The Miltonic in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, on the Novel’s Bicentenary

“But Paradise Lost excited different and far deeper emotions. I read it, as I had read the other volumes which had fallen into my hands, as a true history. It moved every feeling of wonder and awe, that the picture of an omnipotent God warring with his creatures was capable of exciting. I often referred the several situations, as their similarity struck me, to my own. Like Adam, I was created apparently united by no link to any other being in existence.…Many times I considered Satan as the fitter emblem of my condition…”1

— The creature, in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus (1818)


January 1st, 2018 marks the 200th anniversary of the publication of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. This nineteenth-century Romantic novel is known as a Janus work that looks both backward to eighteenth-century Gothic horror and forward to twentieth-century science fiction—to say nothing of its unshakeable status as a timeless reference for just about any morally questionable scientific endeavor—but less often discussed is its thematic dialogue with John Milton’s seventeenth-century epic poem Paradise Lost (1667). Exploring Frankenstein’s Miltonic elements, analyzing how they inform the novel, and reviewing how they obliquely contribute to the Romantic reading of Milton’s Satan as a profoundly sympathetic figure seems in order for the bicentenary of Mary Shelley’s masterwork.


Milton, Mary, and Shelley

Richard Rothwell, Portrait of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley (1840)
Richard Rothwell, Portrait of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley (1840)

Mary Shelley was born Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin, the child of feminist pioneer Mary Wollstonecraft and anarchist philosopher William Godwin. Inheriting her parents’ creative genius meant inheriting the influence of Milton. Both Wollstonecraft and Godwin were members of the Johnson Circle—the London-based intellectual coterie presided over by the radical publisher Joseph Johnson—within which the Satan of Milton’s Paradise Lost was the subject of much spirited discussion, thus producing the first wave of Romantic Satanism, that most singular branch of Romanticism’s cult of Milton. For instance, Wollstonecraft noted in her feminist treatise A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792) that, in the face of the idealized domesticity of Milton’s Adam and Eve, “instead of envying the lovely pair, I have, with conscious dignity, or Satanic pride, turned to hell for sublimer objects,” and what Wollstonecraft describes as the most sublime sight—“the grandest of all human fights”—is “an outcast of fortune, rising superior to passion and discontent,”2 thus aligning fallen but still-dignified woman with Milton’s sublime Satan, who is Hell-doomed yet remains Heaven-defiant.3 Godwin was especially important in situating Milton’s Satan as a Romantic icon, defending in his influential Enquiry Concerning Political Justice (1793) a position that argues “Milton’s devil to be a being of considerable virtue” as one who, with a strong “sense of reason and justice,” had “rebel[led] against his maker…, as he himself informs us, because he saw no sufficient reason for that extreme inequality of rank and power which the creator assumed,” and who subsequently “bore his torments with fortitude, because he disdained to be subdued by despotic power.”4 Little did Godwin know that one of his own children would come to pen the modern world’s perennial tale about the tensions between creator and creature—a literary classic dedicated to none other than Godwin himself.5

The spirit of Milton loomed over Mary Shelley as much as he had over her prestigious radical parents. She had been reading Paradise Lost along with Percy Bysshe Shelley throughout the dreary summer of 1816,6 when the eighteen-year-old Mary first conceived what would become Frankenstein, courtesy of a ghost story competition proposed by Lord Byron, their neighbor on Lake Geneva, and a fellow English outcast.7 Unsurprisingly, like the pariah poetry of Shelley and Byron, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is suffused with Milton,8 advertising the Miltonic inheritance right on its title page, as Shelley’s novel takes its epigraph from Paradise Lost, when the fallen Adam addresses his Creator thus:

Did I request thee, Maker, from my Clay
To mould me Man, did I solicit thee
From darkness to promote me[?]… (X.743–45)9

These Miltonic lines must have been particularly poignant for Mary herself as a young person with a troubled relationship with her own makers: her birth had robbed her mother of life, as Wollstonecraft died from complications only eleven days after the birth of Mary in 1797, and, more importantly, her relationship with her father Godwin had been fractured when in 1814, at the age of sixteen, she eloped to the Continent with Shelley, Godwin’s ardent protégé, and a married man. A disowned daughter and a young woman demolishing her reputation in respectable society back home in England, Mary was in a state of profound alienation when the germ of Frankenstein took root in her youthful mind. The relationship between father and daughter would improve at the close of 1816 when Mary and Shelley married, following the suicide of Shelley’s first wife, Harriet Westbrook, who was pregnant with a third child by him. The marriage was in part intended to help Shelley’s case for custody of his two living children by Harriet, but he was nevertheless denied on account of his irreligion and dissoluteness.10 Following the fierce impulses of their hearts and indulging in idealistic pursuits to change the world mired the Shelleys in deep moral ambiguity, which had a turbulent impact on their lives. The intense ambivalence that accompanies aspiring beyond social mores permeates Frankenstein, and is often expressed through the lens of the Miltonic Satan.


How Milton’s Paradise Lost Informs Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein

Theodore Von Holst, Frontispiece to Mary Shelley's Frankenstein (1831)
Theodore Von Holst, Frontispiece to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1831)

In the novel Frankenstein, both Victor Frankenstein and his unnamed creature11 are paralleled to Milton’s Satan. The creature in particular repeatedly relates his situation to Satan’s so as to stress his own alienation and despair, which in turns leads him to vengefully impose suffering on others—in this case, the kith and kin of Frankenstein, the source of the creature’s suffering. “I had cast off all feeling,” he relates, “subdued all anguish to riot in the excess of my despair. Evil thenceforth became my good” (159). Frankenstein’s creature takes the words right from the mouth of Milton’s Satan, who in his apostrophe to the Sun, finding “All hope excluded” and therefore “all Good” to be “lost” in him, infamously declares, “Evil be thou my Good…” (IV.105, 109–10). And as embracing evil at least puts Milton’s Satan in competition with God—“by thee at least / Divided Empire with Heav’n’s King I hold / By thee, and more than half perhaps will reign” (IV.110–12)—Frankenstein’s creature assumes some measure of dignity by his ability to pursue and punish his cruel creator. “As the story progresses so he becomes progressively more Satanic,” the late Christopher Small observed in Ariel like a Harpy: Shelley, Mary, and Frankenstein, “his powers growing to positively fiendish capacity (he is alluded to more often as ‘the Fiend’ in the later part of the book) and his ill deeds multiplying accordingly, but also taking on some of the Luciferian majesty so striking in Milton’s Satan.”12

Yet the Satan of Paradise Lost was no mere icon of evil for the Romantics, nor was he simply a symbol of the sublime; Milton’s Satan was also a profoundly sympathetic figure, and for this reason Frankenstein’s creature primarily draws the Satanic parallels to illicit sympathy, if not from Frankenstein than certainly from the reader. During his dramatic encounter with his own mortal maker, the creature reveals to “the modern Prometheus” Frankenstein that his autodidactic solitude included reading—in addition to Goethe’s The Sorrows of Young Werther (1774), Plutarch’s Lives, and Frankenstein’s journal relating the profane and grotesque four-month creation project—none other than Milton’s Paradise Lost, which presented a “picture of an omnipotent God warring with his creatures…” (90). On the one hand, Frankenstein’s creature relates to Milton’s Adam as another full-grown man derived directly from his creator, but on the other hand, Adam held pride of place in the Creation and was given a beautiful companion, whereas Frankenstein’s creature, as he himself observes, is an abomination—a monster, and a lonely one at that—and so he identifies with Milton’s Satan rather more. “Many times I considered Satan as the fitter emblem of my condition” (90), the creature confesses, and the main reason for this Satanic self-identification is that his sorrow and suffering, which propels him down a dark path of diabolical vengeance, is rooted in the cold rejection of his creator: “Remember, that I am thy creature: I ought to be thy Adam; but I am rather the fallen angel, whom thou drivest from joy for no misdeed. Every where I see bliss, from which I alone am irrevocably excluded. I was benevolent and good; misery made me a fiend” (68).

Frankenstein, illustrated by Bernie Wrightson
Frankenstein, illustrated by Bernie Wrightson (1948-2017)

Of course, Frankenstein’s creature, doomed from “birth,” is far more alienated than Milton’s Satan, formerly an angelic aristocrat in the heavenly hierarchy, “he of the first, / If not the first Arch-Angel, great in Power, / In favor and preëminence…” (V.659–61). The creature himself, in a moment of supreme sadness, points out that Milton’s Satan, despite his damnation, was far more fortunate than he: “Satan had his companions, fellow-devils, to admire and encourage him; but I am solitary and detested” (91). Frankenstein’s more Satanic figure, then—when defined as a person of privilege who commits a grave transgression and suffers a severe fall for it—is Victor Frankenstein himself. As Small observed in his dissection of Frankenstein, “not only the Monster is a fallen angel: so is Frankenstein. He is so by definition, if we allow Prometheus to be identified in some respects with Lucifer. His attributes and aspirations are angelic: he is extraordinarily gifted, the particular darling of his family, even in ruin described (by Walton, after his death) as a ‘glorious spirit’.”13 Indeed, right at the start of Frankenstein, the character of Walton—the ambitious explorer whose perilous Arctic journey frames the narrative—describes the much-fatigued and near-frozen Victor Frankenstein he takes onboard in language quite reminiscent of Paradise Lost’s portrait of the fallen Satan, whose “form had yet not lost / All her Original brightness, nor appear’d / Less than Arch-Angel ruin’d…” (I.591–93). “He must have been a noble creature in his better days,” Walton writes to his sister, “being even now in wreck so attractive and amiable” (16). Near the end of the novel, Walton’s words are even more evocative of Milton’s great fallen archangel: “What a glorious creature must he have been in the days of his prosperity, when he is thus noble and godlike in ruin. He seems to feel his own worth, and the greatness of his fall” (152). This of course smacks of Paradise Lost’s Prince of Darkness, who in Hell is “Majestic though in ruin” (II.305)14 and is with “transcendent glory rais’d / Above his fellows, with Monarchal pride / Conscious of highest worth” (II.427–29), but who in sight of Eden also recognizes,

While they adore me on the Throne of Hell,
With Diadem and Sceptre high advanc’d
The lower still I fall, only Supreme
In misery; such joy Ambition finds. (IV.89–92)

This particular soliloquy of Satan’s in Paradise Lost is certainly called to mind by Frankenstein’s crestfallen confession to Walton at the close of Mary Shelley’s novel; emphasizing the overriding hubris of his ambitions and the resulting catastrophic fall, Frankenstein fully comprehends his likeness to Lucifer, “the archangel who aspired to omnipotence”:

When younger…I felt as if I were destined for some great enterprise.…I could not rank myself with the herd of common projectors. But this feeling, which supported me in the commencement of my career, now serves only to plunge me lower in the dust. All my speculations and hopes are as nothing; and, like the archangel who aspired to omnipotence, I am chained in an eternal hell.…From my infancy I was imbued with high hopes and a lofty ambition; but how am I sunk! Oh! my friend, if you had known me as I once was, you would not recognize me in this state of degradation. Despondency rarely visited my heart; a high destiny seemed to bear me on, until I fell, never, never again to rise. (152)

Frankenstein, illustrated by Bernie Wrightson
Frankenstein, illustrated by Wrightson

The Satanic turns out to be the strongest link between Frankenstein and his creature: Victor Frankenstein is a Satan before God insofar as he uses his God-given abilities to arrogate godlike power—in this case, the power to create life—and the creature is a Satan before his “God”—i.e., Frankenstein, his “father”—as a creature warring with his own creator. “You are my creator, but I am your master;—obey!” (120) barks Frankenstein’s creature to his “tyrant and tormentor” (121)—when Frankenstein reneges on his agreement to create a female companion for his lonely creature—the monster mimicking Milton’s Satan inasmuch as the archangelic arch-rebel obsesses over “maistring Heav’n’s Supreme” (IX.125).

It’s not for nothing that tradition has blurred the line between Frankenstein and his creature by bestowing the name of the former upon the latter, as the fates of both creator and creature are inextricably intertwined in Frankenstein. Hence, creator and creature echo one another: “…I bore a hell within me, which nothing could extinguish” (59), Victor Frankenstein states, later lamenting, “I was cursed by some devil, and carried about with me my eternal hell” (146), and his creature likewise cries, “I, like the arch fiend, bore a hell within me…” (95). Yet they both echo, as Frankenstein’s rather well-read creature acknowledges, Milton’s Satan, who suffers from “The Hell within him, for within him Hell / He brings, and round about him” (IV.20–21), and who knows that his eternal internal Hell is far worse than the “Infernal Pit” (I.657) wherefrom he has escaped: “Me miserable! which way shall I fly / Infinite wrath, and infinite despair? / Which way I fly is Hell; myself am Hell…” (IV.73–75). As we will see in the following section, however, Frankenstein’s frequent allusions to Milton’s Satan are there for more than simple dramatic effect.


How Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein Informs the Romantic Reading of Milton’s Paradise Lost

Mary Shelley’s novel Frankenstein is engaged in a dialogue with Paradise Lost’s themes, such as “the ways of God to men,” which Milton himself was attempting to “justify” (I.26). Romantic radicals of course celebrated Milton’s Satan as a noble rebel whose heroic defiance of what he lambasts as “the Tyranny of Heav’n” (I.124) roused admiration—and sometimes even emulation in the real-world sociopolitical struggles of the Romantics in their own age. Percy Shelley, for instance, wrote effusively in his Defence of Poetry (1821) that

Nothing can exceed the energy and magnificence of the character of Satan as expressed in Paradise Lost. It is a mistake to suppose that he could ever have been intended for the popular personification of evil.…Milton’s Devil as a moral being is as far superior to his God as one who perseveres in some purpose which he has conceived to be excellent in spite of adversity and torture, is to one who in the cold security of undoubted triumph inflicts the most horrible revenge upon his enemy, not from any mistaken notion of inducing him to repent of a perseverance in enmity, but with the alleged design of exasperating him to deserve new torments.15

Small posited in Ariel like a Harpy that whereas Percy Shelley’s reading of Milton presents “a simple reversal…of moral virtue between God and the Devil,” Mary Shelley’s does not: “For Shelley it was simple: Satan, the justified rebel, was virtuous, God the tyrant was evil. But the moral ambiguity was restored by Mary.”16 This is not entirely accurate of either of the Shelleys, however. While it is certainly true that Frankenstein presents the most ambivalent Romantic commentary on the Miltonic inheritance, Mary Shelley heaps far more sympathy upon Milton’s Satan than may be immediately apparent, and thus she is closer than Small and others have suspected to Percy Shelley’s position on the infernal figure, which does not outright idealize the Devil but presents a rather nuanced assessment.

Gustave Doré, Paradise Lost, Book IX (1866): "Him fast sleeping soon he found / In Labyrinth of many a round self-rowld." (IX.182-83)
Gustave Doré, Paradise Lost, Book IX (1866): “Him fast sleeping soon he found / In Labyrinth of many a round self-rowld.” (IX.182-83)

Shelley voiced his ambivalent view of Milton’s Satan quite clearly in the Preface to his Prometheus Unbound (1820). “The only imaginary being resembling in any degree Prometheus, is Satan,” Shelley contends, yet he proceeds to explain that Prometheus is “a more poetical character than Satan” because the deity-defiant, humanitarian Titan shares the virtues of “courage and majesty and firm and patient opposition to omnipotent force” without the vices of “ambition, envy, revenge, and a desire for personal aggrandisement, which in the Hero of Paradise Lost, interfere with the interest.”17 As far as Shelley was concerned, while “Prometheus is, as it were, the type of the highest perfection of moral and intellectual nature, impelled by the purest and the truest motives to the best and noblest ends,” the same simply cannot be said for the character of Milton’s Satan, who instead “engenders in the mind a pernicious casuistry which leads us to weigh his faults with his wrongs and to excuse the former because the latter exceed all measure.”18 This rather bold position of Shelley’s—that Satan’s shortcomings are essentially excusable because they are utterly outweighed by the wrongdoing perpetrated against him—was previously asserted far less vaguely in one of Shelley’s earlier, unpublished works: his Essay on the Devil and Devils (ca. 1819–20). As a matter of fact, the above quotation from A Defence of Poetry—that Milton’s Satan is unsurpassable in “energy and magnificence”—was a passage Shelley took nearly verbatim from his Essay on the Devil, but what Shelley prudently chose not to copy from his Essay over to his Defence was his irreverently detailed description of how and why that which is genuinely malignant in Milton’s otherwise virtuous Devil—his quest for the destruction of Man—may be blamed upon Milton’s God, who, as in Satan’s “baleful eyes” (I.56), emerges as the far more demonic figure of the story.

