THE CAST OF PARADISE LOST


THE HOLY TRINITY

In Christian theology, the three persons that form one God.

The Father

The Almighty, all-knowing, all-powerful. His perfection makes it impossible for Milton’s audience to identify with him—an unchangeable character with no inner conflict. His main function in the poem is to explain free will, justice, and the consequences of disobedience. [Books III and X]

The Son

Also called Messiah, the future incarnation of Jesus Christ, whom the Father ordains king of the angels and his equal in power. He defeats Lucifer's rebellion [vi.824], and is sent by his Father to carry out the miracle of Creation [Book VII]. He volunteers to become human and suffer martyrdom for man's sin [iii.227]; acts as judge over Adam and Eve, mercifully postponing their punishment of death [x.103]; and intercedes with his Father for their redemption. [xi.22]

The Holy Ghost

A mystical aspect of God in Christianity, not directly addressed as such in the poem, but most closely represented as Milton's muse, Urania.


THE FAITHFUL ANGELS

The spirits who serve God in Heaven. Archangels are the highest ranking angels. Others include Seraphim, Cherubim, Thrones, Dominations, Virtues, Powers, and Pricipalities, though Milton never clearly defines these. They are pictured, with some ambiguity, as winged spirits who can change shape at will, yet they can be physically wounded in battle and can sup with humans. They battle the rebel angels in God's behalf, and later act as man's protectors.

Abdiel

The only angel in Satan's crew who finds himself unwilling to break faith with God. He stands up to Satan, chastising him in front of his followers. Later he strikes the first blow against Satan in the war in Heaven. [Book V, line 803, thru the beginning of Book VI]

Gabriel

Second in rank to Michael. He is charged to guard the Garden of Eden in the days before the fall. When Satan first discovers the Garden, Gabriel captures and expels him. [Book IV, lines 781-1015]

Ithuriel

One of the two angels sent by Gabriel to find Satan in the Garden of Eden. They find him whispering to the sleeping Eve. Ithuriel taps Satan's shoulder with his spear. [Book IV, lines 786-874]

Michael

Highest ranking of God's army of angels. He wounds Satan in the battle in Heaven [vi.245]. Later, by God's decree, he expels Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden, after showing Adam visions of the future consequences of his sin. [Books XI and XII]

Raphael

The angel God sends to warn Adam and Eve about Satan. He is the poem's narrator of the account of Satan's rebellion in Heaven and the creation of the world, as told to the human couple. He is "sociably mild" in contrast to the stern, military angels. [Books V thru VIII]

Urania

Milton's Christian muse, the angel-like female spirit who Milton invokes in the beginnings of Books I, III, VII, and IX, to inspire him in writing the poem. In the poem's opening lines she seems to be identified with the Holy Spirit of the Trinity. [i.1-26] Milton borrowed her from Greek mythology, where she is the muse of astronomy and astrology.

Uriel

The guardian stationed on the sun. When Satan disguises himself as a young cherub, Uriel is fooled into directing him to where Adam lives. [Book II, lines 613-742]

Uzziel

A guard in Eden, next in rank to Gabriel. [iv.782]

Zephon

Together with Ithuriel, he captures Satan in the Garden of Eden in the night and brings him to Gabriel. [Book IV, lines 786-874]

Zophiel

A warrior "of swiftest wing" in the battle against Satan's forces. [v.535]


THE FALLEN ANGELS

The angels who, led by Satan, rebel against what they consider God's tyranny. They are thrown into Hell, where they become devils, devoted to the destruction of the human race as revenge against God. Some were destined to become the false gods of ancient civilizations.

