Beelzebub: Character Analysis in Paradise Lost Book 2

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      The veteran Beelzebub is a worthy lieutenant of Satan. In the first book he is described to be the only angel besides Satan who rises out of the trance and converses with his chief about the situation of their affairs. Satan has a deep regard for his intellect and advice and Beelzebub is fully worthy of that honor. When he stands up to speak his distinctions are at once marked. He is tall and stately and looks like a pillar of state. His broad shoulders, furrowed forehead and princely and grave demeanor distinguish him from the vulgar and thoughtless rabble. He was keenly following the trend of the debates so long, himself remaining silent; but the foolishness and hollowness of his predecessors now compel him to open his lips.

      The peace proposal of Belial and die prospect of founding a magnificent nether empire held before them by Mammon were quite after the liking of the fallen angels who shrank from the very idea of risking another battle with the inexorable God. They applauded Mammon loudly and heartily,

"Which when Beelzebub perceived, than whom,
Satan except, none higher Sat, with grave
Aspect he rose, and in his rising seemed
A pillar of state; deep on his front engraven
Deliberation sat and public care;
And princely counsel in his face yet shone,
Majestic though in ruin. Sage he stood,
With Atlantean shoulders fit to bear
The weight of mightiest monarchies"

      What a splendid picture of a wise statesman, sober thinker, and mighty leader! His very appearance and movement distinguish him from the rest amidst whom he shines like a prince. He has none of Moloch’s mad fury, Belial's seductive sophistry, and Mammon's dream of vain empires. He is the worthy lieutenant of Satan and has the deep foresight and extensive experience of a veteran and practical politician. With a full-toned voice that resounds from the one end of Pandemonium to the other, he thunders:-

"Thrones and imperial Powers, Offspring of
Ethereal Virtues! or these titles now Heaven,
Must we renounce, and changing style, he called
Princes of Hell? for so the popular vote
Inclines, here to continue, and build up here
A growing empire-doubtless."

      What deep pain and trenchant irony are in these words! He is rather surprised to find that the rebellious angels have lost not only their seats in heaven but their courage and sanity as well. The short-sighted fools are hatching empires in Hell. Is Hell outside the jurisdiction of God’s all-embracing power? The wise statesman says:

"For he, be sure,
In height or depth, still first and last will reign
Sole King and of his Kingdom lose no part
By our revolt, but over Hell extend
His empire, and with iron scepter rule
Us here, as with his golden those in Heaven".

      Like Moloch, he has no vague or wrong idea of God's power and no exaggerated notion of the power of the fallen angels. His wisdom and sense of responsibility do not allow him to win cheap applause from his audience by indulging in false heroics, or parading seductive logic, or tempting them with empty hopes. There is nothing showy or dramtic in his speech, but every word of what he speaks is sane, weighty, and thoughtful. He is too wise to hurl like Moloch mad defiance at God, and too proud to think of submission and accommodation like Belial and Mammon. His practical wisdom rebels against all ideas of building castles in the air like his predecessors. He knows that direct war is out of the question, and to think of any honorable peace under the present state of affairs is no less absurd. So his clear thinking leads him to propose a third course which is specially adapted to the present exigency. He says:

"What if we find
Some easier enterprise? There is a place
(If ancient and prophetic fame in Heaven
Err not), another world, the happy seat
Of some new race called Man,

Thither let us bend all our thoughts, to learn
What creatures there inhabit, of what, mould,
Or substance,

Some advantageous act may be achieved
By sudden onset"

      Though this is no original proposal of Beelzebub but only an elaboration of what was once cursorily proposed by the prince of the fallen angels himself, still its practical shape is owing to him. The project is so reasonable that he straight wins the game. This is statesmanship. Beelzebub may not be a great fighter, and in fighting he is certainly out bidden by Moloch, but as a wise counselor he is second only to Satan himself. The members of the infernal parliament vote for his proposal; but he is too practical to be carried off by cheers and applause. He must find out the proper person to be sent on this dangerous errand because everything depends on the wisdom of this selection. Fully conscious of the dangers and difficulties of the mission he says:

"But first, whom shall we send
In search of this new world? Whom shall we find
Sufficient? Who shall tempt with wandering feet
The dark, unbuttoned, infinite Abyss?"

      Though Beelzebub is our great enemy next to Satan for making this vicious proposal of ruining the happiness of man, still we cannot but admire the intelligence and cool judgment of this subtle politician and diplomat and thus give the devil his due.

      He is wise, sane, cool, calculating and above all intensely practical. The policy which he advocates is an admirable compromise between the different proposals of peace and war. It is the policy of revenge without war.

      Beelzebub's definite and reasonable proposition is at once accepted. He drops no fire uses no retorts and sees no vision of golden empires but straight delivers what is rational, and wins the game. This is statesmanship. Beelzebub is not known to be a great fighter, but he is a wise minister. He is the wisest of the infernal spirits. Satan alone excepted.

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