Write about Milton's presentation of the fallen angels showing both ho
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Write about Milton's presentation of the fallen angels, showing both how he attempts to individualise them, and how he uses them to present his view of the world
The fallen angels are Satan's minions and the voices by which Milton may express a variety of opinions and views, showing the diversity and intricacies of Hell, and the immorality of their actions and proposals. Whilst we are often impressed by the skill with which the individual leaders perform their tasks and speeches, we are never left in any doubt as to the truth of G-d, and the futility of their debates. By examining the angels as a group, Milton is able to leave the infernal dungeon, to take a flight throughout history, giving his own point of view. It is thus that Books I and II of "Paradise Lost" are so unique, as the alternative, and less-frequently explored world of the devils, is probed in such a fascinating manner.
Milton uses the story of the fallen angels to open out on numerous eras, civilisations, myths and stories, allowing him to convey his own perception of the world's history, as the reader is guided through various points in time. Before we are introduced to the individuals, Milton depicts an enormous army of different species, each of changeable size and form. The image of a "pitchy cloud / Of locusts" to describe them as they rise from the burning lake is especially apt, given the destructive nature of, and biblical references to these insects. Milton states that they lost their original names after the Fall ("Got them new names, till wand'ring o'er the earth") and that they became known to man as the heathen idols of the Old Testament and the pagan deities of Egypt and Greece. A rich portrait of mythological and biblical history is painted, through the equation of the angels with the false gods and characters who featured in these past times. What is made clear throughout, is the fact that these civilisations are tainted by their neglect of the true G-d, in favour of these idols, which leads to their resultant downfall. First, we meet the icons to which Solomon sinfully built temples, and failed in his duty to the Lord. Moloch, the sun god, is the embodiment of wrath, demanding bloodthirsty human sacrifice from the Ammonite children; Chemos, god of the Moabites, and the Baalim, the Palestinian gods. The history behind these gods is noted carefully by Milton, and their mention does have significant meaning - when destroyed by Josiah, Solomon's temple to Moloch was known as either Tophet or Gehenna: other names for Hell. The angels, who "can either sex assume" may also take up the form of goddesses, whether the moon goddess Ashtaroth or Astarte; the universal nature of these counterfeit gods demonstrates the far-reaching effects of Satan's evil; that every time and place has been touched by this false reverence. We move geographical location, as Milton cites the sun god of fertility, Thammuz, lover of Venus, frantically worshipped every year in Babylon; the Philistine fish god Dagon, and the Syrian sun god Rimmon. Indeed, the angels have manifested themselves in other ages, as the "bleating" animal gods of Egypt that Milton scorned so - who "with monstrous shapes" are the renewed Olympian gods in "brutish forms", Osiris, Isis and Orus. Their destructive nature is all-pervasive, as the Holy Land could not escape it ("nor did Israel scape / The' infection"), as they succumbed to the idolatry supplication of the golden calf - formed of gold borrowed from the Egyptians, hence the "calf in Oreb".
Before continuing this passage through Satan's history, Milton introduces Belial as a static spirit - not a single deity, but the personification of intemperance through lust, "Vice for itself". He is all the more dangerous because he has no temple or recognisable image, and it is through this intemperance that the ultimate destruction, the fall of Adam, occurs. However, we quickly return to this account of the angels' most notable appearances throughout time, and what follows are the classical tales that fascinated Milton, yet which he disdainfully deemed inferior. The Ionian gods were descended from Noah, yet gods are by their very existence self-being: Milton's sketch of the heavenly hierarchy lends an air of contempt for this
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