“Stood fixt her stately highth”: Pandaemonium’s Influence on Eve’s Interpretation?

Lines 722-725 of Book I describe the completion of the devils’ palace, Pandaemonium: “Th’ ascending pile/ Stood fixt her stately highth, and straight the doors/ Op’ning thir brazen folds discover wide/ Within, her ample spaces.” I would like to consider whether the feminine words in Pandaemonium’s description invite a comparison between her and Eve, and what such a comparison might imply.

Pandaemonium is “her,” and she provides the space within which the devils hold their council. This womanhood and role within the devils’ endeavors seems to evoke Eve’s story. Moreover, like Eve, this hall was created from a “rib.” In her case, the devils “dig…out ribs of Gold” (690) from a hill in Hell, using this ore to construct Pandaemonium. These similarities may locate her within a series of condemned female characters including Sin and Eve.

However, at the same time, Pandaemonium feels strangely uninvolved in the devils’ council, despite being the locale of their meeting. She “Stood fixt” (723) while they swarmed around her, an unmoving and unmoved presence amidst their evil. This aloof portrayal might lead us to ask how important she really was to the devils’ plans. Was her presence necessary for them to develop and realize their schemes? Perhaps not. And if not, then this female figure created from a rib becomes somewhat superfluous to the story of man’s Fall. The devils might have reached the exact same conclusions had they met on the shores of the burning lake, or on one of the hilltops, or anywhere else.

Like Pandaemonium, Eve is created from a rib, she is conspicuously female in a story with a predominantly male cast, and she seems to play a major role in Satan’s evil-doing. But beneath the surface of Pandaemonium’s story lurks a curious distance from the evil in which she seems to be implicated. Considering the other parallels between them, could we make any similar observations about Eve? Just how crucial was her role in the Fall?


Annemarie Lisko