The purpose of this research is to examine the speech of Satan as the serpent in Book IX of Paradise Lost. The plan of the research will be to set forth Satan's characterizations of the lower gods in Book IX, with particular reference to the promises he makes to Eve regarding her godlike status, and then to discuss echoes of the characterizations in a way that points to a unity of theme built around Milton's exploration of man's relation to forces greater than himself.
Satan's successful temptation of Eve, which is the core episode of the fall of man, may be said to occur in large part because of Satan's ability to entice Eve to what seems a higher state of being than humanity. He does this by differentiating human and divine attributes and by suggesting that Eve and Adam can become as God by becoming themselves gods of a kind. When Satan refers to the lower gods, he suggests that they have specific functions in the running of the universe, and suggests that Eve may attain some connection with the workings of the universe if she eats the fruit of the tree of knowledge.
When he first approaches Eve, Satan refers to her as the "Empress of this fair World" (IX. 568). In the course of his seduction, he calls her "Queen of this Universe" (IX. 685). Such flattery, which contains a grain of truth, is designed to cozen Eve into a sense of confidence in her primary status in the world. Once this is accepted by Eve, it becomes possible for Satan to posit a universe of proportional or indeed equal deities, headed by what he suggests is an envious God, a God who resists equal partners in the universe. The basic argument rests on Satan's insistence that Eve and Adam are entitled, by virtue of their dominion over earthly things, to reach divine dominion.
That ye should be as Gods, since I as Man,
Internal Man, is but proportion meet-
I, of brute, human; ye, of human, Gods.
So ye shall die perhaps by putting off
Human, to put o...