Contents Index

Contexts -- Myths -- Satan

One of the original archangels of the Old Testament, Satan rebelled against God and was barred from heaven for his sin. In the Book of Job Satan seems to act as an arm of Jehovah, inflicting punishment on humanity. Elsewhere, however, he is portrayed as an eternal antagonist of the divine will and the embodiment of all things evil.

Satan, and the satanic, have an extremely rich cultural history in western thought and art. Dante, in Canto 34 of the Inferno, represents Satan as frozen fast in the deepest pit of the underworld. His most telling representation is by John Milton in his epic Paradise Lost, where he is initially discovered on the burning floor of hell calling the fallen angels to renew their battle against God by corrupting his newly created universe. This figure of obsessive reactionary energy and miscreativity haunts Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. But so, too, does the ideology of binary opposition that she, and later her husband Percy Bysshe Shelley (in The Cenci and Prometheus Unbound, published in 1820) extract from the Judeo-Christian mythos, an ideology that perverts all that is valuable in human life into waste and destruction.