In his Essay on the Devil, Shelley observes how remarkably undaunted Milton’s Satan remains in the face of his damnation; however, once God had “exhausted all the varieties of smothering and burning and freezing and cruelly lacerating his external frame, and the Devil laughed at the impotent revenge of his conqueror,” Shelley finds that the almighty tyrant resorted to corrupting Satan’s “benevolent and amiable disposition”19 instead. Milton’s God, according to Shelley, diabolically coerces Satan to pursue the parents of the human race—for whom Satan expresses genuine sympathy—and thereby magnify his own damnation:

He is forever tortured with compassion and affection for those whom he betrays and ruins; he is racked by a vain abhorrence for the desolation of which he is the instrument; he is like a man compelled by a tyrant to set fire to his own possession, and to appear as the witness against and the accuser of his dearest friends and most intimate connections, and then to be their executioner and to inflict the most subtle protracted torments upon them. As a man, were he deprived of all other refuge, he might hold his breath and die—but God is represented as omnipotent and the Devil as eternal. Milton has expressed this view of the subject with the sublimest pathos.20

This is undoubtedly Romanticism’s most extreme defense of the Satan of Paradise Lost. As early as the seventeenth century, Milton’s Satan had been deemed the epic poem’s “hero”—i.e., its active character who is triumphant in his quest21—and throughout the eighteenth century Satan was widely considered an exemplar of the sublime,22 so much so that the text on the sublime, Edmund Burke’s A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful (1757), held up Hell’s towering and still-heavenly radiant Satan as a supreme example of sublimity.23 Many prominent Romantics went further and applauded Milton’s Satan as heroic, if not an outright hero, for his rebellion in Heaven (rather than in spite of it) and his defiance in Hell, but even they tended to overlook Satan’s nefarious activities in Eden. Shelley, on the other hand, brings this aspect of Satan into focus in his Essay on the Devil, which is especially daring for its purpose: incriminating the Deity rather than the Devil.

Frankenstein, illustrated by Bernie Wrightson
Frankenstein, illustrated by Wrightson

It does not seem at all unlikely that a major inspiration for Shelley’s apology for Milton’s Satan was none other than Frankenstein’s monster, whose plight Shelley views through a similar lens. “Treat a person ill, and he will become wicked,” observed Shelley in 1817 in his commentary on his wife’s soon-to-be-published novel, arguing on behalf of its unfortunate creature that “the circumstances of his existence are so monstrous and uncommon, that, when the consequences of them became developed in action, his original goodness was gradually turned into inextinguishable misanthropy and revenge.”24 This is strikingly similar to Shelley’s assertion in his Essay on the Devil (written two or three years later) that Satan’s “benevolent and amiable disposition” is spoiled by his most monstrous circumstances. Of course, unlike Mary Shelley’s victimized creature, Milton’s Satan is not driven from the “happy Fields” (I.249) of Heaven “for no misdeed” (68). Then again, in the rebellious Romantic reading of Paradise Lost, Satan is much more than merely innocent; his rebellion against the Almighty is admirable, and his heroic endurance of all that omnipotent power can hurl down on his defiance is as praiseworthy as the longsuffering Prometheus. As Shelley himself put it, Milton’s Satan is “one who perseveres in some purpose which he has conceived to be excellent in spite of adversity and torture,” one who possesses the “energy and magnificence” of “a moral being…far superior to his God,”25 and so the immoral depths of envy and revenge into which the fallen angel is “thrust[ed]” (IV.508) by the omnipotent hand of Milton’s implacably angry God serves only to excite greater rage for the demonic Deity against whom Satan so nobly rebelled and under whom he suffers in such a Promethean manner.

While Shelley’s profoundly blasphemous apology for the Satan of Paradise Lost quoted at length above appears on the surface of it to overstate the Devil’s case, there is ironically substantial textual support for Shelley’s most sympathetic stance on the fallen angel. Milton’s Satan, as Shelley observes, is anything but “the popular personification of evil,”26 for even when we find him plotting Adam and Eve’s ruin, the Devil remains rather sympathetic. Milton’s soliloquizing Satan, with the hapless human couple in his sight, says that he is “no purpos’d foe / To you whom I could pity thus forlorn / Though I unpitied” (IV.373–75), and he not only “could pity” but “could love” (IV.363) them. Sorrowful, Satan ultimately places the blame upon God Himself for the loathsome vengeance he is forced to inflict upon the innocent parents of the human race: “Thank him who puts me loath to this revenge / On you who wrong me not for him who wrong’d” (IV.386–87). Certain Milton critics have argued that this psychological depth Milton curiously infused his Devil with—not least through the five soliloquies he is given throughout Paradise Lost (IV.32–113, 358–92, 505–35; IX.99–178, 473–93)—is there to demonstrate how God’s creatures (corporeal or incorporeal) pave the road to Hell, which is to say, how horrible evils are committed by shirking moral responsibility and thereby finding a way to justify immoral acts, as when Satan enumerates what “compels me now / To do what else though damn’d I should abhor,” which Milton responds to with the disarming lines, “So spake the Fiend, and with necessity, / The Tyrant’s plea, excus’d his devilish deeds” (IV.391–94). Others have not found this line of reasoning a satisfactory explanation for why Milton—who again with Paradise Lost took it upon himself to “justify the ways of God to men” (I.26)—chose to play up Satan’s majestic grandeur and heroic daring while downplaying his malevolence, creating a Satan not evil incarnate but a complex character reluctantly driven to iniquity by his irremediable circumstances.

To fully comprehend how diluted the evil intent of Milton’s Devil is, we need only compare him to similar literary incarnations of the Prince of Darkness. It has been observed that Milton’s epic hero Satan of Paradise Lost is a descendant of the Lucifers of Renaissance epic;27 however, Milton’s Satan differs markedly from his Renaissance forebears, not least for ruining Adam and Eve being an afterthought for him (I.650–56, II.344–76), an indirect means of bittersweet revenge against the omnipotent Deity that defeated the angelic insurgents in open war (IX.171–78). Envy of Man is much more at the forefront of the other Renaissance Lucifers’ minds.28 In Paradise Lost, Satan initially rises in rebellion against “he who reigns / Monarch in Heav’n” (I.637–38) over the Almighty’s exaltation of His Son to universal kingship (V.600ff.)—to the Romantics a suspect choice for the antimonarchical Milton, apologist for the regicide of Charles I, propagandist for Oliver Cromwell’s Commonwealth, and persona non grata under the restored monarchy with Charles II on the throne. The prior Renaissance epics, by contrast, preferred envy of Man as the root cause of the angels’ rebellion in Heaven and subsequent everlasting war with God.29 Joost van den Vondel’s Lucifer (1654) may offer the closest literary cousin of Milton’s Satan, yet even here enmity with Man is so acute in its eponymous tragic character that in Lucifer’s sequel, Adam in Exile (1664), Vondel depicts a depraved Devil who fantasizes about dancing triumphantly around the corpses of Adam and Eve in their paradisiacal garden turned grave.30 This is a far cry indeed from Milton’s Satan, who sheds tears for Adam and Eve when ruminating on how their “harmless innocence” must soon be destroyed by him, who has no recourse but to precipitate their ruin (IV.388–92).

Gustave Doré, Paradise Lost, Book IX (1866): "O Earth, how like to Heav’n, if not preferr’d / More justly." (IX.99-100)
Gustave Doré, Paradise Lost, Book IX (1866): “O Earth, how like to Heav’n, if not preferr’d / More justly.” (IX.99-100)

Although Milton follows tradition by having the angelically arrogant Satan express disdain for the earthborn creatures of dust promoted to the bliss wherefrom he’s been banished (IV.505–11; IX.143–57), Milton also—and more significantly—breaks radically from tradition by giving his Satan uniquely mixed emotions about orchestrating the Fall of Man, and this peculiar choice lends substantial support to the claim made by Shelley (and by Satan) that Paradise Lost’s Devil has been provoked in his envious malignity by a devious Deity. The sole purpose for which Milton’s God crafts human life is to “worship him.… / And multiply a Race of Worshippers” (VII.628, 630), worshippers who are created to fill the vacant positions of the celestial congregants who rebelled and fell with Satan (VII.150–61). Man, God Himself specifically says, is made to spite Satan, “lest his heart exalt him in the harm / Already done, to have dispeopl’d Heav’n, / My damage fondly deem’d…” (VII.150–52). Satan is certainly not off the mark when he dubs “this new Favorite / Of Heav’n, this Man of Clay” a “Son of despite” (IX.175–76). His “envy” having been “Provoke[d],” Satan decides that “spite then with spite is best repaid” (IX.175, 178), and Milton’s God follows suit, as the Son expresses that the Father’s offer of salvation to fallen Man is, at least in part, designed to spite Satan (III.150–62). The Fall of Man ultimately deals no damage to Milton’s Deity, of course (even the War in Heaven is, in His words, “My damage fondly deem’d”), and in fact the Almighty will only profit from the Fall, for He boasts that Man will “to me owe / All his deliv’rance, and to none but me” (III.181–82). Satan, on the other hand, inflicts upon himself horrible damage by destroying Adam and Eve’s innocence: “…so bent he seems / On desperate revenge,” observes Milton’s omniscient God, “that shall redound / Upon his own rebellious head” (III.84–86), and Satan himself comes to comprehend that “of worse deeds worse sufferings must ensue” (IV.26)—that his relentless pursuit of vengeance only courts further suffering for himself; yet he finds no choice but to carry on:

Revenge, at first though sweet,
Bitter ere long back on itself recoils;
Let it, I reck not, so it light well aim’d,
Since higher I fall short, on him who next
Provokes my envy… (IX.171–75)

Gustave Doré, Paradise Lost, Book VI (1866): "Nine days they fell." (VI.871)
Gustave Doré, Paradise Lost, Book VI (1866): “Nine days they fell.” (VI.871)

Paradise Lost anticipates—and appears to support, albeit unintentionally—Shelley’s radical assertion that Milton’s God is the true architect of the Devil’s malevolence towards Man. Satan snidely but quite rightly states to Gabriel, Eden’s archangelic guardian, “let him surer bar / His Iron Gates, if he intends our stay / In that dark durance” (IV.897–99), and indeed we are reminded early on in Milton’s epic that it is the Almighty Himself who frees Satan from the burning lake of Hell so that “with reiterated crimes he might / Heap on himself damnation” (I.214–15), as well as garner greater glory for God, as Satan’s “spite still serves / His glory to augment” (II.385–86). Milton’s God not only frees Satan from the “Adamantine Chains” (I.48) that bind him on Hell’s burning lake, but places the key to the gates of Hell in the hands of Satan’s daughter Sin, who is easily convinced by her father to aid him in undermining God’s Creation by unlocking the infernal gateway, allowing Satan to commence his journey to Eden (II.850–84). When Milton informs us that “Sin and Death amain / Following his track,” he is sure to emphasize that “such was the will of Heav’n” (II.1024–25), for in the Miltonic cosmos, “the Spirits perverse / With easy intercourse pass to and fro / To tempt or punish mortals…” (II.1030–32). What’s more, Milton explains that human history’s pagans had “Devils to adore for Deities” (I.373) because the host of Hell assumed the identities of the various pagan gods, “wand’ring o’er the Earth, / Through God’s high sufferance for the trial of man…” (I.365–66). This strange scheme of Milton’s God—using the fallen spirits to lead much of the human race astray as some sort of test—all begins with the Almighty using the infernal fugitive Satan to put Adam and Eve’s obedience to the test by having them face disobedience personified (III.80–96). The interlocking reason for Milton’s God ensuring Satan’s arrival in Eden, however, is to lead Satan deeper into his own damnation, as Shelley surmised.

Any genuinely ill-willed action taken up by Satan and his infernal peers occurs only after they have been hurled down into hellfire, and their “Prison ordained” is no correctional facility, but a “Dungeon horrible,” a fiery pit of utter damnation “where peace / And rest can never dwell, hope never comes / That comes to all; but torture without end…” (I.71, 61, 65–67). As Shelley observed, Milton’s God “in the cold security of undoubted triumph inflicts the most horrible revenge upon his enemy,” but not to break Satan’s spirit and drive him into repentance or reform, but strictly to sadistically perpetuate his torment.31 Shelley is quite simply not off the mark, and Milton’s “Torturer” (II.64) God appears to allow Satan to escape from his hopeless infernal torture chamber and journey to the blessed joys of Eden only because He knows that Satan will there be subjected to the greater torment of “the hateful siege / Of contraries” (IX.121–22), fulfilling a punishment of self-destruction devised for the otherwise unconquerable adversary. The twentieth-century literary critic A. J. A. Waldock would go even farther than Shelley, exonerating Milton’s Satan by arguing that his descent is not merely designed by Milton’s God but by Milton himself: “The changes do not generate themselves from within: they are imposed from without. Satan, in short, does not degenerate: he is degraded.”32 Then again, to protest that Milton’s sublime and sympathetic Satan is undone because he is ultimately treated unfairly by an overpowering hand pulling the strings is essentially Shelley’s argument; the Romantic poet simply stepped into Milton’s cosmos to make the case—a case which, while stunningly irreverent in making God the true “Author of evil,” as Satan is labeled for his “revolt” (VI.262), is surprisingly strong.

