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In The Devil's Advocate (1997) Al Pacino plays a character who goes by the alias John Milton, who is eventually revealed to be the devil. Why does he go by this alias? Is there any symbolism meant by this name?

The only connection I can think of is in the real John Milton who is a famous author and poet. The real John Milton is known for his epic poem Paradise Lost which is a retelling of the story of Adam and Eve getting thrown out of the Garden of Eden, a story in which the devil plays a big part. But the poem hardly portrays the devil in a positive light and the real John Milton himself was a religious person and believed in Christian theology.

Is there any kind of explanation given for the choosing of this name?

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    spoiler... I appreciate that this came out 20 years ago, but it is practically the movie's most major twist/reveal. Surely it's reasonable to obfuscate it just a bit, at least in the title? – TylerH Jan 23 '17 at 20:28
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    @TylerH freedvdcover.com/wp-content/uploads/… It was never a secret... Only way for this to be any less obvious is if the tag line was "Al pacino is the f**king devil, okay?" – cde Jan 23 '17 at 21:13
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    If I had to identify the major spoiler or twist of the movie it would probably be what happens to Kevin after he finds out the truth about John Milton. – sanpaco Jan 23 '17 at 21:59
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You pretty much hit it on the head. Paradise Lost's author is indeed the inspiration for Pacino's character. But this is taken from the source material, the novel by Andrew Neiderman.

The allusion is fairly simple. It's thematic in that Milton, the character, holds that everything Man knows about Satan is a lie. That history has been told by the wrong person. He should know, he was there. By calling himself Milton, he claims to be telling the real story of Paradise Lost. The story we see is nothing more than a retelling of that as well. As Milton, he's attempting to change the story, by tempting the new Adam (man born of a god) into falling once again. He's trying to do what he failed to do the first time round.

Also he's a cocky bastard and doesn't think it matters that he took such a significant name. Look at everything he does, everything he surrounds himself with. He can barely contain the "truth" of who he is. His name is as obvious as his taste in home decor and music. He's grandiose and needs everyone to know it.

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It's clear that the allusion is to the 17th century poet and author of Paradise Lost. However, you say:

But the poem hardly portrays the devil in a positive light and the real John Milton himself was a religious person and believed in Christian theology.

But, to the contrary — this is a misapprehension. The devil is widely seen as a sympathetic character in Paradise Lost, at least to some degree. It is possible that this is intentional on Milton's part, as an argument for sympathy towards human beings who also sometimes chose evil paths but can be redeemed. There's plenty of room to argue on this, as Milton's Satan is a complex and three-dimensional character. But, whether or not Milton actually meant that sympathy, the important thing is that many people recognize it. Romantic poet William Blake (a century later) wrote:

The reason Milton wrote in fetters when he wrote of Angels and God, and at liberty when of Devils and Hell, is because he was a true Poet and of the Devil's party without knowing it.

So, whether or not Milton had sympathy for the devil, it's easy to see why the devil would have sympathy for Milton.

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    I thought that the Rolling Stones had sympathy for the devil? ;) – steelersquirrel Jan 23 '17 at 14:23
  • @steelersquirrel I almost made that a hyperlink, but in seriousness as far as I can see that song doesn't really reference Milton, do I thought it might detract. – mattdm Jan 23 '17 at 16:56
  • You're right. It doesn't reference Milton. I was just being silly :P – steelersquirrel Jan 23 '17 at 17:53

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