Adonis (or Thammuz)

In Greek mythology a beautiful youth destined to yearly death and resurrection, associated with nature's cycle and symbolized by a river of blood. Milton plays up the sexual overtones. [i.446]

Adramelec

A powerful Throne in Satan's army, beaten by Uriel. [vi.365]

Ariel

One of the rebels defeated by Abdiel. [vi.371]

Arioc

Another of the rebels defeated by Abdiel. [vi.371]

Ashtaroth

Several spirits of feminine gender in Satan's crew. [i.422]

Asmadai

A Throne who lost his battle with Raphael despite his weapons of diamond. [vi.365]

Astoreth

Worshiped as the queen of Heaven in Solomon's temple. [i.438]

Azazel

A tall Cherub who raises Satan's standard in Hell to lift the spirits of the defeated rebels as Satan is about to speak. [i.534]

Baalim

A name for fallen spirits who would become beast-like gods of Israel. [i.422]

Beelzebub

The name means "The Lord of the Flies." In the New Testament, it's another name for Satan. Milton casts him as Satan's second in command. In the debate among the devils in Book II, Beelzebub presents the plan for a furtive revenge against God by perverting man.

Belial

A member of the demonic council who speaks second [ii.108], conceding God is too powerful to oppose and they should wait for his amnesty. His graceful manner conceals a vice-ridden soul. On Earth he would corrupt churches and palaces, and fill the steets at night with violence and debauchery. [i.490]

Chemos

A devil who would turn the Jews against Moses and lead them in sinful sex orgies. [i.406]

Dagon

A sea-monster, part man, part fish, worshiped by the Philistines. [i.462]

Lucifer

Satan's name before he fell. It means "brightest star." In his original state, he was glorious to behold.

Mammon

A low ranking angel, an admirer of material riches, he leads the angels in the construction of Pandemonium [i.674]. Later he would speak at the grand council. He advocates contentment with this new realm in Hell. [ii.228]

Moloch

A brutish spirit, obsessed with war and violence. He urges the devils to return to battle Heaven even after defeat has landed them in Hell [ii.43]. He would cause Solomon to build a temple against God. Children would be burned alive in sacrifice to his idol. [i.392]

Mulciber

The architect of Pandemonium, Satan's palace in Hell. He comes with much experience, having designed many grand towers in Heaven. [i.740]

Nisroch

Badly wounded in battle, during a nightime truce, this fallen spirit laments his newly discovered physical pain. [vi.447]

Ramiel

Another of the rebel angels defeated by Abdiel. [vi.371]

Rimmon

A devil who practiced his demonic craft in Damascus. [i.467]

Satan

A central character in the first half of the poem. A high ranking archangel in Heaven who became jealous of the Son of God and led multitudes of angels in a violent rebellion against the Almighty. Tossed into Hell, he makes it his kingdom, where he plans revenge against God by corrupting mankind.

Satan’s complex musings and self-examination sometimes resemble a hero’s stance against a tyrannical enemy, inducing more sympathy from the reader than Milton may have intended. In the latter part of the poem, Satan’s character degenerates into a more typical villain, as we sympathize more with the human couple.


PERSONIFICATIONS

In mythological style, Milton turns certain concepts into living beings. Among these are Grace, Liberty, Night, Chance, Discord, and the following three who become central to the plot.

Sin

Daughter of Satan. Half-woman, half-serpent, she sprung from Satan's head when he conceived the thought of rebelling against God. She is charged to hold the key to the gates of Hell [Book II, lines 648-889]. Together with her son, Death, she builds a highway from Hell to Earth. [Book X, lines 229-414 & 585-615]

Death

Son of Sin, fathered by Satan. A faceless creature, his first act upon being born is to rape his mother. He confronts Satan at the gate of Hell, and the two are prevented from a deadly battle when Sin reveals that he is Satan's son/grandson by incestuous union with her. [ii.666]

Chaos

The being who personifies the infinity of uncreated matter between Heaven, Hell, and our universe. Chaos resents God’s intrusion on his domain by creating the new world, and cheers Satan on in his quest to destroy it. [ii.951]



THE HUMAN RACE

God creates mankind to eventually replace the emptiness in Heaven left when the rebel angels were cast out. He creates the universe for people to live in first, where they will be tested and made ready for Heaven to accept them. Milton recounts the early history of man as told in the Bible, through prophetic visions and revelations given to Adam.

