Paradise Lost Book 2: Line 112-115 - Explanation

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Line. 112-115: But all was.....thoughts were low.

      When Satan in Hell's concalve moved the motion what they should do to revenge themselves on God, Belial rose up to deliver his counsel. In these lines Milton defines the character of this rebel angel. Belial had a beautiful person and a persuasive tongue. But though pleasant-featured, there was nothing beautiful within. He was the shallowest among the fallen angels, and most insincere in word and deed. Though he could talk so sweetly as to, bring conviction easily to the listener, yet all his thoughts were low and lewd.

      The poet metaphorically represents him as dropping manna from his tongue, with reference to the honeyed words that fell from his lips. He had this quality in common with the sophists of ancient Greece so that he could make the worse appear the better reason in his speech. His arguments were thus specious.

      It has been pointed out by editors that Milton follows mediaeval tradition in thus assigning beauty of person and persuasiveness of speech to Belial. He has also woven into the fabric of the picture his reminiscance of the character of Socrates as defined by Plato in his Apology.

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