The Heroic Aspects Of Satan In John

Milton’s Paradise Lost Essay, Research Paper

Satan, otherwise known as the archfiend, is the main character in John Milton s epic poem, Paradise Lost. Historically seen as the embodiment of evil; Satan is presented in a noble manner in Milton s work and has many of the characteristics of a tragic hero. The excerpt from the poem starts with a brief summary of the events that lead up to Satan s banishment in Hell. These events help to the reader to understand Satan s emotions and attitude later in the poem.

Satan and his personal army of angels wage war on God and his angels. Satan and his followers are fighting because they believe that angels should be equal to God. Satan’s army is defeated, however, and banished into Hell. In Hell, Satan is chained in a burning lake, there to suffer for all time. This summary leads directly into Satan s first heroic quality, leadership.

Satan leads his army into battle believing that their cause is right. He doesn t fight because he is evil, he doesn t fight for fame, he doesn t fight for hate. He fights for a cause that he believes in, and fighting for a just cause is a very well known measure of heroism.

A definition of a tragic hero may be something like: A noble character of high rank or stature that suffers a fall through his own actions. Satan is exactly that. He starts as a prominent archangel, leads the rebellion, is defeated, and suffers his fall to Hell. People hate to give the title of hero to the devil but if the names in Paradise Lost were changed and it was turned into a normal battle story instead of a religious story; then I believe that Satan s character would be undoubtedly viewed as a tragic hero. It is only his name in the story that provokes hate in people, not his actions.

I think Milton chose to make Satan noble for many different reasons. Not the least of which is that people had already read stories where Satan was completely evil and the new outlook made his story different. Also, Satan is the main character and if people abhor the main character it makes it hard for them to be interested in his actions. Perhaps the greatest thing that comes out of Milton s portrayal of Satan is that he is viewed as a person, and as a person we can understand what he is going through and why he did some of the things he did. In a sense, making Satan real, instead of just an object of hate, lets us get into his head. It adds a very new interesting element to a very old story.


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