The Soliloquies in Paradise Lost Book 9

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      All the three main characters in Paradise Lost have been assigned one soliloquy each, Satan, the central figure has been given the longest soliloquy in the poem. Through these soliloquies, Milton provides us a peep into the ‘psyche’ of his characters and thus reveals their plans and motives. The future development is also brought forth in advance with the help of these soliloquies and the reader is well prepared for the Fall of Eve and Adam subsequently by knowing the planned actions of Satan through his soliloquy.

Satan’s Soliloquy

      The story of Satan had broken off at the end of Book IV, it is now resumed here. He returns after seven nights and during these seven nights he undertakes a voyage round the earth and enters the garden of Eden stealthily under the cover of darkness at a place opposite to the entrance guarded by the angels. Satan decides to assume the form of a serpent to tempt Eve. Satan indulges in the longest of the three soliloquies present in the book. His soliloquy reveals not only his inner anguish, his passion for revenge, but also his consciousness of his own degradation. He looks at the Earth admiringly and feels that the Earth is a suitable residing place even for the Gods. Satan does not want to dwell either in Heaven or in Earth-unless it were by mastering God. He no longer hopes by what he does to reduce his own misery, but to make others as miserable as he is, even at the cost of making things worse for himself. He has lost the faculty of deriving pleasure and does not derive any joy from walking among the beautiful hills, valleys, rivers, woods and plains. He does not find any pleasure in moving from land to the sea, the shores, the forests, the rocks, the valleys and the caves. He feels more and more tormented by seeing the pleasure around him. He burns with the relentless desire of revenge. His aims are either to destroy man or to tempt him over to do something which would mean his utter destruction. He wishes to destroy everything in one day what it took God Almighty six days and six nights to create. God created man and endowed him with the heavenly virtues to fill the void created by the rebel angels. Since Satan has failed in taking his revenge upon God directly, he will attack the next best object of envy, the new favorite of Heaven, the product of scorn, made from dust purposely to spite the fallen. Satan takes possession of the serpent when it is sleeping, the ‘fit vessel’, permeating its animal faculties with the power of intellect, and waits in hiding, the approach of morning. His physical as well as moral degradation is brought out thus:

O foul descent! that I who erst contended
With Gods to sit the highest, am now constrained
Into a beast and mixed with beastial slime,
This essence to incarnate and imbrute,
That to the height of deity aspired,
But what will not ambition and revenge
Descend to? Who aspires must down as low
As high he soared, obnoxious first or last
To basest things. Revenge at first thought sweet,
Bitter ere long back on itself recoils.

      Thus, the soliloquy of Satan fully brings out his envy, his hatred, and his burning passion for revenge.

Eve’s Soliloquy

      The second soliloquy is that of Eve after she has tasted the forbidden fruit of the ‘Tree of knowledge’ She feels elated and even thinks of her possibility of becoming a God. She feels intoxicated and experiences ‘euphoria.’ She feels that she is growing mature in knowledge. Her first words are in praise of the tree, which now draws from her the language of a devout worshipper. It is to be hence forward the object of daily worship and tendance till, nourished by what hangs on its branches ‘offer’d free all’. Eve’s second tribute is to the ‘Experience’ as ‘Best guide’. Through following it, she has found access to wisdom, even though wisdom may as yet be withdrawn into hiddenness. Perhaps she herself is secret; too, hidden from high Heaven, which is too remote for a close watch on earth to be maintained. She also becomes sly and crafty. Eve now debates with herself whether she should tell all about the day’s happenings to Adam or not. She feels it a nice opportunity to claim equality or even superiority over Adam by keeping the secret to herself and denying him the Knowledge. The triviality of her thinking is brought out thus:

But keep the odd of knowledge in my power
Without copartner? So to add what wants
In female sex, the more to draw his love
And render me more equal and perhaps-
A thing not undesirable - sometimes Superior?

      But very soon she is overcome with the idea of death and Adam marrying again. Moreover, her love for Adam prompts her to share her secret with him:

Then I shall be no more
And Adam, wedded to another Eve
Shall live with her enjoying, I extinct.
A death to think, confirmed, then I resolve
Adam shall share with me in bliss or woe
Though actually fallen she feels that she has risen in the chain of being. She confesses that she loves Adam dearly and could not endure to live without him. But such love can only operate by surrender to betrayal, as Adam too discovers when his turn comes.

Adam’s Soliloquy

      The last soliloquy, that of Adam, reveals his nobility and selfless love. Adam already had a premonition of ‘something ill’. Adam is totally astonished and a chill runs through his veins at the action of Eve’s disobedience. He immediately detects the hand of their fraudulent enemy at the back of it and sees their joint ruin in it. He, however, does not waver, over the pros and cons of sharing everywhere, with her and resolves to die with her. According to Milton, Adam decides to eat the fruit overcome by ‘female charms’. He vows never to be parted from Eve either in sorrow or in joy.

The link of nature I feel me: flesh of my flesh
Bone of my bone thou art, and from thy state
Mine never shall be parted, bliss or woe.

      He tells Eve of the audacity of her presumptuous act and its eventually provoking the great peril. Adam tries to cling to some hope and wishes that perhaps the transgression of Eve is not so evil and they are ultimately not inflicted with the penalty of death as the serpent who tasted the fruit before them. He contemplates that may be the Almighty will not destroy the two of his most beautiful creatures. By doing so he would be giving a chance to his adversary to be successful in his motives of taking his indirect revenge upon God. Thus, he decides to bear the doom which Eve will have to undergo.

However, I with thee have fixed my lot,
Certain to undergo like doom: if death
Consort with thee, death is to me as life;
So forcible within my heart I feel
The bond of nature draw me to my own,
My own in thee, for what thou art is mine
Our state cannot be severed; we are one
One flesh; to lose thee were to lose myself

      Eve is grateful at this mark of strong affection from her husband. She is glad to hear Adam speak of their unity in the flesh. She amplifies the bond; they are ‘One Heart, one Soul in both’; as evidenced by Adam’s noble resolve to share with her ‘one Guilt, one Crime’.

University Questions

Give a critical analysis of Milton’s use of soliloquies in Book IX of Paradise Lost.
“Milton gives us a peep into the mind of his characters, thus revealing their motives and schemes with the help of soliloquies.” Discuss with reference to Book IX of Paradise Lost.

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