Literary Tradition II
April 8, 2013
Satan: An Ironic Hero
Milton’s Satan is the perfect example of the power that can lie within in a strong leader and powerful orator. Milton’s ability to make the reader sympathize with Satan’s cause is truly genius. Satan is one of the most dynamic characters in literature; he possesses the unhealthy taste for vengeance and havoc, yet he is also a very likable character. While reading it is difficult to see whose side Milton is on, God’s or Satan’s. It is easy to mistake characteristics of Satan’s to those of an epic hero, but after examining his speeches, it is clear he is the personification of evil.
Satan’s first speech gives the illusion of true heroic stature. He addresses Beelzebub, saying, “What though the field be lost? All is not lost: the unconquerable will, and study of revenge, immortal hate, and courage never to submit or yield,” (1.105-108). Here Satan arouses a sense of hope within Beelzebub, saying they have not lost everything, they still possess an unconquerable will and the steadfast courage to never submit or surrender. However, Satan does indirectly admit to his wrongdoings, despite his incorrigible will to never repent. Repentance requires one to acknowledge the evil of his actions, and by admittance, his reason would tell him that the next step is paying for his sins. Somehow, the reader sympathizes with Satan. Perhaps in reflection of one’s own hardheartedness, the reader understands Satan’s “reasoning.” Joseph 2
Satan’s evil nature is most definitive in his second speech. He starts by saying, "To be weak is miserable, doing or suffering,"(1.157), and this has the same heroic quality that is present in the first speech, but his evil nature reveals itself immediately after. Satan proclaims, "To do ought good never will be our task, but ever to do ill our sole delight" (1.159-160). Satan swears to bring all good to evil, and prevent God...