Gustave Doré, Paradise Lost, Book IV (1866): "Me miserable! Which way shall I fly / Infinite wrath, and infinite despair?" (IV.73-74)
Gustave Doré, Paradise Lost, Book IV (1866): “Me miserable! Which way shall I fly / Infinite wrath, and infinite despair?” (IV.73-74)

Milton critics less sympathetic to Satan than Shelley argue that the rebel angel’s heroism in Paradise Lost’s infernal books—specifically his “unconquerable Will” and “courage never to submit or yield” (I.106, 108), his “dauntless courage, and considerate Pride” (I.603), his assertion that “The mind is its own place, and in itself / Can make a Heav’n of Hell, a Hell of Heav’n” (I.254–55), and his declaration that it is “Better to reign in Hell, than serve in Heav’n” (I.263)—entirely evaporates when Satan is no longer in the infernal regions fighting to rekindle the spirits of his fallen compatriots. It is wrong, however, to view Milton’s Satan as putting on a duplicitous show for political purposes in Hell; it is only after Satan plants his “unblest feet” (I.238) on Earth at the opening of Book IV and directs his gaze toward the Sun, whose divine radiance serves as a bitter reminder of his loss, that this Devil demonstrates a shift in perspective:

O thou that with surpassing Glory crown’d,
Look’st from thy sole Dominion like the God
Of this new World; at whose sight all the Stars
Hide thir diminisht heads; to thee I call,
But with no friendly voice, and add thy name
O Sun, to tell thee how I hate thy beams
That bring to my remembrance from what state
I fell, how glorious once above thy Sphere;
Till Pride and worse Ambition threw me down
Warring in Heav’n against Heav’n’s matchless King:
Ah wherefore! he deserv’d no such return
From me, whom he created what I was
In that bright eminence, and with his good
Upbraided none; nor was his service hard. (IV.32–45)

Prior to this point, Satan has traveled alone across the landscape of Hell, the realm of Chaos, the material cosmos, and the surface of the Sun without suffering any such mental breakdown. Worth noting is that Milton himself, in Book IV’s opening “Argument,” writes that “Satan now in prospect of Eden…falls into many doubts with himself” (277), and not that he—as Satan’s detractors theorize—shows his true face or something to that effect. Satan goes on to reaffirm his position as God’s great adversary, as he later recalls to himself,

…I in one Night freed
From servitude inglorious well nigh half
Th’ Angelic Name, and thinner left the throng
Of his adorers… (IX.140–43)

John Martin, Satan Starts at the Touch of Ithuriel’s Spear (ca. 1823-25)
John Martin, Satan Starts at the Touch of Ithuriel’s Spear (ca. 1823-25)

When the fallen angel returns triumphantly to Hell at the end of his journey, he in fact revels in his identity “Of Satan (for I glory in the name, / Antagonist of Heav’n’s Almighty King)…” (X.386–87). Nevertheless, throughout that journey Satan suffers continued hellish pangs over his loss of heavenly blessedness, a feeling reinforced by the very “Earth, how like to Heav’n, if not preferr’d / More justly, Seat worthier of Gods…” (IX.99–100). Indeed, Book IV not only opens but closes with such a moment, when Satan is discovered within the bower of the slumbering Adam and Eve by the celestially radiant angelic guards Ithuriel and Zephon:

…abasht the Devil stood,
And felt how awful goodness is, and saw
Virtue in her shape how lovely, saw, and pin’d
His loss; but chiefly to find here observ’d
His lustre visibly impair’d… (IV.846–50)

As Satan acknowledges in the first of his five soliloquies given throughout his sorrowful sojourn in Eden, “myself am Hell,” for Satan is painfully well aware that his suffering is to intensify with each step closer to carrying out the ruin of the human race: “…in the lowest deep a lower deep / Still threat’ning to devour me opens wide, / To which the Hell I suffer seems a Heav’n” (IV.75–78). We repeatedly witness Satan’s horrid pain induced by the pleasures surrounding him; exposed to the sight of bliss by the will of God, the Hell-flames within Satan are relentlessly stoked: “…the more I see / Pleasures about me, so much more I feel / Torment within me…” (IX.119–21). “O Hell!” is Satan’s reaction to the sight of Adam and Eve, even though his “thoughts pursue [them] / With wonder, and could love, so lively shines / In them Divine resemblance” (IV.358, 363–65), and not long after we hear him cry “Sight hateful, sight tormenting!” in response to the two “Imparadis’t in one another’s arms…” (IV.505–06). Milton’s Devil is never evil incarnate, however: when Satan (housed within the serpent) sets his sights on the lonesome Eve in her peerless beauty, for instance, he is suddenly struck “Stupidly good”:

That space the Evil one abstracted stood
From his own evil, and for the time remain’d
Stupidly good, of enmity disarm’d,
Of guile, of hate, of envy, of revenge… (IX.463–66)

Yet once again, the fallen angel’s innate admiration for the beauty of goodness is spoiled by the hellish misery his “punisher” (IV.103) has infused in his breast as an affliction fit for the cosmic pariah:

But the hot Hell that always in him burns,
Though in mid Heav’n, soon ended his delight,
And tortures him now more, the more he sees
Of pleasure not for him ordain’d… (IX.467–70)

As Satan earlier states, “only in destroying I find ease / To my relentless thoughts” (IX.129–30), and his “hot Hell that always in him burns” forces Satan to recall that he is Hell-bent on Man’s destruction:

Thoughts, whither have ye led me, with what sweet
Compulsion thus transported to forget
What hither brought us, hate, not love, nor hope
Of Paradise for Hell, hope here to taste
Of pleasure, but all pleasure to destroy,
Save what is in destroying, other joy
To me is lost. (IX.473–79)

Frankenstein, illustrated by Bernie Wrightson
Frankenstein, illustrated by Wrightson

Which brings us back to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. “All, save I,” cries Frankenstein’s creature, “were at rest or in enjoyment: I, like the arch fiend, bore a hell within me; and, finding myself unsympathized with, wished to tear up the trees, spread havoc and destruction around me, and then to have sat down and enjoyed the ruin” (95). The creature expresses this nihilistic fury even though he bids the “happy earth” a “fit habitation for gods” (80)—lines themselves lifted from Milton’s Satan (IX.99–100)—and this hellish rage is not reserved merely for those who cruelly exclude the creature; it inevitably extends even to those who, like Adam and Eve, exemplify the best of humanity. Frankenstein’s creature confesses that he often “considered Satan as the fitter emblem of my condition” because, when he “viewed the bliss” of the De Lacy family—the thoroughly admirable cottagers whose hovel he had surreptitiously taken refuge in—“the bitter gall of envy rose within me” (90), just as Satan envies the prelapsarian human pair, despite their lovely divine resemblance. Haunted by his hellish thoughts and the diabolical deeds which have resulted from his sorrow and suffering, the creature acknowledges at the end of his tragic journey that, like Milton’s Satan, he has fallen so far:

I was nourished with high thoughts of honour and devotion. But now vice has degraded me beneath the meanest animal. No crime, no mischief, no malignity, no misery, can be found comparable to mine. When I call over the frightful catalogue of my deeds, I cannot believe that I am he whose thoughts were once filled with sublime and transcendent visions of the beauty and the majesty of goodness. But it is even so; the fallen angel becomes a malignant devil. Yet even that enemy of God and man had friends and associates in his desolation; I am quite alone. (160)

The descent of Frankenstein’s creature into evil is principally caused by his creator’s negligence, and as harsh as this mortal maker may be towards his monstrous creature, Frankenstein does on occasion express guilt for his negligence;33 Milton’s God, however, deliberately orchestrates Satan’s prolonged self-destruction, and even finds it occasion for laughter (V.711–42). Frankenstein is vilified for his disastrous attempt at playing God, yet he at least has the excuse of being but a mortal man, whereas God Himself—all-knowing, all-powerful, and (by His own judgment) all-good—has no such excuse. Victor Frankenstein ultimately seems far less villainous and criminal than the all-too-human “angry Victor” (I.169) of Paradise Lost on account of the sadistic game Milton’s God plays with Satan, manipulating the fallen angel to betray his finer feelings and bring destruction both to himself and to others. Frankenstein’s creature pleads, “misery made me a fiend” (68), and misery has likewise made Milton’s Satan a fiend—the “Arch-fiend” (I.156), as he is “Supreme / In misery…” (IV.91–92).

Gustave Doré, Paradise Lost, Book VI (1866): "Then Satan first knew pain, / And writhed him to and fro." (VI.327-28)
Gustave Doré, Paradise Lost, Book VI (1866): “Then Satan first knew pain, / And writhed him to and fro.” (VI.327-28)

Both Milton’s Satan and Frankenstein’s creature, in Percy Shelley’s estimation, are victims of circumstance, and it should come as no surprise that when Frankenstein was first published anonymously in 1818, Shelley was widely assumed to have authored the novel penned by his wife’s hand. Lord Byron may have taken the Miltonic heritage a step further in Cain (1821) by transforming the Tempter of Eden into a Promethean liberator and enlightener—which itself, it can be argued, is anticipated in the response elicited from Milton’s Satan when he first learns of Adam and Eve being barred from the Tree of Knowledge (“Knowledge forbidd’n? / Suspicious, reasonless. Why should thir Lord / Envy them that?” [IV.515–17])—but Percy Shelley’s radical moral reevaluation of Milton’s Satan, “pernicious casuistry”34 though it may be, forgives the fallen angel his flaws, virtually redeeming the Devil. Yet that this redemptive reading of Shelley’s applied both to Frankenstein’s creature and to Paradise Lost’s Satan highlights how Mary Shelley’s novel—painfully tragic though it may be—is worthy of far greater consideration in discussions of Romanticism’s rehabilitation of Milton’s Satan.


Just as Mary Shelley survived by far the other members of the Lake Geneva ghost story group of 1816, her novel Frankenstein—conceived and begun by Shelley when she was still a teenager—mimicked its maker insofar as it has proven to be the longest-lasting and influential literary creation produced by the Romantic age. “I bid my hideous progeny go forth and prosper,” she wrote in the Introduction to Frankenstein’s 1831 edition,35 and prosper Frankenstein did, for two centuries later we are still reflecting on this Romantic novel and its implications—and its influence. Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is not typically included in the canon of Romantic Satanism, and is instead often read simplistically as a wholly hostile reaction to Romanticism’s hubris and resulting perverseness. Frankenstein, like Paradise Lost, is far more ambiguous and ambivalent than that. As the literary critic Paul A. Cantor beautifully put it in Creature and Creator: Myth-making and English Romanticism:

Both Frankenstein and the monster are symbols of the Romantic revolt against the human condition, the idealistic refusal to accept the facts of human nature. In portraying the disastrous consequences of this revolt, Mary Shelley wrote one of the few truly tragic stories in Romantic literature, perhaps because she was dramatizing the tragedy of Romanticism itself.36

Romantic-inspired sympathizers of Milton’s Satan especially ought to take a closer look at Mary Shelley’s complex masterwork. Today, sympathy for Frankenstein’s monster is commonplace; however, just as the parallels the creature of Shelley’s novel draws to the damned angel of Paradise Lost serve to make him seem more sympathetic, the parallels can be drawn in reverse, and to the same effect. If Frankenstein’s monster is worthy of readers’ sympathies, so too is Milton’s reluctant monster, and so while Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein may be Romanticism’s most ambivalent venture into Miltonic mythmaking, her groundbreaking story indirectly offers up one of the most sympathetic readings of the Satan of Paradise Lost. William Blake’s The Marriage of Heaven and Hell (1790–93) may have provided Romanticism’s most famous assessment of Paradise Lost—that “Milton…was a true Poet and of the Devils party without knowing it”37—but Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, though often overlooked in discussions of the Romantic reevaluation of Milton’s Satan, is really a companion to the Blakean reading of Paradise Lost, which essentially holds that Milton, like the legendary Dr. Frankenstein himself, lost control of his monster.


Lord Byron’s Skull Cup

Lord George Gordon Byron (1788 – 1824)—famously characterized as “mad, bad and dangerous to know”—was the quintessential Romantic figure. Lord Byron could be extremely Gothic, as is broadly evident in the major Gothic vein running through much of his poetry, and nowhere more evident than in the story of Byron’s skull cup and his early poem inspired by it.

Along with his peerage, Lord Byron inherited the grandly Gothic residence, Newstead Abbey, and when a sizeable and well-preserved skull was incidentally dug up in the garden, Byron explained, “a strange fancy seized me of having it set and mounted as a drinking cup.” The skull cup would serve as Byron’s own personal drinking vessel during the drunken revels he’d host at Newstead—the “Order of the Skull,” he called it—and Byron went on to compose a poem written from the perspective of the skull, who fashions himself as a memento mori, a grim reminder that the grave awaits, but, as such, an inspiration to live life to the fullest in the here-and-now—to drink life to the dregs.




Lines Inscribed Upon a Cup Formed from a Skull

Start not—nor deem my spirit fled:
In me behold the only skull
From which, unlike a living head,
Whatever flows is never dull.

I lived, I loved, I quaff’d, like thee:
I died: let earth my bones resign;
Fill up—thou canst not injure me;
The worm hath fouler lips than thine.

Better to hold the sparkling grape,
Than nurse the earth-worm’s slimy brood;
And circle in the goblet’s shape
The drink of Gods, than reptiles’ food.

Where once my wit, perchance, hath shone,
In aid of others’ let me shine;
And when, alas! our brains are gone,
What nobler substitute than wine?

Quaff while thou canst—another race,
When thou and thine like me are sped,
May rescue thee from earth’s embrace,
And rhyme and revel with the dead.

Why not? since through life’s little day
Our heads such sad effects produce;
Redeem’d from worms and wasting clay,
This chance is theirs, to be of use.

— Lord Byron, Newstead Abbey, 1808

Iconography Update for The Satanic Scholar

The Satanic Scholar’s Iconography page has recently undergone a massive overhaul, and now includes not only Romantic art but proto- and post-Romantic art as well, each subpage featuring a thorough cultural context, extensive biographical information about the artists, and informative commentary on their Miltonic illustrations.

Click here to see the Proto-Romantic Art.


Click here to see the Romantic Art.


Click here to see the Post-Romantic Art.

Sir Thomas Lawrence, Satan Summoning His Legions (1796-97)
Sir Thomas Lawrence, Satan Summoning His Legions (1796-97)

A review of the Satanic iconography linked to above gives one an appreciation of what Romanticism’s Miltonic illustrators produced, which was nothing less than the pictorial apotheosis of Milton’s fallen archangel Satan—and, it must be said, the most accurate portrayal of the majestic arch-rebel who curiously holds pride of place in Paradise Lost. “As to the Devil he owes everything to Milton,” observed Percy Bysshe Shelley in his unpublished Essay on the Devil and Devils (ca. 1819–20), for “Milton divested him of a sting, hoofs, and horns, clothed him with the sublime grandeur of a graceful but tremendous spirit—and restored him to the society.” This Miltonic makeover of Satan as fallen Lucifer—a magnificent figure whose “form had yet not lost / All her Original brightness, nor appear’d / Less than Arch-Angel ruin’d” (I.591–93)—is precisely what Romantic artists executed as they brought the princely rebel angel to life. The Romantic Satan is heroically human, his form—almost always angel-winged, if not wingless and fully humanized—titanic in stature, his face Apollonian in beauty, with due emphasis on Milton’s description of “Eyes / That sparkling blaz’d” beneath “Brows / Of dauntless courage, and considerate Pride…” (I.193–94, 602–3). As Romantic Satanic artwork discards traditional Christian iconography in favor of Milton’s poetry, long gone are the bestial horns and hoofs and general grotesquerie of medievalism; the Miltonic Satan of Romanticism is clothed in a splendor befitting a Grecian god.

The importance of the images of Satan which appear across Romanticism’s Miltonic iconography simply cannot be overstated. Those who never venture to read Paradise Lost’s more than ten thousand lines of verse (“None ever wished it longer,” Samuel Johnson famously remarked) or the Romantics’ extensive critique of Milton’s epic poem, to say nothing of their own Satanic poetry and prose, can still comprehend the Miltonic-Romantic legacy of Lucifer simply by surveying the abundant sketches, paintings, and engravings of Romantic illustrators of Milton. Gazing upon the Romantic Satan is the simplest way to register just how illustrious Lucifer was during Romanticism—but to also understand that, as Shelley duly noted, the Devil is indebted not so much to the Romantics as to Milton, whose Paradise Lost invited—or rather insisted upon—such a reimagining.


Christopher J. C.


Romanticism: More Satanic than Satanism: Part 3 of 3

“…Milton’s Satan assumes in the Romantic era a prominence seen never before or since, nearly rivaling Prometheus as the most characteristic mythic figure of the age. A more active and ambiguous mythic agent than the bound, suffering forethinker and benefactor of humanity, the reimagined figure of Milton’s Satan embodied for the age the apotheosis of human desire and power.”1
                                                                      — Peter A. Schock, Romantic Satanism (2003)


Satan as the Fallen Angel (ca. 1797)
Sir Thomas Lawrence, Satan as the Fallen Angel (ca. 1797)

Satan was not so prominent before Romantic Satanism, to be sure, but modern-day, self-declared Satanists would surely take issue with the idea that Satan has not been so prominent since. Yet an honest comparison of Romantic Satanism on the one hand and modern organized Satanism on the other makes it difficult indeed to disagree with Schock’s assertion. The bestial Satan of LaVeyan Satanism and its offshoots pales in comparison to the titanic Lucifer of Romantic Satanism. While both are symbols or icons of fundamentally human drives, the former is all-too-human—concerned as LaVeyan Satanism is with “man as just another animal”2—whereas the latter is emblematic of the more lofty human drive for transcendence, which differentiates us from our fellow beasts of the field (or so at least the Romantics believed3). In any event, the fallen angel was raised to an unprecedented height by Milton and the Romantic Satanists the poet inspired, and as organizational Satanists have chosen not to embrace but rather distance themselves from this marvelous tradition, the real Satanic trailblazing has been carried out by those contemporary creative individuals who have summoned the sympathetic and sublime Satan of Miltonic-Romantic Satanism in their works, thereby ushering in a movement of neo-Romantic Satanism today.


