International Journal of Humanities and Social Science

ISSN 2220-8488 (Print), 2221-0989 (Online) 10.30845/ijhss

Milton’s Serpent and Satan in Paradise Lost
Tianjiao Li

Satan’s temptation of Eve is regarded by most readers as the most important temptation event in Paradise Lost. Yet scholars have tended to ignore the difference between Satan’s “entering” the Serpent, and Satan’s “becoming” the Serpent when he is leading Eve astray. Other scholars regard the description of the Serpent as peripheral to the epic’s main themes; still others, as demonstrating John Milton’s confusion over snake and Satan, matter and spirit. My contention is that Milton in fact carefully considered and intentionally designed the interaction between Satan and Serpent. I will analyze the process of temptation and the punishment that follows from the perspective of Milton’s animist materialism, and will attempt to show that, because the collocation of the Serpent and Satan are both agents in leading mankind astray, both must be punished. Milton’s animist materialism thus becomes the basis for solving the exegetical puzzle posed by Satan’s relationship with the Serpent.

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