Moloch: Character Analysis in Paradise Lost Book 2

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      Addison has rightly observed that the persons whom Milton introduces into his poem always speak and act in a manner which is strictly comfortable to their respective characters. The four speakers of the infernal parliament, Moloch, Belial, Mammon and Beelzebub speak exactly as they should do. Their speeches are not temporary effusions but are a logical outcome of their characters.

      Moloch is a veritable fire-brand. He is a fire-breathing demon, fierce, ferocious and furious. During the battle in Heaven he fought bravely in the front rank and threatened Gabriel to chain him to his chariot wheels. In the infernal council, he belows like an infuriated bull and hurls defiance at the Omnipotent. Conciliation, compromise, debate and diplomacy are against his fiery nature. He is for direct and immediate action. Fine-spun policies and well-organized plans are not for him. He is a firm believer in the cult of the cudgel and so will pay God back in his own coin, thunder for thunder, fire for fire. Standing to deliver his speech in the infernal parliament he bluntly bursts out:

"My sentence is for open war, of wiles
More unexpert, I boast not: them let those
Contrive who need."

      What a plain statement! Delay and deliberations are galling to him and are asure sign of shameless cowardice. He impatiently shouts out, saying,

"Shall the rest,
Millions that stand in arms, and longing wait
The signal to ascend, sit lingering here
Heaven's fugitives, and for their dwelling place
Accepts this dark opprobrious den of shame,
The prison of his tyranny who reigns
By our delay?"

      We cannot but give him credit for reckless courage, though we distinctly feel that this fire-eating fiend is totally wanting in the sanity of a leader. Fire and brimstone do not always succeed, we know. That coolness and fine judgment, that consideration of the environments and adaptability to circumstances which mated with courage constitute fine-tempered heroism, are not his. He is for shouting and cudgeling in the thick of the fight regardless of all consequences. He must pay the tyrant of heaven back in his own coin. Calculations and considerations are totally alien to his nature. Either he must mend the circumstances he is in, or end them once for all. They are already in the worst and there can be nothing worse than the worst. Taunting those who are more prudent and therefore more cowardly, he bitterly remarks-

"What can be worse
That to dwell here, driven out from bliss, condemned In this abhorred deep in utter woe;"

      Moloch is a little thick of brain, and knows no clear thinking. With blood-shot eyes and dilated nostrils he goes on blustering like a brute. Despair has made him more fierce and he explodes like a bomb. In his opinion there is nothing more to lose and nothing worse to suffer. Being spirits of Heaven they are rolling in Hell-fire-and what can be worse? The slavery to God is most galling to him; so one of the two must end-their lives, or their slavery. Death before dishonor.

      This rough and bloody devil has something attractive about him. He is very frank and sincere and has the courage to call a spade a spade. He is a thunderstorm, a volcano, and is rightly called "the furious king". To him simply to breathe is not life. To drag on his miserable existence amidst the eternal torments of Hell is unbearable to him. Either he must live comfortably or cease to live altogether. Hence he is for open war and immediate revenge.

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