradise Lost functions as an epic however, Chapter One: A Brief History of Satan does address the origins of the character. He begins by mentioning Satan’s original purpose was as the Adversary, as seen in the Book of Job and he uses this example to point out that Satan is not “simply the personification of evil” (26), he was meant as an opposite to God, an opponent. Forsyth goes on to state that the myth of Satan as a rebel is not laid out in any one text, but rather must be inferred through the stories of Zeus, Prometheus, Icarus and the battle between the Titans and Olympians, making comparisons between God and Zeus. He goes on to state that Milton followed the shape of ancient mythic epics such as the Illiad and the Aeneid and the heroes in them in creating Satan. He gives a brief accounting of Satan’s mention in Revelation and the imagery of Satan as a beast and a warrior, citing the combat language. Forsyth then discusses how Origen’s account it the first “fully developed picture of the Devil and his origin as an envious member of the heavenly court” (45). He also discusses how Satan was used by the early and medieval Church as a representation of heresy and how the story of Satan evolved through the middle ages into the story presented in Genesis B solidifies the idea of Satan as a rebelling angel. Continuing the chronology, Forsyth moves onto how Milton’s Satan owed much to Marlowe’s troubled Renaissance Mephistopheles and states that Milton’s military and warlike Satan is a result of the influence of the modern world. He continues in this vein by boldly stating that “the most important influence on Milton’s Satan was the dramatic tradition” (60). He says that the medieval morality plays influenced his greatly, as did the writings of Shakespeare.

Forsyth’s statements as he lays them all out appear at first glance to be logically laid out. However, the key to the gap lies later in the chapter when he quotes Bush in saying that “Romantic readers “start with Satan’ and never get beyond him” (69), referring to Blake and Shelley. While I believe that Forsyth means that readers are often overwhelmed by the characterization of Satan and therefore fail to appreciate Paradise Lost as it should be, what Forsyth fails to realize is that there has yet to be a complete understanding of the history of Satan as a character and how the evolution of the character resulted in Milton’s portrayal.

Forsyth’s views are not wholeheartedly accepted for example, Kelley, in a review of the book, argues that Forsyth bases his work on misreading of previous texts. He says that there is no proof prior to the first century C.E that Satan fell as a result of rebellion, that Forsyth neglects to address traditions where Satan is seen as a world leader, that Forsyth’s sweeping statements that the Lucifer of medieval theology and literature is the same as the Old and New Testament are incorrect and the assumption that Milton’s Satan in Paradise Lost is based in Scripture is wrong. Kelley however, is a folklorist and an ex-Jesuit, so his approach is different from Forsyth’s.

Russell explores similar territory with his book Lucifer: The Devil in the Middle Ages (1984) where he researches the concept of evil as reflected in the devil and how popular literature, art and folklore represent this character during the middle ages. He looks at worldwide sources including Byzantium, Muslim tradition and folklore, theologians such as Gregory to Nicholas of Cusa, and examines the devil in medieval art, poetry, and drama. Russell covers a large field, but unfortunately there are gaps in his coverage; it would have been illuminating if instead of rehashing old material, he has focused more on unexplored material, such as looking at the visual representations of the devil through this period since this is a topic rarely discussed. Unfortunately, as exhibited by Russell, examining sources has often fallen into the realm of folklorists versus English literature scholars and the research rarely goes down unexplored paths where some sources are concerned.

However, most of the work involving analyzing sources for Milton’s Paradise Lost was written in the first half of the 20th century. Some scholars have examined the character of Satan in general, not specific to Milton’s portrayal such as Le Bosquet’s “The Evil One: A Development” (1912), Caldwell’s series “The Doctrine of Satan: In the Old and New Testament” (1913), Kellogg in “Satan, Langland, and the North” (1949), and Stein’s “Satan: The Dramatic Role of Evil” (1950). After this, past scholarship has focused on Satan as an epic or anti-hero and comparing Paradise Lost to Judaic and Biblical writings. The current trend of viewing Paradise Lost through a political lens has dominated scholarly work lately.