The Romantics: Satanists in All But Name?

What’s in a name? To downplay the monumental significance of the Romantic Satanism phenomenon simply because those involved did not self-identify as “Satanists” is to be overly focused on semantics. If the Romantic Satanists did not term themselves “Satanists,” neither did they term themselves “Romantics,” as that label was applied retrospectively. This of course does not diminish the historical significance of those under the “Romanticism” umbrella: a wide array of creative individuals caught up in a similar current and preoccupied by similar issues, such as revolution, liberty, the sublime, the cult of genius, and so on. Likewise, the Romantic Satanists having been termed “Romantic Satanists” in retrospect does not diminish the fact that they were caught up in a similar current of overall positive reappraisal and implementation of the Miltonic Satan—caught up in “Satan’s cult of himself,”4 as it were.

H. Meyer, after G. H. Harlow, Portrait of George Gordon Byron (Lord Byron) (1816)
H. Meyer, after G. H. Harlow, Portrait of George Gordon Byron (Lord Byron) (1816)

Certainly worth noting is that while the “Romantic” label was applied to the Romantics retrospectively, the “Satanic” label was bandied about during the heyday of Romantic Satanism. Mario Praz may have rechristened Lord Byron “the Satanic Lord”5 in 1933, but the poet’s contemporaries themselves considered “Byronic” interchangeable with “Satanic.” In 1820, the English clergyman Reginald Heber identified in Byron “a strange predilection for the worser half of manicheism,” accusing the wayward peer of having “devoted himself and his genius to the adornment and extension of evil.”6 This, “being interpreted,” reflected Byron himself, “means that I worship the devil…”7 In the following year, the Poet Laureate Robert Southey condemned Byron as the orchestrator of a “Satanic School…characterised by a Satanic spirit of pride and audacious impiety…”8 This condemnation was “the official birth certificate of the Satanic School of Poetry,” as Ruben van Luijk aptly puts it in his scholarly tome Children of Lucifer: The Origins of Modern Religious Satanism, “the original source for the designation ‘Romantic Satanism’ or ‘Literary Satanism,’ still used by scholars of literature today.”9 Simply because Byron ostensibly dismissed the Satanic branding10 and mocked the self-satisfied Southey by turning the accusation back around11 does not alter the fact that Byron indeed spearheaded the Satanic strand of Romanticism. Byron’s bad eminence was manifestly exhibited in his decision to “give…MrSouthey – & others of the crew something that shall occupy their dreams!”12 by penning Cain (1821), wherein a Miltonic Lucifer emerges as a noble, even Promethean opponent of “the Omnipotent tyrant” (I.i.138), urging Adam’s firstborn son to defy the “tyrannous threats to force you into faith / ’Gainst all external sense and inward feeling…” (II.ii.461–62).

Alexander Nasmyth, Portrait of Robert Burns (1787)
Alexander Nasmyth, Portrait of Robert Burns (1787)

There is arguably a better example than “the Satanic Lord” of someone on the border of Satanism proper in the person of Robert Burns, Scottish Poet Laureate and a proto-Romantic figure. “Robert Burns makes several brief references to Satan in letters written in 1787 and 1788,” notes John Leonard in his two-volume Faithful Labourers, which masterfully traces the reception history of Milton’s Satan, from the seventeenth century to contemporary criticism. While Burns’ “tone is hard to pin down,” Leonard observes, “it is clear that he feels sympathy for the Devil.”13 Most significantly, Burns employs Milton’s Satan as a vehicle for self-assertion, holding up the figure of the fallen angel as an exemplar of dauntless defiance in the face of personal adversity: “I know what I may expect from the world, by and by; illiberal abuse and perhaps contemptuous neglect: but I am resolved to study the sentiments of a very respectable Personage, Milton’s Satan—‘Hail horrors! Hail, infernal world!’ ”14 Romanticism scholar Fiona Stafford notes that Burns, not insignificantly, expressed this Satanic sentiment as he alternately dismissed the powerful and their reservations about him: “I set as little by kings, lords, clergy, critics, &c as all these respectable Gentry do by my Bardship.”15 Thus, as Stafford states, Burns’ “admiration of Milton had a political as well as personal significance,” for

To celebrate Satan in the same breath as dismissing those at the top of the contemporary social hierarchy was to reveal the same kind of response to Paradise Lost as that of Blake, Godwin, Byron or Shelley. For Burns as for his radical heirs, Milton’s Satan was the champion of the oppressed and the eloquent opponent of tyranny.16

“Give me a spirit like my favourite hero, Milton’s Satan,” Burns would declare, and he was inclined to keep that dark hero close by so as to continually rekindle the Satanic spirit within himself: “I have bought a pocket Milton which I carry perpetually about with me, in order to study the sentiments—the dauntless magnanimity; the intrepid, unyielding independence; the desperate daring, and noble defiance of hardship, in that great Personage, Satan.”17

Thomas Stothard, Satan Rising from the Burning Lake
Thomas Stothard, Satan Rising from the Burning Lake

Burns was compelled to calm certain brows he had raised due to the diabolical defiance on his own, but when he qualified his admiration for the Satan of Paradise Lost, Burns’ passion for the Satanic sublime burst through: “My favourite feature in Milton’s Satan is, his manly fortitude in supporting what cannot be remedied—in short, the wild broken fragments of a noble, exalted mind in ruins.—I meant no more by saying he was a favourite hero of mine.”18 To mean no more is to mean quite a lot. If enthusiastically embracing Satan as a mythic/poetic figure to cultivate that character’s very own heroically defiant spirit within oneself does not constitute genuine Satanism, I don’t know what does. In his professed admiration for Milton’s Satan and his inclination to emulate that “very respectable Personage,” Burns very much anticipated Romantic Satanism, which deserves the recognition of “real Satanists.”

Romantic Satanism was responsible for restoring a great deal of the tarnished Lucifer’s luster, and it is undeniable that a vast majority of organizational Satanists have paid this grand and groundbreaking movement little more than lip service. However, while contemporary Satanic circles may have missed the Miltonic-Romantic mark with regards to Satan and the Promethean values which the celestial rebel signifies, the twenty-first century has witnessed a cultural resurgence of the spirit of Romantic Satanism. The Miltonic-Romantic Lucifer has reared his refulgent head in the artistic mediums of today, and this nascent neo-Romantic Satanism—a burgeoning phenomenon signifying the influence of Romantic Satanism on our milieu, from faint echoes to modern-day manifestations of its distinguished Devil in the arts and culture at large—appears to be returning Satanism to its Miltonic-Romantic roots. The fallen archangel’s lost grandness may be returned yet.

James Barry, Satan and His Legions Hurling Defiance toward the Vault of Heaven (ca. 1792-95)
James Barry, Satan and His Legions Hurling Defiance toward the Vault of Heaven (ca. 1792-95)

Much like Romantic Satanism, today’s cultural current of neo-Romantic Satanism is not organizational but organic or “in the air,” and the creative individuals who are its contributors, much like the Romantic Satanists themselves, most likely wouldn’t describe themselves as “Satanists”—let alone officially join some Satanic group—or even recognize that they are part of a broader movement giving the Devil a much needed makeover. What does it matter? If self-identifying as a Satanist were really all that key, then over the past five decades organized Satanism has existed “real Satanists” would have written remarkable Satanic literature or even lyrics which put the poetry of Milton’s Paradise Lost and Byron’s Cain to shame, and “real Satanists” would have created artwork much more magnificent than James Barry or Henry Fuseli. Needless to say, this has not been the case. Milton was as pious a man as one could imagine, yet the Puritan poet effectively created a Satanic epic with Paradise Lost; Lord Byron was dismissive of the Satanism brand imposed upon him by his reactionary contemporaries, yet he lived a scandalously Satanic lifestyle, peppered his poetry with grandly Satanic characters, and with Cain crafted Romantic Satanism’s literary apex; Barry was a Roman Catholic and Fuseli an ordained Zwinglian minister, yet these artists created some of the most sublime Satanic iconography in history. Belonging to the Devil’s party is far more important than knowing it,19 and so while today’s “neo-Romantic Satanists,” as noted above, may not self-identify as Satanists, they are proving to be far more significant than organizational Satanists in terms of continuing the Miltonic-Romantic tradition of the laudable Lucifer. Unsurprisingly, these writers and artists I categorize as “neo-Romantic Satanists” often profess to have drawn inspiration from Milton’s Paradise Lost and its Romantic admirers, as opposed to anything organized Satanism has produced over its half-century span. Judging by the fruits, Satanic organizations would do well to return Satanism to its Miltonic-Romantic roots.

Of course, the examples of neo-Romantic Satanism which The Satanic Scholar helps to highlight—Vertigo’s Lucifer comic, Legendary Pictures’ Paradise Lost film, New Atheism’s half-joking sympathy for Satan, and the increasingly frequent usage of Miltonic-Romantic-Satanic imagery and references in the arts, broadly speaking—are not the equivalent of the cultural treasures that are Milton’s epic poem Paradise Lost and the Romantic works inspired by that masterpiece of English literature. Then again, poets are no longer the “legislators of the World”—unacknowledged or otherwise—that they were in Shelley’s nineteenth-century vision,20 and the above examples are sure to prove far more effective in moving the collective conscious today. Romantic Satanism was undeniably the most significant historical reevaluation of Satan, and this neo-Romantic Satanism may have similar far-reaching effects, perhaps the likes of which have never been seen. We may be living in a time in which the fallen angel is not only restored to his former Romantic prominence but perhaps exalted to even greater glory than ever before. In any case, one thing is certain: if this day and age truly is the fallen Morningstar’s time to shine, it will have been realized not by “real Satanists” but those who, like Milton and arguably many of the Romantic Satanists, are “of the Devil’s party without knowing it”—a telling reminder just why Romanticism was far more Satanic than Satanism.



1. Peter A. Schock, Romantic Satanism: Myth and the Historical Moment in Blake, Shelley, and Byron (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003), p. 3.
2. LaVeyan Satanism’s overemphasis on the animalistic nature of Man is enshrined in the seventh of “The Nine Satanic Statements,” which serve as the philosophical foundation for the Church of Satan: “Satan represents man as just another animal, sometimes better, more often worse than those that walk on all-fours, who, because of his ‘divine spiritual and intellectual development,’ has become the most vicious animal of all!” Anton Szandor LaVey, The Satanic Bible, intro. Peter H. Gilmore (New York: Avon Books, [1969] 2005), p. 25.
3. See Ruben van Luijk, Children of Lucifer: The Origins of Modern Religious Satanism (New York: Oxford University Press, 2016), p. 115.
4. Schock, p. 39.
5. Mario Praz, The Romantic Agony, trans. Angus Davidson (Cleveland and New York: The World Publishing Company, [1933] 1963), p. 81.
6. Quoted in Schock, p. 101.
7. Quoted in ibid., p. 190n. 48.
8. Robert Southey, Preface to A Vision of Judgement (1821), quoted in C. L. Cline, “Byron and Southey: A Suppressed Rejoinder,” Keats-Shelley Journal, Vol. 3 (Winter, 1954), p. 30.
9. Van Luijk, p. 73.
10. “…[W]hat is the ‘Satanic School?’ who are the Scholars?.…I have no school nor Scholars…” Lord Byron, quoted in Cline, p. 35.
11. “If there exists anywhere, excepting in his imagination, such a school, is he not sufficiently armed against it by his own intense vanity?” Lord Byron, Preface to The Vision of Judgment (1822), in Lord Byron: The Major Works, ed. Jerome J. McGann (New York: Oxford University Press Inc., [1986] 2008), p. 939.
12. Quoted in Schock, p. 101.
13. John Leonard, Faithful Labourers: A Reception History of Paradise Lost, 1667–1970: Volume II: Interpretative Issues (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013), p. 409.
14. Quoted in ibid.
15. Quoted in Fiona Stafford, “Burns and Romantic Writing,” in The Edinburgh Companion to Robert Burns, ed. Gerard Carruthers (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press Ltd., 2009), p. 105.
16. Stafford, p. 105.
17. Quoted in Leonard, p. 410.
18. Quoted in ibid.
19. William Blake, in The Marriage of Heaven and Hell (1790–93), famously theorized that “The reason Milton wrote in fetters when he wrote of Angels & God, and at liberty when of Devils & Hell, is because he was a true Poet and of the Devils party without knowing it[.]” The Complete Poetry and Prose of William Blake, ed. David V. Erdman, rev. ed. (New York: Anchor Books, [1965] 1988), p. 35; pl. 6.
20. Percy Bysshe Shelley, A Defence of Poetry (1821), in Shelley’s Poetry and Prose, ed. Donald H. Reiman and Neil Fraistat (New York [2d rev. ed. 1977]: W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2002), p. 535.

Romanticism: More Satanic than Satanism: Part 2 of 3

“…Satanism is associated with that hard core of romanticism which can only be called hubris—the will to be God—the will to arrogate to the individual and finite mind those attributes traditionally reserved for God alone: self-sufficiency, creativity, and ultimate freedom from all moral law.”1
                    — Peter L. Thorslev, Jr., “The Romantic Mind Is Its Own Place” (1963)


As discussed in part one, Romantic Satanism—the grand and groundbreaking phenomenon within which Lucifer, as reimagined and immortalized by Milton in Paradise Lost (1667), was most lauded—has received little more than lip service within organized Satanism over its half-century span, starting with Anton LaVey’s Church of Satan in 1960s San Francisco. The tellingly insecure insistence of most organizational Satanists that Satanism is entirely unprecedented has led to the snubbing of the Romantic radicals known as “Romantic Satanists.” Yet LaVeyan Satanists are not alone in calling into question the Satanic legitimacy of Romantic Satanism, truth be told, for academics are prone to a similar skepticism. While Satanists have tended to ignore Romantic Satanists in an effort to secure their own Satanic hegemony, academics have demonstrated a predilection for downplaying the significance of the Satanic strand of Romanticism, ironically citing the same reason as Satanists proper: the Romantic Satanists were not real Satanists. These doubting academics, however, invariably end up demonstrating just how Satanic the Romantic Satanists were.


Romantic Satanists: The Unacknowledged Legislators of Lucifer’s Legacy

Richard Westall, George Gordon Byron, 6th Baron Byron (1813)
Richard Westall, George Gordon Byron, 6th Baron Byron (1813)

In his 1968 essay “The ‘Satanism’ of Blake and Shelley Reconsidered,” Joseph Anthony Wittreich, Jr. argued that Romantic Satanism is a grossly exaggerated phenomenon. When venturing into the etymology of the terms “Satanist” and “Satanism,” however, Wittreich inevitably illustrated the fact that Southey’s “Satanic School” diatribe against Byron and Shelley2 for the first time in history employed the “Satanist” stigma most appositely, i.e., against actual Satan sympathizers.3 For a more recent example, consider Peter A. Schock’s definition for “Satanism” in the Encyclopedia of Romanticism: “The Romantic perspective on Satan is so complicated and qualified that no writer of the age could be considered a true ‘Satanist,’ ” Schock writes, explaining, “No one individual thoroughly idealized Satan or identified this closely with the figure: there was no ‘Devil’s party’ in the Romantic era.”4 This greatly overlooks Romanticism’s many “true Satanist” moments. To say that no Romantic idealized Satan is to overlook, for instance, both Byron and Shelley’s applause for Satan as the Promethean “hero of Paradise Lost,”5 Shelley’s bold assertion that “Nothing can exceed the energy and magnificence of the character of Satan as expressed in Paradise Lost,”6 or Hazlitt’s celebration of Milton’s Satan as “the most heroic subject that ever was chosen for a poem…”7 To say that no Romantic identified with Satan is to overlook Shelley’s professed longing to be the (Miltonically conceived) Antichrist8 and Byron’s fantasies of himself as a fallen angel.9 There may not have been an actual “Devil’s party” or a “Satanic School” during Romanticism, but the phrases themselves belong to the period, and they could not have been more appropriate.

