Milton's Use of Soliloquy in Paradise Lost Book 9

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      Paradise Lost, Book IX has several dramatic overtones, and the soliloquy is also one of the dramatic devices employed by Milton. To each of the main characters in the book, Milton assigns a soliloquy, and in each case it is an effective means by which the motives and springs of action of the character are revealed. This is specially so in the case of Satan.

Satan’s Soliloquy

      Except for the account of the earlier warfare in Heaven, we have heard nothing of Satan since we saw him “squat like a toad” at Eve’s ear, then springing up to face Gabriel and the other angels. Having learned a lesson about the angelic guards who now surround Eden, he has ventured out only at night. “The space of seven continued nights he rode with darkness” considering closely all the animals, trying to decide which one would suit his purposes, settling finally upon the serpent. We are alone with Satan as he is impressed in spite of himself. He would have gladly walked across the Garden of Eden with all its delights, but he was fired by the passion for revenge and he could find no joy in any of those beauties. He shows also sufficient intelligence to appreciate the well-ordered evolution of life from ‘plant and herb’ to ‘nobler birth of creatures animate’ until ‘growth, sense, reason’ are all summed up in Man. But, the more he sees of pleasure about him, the more he feels the torment within him—the jealous creature that he is. There is momentary regret for the Heaven he has lost, a faint flickering of the former angelic conscience at the idea of destroying the Paradise on earth. But the “fixed will” and obdurate pride” have hardened still more. Wherever Satan is there is Hell:

the more I see
Pleasures about me, so much more I feel
Torment within me, as from the hateful siege
Of contraries; all good to me becomes
Bane, and in Heaven much worse would be my state. (Lines 118-123)

      Since this world is not for him, at any rate not meant for him, he will destroy it. There is but one source of pleasure and this is the pleasure of distinction. If a further reason were wanted, it is there in his envy of Man. Speaking of the Creator, he says, “Man he made, and for him built Magnificent this World, ’’while the same Creator thought fit to kick Satan an archangel, down to Hell. He will therefore revenge himself on Man. He cannot reach out to God the Father, and therefore he will wring the neck of the child.

      Through Satan’s lips, Milton utters the theory of tragedy he shared with his classical predecessors and Elizabethan near contemporaries, the tragic irony of a degeneration such as Satan’s.

O, foul descent: that I who erst contended
With gods to sit the highest, am now constrained

      Descent from his once grand nature and stature to the baseness he has deliberately chosen is emphasized by the figures of speech in the passage.

Eve’s Soliloquy

      Eve has a soliloquy given to her after the significant event of eating the forbidden fruit. Eve is more than a little drunk, and like any intoxicated person, experiences euphoria. She believes herself not only in complete control of the situation but entirely justified in all she has done and plans to do. She has suddenly become crafty and sly, like the serpent who tempted her. Ambition and aspiration have done their work. One most important question remains: shall she share her discovery with Adam or keep it to herself?

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? (Lines 819-825)

      But then the thought comes—What if she dies: without Adam, she would indeed die—‘so dear I love him’ she says. So she decides to share the fruit with him. ‘So dear I love him’ is genuine; and we must remember that her love not only brings about Adam’s fall but in the end brings about their reconciliation to each other and to God. Nevertheless, all her thoughts at the moment are self-regarding; it is what she will gain or lose that occupies her. This selfishness in love is a direct and unavoidable effect of the situation created by her fall; her love can now act in only one of two ways, by giving up Adam or by betraying him. Adam will be faced with a similar dilemma. The human situation has been corrupted: that is the fact to remember as we come to Adam’s ordeal.

      Eve’s soliloquy reveals how her mind and nature; and her relationship to Adam, have been altered by sin.

Adam’s Soliloquy

      Adam meets Eve coming with the branch of the forbidden tree. She tells him about having tasted the forbidden fruit. Adam stands stupefied:

From his slake hand the Garland wreath’d for Eve
Down dropped, and all the faded Roses shed:
Speechless he stood, and pale, till thus at length
First to himself he inward silence broke.
Som cursed fraud
Of Enemie hath beguil’d thee, yet unknown,
And me with thee hath ruined, for with thee
Certain my resolution is to Die;
How can I live without thee, how forgone
Thy sweet Converse and Love so dearly joined,
To live again in these wilde Woods forlorn?
Should God create another Eve, and I
Another Rib afford, yet love of thee
Would never from my heart; no, no, I feel
The Link of Nature drew me: flesh of Flesh,
Bone of my Bone thou art, and from thy state.
Mine never shall be parted, bliss or woe. (Lines 904-916)

      ‘If Adam’s word’, comments Waldock, ‘are allowed to have the meanings that words usually have in English, these lines mean love.’

      Confronted by this awful dilemma, Adam takes what seems, under the stress of his feeling, the only possible decision. But the decision signifies that Adam prefers his love of Eve to love of God.

      Eve falls through credulity; Adam falls because he does not realize that the duty of an unfallen man who wants to help a fallen beloved is not to share her sin, and so render them both helpless, but to intercede for her while he is yet sinless.

University Questions

Critically analyse Milton’s use of soliloquy in Paradise Lost Book IX.
How does Milton’s use of soliloquy reveal the motives and springs of action in his characters? Discuss with reference to Paradise Lost Book IX.

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