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That sparkling blazed, his other parts besides
We have more which we should gladly say of the delineation of Satan ; especially of the glimpses which are now and then given of his deep anguish and despair, and of the touches of better feelings which are skilfully thrown into the dark picture, both suited and designed to blend with our admiration, dread, and abhorrence, a measure of that sympathy and interest with which every living, thinking being ought to be regarded, and without which all other feelings tend to sin and pain.
As far as regards the daring, dauntless disposition of Milton's Satan, we are inclined to agree with Dr. Channing. What, indeed, can more terribly demonstrate the desperate determination of the devil than the following famous lines :
Is this the region, this the soil, the clime,
So does his personal description of the fiend give us the idea of a Spirit of Evil, "mighty and majestic:
The superior Fiend
Bebind him cast; the broad circumference
Still we have often doubted whether Milton has successfully detailed the entire nature of the devil. He has made him, like the Prometheus of Æschylus, a magnificent rebel to the Divine power, but we scarcely perceive, throughout the Paradise Lost, that crafty, tempting, and utterly malignant demon, such as spoken of in Scripture. Milton, for instance, commits an unpardonable error when he makes Satan, tempting Eve, to be moved even for instant :
Such pleasure took the Serpent to behold
Of pleasure not for him ordain'd. The very notion of a moment's hesitation to do wrong, in the mind of the demon, is utterly absurd. If such vacillation were to occur once, it might occur again, and thus would it destroy that eternity of active evil which is supposed to occupy the arch-enemy of mankind. Milton's Satan is a grand impersonation of wickedness, but it is not the Tempter of the desert--insidious, indefatigable, and implacable. This is fully the opinion of Dr. Blair, who, in his celebrated Lectures, thus alludes to the Satan of Paradise Lost :
Milton his not described Satan such as we suppose an infernal spirit to be. Ile has, more suitably to his own purpos", given him a human, that is, a mixed character, not altogether void of some good qualities. lle is brave, and faithful to his troops. In the inidst of his iinpiety he is not without remorse. lle is even touched with pity for our first parents, and jus:ifies himself in his design against thein, from the necessity of his situation. He is actuated by ambition and resentment, rather than by pure malice. In short, Milton's Satan is no worse than many a conspirator or factious chief that makes a figure in history.
Shakespeare, in his lago, has produced a masterly incarnation of the ficndish spirit. lago has all the qualifications of the demon ; he is deep, daring, sarcastic, malignant, and unmerciful : not alone his acts, but his every thought is wicked. He has no human feeling beyond hate and malice. True, he talks of injuries indicted, yet we think it is a mistake to suppose that he is actuated by revenge. The fierce jealousy he expresses with regard to Othello is a mere pretext, such as even fiends will start in excuse for the perpetration of crime. This is the more clearly so, from his giving the very same reason, immediately afterwards, for destroying Cassio, when in Cassio's case he could have no ground for suspicion. Moreover, lago cares nothing for his wife, and treats her with utter contempt. He is throughout the play an arch-enemy of mankind ; and that Shakespeare intended him to be so is evident from the frequent allusions made to infernal agency. Thus lago says
Hell and night
Divinity of hell!
Othello, too, exclaims, in addressing lago
I look down towards his feet, but that's a fable. Some of the spceches of lago demonstrate his devil's spirit to perfection. For instance, how subtle is the following!
O sir, content you ;
Who trimm'd in forms and visages of duty,
For daws to peck at: I am not what I am.
Virtue ? a fig! 'tis in ourselves, that we are thus, or thus. Our bodies are our gardens; to the which, our wills are gardeners : so that if we will plant nettles, or sow lettuce; set hyssop, and weed up thyme; supply it with one gender of herbs or distract it with many; either to have it sterile with idleness, or manured with industry; why the power and corrigible authority of this lies in our wills. If the balance of our lives had not one scale of reason to poise another of sensuality, the blood and baseness of our natures would conduct us to most preposterous conclusions: But we have reason to cool our raging motions, our carnal stings, our unbitted lusts; whereof I take this, tbat you call—love, to be a sect, or scion.
He watches the progress of the evil he does with the exulting satisfaction of a demon
I will in Cassio's lodgings lose this napkin
Which thou ow'dst yesterday. Shakespeare, though usually so fond of supernatural agency, exhibits consummate art in avoiding it when delineating the character and schemes of Iago. His object is to represent the fiend incarnate, triumphing in his villainy, without any other aid than the resources of his own diabolical mind, and he works out the plot most ably. Milton's Satan may be a magnificent creation, but Shakespeare's Iago approaches far nearer to the nature of the devil.
The Mephistopheles of Goethe may be said to be a compound of Milton's Satan and Shakespeare's Iago : he has the bold daring of the one and the cruel craft of the other. The opening prologue of Faust reminds one strongly of Milton, though Mephistopheles is more subservient and sarcastic than Satan. Goethe's fiend thus addresses the Almighty Power :-*
Since Thou, O Lord, approachest us once more,
The temptation of Faust by Mephistopheles is finely conceived and powerfully described. Though long, we make no excuse for presenting the greater portion of it:
A kock? Come in--another plague, to-day!
Right! That will suffice.
• The translation of Faust, here given, is that by the Ilon. Robert Talbot.