“Devil’s party” was coined by one of Romanticism’s most important figures, William Blake, who in The Marriage of Heaven and Hell (1790–93) famously theorized: “The reason Milton wrote in fetters when he wrote of Angels & God, and at liberty when of Devils & Hell, is because he was a true Poet and of the Devils party without knowing it[.]”10 Blake’s witticism clearly establishes that there is a tradition—reaching back to Milton—into which Blake places himself and his fellow “true Poets,” and it is a tradition of an unbounded artistic genius that can only be considered Satanic. (“…I was walking among the fires of hell,” Blake writes in The Marriage, “delighted with the enjoyments of Genius; which to Angels look like torment and insanity.”11) Yet “Devil’s party” also suggests a political aspect to Blake’s conceived tradition: Satanic partisans enlisted in the cause of republicanism, hence Blake’s co-opting the regicide-defender Milton.

Satan Exulting (ca. 1794)
Richard Westall, Satan Exulting (ca. 1794)

Some two decades after Blake’s Marriage, Shelley would quite explicitly forge a Satanic political link in A Declaration of Rights (1812), his own clarion call for Man to assert his proper worth and rise from lowliness and degeneracy to loftiness and dignity. The dramatic finish to Shelley’s exhortation reads, “Awake!—arise!—or be forever fallen,”12 which of course is the concluding line of the impassioned speech with which Satan rouses his fallen compatriots from Hell’s burning lake in Paradise Lost (I.330). Shelley thus imagines oppressed peoples as fallen angels, casting himself as Milton’s Satan, whose “heart / Distends with pride” at the sight of his fallen but reassembled brethren, who are promised, “this Infernal Pit shall never hold / Celestial Spirits in Bondage…” (I.571–72, 657–58).

Lord Byron moved beyond employing the fallen archangel as a symbol of artistic expression and political indignation, taking the idealized Devil into the arena of existential philosophy. In Cain: A Mystery (1821), Byron cast Lucifer as a genuine light-bringer, in the Promethean sense—promoting knowledge as liberation from divine authoritarianism—and the Byronic Lucifer’s enlightenment of Adam’s firstborn son radically reassesses the so-called Fall of Man:

One good gift has the fatal apple given—

Your reason:—let it not be over-sway’d

By tyrannous threats to force you into faith

’Gainst all external sense and inward feeling:

Think and endure,—and form an inner world

In your own bosom—where the outward fails;

So shall you nearer be the spiritual

Nature, and war triumphant with your own. (II.ii.459–66)

Gustave Doré, Paradise Lost, Book IV (1866): "A happy rural seat of various view" (IV.247)
Gustave Doré, Paradise Lost, Book IV (1866): “A happy rural seat of various view” (IV.247)

Lucifer’s parting words of wisdom to Cain “declare a commitment to intellectual freedom that has never been surpassed in English verse,” insists Byron scholar Jerome J. McGann,13 and it is no small thing for such an eloquent expression of mental emancipation to be placed in the mouth of the Prince of Darkness; indeed, it Satanically reevaluates him as a true Light-Bearer, hence Byron’s restoration of his native name, Lucifer.

Satanism permeates the lives and the literature of those Romantic radicals who’ve been rightly referred to as “Romantic Satanists.” One simply cannot overstate the significance of these Romantic titans irreverently upending Christendom’s foundational myths and scandalously celebrating the Satanic with such spirited artistic expression. Much to Schock’s credit, despite his leading qualification of the legitimacy of the Romantic Satanists’ Satanism in his Encyclopedia of Romanticism entry quoted above, Schock immediately proceeds to appropriately stress the significance of the Romantic preoccupation with Satan:

Nevertheless, many Romantic writers and artists were absorbed with the myth of Satan: the persistent fascination with the Devil evident in their work amounts to Romantic myths of Satan. In new or renovated guises, the figure of Satan looms large in the writings of Blake, Byron, and the Shelleys and appears in the work of many other English and continental writers, painters, and popular artists. Nearly rivaling Prometheus as the most characteristic mythical figure of the age, Satan assumes a prominence in the Romantic era never exhibited before or since.14

The momentousness of the Romantics raising the fallen angel to such a prominent position—essentially setting the erstwhile “Adversary of God and Man” (PL, II.629) shoulder-to-shoulder with the champion of Man found in the humanitarian Titan Prometheus—quite simply cannot be overstressed. In Romantic Satanism, the only book-length study of the subject, Schock would go on to thoroughly demonstrate how and why “the reimagined figure of Milton’s Satan embodied for the age the apotheosis of human desire and power.”15


Satanic Academics

While real Satanists have failed to give the Miltonic-Romantic Devil his due over the past five decades organized Satanism has enjoyed, and while literary academics have exhibited a tendency to downplay the monumental significance of Romantic Satanism, the past decade or so has proven to be a shifting point in Satanic scholarship. Within the culture at large, Satanism had previously been either dismissively derided as adolescent, and therefore essentially harmless, or—as was the case at the height of the 1980s Satanic Panic launched by doomsday preachers and opportunist media personalities—virulently attacked as a major threat to Western civilization. Either way, academics were for the most part content to ignore the matter altogether, but today Satanism is the subject of increasingly serious academic studies. “Recent works of preponderantly young scholars have given this field of research an important impetus toward maturity,”16 astutely observes Ruben van Luijk in Children of Lucifer, the most recent and most significant of these new Satanic studies. These “young scholars”—namely Jesper Aagaard Petersen, Per Faxneld, Asbjørn Dyrendal, James R. Lewis, and of course van Luijk himself—might best be called “Satanic academics,” for their scholarly work vindicates Satanism as not only a serious study but also an overall positive pursuit. (Van Luijk, for instance, intertwines the historical Satanic tradition with what he collectively refers to as the Western Revolution.17) Most importantly, at least as far as The Satanic Scholar is concerned, by forging important links to Satanism’s literary and cultural heritage—chiefly the Miltonic-Romantic tradition18—these Satanic academics have succeeded where real Satanists have failed.

Gustave Doré, Paradise Lost, Book IX (1866): "O Earth, how like to Heav’n, if not preferr’d / More justly." (IX.99-100)
Gustave Doré, Paradise Lost, Book IX (1866): “O Earth, how like to Heav’n, if not preferr’d / More justly.” (IX.99-100)

A cogent example of the missed opportunity of Satanists to place appropriate stress on Satanism’s rich historical and literary lineage is Chris Mathews’ Modern Satanism: Anatomy of a Radical Subculture, an academic assault on the Satanism movement. While Mathews is extremely critical of Satanism in general (“crypto-fascist ideology…intellectually, scientifically, and morally bankrupt”19) and of LaVey in particular (“a rather poor terminus for the rich literary and philosophical traditions he drew on”20), the first two chapters of Modern Satanism are devoted to noteworthy investigations of Satan’s evolution in religious and literary history, respectively. What’s more, Mathews, when defining Satanism for the reader, makes clear links to the Miltonic-Romantic tradition; for example: “Shorn of all theistic implications, modern Satanism’s use of Satan is firmly in the tradition that John Milton inadvertently engendered—a representation of the noble rebel, the principled challenger of illegitimate power.”21 Something is obviously wrong when Satanism’s detractors are more likely to give due attention to Satanism’s cultural roots—and thereby provide a more satisfying description of Satanism—than real Satanists.


Romantic Literature as Satanic Liturgy

“Poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the World,” Shelley famously stated in the final line of A Defence of Poetry (1821),22 and this assertion held a considerable degree of truth. This of course is yet another reason why the Romantic Satanists were of far greater importance in redirecting the Devil’s destiny than those involved in modern organized Satanism are willing to give them credit for. Because the Romantic Satanists “strove to express conceptions about ultimate grounds of being and a general order of existence in their major ‘Satanist’ works,” van Luijk observes in Children of Lucifer, and given that they “were also, sometimes quite consciously, staking claims on what had formerly been considered the territory of the church,” Romantic Satanism is definitely nothing to scoff at:

It is inadequate to contest that these appearances of Satan were merely a matter of literature. Literature was a matter of religion for the Romantic Satanists, the place where they gave symbolic form to their deepest convictions. I think thus that we might be justified to describe these utterances as forms of bona fide religious Satanism.23

If poets were “the unacknowledged legislators of the World,” then the Romantic Satanists, despite occupying a “relatively narrow literary stratum”24 making for a “slender chain of sympathy for the devil,”25 surely were the unacknowledged legislators of Lucifer’s legacy. Academics are coming around to understanding this, and it is high time real Satanists join them in giving those Romantic devils their due.



1. Peter L. Thorslev, Jr., “The Romantic Mind Is Its Own Place,” Comparative Literature, Vol. 15, No. 3 (Summer, 1963), p. 251.
2. “Men of diseased hearts and depraved imaginations, who, forming a system of opinions to suit their own unhappy course of conduct, have rebelled against the holiest ordinances of human society, and hating that revealed religion which, with all their efforts and bravadoes, they are unable entirely to disbelieve, labour to make others as miserable as themselves, by infecting them with a moral virus that eats into the soul! The school which they have set up may properly be called the Satanic School, for though their productions breathe the spirit of Belial in their lascivious parts, and the spirit of Moloch in those loathsome images of atrocities and horrors which they delight to represent, they are more especially characterised by a Satanic spirit of pride and audacious impiety, which still betrays the wretched feeling of hopelessness wherewith it is allied.” Robert Southey, Preface to A Vision of Judgement (1821), quoted in C. L. Cline, “Byron and Southey: A Suppressed Rejoinder,” Keats-Shelley Journal, Vol. 3 (Winter, 1954), p. 30.
3. Joseph Anthony Wittreich, Jr., “The ‘Satanism’ of Blake and Shelley Reconsidered,” Studies in Philology, Vol. 65, No. 5 (Oct., 1968), pp. 817–18: “The terms ‘Satanist’ and ‘Satanism’ have historical liaisons that take us as far back as the Renaissance. During the sixteenth century these terms were used first in reference to the dissenters (1559), then the Arians (1565), and finally the Atheists (1589). By linguistic extension, ‘Satanism’ was broadened in the seventeenth century to include any devil-inspired doctrine or anyone with a diabolical disposition. Robert Southey, however, is the first to link Satanism with the Romantics, specifically Byron.…In our time, through linguistic specialization, ‘Satanism,’ with its full range of historical meanings, has come to refer specifically to the Romantic critics of Paradise Lost and more generally to those critics who evince a strong ethical sympathy for Satan.”
4. Peter A. Schock, “Satanism,” in Encyclopedia of Romanticism: Culture in Britain, 1780s – 1830s, ed. Laura Dabundo (New York and London: Garland Publishing, Inc., 1992), p. 507.
5. Lord Byron, quoted in Jerome J. McGann, Don Juan in Context (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1976), p. 25; Percy Bysshe Shelley, Preface to Prometheus Unbound (1820), in Shelley’s Poetry and Prose, ed. Donald H. Reiman and Neil Fraistat (New York [2d rev. ed. 1977]: W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2002), p. 207.
6. Percy Bysshe Shelley, A Defence of Poetry (1821), in Shelley’s Poetry and Prose, p. 526.
7. William Hazlitt, Lectures on the English Poets (1818), “Lecture III: On Shakespeare and Milton,” in The Romantics on Milton: Formal Essays and Critical Asides, ed. Joseph Anthony Wittreich, Jr. (Cleveland: The Press of Case Western Reserve University, 1970), p. 384.
8. See Peter A. Schock, Romantic Satanism: Myth and the Historical Moment in Blake, Shelley, and Byron (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003), p. 80.
9. See Malcolm Elwin, Lord Byron’s Wife (New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, Inc., 1962), pp. 263, 271, 346; Benita Eisler, Byron: Child of Passion, Fool of Fame (New York: Vintage Books, 2000), pp. 13, 299.
10. William Blake, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, in The Complete Poetry and Prose of William Blake, ed. David V. Erdman, rev. ed. (New York: Anchor Books, [1965] 1988), p. 35; pl. 6.
11. Ibid.
12. Percy Bysshe Shelley, A Declaration of Rights, in Shelley’s Prose: or the Trumpet of a Prophecy, ed. David Lee Clark, pref. Harold Bloom (New York: New Amsterdam Books, 1988), p. 72.
13. Jerome J. McGann, ed. Byron: The Major Works (New York: Oxford University Press Inc., [1986] 2008), p. 1072n.
14. Schock, “Satanism,” p. 507.
15. Schock, Romantic Satanism, p. 3.
16. Ruben van Luijk, Children of Lucifer: The Origins of Modern Religious Satanism (New York: Oxford University Press, 2016), p. 12.
17. See ibid., pp. 76–77, 323, 400–01.
18. See Jesper Aagaard Petersen, ed. Contemporary Religious Satanism: A Critical Anthology (Burlington, VT: Ashgate Publishing Company, 2009), pp. 11–13; Per Faxneld and Jesper Aa. Petersen, ed. The Devil’s Party: Satanism in Modernity (New York: Oxford University Press, 2013), esp. Ch. 2, Ruben van Luijk, “Sex, Science, and Liberty: The Resurrection of Satan in Nineteenth-Century (Counter) Culture,” pp. 41–52; Asbjørn Dyrendal, James R. Lewis, and Jesper Aa. Petersen, ed. The Invention of Satanism (New York: Oxford University Press, 2016), Ch. 2, “Satanic Precursors,” pp. 27–46; van Luijk, Children of Lucifer, Ch. 2, “The Romantic Rehabilitation of Satan,” pp. 69–112, and Ch. 3, “Satan in Nineteenth-Century Counterculture,” pp. 113–50.
19. Chris Mathews, Modern Satanism: Anatomy of a Radical Subculture (Westport, CT: Praeger Publishers, 2009), p. 205.
20. Ibid., p. 59.
21. Ibid., p. 54.
22. Shelley, A Defence of Poetry, p. 535.
23. Van Luijk, Children of Lucifer, p. 109.
24. Schock, Romantic Satanism, p. 2.
25. Van Luijk, Children of Lucifer, p. 74.

Romanticism: More Satanic than Satanism: Part 1 of 3

“Satanism is not a part of Romanticism. It is Romanticism. It may well be said without any levity that Satan was the patron saint of the Romantic School. He impressed it with his personality to such an extent that it was soon named after him.”1

                             — Maximilian Rudwin, The Devil in Legend and Literature (1931)


Romantic Satanism—that grand turn-of-the-nineteenth-century tradition which proved to be a lodestone for some of the most titanic intellectuals, poets, prose writers, and visual artists of the Romantic Era—was the most significant cultural reappraisal of the figure of the fallen angel, and as such was the most radical challenge to the status quo in Western history. The Romantic Satanists championed the sympathetic and sublime Satan out of Milton’s Paradise Lost (1667) as a sociopolitical icon of idealized defiance, employing the Miltonic arch-rebel in their struggle against oppressive orthodoxy. Curiously, those within organized Satanism—that is, Satanism as codified as an aboveground, legally recognized religious or irreligious philosophy, which began with Californian “Black Pope” Anton LaVey’s Church of Satan in the 1960s—are not necessarily prepared to grant genuine Satanic status to the Romantic Satanists. An honest investigation of Romantic Satanism reveals, however, that the phenomenon was not only as genuinely Satanic as one could hope (or dread) but in fact far more influential than modern Satanism in redirecting the Devil’s destiny.


