Similarities Between Manfred and Satan
Throughout Lord Byron’s Manfred there are several allusions and references to John Milton’s Paradise Lost, specifically to the words of Satan. The development of the satanic hero is displayed in Manfred through his guilt-ridden and suicidal thoughts. Much like Milton’s Satan, Manfred displays a paradoxical mixture of vulnerability, remorse, and arrogance. Manfred’s similarities to Satan can be seen in two specific passages that combine inner anguish and the power of the mind.
The first reference to Milton’s Satan pertains to the state of misery and residing in a personal hell. Early in the drama when a voice is heard uttering an incantation Byron records the line, “I call upon thee! and compel/Thyself to be they proper Hell!” (Act 1, Scene 1, Line 250). This line is a reference to Paradise Lost when Satan claims, “Myself am Hell” (Paradise Lost, Book 4, Line 75). In this instance Satan is considering a possible return to God or a state of paradise but he begins to realize that no matter where he goes the misery of hell would remain with him. He sees that hell is not where he was sent but the state of being that he is trapped in as long as he is in his rebellious state. This sentiment is echoed in Manfred’s state of despair and remorse over his wrongdoing. The voice in the incantation declares to Manfred that his very being will be his punishment and hell. There is no escaping his thoughts and the torment he feels over what he has done. Manfred’s guilt and pride combine to put him in a state of misery much like that of Satan’s in Paradise Lost.
Further along in the drama Manfred displays the arrogance and belief in the power of the mind that is seen in Satan. Midway through the story Manfred dialogues with an abbot that brings out many of Lord Byron’s views on religion. The abbot pleads for Manfred to seek reconciliation with God to escape punishment and is met by Manfred’s scoffing denial of the power of religion to help him in any way. Manfred claims that there is no threat of future punishment that could be worse than the pain he feels. He replies to the abbot saying, “The innate tortures of that deep despair, Which is remorse without the fear of hell, But all in all sufficient to itself/Would make a hell of heaven” (Act 3, Scene 1, Lines 70-73). This line references Satan’s claim, “The mind is its own place, and in itself/ Can make a Heav’n of Hell, a Hell of Heav’n” (Book 1, Lines 254-55). Satan’s fascinating mixture of arrogance and despair compel him to believe that through the power of the mind he could create a heaven out of hell but it also works to make a hell out of heaven. Manfred reflects this line of thinking in his conversation with the abbot. He shows his confidence in the power of the mind to be greater than religious dogma. But, he also realizes that his present state of mind is of such grave despair that it would inevitably create a hell out of heaven.
Both of these instances display the complexity of Manfred and Satan as the protagonists of their stories. The two references to Satan’s words are connected in their portrayal of hell and misery as a state of mind.
Byron, Lord “Manfred,” The Longman Anthology of British Literature. 4th ed. Damrosch, David, and Kevin J.H. Dettmar. New York: Pearson Education Inc., 2010. 711-747. Print
Milton, John. Paradise Lost. Ed. Gordon Teskey. New York: WW Norton & Company, 2005. 10-79. Print.