English Literature » Notes » Milton’s conception of Hell in Paradise Lost
Paradise Lost

Milton’s conception of Hell in Paradise Lost

 Milton’s Hell is not a place of hopelessness but a place for meaningful activities.

In Paradise Lost, Milton gives a vivid and effective picture of Hell. Hell is a place for torment and torture. Milton has described it as a place of dismal situation and as a place burning like furnace. According to the Christianity, hell is the place where sinners suffer eternal damnation. Milton has described Hell as a place of all horrors in his famous epic Paradise Lost.

In the description of Hell, Milton has used the conception of Hell of Medieval Age. Hell is a place where damned souls are placed after their death and it is the place far away from the heaven of God. It is the place of sorrowful darkness. John Milton has also used the conception of Hell from Old Testament, the first rule of Christian bible. According to the Old Testament, Hell is the place which is the land of death where the light is like darkness.

And according to Old Testament, it is for away from the light of Heaven. Milton has described in Paradise Lost Book-I the whereabouts of Hell. He mentions that Hell is situated in a place for away from Heaven. The distance between Hell and Heaven is three times the distance of the North Pole and the South Pole from the centre of the Earth. We can mention the lines-

As far moved from God and light of Heaven
As from the centre thrice to the utmost Pole.

John Milton has described Hell with the graphic details. From the burning furnace of Hell the constantly flickering flames issue no light. They only provide phantasmagoria of dim visibility. Satan and his followers were chased up to Hell for their revolt against the throne of God. They were so terribly defeated by the angels of God that they lay in the fiery lake of Hell totally unconscious. They were lying in the fiery gulf of Hell for nine days and nine nights. At one stage, Satan woke up from trance like condition. He saw with the sorrowful eyes that they have been lying in the liquid fire for hell. Satan could understand the difference between heavenly bliss and torture of Hell.

Satan observes that it is a vast, gloomy and dreary region. It is like a horrible underground prison house.

It is the place where there remains total darkness. Some flames were there but they produce no light, rather, they produce visible darkness. In the fiery lake of Hell, Satan was in a highly melancholic mood because he observed that Hell is the place where only the pictures of woes and miseries are there. Some shades are there but those shades are also sorrowful. Hell is a place but here is no rest and peace of hopelessness. Let us mentions the lines of Milton—-

As one great furnace flam’d, yet from those flames
No light but rather darkness visible
Serv’d only to discover sights of woe,
Region of sorrow,  doleful shades where peace
And rest can vever dwell, home never comes.

Hell is a place made by God long before and the place is meant only for the sinners.

Satan was the nearest and dearest angel of God. And God bestowed him to highest power and that is why, he became superior to all the angels of God. But pride leads him to sin. He wanted to be equal to God. That is why, they have been doomed eternally info Hell with all his followers. Now he suffers the never-ending torture in Hell. It seems to him that Hell is a place with fiery flood and it is the place ever-burring with the ingredient of sulfur. But the unlimited torments of Hell could not destroy the revoling mind of Satan. Rather he develops more hatred against God. SO, in the case of fallen angles, the sufferings of Hell could not be strong enough to drive away the evil instinct from the mind of the fallen angles. Satan become promise-bound to continue war against God eternally by force or guile. The fire of Hell could not caste and subdue the wrath of the fallen angels.

When Satan tries to boost up the courage of Beelzebub, the second-in-commend of the fallen angles, Beelzebub rather becomes frustrated observing the eternal sufferings of Hell. Beelzebub reminds Satan that tough they are immortal beings, there is no profit for them being immortal creatures, rather, they will have to suffer the never-ending torture in the Hell and they will have to live there forever to suffer eternal punishment. But Satan again cheers up Beelzebub not to be weak in mind. Satan shows Beelzebub some bluish lights which do not remove darkness. By mentions torture of Hell, Satan instigates the mind of Beelzebub to be never compromising with God.

While boosting up the mind of Beelzebub, Satan mentions the difference between Hell and Heaven. Satan said to Beelzebub that they must accept the horrible gloomy atmosphere of Hell in exchange of the light of the Heaven. Satan say to Beelzebub that Hell cannot change their mind because they are unchanged in their mind and mind will be in its own place whatever may be the degree sorrow and suffering of Hell. Satan says that their mind can change Hell into Heaven and Heaven into Hell. So it is clear that the torture of Hell cannot change the unholy mind of the fallen angels. Satan says —

A mind not be changed by place of Time
The mind is its own place, and in itself
Can make Heaven of Hell and Hell of Heaven.

John Milton has tried to give a clear picture of Hell by providing some earthly horrors. He compares the fire of Hell with the fire of volcano of the Earth. But the fact is that the entire place of Hell is full of fire. It has the lake of fire; it has the plain land of fire. But the solid fire of land is no less dangerous and horrifying than the liquid fire of the lake. And the entire place is full of stench and smoke. When Satan addresses to the fallen angels, they become conscious and inspired by the fiery speech of Satan they began to fly in the sky of Hell. The sky of Hell was also dusky. The flying angles could feel that there is no place in Hell which is devoid of torturing fire. Fire is there up in the sky fire is there on the left and on the right. So, Milton has given the graphic description of Hell which is full of never-ending torturing fire.

There is a hill in the Hell and the hill was burning with fire. Fire was on the top of the hill and fire was falling down from the hill. The womb of the Hell is filled with valuable metals. The hill was full of mineral oils also. With these metals under the direction of Mulcibar, the architect, all the fallen angels together made a pandemonium to hold their conference.

On the light of above discussion, we can say that Milton with his inborn skill and expertise has given a very clear picture of Hell by mentioning all graphic details. John Milton is a poet of outstanding caliber indeed.

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