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How Has Milton’s Paradise Lost Shaped Modern Depictions Of Lucifer?

2991 words - 12 pages

How has Milton’s Paradise Lost shaped modern depictions of Lucifer?
John Milton’s Lucifer has become so prominent in modern discussion of hell and sin that it is often confused with the theological account of the devil. Luciferian characteristics or depictions of Lucifer himself can often be linked back to Milton’s Paradise Lost and I will discuss multiple ways that Lucifer has become integrated into modern popular culture. From DC Comics’ Lucifer Morningstar to Walter White in Breaking Bad, I will show how Milton’s Paradise Lost has shaped modern depictions of the devil.
Milton’s Lucifer was seemingly created from the influence of the Italian Renaissance devils of Giambattista Marino ...view middle of the document...

Robert De Niro’s character, Louis Cypher, in the 1987 film Angel Heart directly relates to Milton’s devil with his name. Louis Cypher is a homophone for Lucifer, whilst his company name Morgenstern is German for ‘Morningstar’. He asks of his victim ‘If I had cloven hooves and a forked tail, would I have been more convincing?’ In challenging the perception of evil, Cypher highlights that the red skinned, trident wielding depictions of the devil appear to be the ones most connected with horror. As such, film-makers’ conversions of Lucifer’s evil nature into monstrous appearances are responsible for why, when Lucifer is presented as humanised, we readily sympathise with him. When films allude to the devil’s connection between a life of excess and debauchery, humanised versions of Lucifer have even come to have sex appeal.
The 1987 film The Witches of Eastwick presents Jack Nicholson’s Lucifer as a manipulative womanizer. This connection drawn between sexual desire and the lord of sin is shaped by Milton’s Lucifer, responsible for the ‘carnal desire’ exhibited by Adam and Eve. However, becoming a figure of sex appeal is far from Milton’s doing and is entirely a result of modern depictions. The image of Lucifer as a manipulative liar, on the other hand, is almost entirely due to Milton’s Paradise Lost. His words are ‘replete with guile’ and ‘persuasive… impregnated with reason, to [Eve] seeming, and with truth’. He entices Eve to eat the forbidden fruit and thus, with his words, sets the downfall for all mankind. Ruth Rushworth refers to his ‘enticing rhetoric’ as ‘Dark Satanic Language’, noting Lucifer as an ‘inveterate liar who abuses language for his own evil purposes’. This manipulative nature is evident in Nicholson’s portrayal, reflecting on Milton’s description of Lucifer as the ‘artificer of fraud’. It is interesting to see how, conversely, other modern depictions of Lucifer have come to present him as a figure of truth and a supporter of mankind.
Originating from Neil Gaiman’s 1989 comic, The Sandman, DC’s Lucifer Morningstar undeniably owes a lot of his character to Milton’s portrayal of the devil in Paradise Lost. As such, the 2016 TV series Lucifer, based on Gaiman’s work, bears the same relation to the epic. The theme of lust and excess is encapsulated within Lucifer’s nightclub, Lux, in which the multiple bars cater to the sinful lives of wealthy alcoholics. Production designer Stephen Geaghan describes the nightclub depicted in Lucifer as ‘having a marvellous sophisticated darkness to it’, transforming Lucifer’s enticing words into a physical manifestation. Both the nightclub and Lucifer’s penthouse suite have something of a subterranean quality, reflecting on the depths of hell. Their dark interiors reflect on Milton’s quote ‘As one great furnace flamed, yet from those flames No light, but rather, darkness visible’; the single fireplace in Lux further alluding to the atmosphere of Hell. Additionally, the penthouse has a ‘sense...

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