Satanists  Shunning  Romantics

Organized Satanism cannot be said to give the Miltonic-Romantic Devil his due. LaVey’s acknowledgment of Satanism’s literary heritage was an extremely rare occurrence. In The Satanic Bible, the brief book that defined Satanism and has continued to serve as the primary reference point for aspiring Satanists to this day, LaVey made only an oblique reference to Luciferian literature,2 and little changed throughout the course of his more than three-decade tenure as the Church of Satan’s High Priest, LaVey merely mentioning the Satan of Milton seemingly at random in one of his published essay collections.3 Peter H. Gilmore, LaVey’s successor as the organization’s High Priest, has undeniably been more prone to referencing Satanism’s literary roots, being sure to note in his Introduction to the 2005 edition of The Satanic Bible, for instance, that LaVey’s was “the imagery of the archfiend found in Twain, Milton, Byron, and other romantics.”4 Yet this is really just a quick tip of the hat, and in Gilmore’s own Satanic Bible-style book on Satanism, The Satanic Scriptures, he likewise references the titanic literary Lucifer and his significance in passing.5

Anton Szandor LaVey (1930–1997), founder of the Church of Satan and author of The Satanic Bible
Anton Szandor LaVey (1930–1997), founder of the Church of Satan and author of The Satanic Bible

One gets the impression that the ironic hesitancy of such prominent Satanists to dwell upon history’s most distinguished Devils and their sympathizers is related to the ever-present anxiety within Satanism over outsiders mistaking it for Devil worship. Yet it is indeed strange for self-proclaimed Satanists—those who are so moved by the figure of Satan that they have adopted his name as a part of their own identity—to downplay or even deliberately ignore Lucifer at his most luminous historical moment—at the height of his career, you might say. To be fair to the late LaVey, while he codified Satanism for the first time in history as a coherent religious philosophy and founded the first ever unabashedly Satanic organization, LaVey never claimed to be the world’s first Satanist. To the contrary, he claimed that “the Satanist” existed throughout human history as a specific type of person simply lacking a specific name and identity.6 LaVey believed he had with his “brand of Satanism”7 provided that name and identity—Satanist—which he felt was appropriate for the time and place in which he and his disciples were operating. Nevertheless, LaVeyan Satanists are notoriously resistant to broadening the boundaries of Satanism’s definition beyond the walls of the Church of Satan. Indeed, they even reject the term “LaVeyan Satanism,” finding it to be redundant, at best, as they dismiss all other forms of Satanism as “pseudo Satanism.” These Satanists’ incessant squabbling over the issue of Satanic legitimacy8 has resulted in Romantic Satanism being largely shunned, for even when they are willing to apply the term “de facto Satanist” to various historical personages co-opted on account of their apparent alignment with Satanic principles, the Romantic Satanists never seem to make the list—which is telling, given that they really ought to be at or at least near the top of any such list.

Ruben van Luijk, Children of LuciferRomanticism was monumentally significant to shaping the modern world, and Romantic Satanism was in turn a watershed moment in the character of Satan’s development. The relevance of the various Romantic titans of which the movement was comprised is not diminished simply because they did not overtly assert themselves as “Satanists” or belong to some official Satanic group. I’m inclined to argue quite the opposite, in fact: it was far more impressive that Romantic Satanism emerged organically, without the need for some organizational body to direct the energies of those involved. And while it is certainly true that aboveground, organized Satanism started with LaVey and his brazenly blasphemous church, it is a falsity to assert that the concept occurred to the Black Pope out of a magical puff of smoke. In his scholarly tome Children of Lucifer: The Origins of Modern Religious Satanism, Ruben van Luijk persuasively argues his position that LaVey was surely indebted to the Romantic rehabilitation of Satan as a positive emblem of sex, science, and liberty—the unholy trinity of Satanic virtues, in van Luijk’s analysis.9 While LaVey’s inspiration for forming the Church of Satan was certainly not a reading of the Romantic Satanists’ works, van Luijk observes, we can be sure that the influence of Romantic Satanism reached LaVey, even if indirectly via the Romantic-inspired nineteenth-century occultists whose works LaVey was intimately familiar with.10

For our purposes here, of course, what’s more significant than whether or not LaVey was influenced by Romantic Satanism is whether or not Romantic Satanism can be considered a legitimate forerunner to modern Satanism. Van Luijk’s conclusion is that although “Romantic Satanism cannot be described as a coherent movement with a single voice, but rather as a post factum identified group of sometimes widely divergent authors among whom a similar theme is found,”11 the radical phenomenon may nevertheless be considered an anticipation of later religious Satanism, having undeniably paved the way for it in significant respects:

…the Romantic Satanists, although they never established a form of religious Satanism themselves, already provided all the necessary preliminaries for such a religious Satanism to arise. For the first time, Satan was seen not as the embodiment of evil, but as a positive force heralding the liberation of body and mind. After this fundamental reversion was made, the only thing needed, one could say, was somebody to give this idea religious bedding.12

Preparatory drawing for Satan Summoning his Legions (ca. 1796-97)
Sir Thomas Lawrence, preparatory drawing for Satan Summoning his Legions (ca. 1796-97)

LaVey’s Church of Satan remains the most significant Satanic organization in the world, and while LaVeyan Satanists may be willing to offer an occasional horn-handed salute to those figures within the phenomenon of Romantic Satanism—as well as to others throughout the past and present inclined to expressing likeminded sympathy for Satan—they are reluctant to concede genuine Satanism nonetheless. Much like the Christians, who damned humanity prior to Jesus walking the Earth and continued to damn those outside of the Gospels’ reach, LaVeyan Satanists reject the notion of genuine Satanism existing before LaVey’s founding of the Church of Satan, likewise refusing to extend the Satanism brand to anyone lacking membership therein. A consequence of this insistence that Satanism simply started (and was copyrighted) in 1966, when LaVey formed the Church of Satan and consecrated the year as Anno Satanas (year one of the Age of Satan), has been the obvious tendency of Satanists to exhibit little interest in Satanism’s rich historical and literary lineage.13 Ironically, Satanism’s self-proclaimed “alien elite” have deprived Satanism of its most refined of roots: the Miltonic-Romantic tradition, which restored more luster to Lucifer and the virtues he embodies than organized Satanism ever has. In this respect, it is no exaggeration to consider Romanticism more Satanic than Satanism.



1. Maximilian Rudwin, The Devil in Legend and Literature (LaSalle, IL: Open Court Publishing Company, [1931] 1959), p. 277.
2. “Never has there been an opportunity, short of fiction, for the Dark Prince to speak out in the same manner as the spokesmen of the Lord of the Righteous…” Anton Szandor LaVey, The Satanic Bible, intro. Peter H. Gilmore (New York: Avon Books, [1969] 2005), p. 29.
3. “…Milton’s heroic Satan steal[s] the show from the Heavenly hosts in Paradise Lost…” Anton Szandor LaVey, “Confessions of a Closet Misogynist,” in The Devil’s Notebook (Los Angeles: Feral House, 1992), p. 90.
4. Peter H. Gilmore, “Opening the Adamantine Gates: An Introduction to The Satanic Bible,” p. 14.
5. “…Satan serves us well as a symbol. He was described as the prideful one, refusing to bow to Jehovah. He is the one who questions authority, seeking liberty beyond the stultifying realm of Heaven. He is the figure championed by the likes of Mark Twain, Milton, and Byron as the independent critic who heroically stands on his own.” Peter H. Gilmore, “What, the Devil?” in The Satanic Scriptures (Baltimore, MD: Scapegoat Publishing, 2007), p. 209.
6. See LaVey, The Satanic Bible, pp. 53, 104.
7. In his Foreword to his first collection of essays, The Devil’s Notebook, pp. 9–10, LaVey unpacks his Satanic brand as follows: “My brand of Satanism is the ultimate conscious alternative to herd mentality and institutionalized thought. It is a studied and contrived set of principles and exercises designed to liberate individuals from a contagion of mindlessness that destroys innovation. I have termed my thought ‘Satanism’ because it is most stimulating under that name. Self-discipline and motivation are effected more easily under stimulating conditions. Satanism means ‘the opposition’ and epitomizes all symbols of nonconformity. Satanism calls forth the strong ability to turn a liability into an advantage, to turn alienation into exclusivity. In other words, the reason it’s called Satanism is because it’s fun, it’s accurate, and it’s productive.”
8. See, for example, James R. Lewis, “Infernal Legitimacy,” in Contemporary Religious Satanism: A Critical Anthology, ed. Jesper Aagaard Petersen (Burlington, VT: Ashgate Publishing Company, 2009), pp. 41–58.
9. See Ruben van Luijk, “Sex, Science, and Liberty: The Resurrection of Satan in Nineteenth-Century (Counter) Culture,” in The Devil’s Party: Satanism in Modernity, ed. Per Faxneld and Jesper Aa. Petersen (New York: Oxford University Press, 2013), pp. 41–52; Children of Lucifer: The Origins of Modern Religious Satanism (New York: Oxford University Press, 2016), pp. 116, 392–93.
10. See van Luijk, Children of Lucifer, p. 323.
11. Ibid., p. 108.
12. Ibid., p. 116; cf. pp. 111, 407.
13. The one significant exception is Gavin Baddeley, who has spent a great deal of his creative energies digging up and analyzing the cultural roots of Satanism in history, literature, and the arts. Baddeley’s classic study of Satanism in popular culture, Lucifer Rising: Sin, Devil Worship & Rock ‘n’ Roll (London: Plexus Publishing Limited, [1999] 2006), certainly gives the devilish LaVey his due with extensive coverage of the Church of Satan and personal interviews with LaVey himself—for which the author was made an honorary Reverend (or, as Baddeley prefers, “Irreverend”) in the Church of Satan by the Black Pope himself. The first third of Lucifer Rising, however, is reserved for “The History of Satanism,” and therein Baddeley highlights Milton as “One of the most important figures in the development of Satanic aesthetics and philosophy,” with due emphasis on Milton’s masterpiece Paradise Lost as “more than a literary milestone,” Baddeley observing that “in Milton’s poem Satan achieves a certain dark magnificence, becoming the archetypal anti-hero whose doomed rebellion is the act of a noble, if flawed character…” (p. 20). Baddeley’s appreciation for the Miltonic Satan and his significance only seemed to expand with each new publication, the author stating in a subsequent work that Paradise Lost is “Perhaps the most significant work in the Satanic literary tradition” (Dissecting Marilyn Manson [London: Plexus Publishing Limited, (2000) 2008], p. 146), and in yet another subsequent work going so far as to assert, “If Satanism has a sacred text, then it is Paradise Lost” (The Gospel of Filth: A Bible of Decadence & Darkness [Godalming, Surrey: FAB Press Ltd., (2009) 2010], p. 305.

Lucifer’s Feather of Liberty: On French Romanticism’s Satanic Symbol

“The feather of Liberty falls

          From the wing of Rebellion…”

— Victor Hugo, La Fin de Satan (1854–62; 1886)


Eugène Delacroix, The Revolt of Lucifer and the Rebel Angels (1876)
Eugène Delacroix, The Revolt of Lucifer and the Rebel Angels (1876)

Romantic Satanism was a predominantly English phenomenon, but it did have a significant French manifestation. English Romantic Satanism, however, was far more Miltonic, suffused with the passion and pride which motivated Milton’s Satan in his rebellious individualism and heroic endurance of suffering. The French Romantic Satanists preferred to imagine reconciliation between the damned angel and the Deity,1 whereas in the hands of the English Romantics, Lucifer always remained a rebel defiant to the very end, following his Miltonic predecessor in proudly preferring “an independency of torture / To the smooth agonies of adulation…” (Lord Byron, Cain [1821], I.i.385–86). These different forms of Romantic Satanism reflect the zeitgeist of the separate nations wherein this movement manifested: the French Romantics saw their nation torn asunder by the Revolution and its aftermath; the English Romantics saw their radicalism stamped out by an oppressive establishment that feared the revolutionary spirit crossing the Channel, leaving them seething with a frustrated rebelliousness much akin to that of Milton’s Satan. While I have much more of an affinity for English Romantic Satanism, French Romantic Satanism birthed a rather beautiful symbol which truly encapsulates the significance of Romantic Satanism: the fallen rebel angel Lucifer’s feather of Liberty.

In Victor Hugo’s La Fin de Satan (The End of Satan, 1854–62; 1886), a feather from the archangel Lucifer’s wing falls from Heaven down to our world and becomes Liberty, Lucifer’s angelic daughter—a more positive offspring than Sin, the daughter born Athena-like from Satan’s head in Paradise Lost (II.747–58). Most significantly, Hugo’s Luciferian angel Liberty descends to Earth at the time of the fall of the Bastille in 1789, which launched the epochal French Revolution and ushered in the modern world, thus illustrating just how intertwined Romantic Satanism was with the revolutionary politics of the time.2 For Hugo, the angel of Liberty not only instigates earthly uprisings but enacts the cosmic reconciliation between God and Satan; it is God Himself who brings Lucifer’s feather to life as Liberty, Hugo’s Deity announcing to His damned, despairing angel:

Come; your prison will be pulled down and hell abolished!

Come, the angel Liberty is your daughter and mine:

This sublime parentage unites us.

The archangel is reborn and the demon dies;

I efface the baleful darkness, and none of it is left.

Satan is dead; be born again, heavenly Lucifer!

Come, rise up from the shadows with dawn on your brow.3

All of the shifts Romantic Satanism induced are recalled here: the Devil transforming from angel of evil to father of freedom; the fallen angel repossessing his angelic luminosity and beauty; Satan regaining his native name, Lucifer. The important difference, of course, is that for Hugo these shifts come about through the Devil reconciling with the Deity, whereas English Romantic Satanism restored such luster to Lucifer in all of his defiant magnificence amidst damnation. The latter is more significant because it captures the uniqueness of Romantic Satanism: it was not about the end of Satan but the celebration of Satan; the fallen archangel was idealized not in spite of but because of his rebellion against Almighty God.

While the concept of a cosmic reconciliation between God and Satan is once again wholly at odds with the adversarial “Satanic spirit of pride and audacious impiety”4 at the heart of English Romantic Satanism and its Satanic School, it is nevertheless difficult to resist the poetic power of French Romantic Satanism’s intertwining Man’s revolutionary struggle for freedom with Lucifer’s revolt—so much so that the earthly urge for emancipation is inspired by a token of the heavenly Lucifer’s very being. Hugo’s La Fin de Satan gives the French Revolution a mythical treatment and a poetical sacredness, but its religious air is sacrilegious, its sacredness Satanic. It turns the eagerness of the forces of reaction to demonize the French Revolution on its head by deliberately aligning the Revolution with the Devil, but imagining this as a blessing rather than a curse.

Lucifer’s feather of Liberty is far more appropriate as a symbol for Romantic Satanism than any of the icons which have become familiar representations of Satanism proper: the inverted pentagram, with or without the Baphomet goat head; the inverted crucifix; the 666 “mark of the beast”; etc. The significance of the symbol of Lucifer’s Liberty feather is threefold: 1), it stresses that most important component of the Lucifer myth: the apostate angel’s revolutionary struggle for freedom; 2), it underlines the Romantic refashioning of this liberty-loving Lucifer as beautiful rather than bestial; 3), it designates the luminous rebel angel’s celestial revolt as the inspiration for terrestrial Man’s quest for self-determination. I cannot imagine a more apposite symbol for the phenomenon of Romantic Satanism—and for The Satanic Scholar, the proud preserver of this grand tradition—than Lucifer’s feather of Liberty.



