'That Old Serpent, Called the Devil': Exploring the Characterisation of the Devil in Romantic Literature
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This dissertation examines that the devil is quite a fascinating character to analyse. To emphasis this, I explore the devil in his historical context in literature; in the Bible, Anglo-Saxon literature, English medieval drama and English Renaissance texts. Furthermore, I use three core models of the devil in literature; the Bible, Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus and Milton’s Paradise Lost. After this survey, I focus on my main subject; exploring the characterization of the devil in Romantic literature. To do so, I give a brief survey of the devil in Romantic literature and, here, I also seek to explain the meaning behind his appearance in this period by analysing Blake’s remarkable text The Marriage of Heaven and Hell. In addition, I analyse the characterizations of the devil. This part is divided in several sub chapters; representation of the devil, moment in time, temptation and attraction, the devil’s compact, the devil’s double and the woman and the devil. To analyse these focus points, I have selected three key texts; Matthew Gregory’s The Monk (1796), Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein or the modern Prometheus (1818) and James Hogg’s The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner (1824). After this study, I explain that the devil fulfills many different roles, yet his most significant role is that of antagonist to God and his role as tempter. In Romantic literature, he has a particular interest in faithful human beings. To divert a person from God he uses different methods; language (which is one of the most important methods), the moment in time is also important and disguising himself as an innocent animal or a good and faithful person or angel. What is more, the devil can only act indirectly and uses a human as his agent, and wants his victims to kill their blood relations. This does not count for the monster in Frankenstein as he symbolizes a devil; he can act directly. And when the devil wants a victim to sell his soul, he needs a physical transaction and I analyse, here, that the devil’s pact mirrors in some way the fall of mankind in the Bible. Apart from this, I explore two deviating readings of the devil in Romantic literature. I show that the devil and his victim are döppelgangers and share ‘instinctual drives’. And, it also seems that the devil still seduces a woman; the victims could be regarded as symbols of femininity, whereas the symbolical devil can be regarded as a female and an Eve figure. In addition, the female figure is also represented as a mad woman. To conclude, throughout time the devil’s characterization develops in English literature; from more the less an abstract meaning to fuller descriptions and physical attributes and, thus, more humanized. The devil is also explored as a figure projecting fears, despair, anxieties, and propaganda and ideologies of society. In English literature, he appears in periods where there is friction between the Catholic Church and England and in revolutionary times.