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Paradise Lost And Satan Essay Research Paper

Paradise Lost And Satan Essay, Research Paper The argument over who is the true protagonist of Paradise Lost, has been brewing for centuries. One would gather that Milton, a Puritan, would have no problem

Paradise Lost And Satan Essay, Research Paper

The argument over who is the true protagonist of Paradise Lost, has been brewing

for centuries. One would gather that Milton, a Puritan, would have no problem

casting God as the hero, and Satan as the antagonist. But looking back in

history, Milton saw that most epic heroes had conflicts that prevented them from

accomplishing their goals. God and his Son have no conflict, and Adam?s story

doesn?t really begin until the Fall of Man. Therefore, Milton was forced to

select Satan as the hero of Paradise Lost because he adheres to the guidelines

of epic poetry set by Homer, Vergil and others. There many examples of how

Milton uses and edits the tradition of these previous epics in the formation of

the Devil as a hero. One of the most basic examples of heroism in epic poetry is

the exhortation of the leader to his followers. In The Odyssey, Homer lets

Odysseus give a speech that would convince anyone they could survive the journey

to the Strait of Messina, "Then we die with our eyes open , if we are going

to die, or know what death we baffle if we can.(ln.1243-1245)" After

passing the Sirens, the ship approaches the Strait, and the crew sees the twin

terrors of Scylla and Charybdis, they are mortified. Odysseus again lifts their

spirits with this speech, Garcia 2 "Friends, have we ever been in danger

before this? More fearsome, is it now, than when the Cyclops penned us in his

cave? What power he had! Did I not keep my nerve, and use my wits to find a way

out for us? ? Heads up, lads! We must now obey orders as I give

them.(1294-1302)" Here Odysseus shows the true ability of a hero to lead in

the face of adversity. Of course Odysseus had the assurance that he would

survive the journey and his crew will not, but that does not stop him from

leading them. In Paradise Lost, this device is used in the opening scene. After

suffering a major defeat at the hands of the Almighty and his angels, Satan

awakens in a lake of fire. He first speaks to Beelzebub, his second in command,

telling him, "All is not lost, the unconquerable Will, and study of

revenge, immortal hate, and courage never to submit or yield: and what else is

not to be overcome?? Since by Fate the strength of Gods and Empyreal substance

cannot fail, Since though experience of this great event in Arms not worse, in

foresight much advance?s, We may with more successful hope resolve to wage by

force or guile eternal War irreconcilable, to our grand Foe, who now triumphs,

and in th?excess of joy sole reigning holds the Tyranny of

Heav?n.(106-109,116-124)" Beelzebub, perhaps showing signs of little

faith in his leader (like Odysseus? crew), raises some important questions.

"What if he our Conqueror, (whom I now of force believe Almighty, since no

less than such could have o?erpow?r?d such force as ours) have Garcia 3

left us this our spirit and strength entire strongly to suffer and support our

pains, that we may so suffice his vengeful ire, or do him mightier service as

his thralls by right of War, whate?er his business be, here in the heart of

Hell to work in Fire, Or to do his errands in the gloomy Deep; What can it then

avail though yet we feel Strength undiminisht, or eternal being to undergo

eternal punishment?(143-155)" Satan, as any good leader would, quickly

allays his companion?s fear with more speech. During the speech, Satan casts

doubts about God?s supremacy and boldly states that they are better off where

they are, "Here at least we shall be free? Here we may reign

secure?Better to reign in Hell, than serve in Heaven.(258-263)" Beelzebub

is taken aback by Satan?s words and awakens all of the fallen angels. Once

Satan has their attention, he rouses these fallen angels with another speech,

asking "How such united force of Gods, how such stood like these, could

ever know repulse? For who can yet believe, though after loss, that all these

puissant Legions, whose exile hath emptied Heav?n, shall fail to re-ascend

self-raised, and repossess their native seat.(629-634)" Finally, at the end

his speech, Satan sets them all on their course of conflict, "Peace is

despaired, for who can think of Submission? War then, War open or understood,

must be resolved.(660-662)" The fallen angels respond with a rowdy

confirmation, waving their swords in the and hurling defiance at Heaven. Milton

has given you Satan in the tradition of the epic hero. Even though he knows

Satan is not the "good-guy", he does possess some of the qualities of

a hero. Garcia 4 He is the pinnacle of the assembled crew, hailed even by

enemies as the strongest of the lot. All the angels face a bad situation (exile

in Hell) and yet Satan exhorts them all with a speech. He recounts how they

survived some bad encounters in the past, and then says they will survive their

present predicament. His speech also spurns the angels into some positive

action. The action of war against God sets a task out in front of Satan. This

quest allows Satan to fulfill another quintessential element of the epic hero.

