Fallen Faith: Satan as Allegory in Milton’s Paradise Lost


  • Margaret Johnson


In Paradise Lost, Satan falls from the heavenly spheres, plunging through nightmarish limbo for nine days, and landing in the depths of Hell. Yet, prior to his descent into Hell, Satan belonged in Heaven, an archangel named Lucifer, a rational and perfect being created by God. John Milton
depicts him as a powerful angelic being; as Archangel Raphael tells Adam, Lucifer is “of the first, / If not the first Arch-Angel, great in Power, / In favor and preeminence” (I.659-660). Lucifer dwells in heavenly paradise, where angels dance and sing, drink “rubied Nectar” and eat “Angels’
Food” (V.633), and live on verdant lands covered with flowers and “delicious Vines, the growth of Heav’n” (V.635). So why would this favored angel choose to deny his Creator?

In Raphael’s elucidation to Adam about Satan’s fall, we learn that God favors his mighty Archangel Lucifer but not as much as His begotten Son, whom God anoints Messiah. God decrees that all heavenly beings must bow before His Son “and shall confess him Lord” (V.607-8). Milton
renders Lucifer as envious, with a hardened heart, one who refuses to bow before the Son, and by extension, God, his Creator. By denying God, Lucifer seals his doom and is cast from Heaven, “Ordain’d without redemption, without end” (V.615). While it may appear that the Satan of
Paradise Lost is destined to be banished from Heaven—to be used by God as a tool, if you will, to effect the salvation of the world in Christ—another conception of Satan’s role exists. Milton uses the Satan character to argue against the prevailing Calvinist doctrine of his time—double predestination—and to espouse the less damning Arminian model of predestination, thus making Satan an allegory for a fallen faith in God.