1. See Maximilian Rudwin, The Devil in Legend and Literature (LaSalle, IL: Open Court Publishing Company, [1931] 1959), Ch. XXII, “The Salvation of Satan in Modern Poetry,” pp. 280–308; Jeffrey Burton Russell, Mephistopheles: The Devil in the Modern World (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, [1986] 1990), pp. 194–200; Ruben van Luijk, Children of Lucifer: The Origins of Modern Religious Satanism (New York: Oxford University Press, 2016), pp. 74–76, 105–08.
2. See Russell, pp. 196–200; Ruben van Luijk, “Sex, Science, and Liberty: The Resurrection of Satan in Nineteenth-Century (Counter) Culture,” in The Devil’s Party: Satanism in Modernity, ed. Per Faxneld and Jesper Aa. Petersen (New York: Oxford University Press, 2013), p. 45; van Luijk, Children of Lucifer, pp. 81–82, 107–08.
3. Victor Hugo, La Fin de Satan, quoted in Russell, p. 200.
4. First-generation Romantic radical turned reactionary Poet Laureate Robert Southey’s characterization of Romanticism’s “Satanic School” in his Preface to A Vision of Judgement (1821). Quoted in C. L. Cline, “Byron and Southey: A Suppressed Rejoinder,” Keats-Shelley Journal, Vol. 3 (Winter, 1954), p. 30.

I Love “Lucifer”: Part 3 of 3

In Milton’s Paradise Lost (1667), Satan conforms conceptually to Frank S. Kastor’s analytical breakdown of Christianity’s arch-villain: “a trimorph, or three related but distinguishable personages: a highly placed Archangel, the grisly Prince of Hell, and the deceitful, serpentine Tempter.”1 Kastor’s dissection identifies three distinctive roles (the Apostate Angel, the Prince of Hell, the Tempter) performed in three distinctive environments (Heaven, Hell, Earth) and distinguished by three distinctive names (Lucifer, Satan, the Devil).2 Milton’s Satan fulfills these three “roles,” to be sure, but he is distinctly different from his Renaissance forebears, which is in part due to Milton’s storytelling.

Thomas Stothard, Satan Summons His Legions (1792-93)
Thomas Stothard, Satan Summons his Legions (1792-93)

The closest literary relative of Milton’s Satan is the titular angel of Joost van den Vondel’s tragedy Lucifer (1654), so-called because it follows the descent of the Light-Bearer from Heaven, where he cuts a dazzling figure in image and in action, into Hell, where he is humbled—fallen in every sense of the word. Milton’s Paradise Lost, on the other hand, begins in epic fashion in media res (“in the midst of things”), Satan already fallen into Hell. But Milton wanted to portray Satan as superhumanly seductive at the opening of his poem in Books I and II, where he dominates the action, so as to make the reader feel the extent of the power of “the proud / Aspirer” (VI.89–90) whom a third of the heavenly host marched behind into perdition. As a result, Milton wound up producing, as John M. Steadman observes in his essay on “The Idea of Satan as the Hero of Paradise Lost,” Satan the Prince of Hell intermingled with Lucifer the aspiring archangel:

The Satan of the first books of Paradise Lost is, in a sense, a transitional figure between the aspiring rebel against God and the sly seducer of mankind. Milton has left him much of his original brightness and his original archangelic form; and in character and rhetoric, as well as in external shape, he bears a closer resemblance to the hybristic Lucifer of the celestial war than to the Mafia figure he will subsequently become.3

Milton’s “Apostate Angel” (I.125) vastly outshined all prior Satanic models, and Romantic Satanists very much admired the peerless rebel prince introduced in Books I and II of Paradise Lost. William Hazlitt wrote that Paradise Lost’s “two first books alone are like two massy pillars of solid gold,” his idolization of the poem of course the result of its compelling arch-rebel: “In a word, the interest of the poem arises from the daring ambition and fierce passions of Satan.…Satan is the most heroic subject that ever was chosen for a poem; and the execution is as perfect as the design is lofty.”4 Lord Byron asserted in a similar vein that “the two first books of it are the very finest poetry that has ever been produced in this world.”5

The Romantics felt the Satanic Lucifer/Luciferian Satan of Books I and II of Paradise Lost eclipsed the rest of the poem, where the Prince of Hell transitions into his role of Tempter and proceeds “To wreck on innocent frail man his loss / Of that first Battle, and his flight to Hell,” finally becoming “the Devil” (IV.11–12, 502). This gives credence to the position John Carey takes in his essay on “Milton’s Satan”: “The ambivalence of Milton’s Satan stems partly from his trimorphic conception; pro-Satanists tend to emphasize his first two roles, anti-Satanists his third.”6 Perhaps what made Byron most merit the position of “master-Satanist”7 of the Satanic School was his radical choice to take the Miltonic tradition a step further and idealize the Tempter role of the diabolical triptych.

H. Meyer, after G. H. Harlow, Portrait of George Gordon Byron (Lord Byron) (1816)
H. Meyer, after G. H. Harlow, Portrait of George Gordon Byron (Lord Byron) (1816)

The Lucifer of Byron’s Cain: A Mystery (1821) is clearly cast in the mold of Milton’s Satan, but wrested from the Christian cosmology of Paradise Lost and recast as a rather Promethean figure, however haughty he might be. “I tempt none,” insists the Byronic Lucifer, “Save with the truth” (I.i.196–97). It is certainly a step beyond Shelley, who in the Preface to Prometheus Unbound (1820) deemed Milton’s fallen light-bringer the near-equal of the fire-bringer, Prometheus, but conceded that the fellow God-defying hero Satan fell short of the Promethean ideal.8

Byron’s Promethean purification of the Miltonic Satan involved restoring to the fallen angel Lucifer status—not merely in name but in function. Yet Byron infused the illustrious angelic name he returned to the Devil with Satanic irreverence, for it is not divine radiance that the Lucifer of Byron’s Cain brings, but the enlightenment of a self-assertively godless existence—a true Promethean state indeed. Despite the ambiguity of his disdainfully patrician disposition, Cain’s Lucifer enlightens the Byronic title character by illuminating a path of defiant, liberating godlessness, his parting words of wisdom to Cain transforming the so-called “Fall of Man” into the most profound moment in human history. With overt allusions to “the mind is its own place” speech Milton’s Satan delivers on the burning marl of Hell (I.242–70), Byron’s Lucifer urges Adam’s firstborn son to cast off the tyrannous yoke of divine authority and embrace what the cursed apple of Eden has paradoxically blessed the human race with:

One good gift has the fatal apple given—

Your reason:—let it not be over-sway’d

By tyrannous threats to force you into faith

’Gainst all external sense and inward feeling:

Think and endure,—and form an inner world

In your own bosom—where the outward fails;

So shall you nearer be the spiritual

Nature, and war triumphant with your own. (II.ii.459–66)

Although Cain is no sooner prepared to bend the knee to his father’s Devil than his God (I.i.310–18), and although he pities Lucifer for his loveless aloofness (II.ii.338), Cain admires the rebel angel as a Promethean patron—“A foe to the Most High,” but a “friend to man” (III.i.169). Byron scholar Jerome J. McGann concurs insofar as he finds in Lucifer’s grand concluding speech “a commitment to intellectual freedom that has never been surpassed in English verse.”9

Byron’s Lucifer, in his fierce opposition to Heaven’s “indissoluble tyrant!” (I.i.153), bears a notable resemblance to Milton’s Satan, and Byron openly acknowledges his debt in Cain’s Preface. As Miltonic as Byron’s Lucifer may be, however, he is a rehabilitated Devil in several significant respects.10 The insistence of Byron in the Preface to Cain and of Lucifer in the play itself that the Devil and the Eden serpent are not one and the same both undermines the Christian account of the Fall and exonerates Lucifer from the malevolence towards Man maintained in the Miltonic model. Byron’s restoration of the name Lucifer is emblematic of this rehabilitation, as Peter A. Schock notes in his study of Romantic Satanism: “This defamiliarizing effect is compounded by the use of the angelic name derived from Isaiah [14:12], distancing Lucifer from the New Testament tradition of demonology.”11

Richard Westall, Satan Alarm'd (1794)
Richard Westall, Satan Alarmed—Dilated Stood (1794)

The Luciferian Lord Byron’s preference for the Devil’s prelapsarian name was no whitewash. Milton’s Satan, at the end of his journey in Paradise Lost, prides himself on his name “Satan (for I glory in the name, / Antagonist of Heav’n’s Almighty King)” (X.386–87), but if synonymous with the Miltonic Satan’s moniker is his “unconquerable Will” and “courage never to submit or yield” to the God who “Sole reigning holds the Tyranny of Heav’n” (I.106, 108, 124), the Lucifer of Cain is certainly no less Satanic: “I have a victor—true; but no superior. / Homage he has from all—but none from me…” (II.ii.429–30). Byron’s choice of Lucifer over Satan in fact exacerbates rather than evades the element of blasphemous defiance; its implications are far more radical than the impious effort to break Lucifer free from Christian/Miltonic tradition: Lucifer, Byron suggests, is more of a light-bearer in his fallen rather than his unfallen state. In falling from Heaven, the Byronic Lucifer does not lose his honorific, as in Paradise Lost (I.82; V.658–59), but gains it. It is a sentiment captured rather splendidly by the Devil of Glen Duncan’s novel, I, Lucifer: “Ironic of course that after the Fall they stopped referring to me as Lucifer, the Bearer of Light…Ironic that they stripped me of my angelic name at the very moment I began to be worthy of it.”12

Romanticism shed new light on Milton’s Satan, and Romantic Satanism re-envisioned the arch-rebel in a flattering light, so it was perhaps inevitable that Satan would once again become Lucifer. The Latin Lucifer is quite simply far more mellifluous, more elegant, more magisterial than the Hebrew Satan, and therefore an entirely more appropriate moniker for the regal rebel angel out of the Miltonic-Romantic tradition, who lent himself to that refined radicalism of Romantic Satanism. I believe Lord Byron’s Cain to be the apex of Romantic Satanism, and I find it entirely appropriate that when the Miltonic-Romantic Devil reached his zenith, he reclaimed his native name, Lucifer.



1. Frank S. Kastor, Milton and the Literary Satan (Amsterdam: Rodopi N.V., 1974), p. 15.
2. See ibid., pp. 15–16.
3. John M. Steadman, “The Idea of Satan as the Hero of Paradise Lost,” Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, Vol. 120, No. 4, Symposium on John Milton (Aug. 13, 1976), p. 272.
4. William Hazlitt, Lectures on the English Poets (1818), “Lecture III: On Shakespeare and Milton,” in The Romantics on Milton: Formal Essays and Critical Asides, ed. Joseph Anthony Wittreich, Jr. (Cleveland: The Press of Case Western Reserve University, 1970), p. 384.
5. Quoted in Martin Garrett, The Palgrave Literary Dictionary of Byron (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010), p. 194.
6. John Carey, “Milton’s Satan,” in The Cambridge Companion to Milton, ed. Dennis Danielson (New York [2d rev. ed. 1989]: Cambridge University Press, 1999), p. 162.
7. Clara Tuite, Lord Byron and Scandalous Celebrity (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015), p. 233.
8. Percy Bysshe Shelley, Preface to Prometheus Unbound, in Shelley’s Poetry and Prose, ed. Donald H. Reiman and Neil Fraistat (New York [2d rev. ed. 1977]: W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2002), pp. 206–07: “The only imaginary being resembling in any degree Prometheus, is Satan; and Prometheus is, in my judgement, a more poetical character than Satan because, in addition to courage and majesty and firm and patient opposition to omnipotent force, he is susceptible of being described as exempt from the taints of ambition, envy, revenge, and a desire for personal aggrandisement, which in the Hero of Paradise Lost, interfere with the interest.”
9. Jerome J. McGann, ed. Lord Byron: the Major Works (New York: Oxford University Press Inc., [1986] 2008), p. 1072n.
10. Milton’s Satan evades the angelic guards of Eden and hides inside the serpent, the slimy vessel within which he laments he must lowly descend for conquest of the world (IX.157–71), whereas Byron’s Lucifer boasts to Cain that he acts within sight of Eden’s angels (I.i.554–56) and derides the notion that a superior spiritual being free to roam the cosmos would covet what little the material world has to offer, let alone in the shape of a material creature (I.i.216–17, 228, 237–45); Milton’s Satan misinterprets the biblical protevangelium (X.494–501), whereas Byron’s Lucifer is an acute scriptural commentator, informing Cain of the immortality of the soul (I.i.103–19, II.i.90–92) and the future incarnation of the Son of God (I.i.163–66, 540–42), theological concepts which Cain, as an Old Testament character, is unaware of; Milton’s Satan boasts of having “by fraud…seduc’d [Man] / From his Creator” (X.485–86), whereas Byron’s Lucifer indignantly insists, “I tempt none, / Save with the truth…” (I.i.196–97).
11. Peter A. Schock, Romantic Satanism: Myth and the Historical Moment in Blake, Shelley, and Byron (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003), p. 104.
12. Glen Duncan, I, Lucifer (New York: Grove Press, 2002), p. 12.

I Love “Lucifer”: Part 2 of 3

Traditionally, just as Lucifer lost his illustrious name, so too had he lost his resplendent beauty, the refulgent angelic prince’s magnificent face and form marred as he was cast out from Heaven. The greatest of these deformed Devils was Dante’s Lucifer, who in the Inferno of The Divine Comedy (1308–1321) lies in the ninth and lowest circle of Hell, reserved for the treacherous. Dante’s Devil, frozen below the waist in unbreakable ice, is a grotesque sight: gigantic, hairy, and three-faced, each monstrous mouth chomping down on history’s great traitors, Judas, Brutus, and Cassius (XXXIV.28–67). Dante’s use of the name Lucifer is an ironic mockery of the perfidious angelic prince, who “was once as handsome as he now / is ugly,” imprisoned in the icy depths of Hell because he “raised his brows / against his Maker” (XXXIV.34–36). Yet if Dante’s Lucifer is as repulsive as he once was beautiful, Milton’s Satan is as magnificent as Dante’s Lucifer was monstrous, which is to say, the Satan of Milton’s Paradise Lost (1667) is more Luciferian than the Lucifer of Dante’s Inferno, so much so that while Dante’s Devil is Lucifer in name only, Milton’s Satan is Lucifer in all but name.

