The Role of Satan in Paradise Lost

Topics: Paradise Lost, Epic poetry, Adam and Eve Pages: 4 (1447 words) Published: October 8, 2010
The Role of Satan in “Paradise Lost”
John Milton's epic “Paradise Lost” is one that has brought about much debate since its writing. This epic tells the Biblical story of Adam and Eve, although from a different perspective than what most people usually see. Milton tells the story more through the eyes of Satan, whom most people usually consider the ultimate villain. The way in which Satan is portrayed in this story has caused speculation as to whether Satan is actually a hero in this situation. He certainly has heroic qualities throughout the story, yet still is ultimately responsible for Adam and Eve's sin. Satan can easily be classified as a hero in this story, as well as the main antagonist, depending on the viewpoint of the reader. Milton introduces Satan as an important character in this story. He tells of Satan's time spent in heaven. He tells of how Satan was once a good angel, living in heaven, yet was forced out because of his pride(Milton Book I). Milton goes on to describe Satan as a strong leader, someone who has the power to influence anyone he comes in contact with. Line 263 says “Better to reign in Hell, than serve in Heav'n.” This shows Satan's ultimate desire for power. Milton then describes how Satan's armies follow him, and the only threat to Satan's rule is the “Omnipotent” (Milton 273), or God himself. Milton includes events like Satan's banishment from Heaven to create the image of a hero for the reader. Satan is portrayed in such a way as to make him seem like second-in-command, right below God. The fact that Satan is portrayed as “the brightest and most important angel” (McColley 23) seems like Satan would be almost like an assistant, or substitute for God. This is a difficult concept for many readers to grasp, especially when God is portrayed almost as a tyrant. As Nicole Smith illustrates, the God in this “is not a friendly God seeking intimacy of any kind with his followers; He is a powerful ruler for despot who will...

Cited: Daniel, Clay. “Milton 's 'Paradise Lost ' 1.283-313.” The Explicator 55.3 (1997): 129+. Literature Resource Center. Web. 13 Sept. 2010.
Forsyth, Neil. The Satanic Epic. Princeton, NJ: Princeton UP, 2003.
McColley, Grant. Paradise Lost; An Account of Its Growth and Major Origins. New York: Russell and Russell, 1963.
Milton, John. “Paradise Lost.” Paradise Lost: A Poem in Twelve Books, Second Edition. London: S. Simons. 1992.
Sell, Benjamin. “Satan 's Heroic Role in Milton 's Paradise Lost.” Associated Content. 23 July 2008.
Smith, Nicole. “Satan, Heroism, and Classical Definitions of the Epic Hero.” Article Myriad, 13 September 2010.
Wallace, Matt. “A Devil of a Problem: Satan as Hero in Paradise Lost.” The Compleat Heretic, 13 September 2010.
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