Adam

The first man, created perfect, but given free will, with which he can either maintain or lose his perfect state of happiness. God tests him by forbidding him to eat the fruit of one tree. Placing his love for Eve above his obedience to God proves his downfall. When Adam finds out that Eve has broken this commandment, rather than survive without her, he eats also, thereby losing Paradise and eternal happiness for himself and the world. [Book IX]

After God passes sentence on him, laying on the cold ground, Adam delivers a long, emotional speech expressing self-recrimination, terror of death, and pity for the future of mankind, which concludes with a shocking verbal attack against Eve. [x.720]

Eve

The first woman, created as a companion for Adam. She is subservient to Adam, but does not hesitate to argue with him. Satan targets her as the weaker sex, and tempts her to eat the forbidden fruit. She succumbs to his temptation, and decides to talk Adam into joining her in what at first seems like a good thing for both of them, but later brings terrible remorse. Their mutual love, together with God's mercy, sustains them and provides a conclusion to the story which is not without hope.

Eve's soliloquies before and after her sinful act are notable, as first she ruminates over Satan's persuasive argument, enhancing it with her own rationale, and afterwards considers not sharing the fruit with Adam, thereby raising herself to his level of wisdom by its imagined powers, or perhaps even, she thinks, a little higher. [Book IX]

MICHAEL'S PROPHECIES

Before expelling Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden, Michael shows Adam visions of events that will follow. Milton felt it was necessary to show not only what precipitated the fall, but it's consequences as well. This excursion into the Old Testament is widely considered anti-climactic, too lengthy, and is the least liked part of Paradise Lost. However, it may be of interest to some to see how one of the world's literary giants recounts this biblical chronology in his unique poetic style. [Books XI and XII]

Cain

Adam's first son, who killed his younger brother in a fit of jealous rage. [xi.429-460]

Abel

Adam’s gentle second son, who’s sincere offering to God resulted in his being murdered by his brother—the first human death, a violent one, which Adam painfully witnesses in a prophetic vision. [xi.429-460]

Enoch

A son of Cain, who God lifted to Heaven to save him from an angry mob. [xi.665-711]

Noah

A holy man who God saved when the rest of humanity became corrupt. God intructed him to build an ark and take his family and a pair of every kind of creature inside. A vision shows Adam the world destroyed by flood, while Noah and his family give the human race a second chance. [xi.719-901]

Nimrod

Great grandson of Noah. Seeking divinity, he built the tower of Babel. He symbolizes mankind's corruption so soon after the flood. [xii.24-110]

Abraham

Father of the Hebrew nation. [xii.111-151]

Isaac

Son of Abraham, father of Jacob. [xii.153]

Jacob or Israel

Son of Isaac, he had twelve sons who formed the twelve tribes of Israel. [xii.153 & 267]

Joseph

The favored son of Jacob. His jealous brothers sold him into slavery, but he rose to become Pharaoh's viceroy. [xii.160]

Pharoah

Egyptian king who kept the Jewish race in slavery. [xii.165]

Moses

Raised as royalty, having been abandoned at birth and found by Pharoah’s daughter, he eventually learned he was a Jew. He was exiled into the wilderness by Pharoah. He led the Jews out of slavery and safely across the dry bottom of the Red Sea, which parted for them. God entrusted him to deliver the Ten Commandments to his people. [xii.169-244]

Aaron

Older brother of Moses. He aided Moses in delivering the Israelites from bondage. [xii.169]

Joshua

Leader of the Israelites in the conquest of Canaan. He divided the promised land among the twelve tribes. [xii.263]

David

The second and greatest king of Israel. [xii.321]

Solomon

Son of David, third king of Israel. [xii.331]

Jesus

The Son of God incarnate. A descendant of David, born to an ordinary Jewish family, he became a wandering preacher. His teachings were considered seditious, causing him to be put to death by crucifixion, and thereby fulfilling his promise to mitigate, through his suffering, the sin of Adam and Eve. [xii.307-551]

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