Some individual scholars such as Lever, Woolf, Rohrich, Potter, Edden, Laoire and Paolucci and have looked at smaller pieces of the source puzzle. When scholars look at possible sources Milton may have used, many make the contradicting claim that Milton, as well read as he was, must have been familiar with the text while at the same time stating that any similarities are coincidental, hedging their bets so to speak. Lever is a good example of this in “Paradise Lost and the Anglo-Saxon Tradition” (1947) where he spends the entire article addressing the similarities between Christ and Satan and Paradise Lost and then counters himself at the end by stating that the similarities are simply coincidence, as should be expected of something addressing common Christian themes.

Woolf, on the other hand, in “The Devil in Old English Poetry” (1953) states that similarities in characterization are due to Loki myths and Satan (in Christ and Satan) emerging at the same time. He argues that the origins of Satan as heroic possibly began with the Anglo Saxons, as they would have seen his actions as heroic for how he dealt with his inevitable expulsion from heaven. Woolf also addresses the fact that Christian doctrine and Loki mythology would have coincided and compares the similarities between the two characters. Woolf focuses on Anglo Saxon readership and does not offer any insights into how the Loki myths evolved, or cite any particular sources for the Loki myth, but this is also the nature of working in folklore. However, because of his evidence of the similarities between the character of Satan and Loki, the Norse myths serve as an excellent source for the character of Satan.

In “German Devil Tales and Devil Legends” (1970), Rohrich examines the idea that devil tales and legends have stopped being folklore and have become part of the historical record. While he offers some detailed descriptions of how the devil was portrayed and viewed, he fails to cite any particular sources for his information, thus calling into question his information. However, he does vaguely reference the medieval sermons that spawned some of these legends and gives a detailed description of how these devil tales and legends evolved. He culminates his argument by citing Grimm’s fairy tales as evidence of the popularity of these tales and legends. While the Grimm brothers did not compile their tales until the early 1800s, the sources for their tales had been around the Germanic folkloric tradition for much longer and therefore these tales and legends are an excellent source for comparison to Milton. The problem that arises here is that Rohrich is a folklorist and therefore has little written record to work with. However, despite there not being a written record, there is a record of these tales, and therefore they are a valid source.

Another source for comparison is the portrayals of the devil/Satan in drama. In “Three Jacobean Devil Plays” (1931), Potter argues that it was the devil of English folklore that was represented on the English stage, a devil that was instantly recognizable by his physical appearances and starred in comedies of the time. The devil of these plays does not depend upon a magician to conjure him up, the plays’ action all begins in hell and despite the fact that it is accepted that the devil can change his shape, he is recognized by his eyes, animal-like sounds and thunder or lightning that accompanies him. These devils were self-possessed characters of their own merit and not dependent upon humans, although they were often the butt of the devil’s jokes. These dramas served to not only show the devil of English legend and folklore but also to forward the life of the character. Which characteristics of the devil get forwarded and which don’t is also of interest, when looking at the evolution of the character.

Valerie Edden explores a previous gap in the scholarship by looking at the sermon stories of the middle ages for references to devils in “Devils, Sermon Stories, and the Problem with Popular Belief in the Middle Ages” (1992). These stories were written in the vernacular between 1400-1475 and had an audience of parish clergy and a lay audience. These sermon stories had their basis in folklore and legend (214) as the Jacobean plays did but were “remade” so to speak for the church’s purposes. Edden points out that these texts are “important for what they leave out as for what they say” (215) and ties this to her argument, as she states that just because a sermon story had a characterization of a devil did not mean that the reader could assume a belief of the original reader based on this. Edden’s work is valuable because she forwards several collections of these medieval sermon stories: The Alphabet of Tales, Jacob’s Well, and BL MS Cotton Cleopatra Dviii. Edden examines not only the language used to describe these devils (demon, Satan, fiend, little black boy), but also how the original readers would have responded to these descriptions and viewed these characters (217). She states that medieval readers would have seen devils and angels as good and bad spirits however; she counters the popularly held idea that medieval readers would have seen any mention of devils or angels as representative of a dualistic model in which God and the devil were always in opposition over man. She also details the common stories lines of the devils in these stories; devils were not described as in opposition to God, but rather as parallel to angels, and as thus, are able to contend for the soul of a man without involving a conflict with God. She states that these stories were not consistent in their treatment of devils, but that in many, the traditional role was that of tempter. She also states that many stories dealt with the devil as a shape shifter which leads to two types of stories: one in which good men can identify the devil and one in which the man was not looked down on if he was deceived by the disguises of the devil. This scenario was seen in another way when the storyline revolved around a man who was seduced by a beautiful woman who turns out to be a devil. Another theme is the persistence of the devil and the importance of man always being vigilant. Edden’s final argument is that medieval readers did not view the world in a dualistic manner and that to assume that they held such beliefs based on these medieval sermon stories of devils is to base an opinion on too little facts as there is no way to determine what their popular beliefs were based solely on these tales.

