PARADISE LOST: BEELZEBUB, MAMMON, MULCIBER AND MOLOCH

Beelzebub in Paradise Lost Book I, is the first mate of Satan. He is Satan’s “bold compeer” and next to him “in power, and next in crime.” There are few legends in The Bible associated with Beelzebub, but, Milton seems to portray him in Paradise Lost rather as an allegorization invented by St. Jerome, in which Beelzebub is the “lord of the flies”, flies being a symbol of pertinacity. Beelzebub never ceases the human race in every way. He, however lacks Satan’s “indomitable courage” in Book I. He would have surrendered unconditionally to God had not Satan cheered up his failing spirits by his fiery eloquence. Beelzebub’s first speech, following immediately that of Satan, is in marked contrast to his leader. He does not talk about a never-ending war against God but rues the “dire event” that had lost him, and the other fallen angels, “Heaven”. He fears that the future might hold even greater punishment and humiliation for them as, having lost the war, they are now slaves to God by the “right of war”. It is now in God’s hand to humiliate them as he wishes; he might torture them as and when he pleases or he might use them “to do his errands in the gloomy deep.” He accepts Satan’s argument that being immortal, they can hope for their strength to return but laments that it can be of little use against “almighty” God. He rather fears that being eternal they would only be forced to “undergo eternal punishment”.

This is an especially critical moment in the play as Satan’s plan of continuing “eternal war” can only be feasible if he can rouse his army and if he cannot rouse Beelzebub, his closest comrade, there is little hope of doing so. He, therefore, is quick to point out to Beelzebub, “Fall’n Cherub, to be weak is miserable”. Like an able general he points out God’s “minister of vengeance and pursuit” no longer torment them and hence they should not let “slip th’ occasion”. He asks Beelzebub to follow him to the “yon deary plain, forlorn and wild”. This desolate plain is where they would reassemble and plan their future course of action. It is a burning testimony to Satan’s leadership qualities that the next time we meet Beelzebub, he is a far cry from the diffident fallen angel earlier seen. It is he who suggests that Satan should call upon his fallen angels and is utterly confident that they would respond to his “voice, their liveliest pledge/ Of hope in fears and dangers…” He is now full of vigour and confident that the fallen angels, after one call from Satan, “will soon resume/ New courage and revive…” His judicious nature is evident in his astute understanding of the situation. The fallen angels in Book I indeed react exactly in the manner he had predicted. It is quite clear that his advice would be of great use to Satan in his battle against God.

Another major fallen angel who Milton singles out for mention in Book I is Mammon. He is greed personified as even during his stay in heaven he could never moved his eyes from the “gold” pavements of Heaven. This made him the “least erected spirit that fell”. The word “Mammon”, meaning riches, or the greed for the riches that takes man away from God appears in Matthew 6.24: “Ye cannot serve God and Mammon” at the same time. He is considered by angelologists to be the prince of the lowest order of angels. He is entrusted by Satan in Book I to collect the necessary metal for building “Pandemonium”, Satan’s palace in Hell. He performs his duty with perfection and within hours rips open the bowel of mother earth to collect enough gold for building the palace. Milton indicates that it is the spirit of Mammon that prompts men to dug Mother Earth and excavate gold, a metal responsible for much human misery. It is he who fuels our desire for worldly riches that inevitably takes us away from the divine path.

Mulciber is one of the major fallen angels in Satan’s horde. There are many legends surrounding his fall, but Milton believes he fell along with Satan and his crew. The Italians erroneously believe that Jupiter hurled him out of heaven and fell into the Isle of Lemnos, but Milton considers him to be a part of the “horrid crew” that God punished along with Satan. He is reputed to have built many palaces in Heaven and he proves his expertise once again by giving shape to the grand palace called Pandemonium. His name literally means “one who refines ore by melting it and pouring it into mould” is also associated with Vulcan, a Roman fire God, or God of Smiths.

Among the large catalogue of angels that Milton considers as the major warriors in Satan’s camp, Moloch stands supreme. The name literally means “king” and he is worshipped in the form of a huge brass idol with the head of a calf and outstretched hands. There is a large hollow in his idol’s stomach where burns a continuous fire into which misguided worshippers threw live children to satisfy his eternal hunger. The priests play loud music during such ceremonies to drown the cry of the dying children. He is by far the most horrid of Satan’s companions and the very valley where he is worshipped Gehenna, came to stand for a synonym for Hell. He was successful in convincing the aged Solomon to build a temple for him on the “opprobrious hill”. The Egyptian name for the planet Mars, often associated with war and bloodshed is Moloch and Milton might have known of this when he conceived Moloch as warlike.

The list of horrid angels who supported and fell with Satan highlights the evil that they wish to perpetuate. Their sole delight, like their leader is to “do ill”. Beelzebub and the rest give an epic grandeur to Milton’s work by providing a truly frightening picture of Satan’s army.

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