Paradise Lost Book 2: Line 450-453 - Explanation

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Line. 450-453: Wherefore, do of honour.

      When the conclave in Hell was deliberating how best they may revenge themselves on God, Beelzebub proposed that they might invade the newly created world of Man, seduce him from his allegiance to God, and thus annoy the Almighty. His plan was agreed to, but no one dared to volunteer himself on this adventure, for its perils were many Satan, alone, undertook the risk, and in these lines, he justifies himself.

      "Why should I be your king," he asks, "if I do not take upon myself, the honour as well as the hazard of the position I occupy." The questions is pertinent, and it reveals how Satan was keenly alive to the responsibilities of his office. It shows him to be just and honourable. The words might well have come out of the lips of Oliver Cromwell himself, as biographers of Milton have not hesitated to point out.

      But, it should be remembered that Satan merely hides his true purpose behind this specious plea. He cares a jot to risk his person for honour, if it would not establish him more securely on his throne. His aspiring mind, bend on self-exaltation, rather than a disinterested love of honour and the zeal for the common weal, are implied in this pice of self-gratulatory bombast.

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