Laoire addresses a similar topic in “That Be’t Banagher and Banagher Be’t the Devil. An International Devil Tale in Irish Tradition” (1994/1995) when she examines an Irish folktale, The Old Woman as Trouble Maker that has a dual duty as a folktale and a religious tale as it deal with the devil and the power of evil. She states that this story was used as an exemplum “in sermons from at least the thirteenth century onwards” (189). She says that there are more than 59 variants of the story and the tale occurs throughout Ireland. In the tale, the devil spends a long amount of time trying to interfere with a happily married couple. In many of the stories, the devil enlists the help of a woman who, either by lying to the husband or the wife, makes them believe their spouse is cheating which results, in most variants, in the death of said spouse. In some variants, the devil sends a servant and in some, the devil condemns his female helper to hell, as she has proved herself more wicked than he is, while in others, the devil promises his female helper a reward if she does his bidding. The moral of the story rests not on the married couple (whose sins and downfalls differ with the variants) but on the woman who has fallen into “the devil’s clutches” (196). This single tale manages to touch on several different aspects of the devil tradition in Ireland. Both Laoire and Edden’s work help to address the gap of written references to the devil in literature in the medieval and middle ages.

Often, Inferno’s Satan is dismissed due to the fact that he appears in the poem so briefly. However, in “Dante’s Satan and Milton’s ‘Byronic Hero’” (1964), Paolucci argues that despite the differences in their physical descriptions, these characters are in fact very similar in the ways in which they suffer the pain of their sins. Both were the brightest of angels, and now, although in different ways, are the lowest of creatures. She also points out the parallels between how Heaven and Hell are organized and how this order is political in nature; by defying God, these characters have not just defied him, but the political order of the universe. Paolucci also argues that neither Dante or Milton meant for their characters to be read superficially and that the reader is misunderstanding the texts if they do so. She also notes that Dante’s representation is important because of the way in which it functions, just as Milton’s characterization is the culmination of all that came before, so was Dante’s at the time.

These scholars fail to look at the major characterizations, compare them side by side to Milton and use this to highlight how his Satan is not only a fusion of these characters but also a new creation. This is important because it opens up a whole new set of questions in regards to examining Paradise Lost and the character of Satan. Some of these questions I will use to examine how the source functions within it’s time period but they are useful questions for not only examining these sources, but also to serve as a baseline for examining works that came after. Some of these questions include: how is the character used to personify a particular religious or political figure of the time (pope, anti-royalist)? How did religious representations of Satan differ from the political representations and what is the significance of these differences? How did the character of Satan move from a character in Biblical literature to one used my the Church to exemplify evil, to a literary character, to a symbolic representation of the opposition in political writings? How does the author of any given source or analogue use the character of Satan (as a figure to be feared, a moral lesson, as an anti-hero) and how seriously does the author treat the character of Satan? What role did the character play in nationalistic arguments? How was the character of Satan used to mask dangerous political positions? How did the character evolve as time went by?

In not addressing this question, scholars have failed to be able to fully place Milton in context. Examining classical and biblical sources he may have used only goes part of the way. In order to truly appreciate and understand Milton’s genius in creating something entirely new, one must know of all that came before. In neglecting this course of study, scholars are also deprived of a course of study in examining the literature that came after Milton and was influenced by Paradise Lost.

