The Etymological Subtext of Daimon and Satan in John Milton's Paradise Lost

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Robinson, Daniel
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Middle Tennessee State University
In Paradise Lost, John Milton invokes the etymologies of both the Greek daimon (“demon”) and the Hebrew satan (“satan”) to bolster Satan’s narrative role of modeling one’s severance from God’s love. Milton’s multilingualism in the epic’s subtext enhances the English poetry. Daimon serves as a hypogram—an implied poetic word—that directs a reader toward Satan’s first, unseen moment of seductive narcissism. The moment, though “offstage,” can exist in the poem because Milton silently exploits the nuances of “demon” from Hesiodic, Platonic, Septuagintal, and New Testament literature. Satan replaces God’s love with love of himself as if in a marriage with an idolatress, as per Milton’s divorce tracts. To signify the symptomatology of this self-idolatry, Milton next deploys the word, satan, from the Hebrew Bible into his epic explicitly and implicitly to convey emotional trauma, divine prosecution, and militaristic opposition. If one “satans” (per the verbal root of the word), the universe “satans” one back—i.e., hatred and assault, instigated by abandonment of God, provoke a divine trial in Milton’s etymological subtext. With secondhand etymologies, the poetic subterrane of Paradise Lost answers discrepancies of Satan’s didactic purpose in the story.
English literature, Linguistics, Literature