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Is Satan a Positive Hero in Paradise Lost by John Milton

First of all, it is important to put an emphasis on the fact that Satan in the Milton's Paradise Lost is one of the most complicated and dynamic heroes. According to the opinion, of critics and writers of the Romantic era, the Satan was represented as the Promethean hero, and the authors have posed him against an unjust God. In Paradise Lost, Satan rises off the lake of fire and ah is why his heroic speech has been delivered as a challenge to God. Other rebels have been told by Satan that they have an option of making "a Heav'n of Hell, a Hell of Heav'n". Also, he proclaims that it is "Better to reign in Hell than serve in Heav'n".

In addition, this hero calls for and leads the grand council. That is why it is possible to consider the fact that Milton has made the hero of Satan as the heroic one within his initial introduction to the reader. More than that, the heroic image of Satan is made by the fact that the first two books of Paradise Lost are mainly focused on the fallen angels and Hell.

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That is mainly caused by the fact that the key concern of the Poem is the Christianity and the fall of a human being. The author has represented the temptation of Adam and Eva by Satan, the fallen angel and their further expulsion from the Garden of Eden. Author has stated the key purpose of the first book as to "justify the ways of God to men". (Milton 1 26) Due to the Genesis creation narrative, this garden was considered as the garden in Eden. As a rule, this notion is applied in cases of the origin of sin and mankind's wrongdoings description. Some other medieval writers consider the Garden of Eden to be the representation of the human love and sexuality. It is often referred to the locus amoenus (Ronald 188).

According to the Bible's Book of Genesis, the Garden of Eden was a place, where the first people, Adam and his wife Eva, were living after their creation by the Lord. They were living in that place until they have committed their sin.

After God has seen that deed, he has become very angry due to the fact of violating his command, judged them for disobeying and expelled them from Eden. Another theme, which has been developed by the author, is the contradiction between the free will and eternal foresight of God. That is why while taking into account the fact that the primary theme of the poem is the fall of a man, it becomes obvious that Satan is represented as an anti-hero of the book.

The author considers him as the prominent driving force in the plot of the poem. The depiction of Satan is fascinating, and that is why it is widely criticized. Several critics have interpreted Paradise Lost as the poem, which asks the questions concerning the power of the church. This theme was common in the period of the English Renaissance, and it has broadened the simple description of the fall of Adam and Eve.

In order to prove the information discussed above, it is essential to discuss the changeable religious environment of the 16-th century. Scholars define the 16-th century as the era, which represented the "duality between Catholicism and Calvinism". That is why the religion of that time had inherent features, which were borrowed from the Christianity, and rules for the salvation from Calvinism, which made an emphasis on the preordination of salvation. The majority of people were in the atmospheric condition of a hybrid faith when Paradise Lost has been written. That is why the introspection of two religions in the book can be observed. In Paradise Lost, Milton has considered one more incorporation of religious themes: Christianity and Paganism. That is why it is obvious that the main theme of the book is developing of the compelling Theodicy.


Even while taking into account the key theme of the poem, such topic as marriage and policy are also considered. The key reason for that is the political activity of the author during the English Civil War. The author has emphasized the following theological issues: predestination, fate, sin, death, introduction into the world, the angels' nature, the war in heaven, the fallen angels, and Satan, as well. This poem is considered to be one of the greatest works of literature in the English language, and scholars usually put it along with the masterpieces written by Shakespeare.

As it has been said above, there are several themes in this poem represented by the author, but this paper will investigate and depict the aspect of the Satan's establishment of his authority over the other fallen angels in Books 1 and 2 of Paradise Lost. In order to represent the theme of the Satan's establishment of his authority, the key heroes of the poem would be characterized.

Satan is the main character of Paradise Lost. Initially, he has been one of the most beautiful angels of the Heaven; however, he was too proud to serve his Creator and Lord. The author has depicted his tragic figure by the phrase, "Better to reign in Hell than to serve in Heaven". Satan was banished to Hell after he had led the rebellion, which aimed at wrestling the control over Heaven from God. The key reason of the rebellion was his unwillingness to be subordinated to God and his Son. Satan has claimed falsely that all the angels are "self-begot, self-raised" (Milton 2 860). In such a manner, Satan has denied the authority of God over others due to the fact that God is not the Creator.