In this paper, I will look at the major characterizations of Satan that came before Milton’s from the British literary tradition in order to understand the evolution of the character. This paper will look at these works in chronological order: Christ and Satan (7th century), the myths of Loki in Poetic Edda (13th century), canto XXXIV of Inferno (1308-1321), the Third Vision: The Quest for Dowel, Passus VIII; the Fifth Vision, Passus XVI and the Sixth Vision, Passus XVIII of Piers Plowman (1369-1387), the York plays, specifically The Fall of the Angels (1463-1477), Malleus Maleficarum (1486), Daemonologie (1597), Doctor Faustus (1604), The King James Bible (1611), and the Jacobean play The Devil is an Ass (1667).

The primary focus will be on comparing the character of Satan in these works with Milton’s characterization in Paradise Lost by looking at how the character is described, both by the character himself and by other characters. A secondary focus will be the gap that exists between the 7th and 13th century in which Satan was mainly appropriated by the Catholic Church. Thirdly, I will look at how individual scholars have addressed some of these individual sources and analogues.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Less Rough Draft of Thesis Prospectus with Forsyth commentary

Current scholarship in Milton studies focuses on several related topics; Paradise Lost’s function as a polemic, Paradise Lost as an anti-royalist writing, Satan as a revolutionary and the use of Satanic subjects as a way of illustrating Milton’s heretical tendencies. This can be seen in Achinstein’s Milton and the Revolutionary Reader (1994), Bryson’s The Tyranny of Heaven: Milton’s Rejection of God as King (2004), Lieb’s Theological Milton: Deity, Discourse and Heresy in the Miltonic Canon (2006), Lander’s Inventing Polemic: Religion, Print, and Literacy Culture in Early Modern England (2006), Loewenstein and Marshall’s Heresy, Literature and Politics in Early Modern English Culture (2007) and Achinstein and Sauer’s Milton and Toleration (2007). These works tend to look at Paradise Lost and Milton as either a way to view the other political writings of the time or as proof of Milton’s heretical leanings. Some writers, most notably and recently Forsyth in The Old Enemy and The Satanic Epic, have looked at what sources Milton may have used in creating his compelling character of Satan. However, examining sources has often fallen into the realm of folklorists versus English literature scholars.


However, most of the work involving analyzing sources for Milton’s Paradise Lost was written in the first half of the 20th century. Some scholars have examined the character of Satan in general, not specific to Milton’s portrayal such as Le Bosquet’s “The Evil One: A Development” (1912), Caldwell’s series “The Doctrine of Satan: In the Old and New Testament” (1913), Kellogg in “Satan, Langland, and the North” (1949), and Stein’s “Satan: The Dramatic Role of Evil” (1950). After this, past scholarship has focused on Satan as an epic or anti-hero and comparing Paradise Lost to Judaic and Biblical writings. The current trend of viewing Paradise Lost through a political lens has dominated scholarly work lately.

Some individual scholars such as Lever, Woolf, Potter, Paolucci and Rohrich have looked at smaller pieces of this puzzle, individual sources. When many scholars look at possible sources Milton may have used most makes the contradicting claim that Milton, as well read as he was, must have been familiar with the text while at the same time stating that any similarities are coincidental, hedging their bets so to speak. Lever addresses both this and the idea of sources in his article “Paradise Lost and the Anglo-Saxon Tradition” (1947) where he spends the entire article addressing the similarities between Christ and Satan and Paradise Lost and then counters himself at the end by stating that the similarities are simply coincidence, as should be expected of something addressing common Christian themes.

Woolf, on the other hand, in “The Devil in Old English Poetry” (1953) states that similarities in characterization are due to Loki and Satan (in Christ and Satan) emerging at the same time. He argues that the origins of Satan as heroic possibly began with the Anglo Saxons, as they would have seen his actions as heroic for how he dealt with his inevitable expulsion from heaven. Woolf also addresses the fact that Christian doctrine and Loki mythology would have coincided and compares the similarities between the two characters. Woolf focuses on Anglo Saxon readership and does not offer any insights into how the Loki myths evolved, or cite any particular sources for the Loki myth. However, because of his evidence of the similarities between the character of Satan and Loki, the Norse myths serve as an excellent source for the character of Satan.

