Paradise Lost - John Milton?s Satan; Hero Or Not? Essay

This essay has a total of 1755 words and 8 pages.

Paradise Lost - John Milton?s Satan; Hero Or Not?

Throughout time, John Milton's Paradise Lost has been studied by many people and
comprehended in many different fashions, developing all kinds of new interpretations of
the great epic. There have been many different interpretations of this great epic.
Milton's purpose in writing the epic was to explain the biblical story of Adam and Eve.
Although the epic is similar to the Bible story in many ways, Milton's character structure
differs from that of the Bible's version. All through out the epic Milton describes the
characters in the way he believes they are. In book II of Paradise Lost, Milton portrays
Satan as a rebel who exhibits certain heroic qualities, but who turns out not to be a

Milton's introduction of Satan shows the reader how significant Satan is to Paradise Lost.
He uses Satan's heroic qualities to his followers, and his ability to corrupt to show the
thin line between good and evil. Satan was one of the highest angels in Heaven and was
know as Lucifer, meaning, light bearer. This shows he was once a good angel. Milton makes
the reader see him as a leader and a strong influence to all in his presence. He best
describes Satan's ways when stating, "His pride/ had cast him out from Heaven, with all
his host. / Of rebel angels, by whose aspiring/ To set himself in glory above his peers"
(Milton Book I). Satan's pride was the main reason that God banned him from heaven. Satan
always tried to be number one and a leader, instead of following in God's shadow. He would
of lived a life in Paradise forever, but he had to follow his feelings as he states,
"Better to reign in Hell than serve in Heaven" (Milton 31). This shows how strongly he
felt about not being above everybody else.

Milton uses many events like the ones listed above to encourage the reader to view Satan
as a hero. "Satan is described to be the brightest and most important angel" (McColley
32). These traits of Satan show how one might recognize Satan as the second in power right
below God, who was the highest power of all. Before Satan decides to give up what he has
and to rebel against God, he was one of the wisest and most beautiful of all the angels in
heaven (McColley 24). Although Satan was beautiful, the most important trait that makes
him fit into the hero category is that he was the most powerful angel in heaven. This
helps him greatly in his rebellion, because the other angels would look up to him.

Satan's rebellion leads us to another one of his most noticeable skills. This would be his
ability to give speeches. With this ability, Satan is able to persuade others to follow
him in his rebellion. When Satan says, "to govern, not to serve" he emphasizes liberty and
encourages the other angels in heaven to all join him and his rebellion (Revard 216).
Milton uses the whole rebellion scene, when put together with the battle in heaven, ends
up being one-eighth of Paradise Lost, to show heroic qualities in Satan. Devoting this
much time to a certain scene, Milton makes it clear how important Satan is in his eyes.

Satan gives many speeches throughout the epic. Although, the speeches are very long and
thorough, they are also very persuasive at the same time. Satan was able to persuade
"one-third of all the angels in heaven" to join with him in his rebellion (Emerson 399).
Satan would give speeches, that would raise the attention of his followers and make them
feel more confident in him.

To suffer, as to do,
Our strength is equal; nor the law unjust
That so ordains. This was at first resolved,
If we were wise, against so great a foe
Contending, and so doubtful what might fall.
(Milton 68)

In this fraction of Satan's speech, Milton shows how skilled Satan is in his choice of
words. Also, this shows why the others look up to Satan as their leader, as Hamilton says,
"Satan is seen as a prince of Hell, as Well as commoner and matchless chief". (Milton 21)
After gaining followers, Satan is ready for battle against God.

The most observable trait given to Satan is his excellence in battle. "In the forefront of
the battle, where we expect him, is Milton's Satan, the great rebel of Paradise Lost"
(Hamilton 7). Hamilton also introduces the idea of an underdog, describing Satan as a
person fighting against an inferior power, with extreme odds against a victory for his
side (14). In the scenes around the battle in heaven, Milton shows how Satan is viewed as
a leader by the other fallen angels.

There are other speeches of war in the epic that arouse the reader. One of the most
significant is after Satan has made a meeting in the new Capitol of Hell, Pandemonium. "To
have built Heaven high towers; Nor did he scape By all his engines but was headlong sent
With industrious crew to build in Hell" (Milton 55). Following the rapid building, all the
fallen angels gather for their meeting asking shall it be war or peace. "Their rising all
at one was as the sound Of thunder heard remote. Towards him they bend With awful
reverence prone, and as a god" (Milton 79). When his followers cheer Satan on, the reader
notices how much he likes the attention. This is another sign of how Milton shows the
significant role that Satan's pride plays in his decisions. In many different encounters
Satan lets his pride interfere with his actions. In doing this, Satan begins to worry only
about himself and the opinions his followers hold of him. Satan continues with the speech
saying, "Should we again provoke Our Stronger, some worse way his wrath may find To our
destruction" (Milton 63).

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