Paradise Lost



Milton’s portrayal of Satan in Paradise Lost is noteworthy for its complexity and richness. Because Satan is the subject of the first two Books of the poem, and because he is in a position of adversity, it is possible to see him in the role of the protagonist initially. In fact, later poets such as William Blake and Percy Bysshe Shelley made cases for Satan as the poem’s hero. However, Satan is clearly a creature of evil and, as such, is not the hero the reader is meant to root for. Milton describes Satan as physically impressive and eloquent, qualities which admittedly have great appeal. In his soliloquies, Satan often suffers from some surprising feelings of anguish and regret, which certainly invites the reader’s empathy. However, Satan is consistently deceitful, motivated by selfish pride and vanity, and lacks any capacity for humility or penitence. Rather than atone for his sins and beg for God’s mercy, Satan claims only the solace of vengeance, resolving to drag as many souls as possible into eternal misery with him. That Milton begins the epic from Satan’s point of view, and offers so much insight into his character, may be interpreted as a comment on the seductiveness of evil. In this way, Milton reminds the reader to be on guard, because sin often takes on a deceptively attractive appearance.

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Essays About Paradise Lost