In “German Devil Tales and Devil Legends” (1970), Rohrich examines the idea that devil tales and legends have stopped being folklore and have become part of the historical record. While he offers some detailed descriptions of how the devil was portrayed and viewed, he fails to cite any particular sources for his information, thus calling into question his information. However, he does vaguely reference the medieval sermons that spawned some of these legends and gives a detailed description of how these devil tales and legends evolved. He culminates his argument by citing Grimm’s fairy tales as evidence of the popularity of these tales and legends. While the Grimm brothers did not compile their tales until the early 1800s, the sources for their tales had been around the Germanic folkloric tradition for much longer and therefore these tales and legends are an excellent source for comparison to Milton. The problem that arises here is that Rohrich is a folklorist and therefore has little written record to work with. However, despite there not being a written record, there is a record of these tales, and therefore they are a valid source.

Often, Inferno’s Satan is dismissed due to the fact that he appears in the poem so briefly. However, in “Dante’s Satan and Milton’s ‘Byronic Hero’” (1964), Paolucci argues that despite the differences in their physical descriptions, these characters are in fact very similar in the ways in which they suffer the pain of their sins. Both were the brightest of angels, and now, although in different ways, are the lowest of creatures. She also points out the parallels between how Heaven and Hell are organized and how this order is political in nature; by defying God, these characters have not just defied him, but the political order of the universe. Paolucci also argues that neither author meant for their characters to be read superficially and that the reader is misunderstanding the texts if they do so. She also notes that Dante’s representation is important because of the way in which it functions, just as Milton’s characterization is the culmination of all that came before, so was Dante’s at the time.

Another source for comparison is the portrayals of the devil/Satan in drama. In “Three Jacobean Devil Plays” (1931), Potter argues that it was the devil known in English folklore that was represented on the stage, a devil that was instantly recognizable by his physical appearances and yet starred in comedies of the time. The devil of these plays does not depend upon a magician to conjure him up, the plays’ action all begins in hell and despite the fact that it is accepted that the devil can change his shape, he is recognized by his eyes, animal like sounds and thunder or lightning that accompanies him. These devils were self-possessed characters of their own merit and not dependent upon humans, although they were often the butt of his jokes. These dramas served to not only show the devil of English legend and folklore but also to forward the life of the character.

In The Satanic Epic, Forsyth focuses mainly on how Paradise Lost functions as an epic however, chapter one: A Brief History of Satan does address the origins of the character. He begins by mentioning Satan’s original purpose was as the Adversary, as seen in the Book of Job and he uses this example to point out that Satan is not “simply the personification of evil” (26), he was meant as an opposite to God, an opponent. Forsyth goes on to state that the myth of Satan as a rebel is not laid out in any one text, but rather must be inferred through the stories of Zeus, Prometheus and Icarus. He goes on to state that Milton followed the shape of ancient mythic epics such as the Illiad and the Aeneid and the heroes in them for Satan. Forsyth also argues that the idea of a rebelling hero can be seen in the story of the battle between the Titans and the Olympians, making comparisons between God and Zeus. He gives a brief accounting of Satan’s mention in Revelation and the imagery of Satan as a beast and the combat language. Forsyth then discusses how Origen’s account it the first “fully developed picture of the Devil and his origin as an envious member of the heavenly court” (45). He also discusses how Satan was used by the early and medieval Church as a representation of heresy and how the story of Satan evolved through the middle ages into the story presented in Genesis B solidifies the idea of Satan as a rebelling angel. Continuing the chronology, Forsyth moves onto how Milton’s Satan owed much to Marlowe’s troubled Renaissance Mephistopheles and states that Milton’s military and warlike Satan is a result of the influence of the modern world. He continues in this vein by boldly stating that “the most important influence on Milton’s Satan was the dramatic tradition” (60). He says that the medieval morality plays influenced his greatly, as did the writings of Shakespeare.

