The Orphic Beauty of Milton's Devil

Abecassis, Michael
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The Southern African Society for Medieval and Renaissance Studies (SASMARS)
In Judaeo-Christian iconography, the Devil is traditionally portrayed as a grotesque and terrifying-looking creature. Half-human half-monster, the fallen angel is adorned with stag’s antlers, straight, pointed ears, a hooked nose and a lion’s muzzle; the back of his head forms a point and he has a goatee beard. He is framed by serrated, bat-like wings; his eyes glow, his legs are hirsute and his goatlike feet end in curved, sharp-pointed claws (see Richardson 39). Satan’s image differs in the fifteenth century, where he is an androgynous figure, depicted either as ‘a woman-headed [serpent] often resembling Eve [or as] a male, a charming putto, a bristling monster’ (McColley 20). Often assimilated to his female counterpart, Lilith, he is the incarnation of an erotico-religious bestiality. His tiara of horns (in Hebrew queren means both ‘horn’ and ‘ray [of light]’2) is the symbol of his virility as well as his divine splendour.
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