Lucifer, Cornelis Galle the Elder, after Lodovico Cardi (1595)
Cornelis Galle the Elder, after Lodovico Cardi, Lucifer (1595)

The extent of the Miltonic Satan’s glittering majesty is perhaps best demonstrated when he is contrasted with his closest literary cousins. In her study of The War in Heaven: Paradise Lost and the Tradition of Satan’s Rebellion, Stella Purce Revard posits that Milton’s epic hero Satan is an installment in a long line of Renaissance Lucifers.1 While there are certainly striking similarities, Milton’s Renaissance predecessors were unquestionably far more unforgiving when visualizing the Devil’s hellish fall, however generous they might have been when depicting his heavenly revolt. The medieval tradition of defacing the fallen angel is upheld by Torquato Tasso’s Gerusalemme liberate (Jerusalem Delivered, 1581), Giambattista Marini’s La Strage degli Innocenti (1610), Giambattista Andreini’s L’Adamo (1613), Joseph Beaumont’s Psyche, or Love’s Majesty (1648), and Joost van den Vondel’s Lucifer (1654).2

Vondel’s transformation of his Lucifer into a grotesque hodgepodge of several beasts as he falls from Heaven is only exceeded by Erasmo di Valvasone, whose L’Angeleida (1590) uniquely imagines a monstrous prelapsarian Lucifer, who appears in the War in Heaven as a seven-headed, hundred-handed, hundred-winged monstrosity. Milton’s Satan is no such thing, appearing on the heavenly battlefield in boundless majesty:

High in the midst exalted as a God

Th’ Apostate in his Sun-bright Chariot sat

Idol of Majesty Divine, enclos’d

With Flaming Cherubim, and golden Shields;

Then lighted from his gorgeous Throne.…

Satan with vast and haughty strides advanc’d,

Came tow’ring, arm’d in Adamant and Gold… (VI.99–110)

Sir Thomas Lawrence, Two Fallen Angels (ca. 1797)
Sir Thomas Lawrence, Satan as the Fallen Angel (ca. 1797)

The most radical aspect of Milton’s vision, however, is that his “Prince of Darkness” (X.383) is not as darkened as he might have been. In Paradise Lost, the fallen archangel Satan remains in possession of much of his “Original brightness” (I.592), as do the fallen “Satanic Host” (VI.392), likened to a lightning-scorched but nonetheless stately forest (I.612–15). The fallen rebel angels, despite their diminished glory, bear “Godlike shapes and forms / Excelling human, Princely Dignities” (I.358–59), and no one is as princely and godlike as Satan himself:

                                    …he above the rest

In shape and gesture proudly eminent

Stood like a Tow’r; his form had yet not lost

All her Original brightness, nor appear’d

Less than Arch-Angel ruin’d, and th’ excess

Of Glory obscur’d… (I.589–94)

Milton’s Satan was in Heaven “Sun-bright” (VI.100), and in Hell he is still likened to the Sun, but as obscured by a misty horizon or eclipsed by the Moon (I.592–99). Milton’s dimmed Devil, in short, is the fallen Lucifer, “Dark’n’d so, yet shone / Above them all th’ Arch-Angel…” (I.599–600).3 In this, Milton initiated the fallen Dark Prince’s re-ascension to Lucifer, the title he was to regain in the Romantic Era.


1. Stella Purce Revard, The War in Heaven: Paradise Lost and the Tradition of Satan’s Rebellion (Ithaca, NY and London: Cornell University Press, 1980), p. 198: “Satan, proud but magnificent, unyieldingly resolute in battle, emerges in the Renaissance poems wearing the full splendor of epic trappings. To these poems we owe in large measure the hero Satan as he is developed in Paradise Lost. Renaissance poets drew on two traditions to depict Satan or Lucifer: the hexaemeral and the epic. Hexaemera described Lucifer as a prince, glorious and unsurpassed, whose ambition caused him to strive above his sphere; epics described their heroes as superhuman in battle and accorded them, whatever their arrogance or mistakes in judgment, ‘grace’ to offend, even as they are called to account for their offenses. The Lucifer of the Renaissance thus combines Isaiah’s Lucifer with Homer’s Agamemnon, Virgil’s Turnus, and Tasso’s Rinaldo. Milton’s Satan, in turn, follows the Renaissance Lucifer and is both the prince depicted in hexaemera and the classical battle hero.”
2. See Watson Kirkconnell, The Celestial Cycle: The Theme of Paradise Lost in World Literature with Translations of the Major Analogues (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1952), pp. 59–61 (Tasso), 221 (Marini), 236 (Andreini), 350–51 (Beaumont), 414–15 (Vondel).
3. Milton reserved true hellish monstrousness for Sin and Death (II.648–73, 781–802), as well as the native denizens of Hell, “worse / Than Fables yet have feign’d, or fear conceiv’d, / Gorgons and Hydras, and Chimeras dire” (II.626–28). Of course, Milton does in the end bring his stately Satan low when he returns triumphantly to Hell: Satan is transformed into “A monstrous Serpent on his Belly prone” (X.514) at the conclusion of his exultant speech, Satan’s supporters suffering the same ignominy, “all transform’d / Alike, to Serpents all as accessories / To his bold Riot…” (X.519–21). Satan’s punishment seems reminiscent of Dante’s Inferno insofar as his punishment in Hell correlates to his crime on Earth, Satan “punisht in the shape he sinn’d, / According to his doom” (X.516–17), but in truth it is less harsh than Milton’s Renaissance predecessors, let alone Dante. Milton’s Satan and his coconspirators “thir lost shape, permitted, they resum’d,” their temporary transformation merely an “annual humbling certain number’d days, / To dash thir pride, and joy for Man seduc’t” (X.574, 576–77).

I Love “Lucifer”: Part 1 of 3

The Satanic Scholar” struck me as an appropriate moniker for the resource dedicated to preserving the tradition established by the Satanic School of English Romanticism. Truth be told, I hold the name/title Lucifer in much higher regard than Satan, though I am obliged to more often invoke the latter, which abounds in the field of Miltonic-Romantic Satanism: e.g., “Milton’s Satan,” “Romantic Satanism,” “the Satanic School,” (Miltonic) “Satanists” and “anti-Satanists.” Be that as it may, this grand tradition—despite the frequency with which the name Satan appears in it—restored not only the fallen angel’s celestial luster, but also his luminous name, which I find both aesthetically and philosophically fitting.

The tradition of the Devil having possessed the name Lucifer (Latin for “Light-Bearer”) before falling from Heaven and being rechristened Satan (Hebrew for “Adversary”) was the product of the early Christian Church, when the concept of the Devil was in its infancy. Lucifer signified the prestigious celestial status the fallen angel once possessed and forever lost1—an interesting addition to the cosmic cautionary tale. The name Lucifer originates from the fourteenth chapter of the Old Testament Book of Isaiah, which the Church Fathers absorbed into the Satanic biography beginning to take shape to further flesh out the character of the Devil, who was to play a major role in Christian theology.

William Blake, Satan in His Original Glory - “Thou Wast Perfect Till Iniquity was Found in Thee” (ca. 1805)
William Blake, Satan in His Original Glory – “Thou Wast Perfect Till Iniquity was Found in Thee” (ca. 1805)

Patristic exegesis of Isaiah 14 concretized the Devil’s prelapsarian name and the sin of prideful ambition to godhead that led him to forfeit it. “How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning!” thunders the biblical prophet Isaiah, “For thou hast said in thine heart…I will exalt my throne above the stars of God.…I will be like the most High. Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit” (Isaiah 14:12–15). The extravagant imagery employed by Isaiah to overstress the overriding pride and commensurate downfall of “the king of Babylon” (Isaiah 14:4) led patristic writers to conclude that the king himself, rather than the vivid language used to describe his spectacular fall from the seat of power, was figurative—a mortal means to describe the Devil’s supernatural fall from grace. For the Church Fathers, Isaiah’s diatribe revealed that Satan became Satan because he aspired above his station, Lucifer the angelic rebel having established himself as simia Dei,2 arrogating divine attributes in his blasphemous ambition to “be like the most High” (Isaiah 14:14).3

Lucifer, as invoked in Isaiah 14:12, is Latin for “light-bearer,” and the original Hebrew reads Helel ben Shahar, “Day Star, son of the Dawn.” It is a reference to Venus, the Morning Star, which is the light-bringer, appearing to herald the light of the rising Sun. Day Star transitioned into Lucifer in Latin translations of the Bible, such as St. Jerome’s fourth-century Latin Vulgate Bible. All English translations of the Bible familiar to Milton4 maintained Lucifer as a proper name, and Milton stuck to this tradition in Paradise Lost,5 retelling the traditional story he inherited as best it could be told. “Lucifer… / (So call him, brighter once amidst the Host / Of Angels, than that Star the Stars among)…” (VII.131–33), relates the archangel Raphael, who alternately emphasizes that—like all fallen angels, who’ve had their names “blotted out and ras’d / By thir Rebellion, from the Books of Life” (I.362–63)—the ruined archangel was stripped of his honorific: “Satan, so call him now, his former name / Is heard no more in Heav’n” (V.658–59).

Traditionally, Lucifer was the highest angel in Heaven, second only to God Himself,6 and despite the qualification Milton places upon Lucifer’s heavenly rank—“he of the first, / If not the first Arch-Angel”7 (V.659–60)—the angelic aristocrat’s celestial status is attested to by Milton’s emphasis on splendor denoting rank in the hierarchy of Heaven. Milton affirms that “God is Light” (III.3; cf. 1 John 1:5), as well as the “Fountain of Light” (III.375), God’s angelic sons the “Progeny of Light” who are by the Almighty “Crown’d…with Glory” (V.600, 839). The title of Light-Bearer thus signifies just how “great in Power, / In favor and preëminence” (V.660–61) the prelapsarian Lucifer was—a point emphasized by Raphael/Milton:

                                        …great indeed

His name, and high was his degree in Heav’n;

His count’nance, as the Morning Star that guides

The starry flock… (V.706–09)

Doré 10
Gustave Doré, Paradise Lost, Bk. IV., 73-74, “Me miserable! Which way shall I fly / Infinite wrath, and infinite despair?” (1866)

In spite of how illustriously highborn he was in Heaven, “great Lucifer” (V.760), who “sdein’d subjection, and thought one step higher / Would set [him] highest” (IV.50–51), finds himself cast down into “utter darkness… / As far remov’d from God and light of Heav’n / As from the Center thrice to th’ utmost Pole” (I.72–74). Heaven’s erstwhile Morningstar is outcast and reduced to “the Prince of Darkness” (X.383).

The supernal splendor Lucifer once enjoyed intensifies his loss, for though the fallen archangel nobly refuses to “repent or change, / Though chang’d in outward luster” (I.96–97), exchanging the lost glory of his person for the glory of his will,8 he is obviously chagrined by his “faded splendor wan” (IV.870), particularly in the presence of divine radiance. Milton’s fallen Lucifer, “And thence in Heav’n call’d Satan” (I.82), laments his loss of luster in his apostrophe to the Sun atop Mt. Niphates:

…O Sun…how I hate thy beams
That bring to my remembrance from what state
I fell, how glorious once above thy Sphere;
Till Pride and worse Ambition threw me down
Warring in Heav’n against Heav’n’s matchless King… (IV.37–41)

As close as Milton ostensibly stuck to tradition in his portrayal of Lucifer/Satan, he undeniably took radical departures. In Paradise Lost, Milton’s Satan is Lucifer in all but name.



1. See Jeffrey Burton Russell, The Devil: Perceptions of Evil from Antiquity to Primitive Christianity (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, [1977] 1987), pp. 195–97; The Prince of Darkness: Radical Evil and the Power of Good in History (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, [1988] 1992), pp. 43–44; Neil Forsyth, The Old Enemy: Satan and the Combat Myth (Princeton: Princeton University Press, [1987] 1989), pp. 134–36; The Satanic Epic (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2003), pp. 51–54, 80–81; Luther Link, The Devil: A Mask without a Face (London: Reaktion Books Ltd, 1995), pp. 22–23; T. J. Wray and Gregory Mobley, The Birth of Satan: Tracing the Devil’s Biblical Roots (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005), pp. 108–10.
2. See Maximilian Rudwin, The Devil in Legend and Literature (LaSalle, IL: Open Court Publishing Company, [1931] 1959), Ch. XII, “Diabolus Simia Dei,” pp. 120–29.
3. See Russell, The Devil, pp. 195–97; Satan: The Early Christian Tradition (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, [1981] 1987), pp. 130–33; The Prince of Darkness, pp. 78–80; Stella Purce Revard, The War in Heaven: Paradise Lost and the Tradition of Satan’s Rebellion (Ithaca, NY and London: Cornell University Press, 1980), pp. 32–35, 47–49; Forsyth, The Old Enemy, pp. 134–39, 370–71; The Satanic Epic, pp. 44–45, 51–54, 80–81; Link, pp. 22–27; Wray and Mobley, pp. 108–12; Henry Ansgar Kelly, Satan: A Biography (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2006), pp. 191–99.
4. See Matthew Stallard, ed. Paradise Lost: The Biblically Annotated Edition (Macon, GA: Mercer University Press, 2011), p. xxix.
5. Some critics insist that Milton did not intend his references to Lucifer in Paradise Lost to be understood as Satan’s angelic name in Heaven, but rather as a means of denoting Satan’s erstwhile splendor, for his heavenly abode is referred to as “The Palace of great Lucifer, (so call / That Structure in the Dialect of men / Interpreted)” (V.760–62), his hellish abode “Pandæmonium, City and proud seat / Of Lucifer, so by allusion call’d, / Of that bright Star to Satan paragon’d” (X.424–26). Despite this, I believe it is safe to assume that Milton was conforming to Christian tradition with regards to the change of names from Lucifer to Satan. In his outlines for Adam Unparadiz’d—the verse drama Paradise Lost was originally planned to be—Milton refers to the Devil as Lucifer rather than Satan. See Barbara K. Lewalski, ed. Paradise Lost (Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing Ltd, 2007), “Appendix: Sketches for Dramas on the Fall, from the Trinity Manuscript,” pp. 341–43. Additionally, Milton referred to Lucifer at various points in his political polemics, in part to add emphasis to his message against men imitating the sin which led to Lucifer’s loss of his illustrious name: prideful aspiring above one’s sphere. See Frank S. Kastor, Milton and the Literary Satan (Amsterdam: Rodopi N.V., 1974), p. 49.
6. See Jeffrey Burton Russell, Lucifer: the Devil in the Middle Ages (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, [1984] 1986), pp. 173–74.
7. In the traditional Christian hierarchy of angels—seraphim, cherubim, thrones, dominions, virtues, powers, principalities, archangels, angels—Milton’s Satan would be placed second to last in the nine orders. However, although Milton invokes these traditional angelic ranks at various points in Paradise Lost, he does not keep their traditional order. Milton’s archangels are so-called because they are entrusted with tasks of great significance: the archangel Uriel is “Regent of the Sun” (III.690); the archangel Gabriel is “Chief of th’ Angelic Guards” (IV.550) in Eden; the archangel Raphael is placed in charge of educating Adam and Eve about Satan and the danger they are in (V.221–45); the archangel Michael is “of Celestial Armies Prince” (VI.44), is named “the Prince of Angels” (VI.281) on the heavenly battlefield, and is also placed in charge of banishing Adam and Eve from Eden after revealing to the fallen parents of the human race the hope of future salvation (XI.99–125). Just as Milton refers to Satan as “th’ Arch-fiend” (I.156) to emphasize that he is “the superior Fiend” (I.283), so too does he refer to Satan as “th’ Arch-Angel” (I.600) to emphasize his superior angelic rank—“Above them all…” (I.600).
8. Milton’s Satan makes repeated reference to the glory of his endeavors: “…the Glorious Enterprise” (I.89); “That Glory never shall his wrath or might / Extort from me” (I.110–11); “…that strife / Was not inglorious, though th’ event was dire…” (I.623–24); “From this descent / Celestial Virtues rising, will appear / More glorious and more dread than from no fall…” (II.14–16); “If I must contend… / Best with the best, the Sender not the sent, / Or all at once; more glory will be won, / Or less be lost” (IV.851–54); “…The strife which thou call’st evil…wee style / The strife of Glory…” (VI.289–90); “To mee shall be the glory sole among / Th’infernal Powers, in one day to have marr’d / What he Almighty styl’d, six Nights and Days / Continu’d making…” (IX.135–38); “…I in one Night freed / From servitude inglorious well nigh half / Th’ Angelic Name, and thinner left the throng / Of his adorers…” (IX.140–43); “…I glory in the name, / Antagonist of Heav’n’s Almighty King…” (X.386–87).
In his narration, Milton himself emphasizes Satan’s relentless pursuit of glory: “…aspiring / To set himself in Glory above his Peers…” (I.38–39); “Him follow’d his next Mate, / Both glorying to have scap’t the Stygian flood / As Gods…” (I.238–40); “And now his heart / Distends with pride, and hard’ning in his strength / Glories…” (I.571–73); “…Satan, whom now transcendent glory rais’d / Above his fellows, with Monarchal pride / Conscious of highest worth…” (II.427–29).