Forsyth’s statements as he lays them all out appear at first glance to be logically laid out. However, the key to the gap lies later in the chapter when he quotes Bush in saying that “Romantic readers “start with Satan’ and never get beyond him” (69), referring to Blake and Shelley. While I believe that Forsyth means that readers are often overwhelmed by the characterization of Satan and therefore fail to appreciate Paradise Lost as it should be, what Forsyth fails to realize is that there has yet to be a complete understanding of the history of Satan as a character and how the evolution of the character resulted in Milton’s portrayal.

However, his views are not wholeheartedly accepted. Kelley, in a review of the book, argues that Forsyth bases his work on misreading of previous texts. He says that there is no proof prior to the first century C.E that Satan fell as a result of rebellion, that Forsyth neglects to address traditions where Satan is seen as a world leader, that Forsyth’s sweeping statements about the Lucifer of medieval theology and literature being the same as the Old and New Testament are incorrect and the assumption that Milton’s Satan in Paradise Lost is based in Scripture is wrong.

However, what these scholars fail to explore is to look at the major characterizations, compare them side by side to Milton and use this to highlight how his Satan is not only a fusion of these characters but also a new creation. This is important because it opens up a whole new set of questions in regards to examining Paradise Lost and the character of Satan. Some of these questions I will use to examine how the source functions within it’s time period but they are useful questions for not only examining these sources, but also to serve as a baseline for examining works that came after. Some of these questions include: how is the character used to personify a particular religious or political figure of the time (pope, anti-royalist)? How did religious representations of Satan differ from the political representations and what is the significance of these differences? How did the character of Satan move from a character in Biblical literature to one used my the Church to exemplify evil, to a literary character, to a symbolic representation of the opposition in political writings? How does the author of any given source or analogue use the character of Satan (as a figure to be feared, a moral lesson, as an anti-hero) and how seriously does the author treat the character of Satan? What role did the character play in nationalistic arguments? How was the character of Satan used to mask dangerous political positions? How did the character evolve as time went by?

In not addressing this question, scholars have failed to be able to fully place Milton in context. Examining classical and biblical sources he may have used only goes part of the way. In order to truly appreciate and understand Milton’s genius in creating something entirely new, one must know of all that came before. In neglecting this course of study, scholars are also deprived of a course of study in examining the literature that came after Milton and was influenced by Paradise Lost.

In this paper, I will look at the major characterizations of Satan that came before Milton’s and in order to understand the evolution of the character, this paper will look at these works in chronological order: Christ and Satan (7th century), the myths of Loki in Poetic Edda (13th century), canto XXXIV of Inferno (1308-1321), the Third Vision: The Quest for Dowel, Passus VIII; the Fifth Vision, Passus XVI and the Sixth Vision, Passus XVIII of Piers Plowman (1369-1387), the York plays, specifically The Fall of the Angels (1463-1477), Malleus Maleficarum (1486), Daemonologie (1597), Doctor Faustus (1604), The King James Bible (1611), and the Jacobean play The Devil is an Ass (1667).

The primary focus will be on comparing the character of Satan in these works with Milton’s characterization in Paradise Lost by looking at how the character is described, both by the character himself and by other characters. A secondary focus will be the gap that exists between the 7th and 13th century in which Satan was mainly appropriated by the Catholic Church. Thirdly, I will look at how individual scholars have addressed some of these individual sources and analogues.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Thesis Prospectus: Rough draft

Okay, so I have to add the specifics about Forsyth's chapter but other than that, I think it's a good rough draft. Not sure if I'm supposed to put in the Harris moves that each scholar makes, but that will be easy to add.

