Chapter 2 of Rock and Romanticism: Post-Punk, Goth, and Metal as Dark Romanticisms: “Empathy for the Devil: The Origins of Mick Jagger’s Devil in John Milton’s London” (pp. 27-44) by Evan LaBuzetta, Ph.D., Cambridge University. Independent scholar, founder of Writing Language Consultants.
- Chapter summary
- Evan LaBuzetta’s “Empathy for the Devil: The Origins of Mick Jagger’s Devil in John Milton’s London” analyzes the political discourse preceding the figure of Satan in John Milton’s Paradise Lostto uncover the specific discursive practices that influenced the development of Milton’s Satan, the figure behind the Romantic Satan described by Percy Shelley and then appropriated by Mick Jagger in “Sympathy for the Devil.” According to LaBuzetta, the concept of personal interpretation of Scripture alongside the rise of an increasingly anthropomorphized Satan led each side in the English Civil War to identify its opponents with Satan, demonizing them on the basis of both natural and divine law. In pamphlets, writers would use their opponents’ appearance of goodness as a sign of their Satanic origins—because “Satan can transform himself into an angel of light”—while at the same time pointing to their own demonization as a sign of the righteousness of their cause. At this point, rebellion to authority was no longer seen as a sure sign of rebellion against God, establishing a “paradox of individual authority” by the time of Milton’s writing. Once God is dethroned as a “self-justifying principle,” Shelley could declare that Milton’s Satan is preferable to Milton’s God. Satan now becomes a heroic individual striving against a tyrannical, self-imposing force, or an individual with whom readers or rock fans could sympathize.
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