In almost every epic ever written the hero has to overcome obstacles that stand

in their way to complete their daunting task. In The Odyssey, Odysseus is away

from his home 20 years, 10 fighting the Trojan War and another 10 years trying

desperately to get back home. Odysseus quest or journey is to travel against the

will of Poseidon to get back home to Ithaca. The invocation of the muses,

describes most but not all of the trials and tribulations of Odysseus.

"Tell me the story of a man skilled in all ways of contending the wanderer,

harried for years on end after he plundered the stronghold of Troy. He saw the

townlands and learned the minds of many distant men, and weathered many bitter

nights and days in his deep heart at sea, while he fought only to save his life,

to bring his shipmates home. But not by will or valor could he save

them?(1-10)" Odysseus? obstacles can be traced back to a mistake he

made when he blinded Polyphemos and let his pride get the best of him,

announcing to the Cyclops his real name. This allowed Poseidon to enact

Polyphemos? wrath on Odysseus, vowing that he Garcia 5 would never see his

home again. But Odysseus does conquer those obstacles and finally makes it home.

Satan can be said to have the same flaw as Odysseus. He, in part, is the cause

of his own demise. Had Satan served God willfully, the war never would have

raged in Heaven, and Satan and his Army never would?ve been thrown in the

fiery pits of Hell. However, without that action Satan would not be a hero. His

being in Hell leads to him realize his purpose, to corrupt the new type of being

God has created on Earth. Satan?s journey can be said to be some of Milton?s

most "original" piece of writing, because nobody had ever written

about Satan?s journey so intricately as Milton. To quote Isabel MacCaffrey,

"The voyage of Books II and III is Milton?s greatest "original"

creation. There was precedent for the journey motif in epic tradition, but no

real parallel to a voyage by Satan in the Christian literature on which Milton

drew.(29)" Unlike most epic heroes, Satan does not necessarily come out on

top at the end of his journey/quest. This is where many are quick to judge and

point out that since Satan losses, he can not be an epic hero. Milton intended

for Satan to lose, after all, the epic is based on the Bible and is meant to

"justify the ways of God to man.(26)" Milton was merely explaining

that Satan both won and lost. He won in the hero sense by completing his task of

corrupting Adam & Eve, which allowed Sin and Death to enter the world. But

he lost in more ways than one. One of Milton?s central themes is that God

knows what Garcia 6 Satan will do before he actually does it. This is where

Milton?s poetic side and his religious side clash. It creates a hypocritical

division because Milton wants to show that God is All-Knowing(Satan is just hunk

of mass with no free will) and that Satan is our epic hero(Satan is head the

rebel angels). Satan also loses because of the fact that 1)due to his trickery

he would be a snake forever and 2)The Son was going to come down to earth and

die to save Adam & Eve, so that Satan?s action would be eliminated. Break

down Paradise Lost to it bare bones, removing all religious overtones, and you

have yourself an epic poem, plain and simple. The hero of this poem is a man

named Satan who is banished for challenging the leadership of the clan. This man

Satan makes a vow to destroy or corrupt anything created by the clan. This Satan

was resourceful, making the best of what he had, very little, and accomplishing

his goal. Satan may just be the nonconformist who couldn?t abide by what was

considered normal. In any case one must show their admiration for Satan in his

unwillingness to serve in Heaven, and then in the way he accepted his resulting

role in Hell.

4b3

Anderson, Robert. Ed. Elements of Literature: Third Course Holt,Rinehart and

Winston, Inc. and Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Inc.:Austin,1993. MacCaffrey,

Isabel. "Satan?s Voyage". Modern Critical Views: John Milton .

Bloom, Harold, ed. Chelsea House Publishers: New York, 1986. Milton, John.

Paradise Lost. Signet Classic: New York, 1982.

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