Current scholarship in Milton studies focuses on several related topics; Paradise Lost’s function as a polemic, Paradise Lost as an anti-royalist writing, Satan as a revolutionary and the use of Satanic subjects as a way of illustrating Milton’s heretical tendencies. This can be seen in Achinstein’s Milton and the Revolutionary Reader (1994), Bryson’s The Tyranny of Heaven: Milton’s Rejection of God as King (2004), Lieb’s Theological Milton: Deity, Discourse and Heresy in the Miltonic Canon (2006), Lander’s Inventing Polemic: Religion, Print, and Literacy Culture in Early Modern England (2006), Loewenstein and Marshall’s Heresy, Literature and Politics in Early Modern English Culture (2007) and Achinstein and Sauer’s Milton and Toleration (2007). These works tend to look at Paradise Lost and Milton as either a way to view the other political writings of the time or as proof of Milton’s heretical leanings. Some writers, most notably and recently Forsyth in The Old Enemy and The Satanic Epic, have looked at what sources Milton may have used in creating his compelling character of Satan. However, examining sources has often fallen into the realm of folklorists versus English literature scholars.


However, most of the work involving analyzing sources for Milton’s Paradise Lost was written in the first half of the 20th century. Some scholars have examined the character of Satan in general, not specific to Milton’s portrayal such as Le Bosquet’s “The Evil One: A Development” (1912), Caldwell’s series “The Doctrine of Satan: In the Old and New Testament” (1913), Kellogg in “Satan, Langland, and the North” (1949), and Stein’s “Satan: The Dramatic Role of Evil” (1950). After this, past scholarship has focused on Satan as an epic or anti-hero and comparing Paradise Lost to Judaic and Biblical writings. The current trend of viewing Paradise Lost through a political lens has dominated scholarly work lately.

Some individual scholars such as Lever, Woolf, Potter, Paolucci and Rohrich have looked at smaller pieces of this puzzle, individual sources. When many scholars look at possible sources Milton may have used most makes the contradicting claim that Milton, as well read as he was, must have been familiar with the text while at the same time stating that any similarities are coincidental, hedging their bets so to speak. Lever addresses both this and the idea of sources in his article “Paradise Lost and the Anglo-Saxon Tradition” (1947) where he spends the entire article addressing the similarities between Christ and Satan and Paradise Lost and then counters himself at the end by stating that the similarities are simply coincidence, as should be expected of something addressing common Christian themes.

Woolf, on the other hand, in “The Devil in Old English Poetry” (1953) states that similarities in characterization are due to Loki and Satan (in Christ and Satan) emerging at the same time. He argues that the origins of Satan as heroic possibly began with the Anglo Saxons, as they would have seen his actions as heroic for how he dealt with his inevitable expulsion from heaven. Woolf also addresses the fact that Christian doctrine and Loki mythology would have coincided and compares the similarities between the two characters. Woolf focuses on Anglo Saxon readership and does not offer any insights into how the Loki myths evolved, or cite any particular sources for the Loki myth. However, because of his evidence of the similarities between the character of Satan and Loki, the Norse myths serve as an excellent source for the character of Satan.

In “German Devil Tales and Devil Legends” (1970), Rohrich examines the idea that devil tales and legends have stopped being folklore and have become part of the historical record. While he offers some detailed descriptions of how the devil was portrayed and viewed, he fails to cite any particular sources for his information, thus calling into question his information. However, he does vaguely reference the medieval sermons that spawned some of these legends and gives a detailed description of how these devil tales and legends evolved. He culminates his argument by citing Grimm’s fairy tales as evidence of the popularity of these tales and legends. While the Grimm brothers did not compile their tales until the early 1800s, the sources for their tales had been around the Germanic folkloric tradition for much longer and therefore these tales and legends are an excellent source for comparison to Milton. The problem that arises here is that Rohrich is a folklorist and therefore has little written record to work with. However, despite there not being a written record, there is a record of these tales, and therefore they are a valid source.

Often, Inferno’s Satan is dismissed due to the fact that he appears in the poem so briefly. However, in “Dante’s Satan and Milton’s ‘Byronic Hero’” (1964), Paolucci argues that despite the differences in their physical descriptions, these characters are in fact very similar in the ways in which they suffer the pain of their sins. Both were the brightest of angels, and now, although in different ways, are the lowest of creatures. She also points out the parallels between how Heaven and Hell are organized and how this order is political in nature; by defying God, these characters have not just defied him, but the political order of the universe. Paolucci also argues that neither author meant for their characters to be read superficially and that the reader is misunderstanding the texts if they do so. She also notes that Dante’s representation is important because of the way in which it functions, just as Milton’s characterization is the culmination of all that came before, so was Dante’s at the time.

Another source for comparison is the portrayals of the devil/Satan in drama. In “Three Jacobean Devil Plays” (1931), Potter argues that it was the devil known in English folklore that was represented on the stage, a devil that was instantly recognizable by his physical appearances and yet starred in comedies of the time. The devil of these plays does not depend upon a magician to conjure him up, the plays’ action all begins in hell and despite the fact that it is accepted that the devil can change his shape, he is recognized by his eyes, animal like sounds and thunder or lightning that accompanies him. These devils were self-possessed characters of their own merit and not dependent upon humans, although they were often the butt of his jokes. These dramas served to not only show the devil of English legend and folklore but also to forward the life of the character.

In The Satanic Epic, Forsyth focuses mainly on how Paradise Lost functions as an epic however, chapter BLECH does address the origins of the character. He argues that… However, his views are not wholeheartedly accepted. Kelley, in a review of the book, argues that Forsyth bases his work on misreading of previous texts. He says that there is no proof prior to the first century C.E that Satan fell as a result of rebellion, that Forsyth neglects to address traditions where Satan is seen as a world leader, that Forsyth’s sweeping statements about the Lucifer of medieval theology and literature being the same as the Old and New Testament are incorrect and the assumption that Milton’s Satan in Paradise Lost is based in Scripture is wrong.

However, what these scholars fail to explore is to look at the major characterizations, compare them side by side to Milton and use this to highlight how his Satan is not only a fusion of these characters but also a new creation. This is important because it opens up a whole new set of questions in regards to examining Paradise Lost and the character of Satan. Some of these questions I will use to examine how the source functions within it’s time period but they are useful questions for not only examining these sources, but also to serve as a baseline for examining works that came after. Some of these questions include: how is the character used to personify a particular religious or political figure of the time (pope, anti-royalist)? How did religious representations of Satan differ from the political representations and what is the significance of these differences? How did the character of Satan move from a character in Biblical literature to one used my the Church to exemplify evil, to a literary character, to a symbolic representation of the opposition in political writings? How does the author of any given source or analogue use the character of Satan (as a figure to be feared, a moral lesson, as an anti-hero) and how seriously does the author treat the character of Satan? What role did the character play in nationalistic arguments? How was the character of Satan used to mask dangerous political positions? How did the character evolve as time went by?

In not addressing this question, scholars have failed to be able to fully place Milton in context. Examining classical and biblical sources he may have used only goes part of the way. In order to truly appreciate and understand Milton’s genius in creating something entirely new, one must know of all that came before. In neglecting this course of study, scholars are also deprived of a course of study in examining the literature that came after Milton and was influenced by Paradise Lost.

In this paper, I will look at the major characterizations of Satan that came before Milton’s and in order to understand the evolution of the character, this paper will look at these works in chronological order: Christ and Satan (7th century), the myths of Loki in Poetic Edda (13th century), canto XXXIV of Inferno (1308-1321), the Third Vision: The Quest for Dowel, Passus VIII; the Fifth Vision, Passus XVI and the Sixth Vision, Passus XVIII of Piers Plowman (1369-1387), the York plays, specifically The Fall of the Angels (1463-1477), Malleus Maleficarum (1486), Daemonologie (1597), Doctor Faustus (1604), The King James Bible (1611), and the Jacobean play The Devil is an Ass (1667).

The primary focus will be on comparing the character of Satan in these works with Milton’s characterization in Paradise Lost by looking at how the character is described, both by the character himself and by other characters. A secondary focus will be the gap that exists between the 7th and 13th century in which Satan was mainly appropriated by the Catholic Church. Thirdly, I will look at how individual scholars have addressed some of these individual sources and analogues.