In the poem, Milton depicts the Satan as the core reason of the fall of a man. The flaws of pride and ambition have led Satan to battle over Heaven, and after he has been defeated, he has not accepted his defeat and, consequently, did not want to give up in his war against God. On the contrary, he has promised always to do evil against Him and humanity, and he has got the success in the case when the men have fallen from grace.

At the same time, it is crucial to put an emphasis on the fact that the author has depicted the struggle of Satan in the following aspects: desire, despair and also in the repentance, which has been experienced by Satan. This repentance has shown that Satan sees more human than evil, and it makes him not an anti-hero while causing a certain degree of sympathy to him.

The fatal flaws of Satan are outlined by Milton even in the inner struggles of the hero and in his determination, related to waging the covert battles in his war against the Lord. Satan knows that he is not able to win due to the set of reasons, and this aspect, in turn, makes him Milton's unlikely hero.

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While taking in account the fact that Satan has been depicted as the humanity's adversary and evil, he is not expiated to be portrayed as the hero of the poem, because Adam or Eve were expected to be.

Satan is depicted by the author as the hero, who has got the set of heroic traits. This character cannot be compared to the hero of any epic or the one depicting the fall of a man in particular. This character can be considered as the most complex one, and that is why it is possible to state a fact that he cannot be compared to the common hero of any other epic. The "quest" of Satan is the one, which is set by him, namely tempting humans. At the same time, it is obvious that this "quest" is a complicated issue to Satan, because each time he is looking for something, reminding him of God or Heaven, a despair and remorse torment him. Despite these complications, he is successful in these actions and gets the revenge.

Milton depicts Satan as the deeply arrogant hero, and at the same time, the devil is a charismatic and powerful individual. While reading Paradise Lost, it becomes obvious that Satan is provided with the persuasive power. The author has represented this power in the light of the following aspects: Satan was good at cunning, and his deception was very convincing.

The additional activity of Satan, represented in the book, is his ability for integration of demons and their inciting for the rebellion after the Angelic War agonizing defeat. Satan motivates the rebellion by the statement that the power of God is tyrannical and despotic, and that it is unfair that all the angels should act in accordance with the rules, developed by the Lord (Milton 2:794-802). The author has compared Satan to other heroes of the classic Greek literature in several ways, but it is possible to say that Milton has depicted Satan in such a manner that his hubris overcomes the previous tragedies in a significant way.

I would like to contrast the hero of Satan and Adam as they are represented by the author. Adam is shown by Milton as the almost perfect hero- attractive, spiritually profound and mentally adept

The humanity values of Adam are reflected in his attitude towards Eva. Also, they are represented in his speeches to God, Eva and to Raphael. Each speech o Adam represents the way he is I proper relations within the interlocutor. The relationship and- proper respect in graceful speech and manners are always shown by Adam.

Even while taking into account the fact that Satan is represented as the narrative antihero, he is still commonly considered as the antagonist of the epic. At the same time, the core nature of the Satan's role has been debated in the light of notoriety and scholarliness. Generally, some critics interpret this poem as the Christian Morality genuine tale (Marshall 56). William Blake considers Paradise Lost to be an ironic poem and that Milton has, "wrote in fetters when [he] wrote of Angels and God, and at liberty when of Devils and Hell, [because] he was a true Poet and of the Devil's party without knowing" (Black 998).

That is why it is possible to consider the character of Satan, developed by Milton, as one of the most complicated and, at the same time, dynamic literature characters. Satan is represented in a dual perspective by the author: he possesses the desire for power, vengeance and havoc. Satan is also depicted as an attractive hero, because while reading the poem, it is hard to evaluate, whom Milton has given his preference: to God or Satan.

Greenbelt considers that even while taking into account the positive aspects of the Satan character represented by Milton, it is obvious that Satan is an embodiment of all evil. Critic claims that the author has represented Satan as the seductive evil, and that feature, in turn, has provided him with the additional danger.

It is possible to support this idea by the fact that in Paradise Lost, God is represented as the authoritative and boring to some extent hero. In the Book 2, Satan creates the portrait of God as if He is a tyrant, fascist despot or a ruler, who prefers the arbitrary power. It is possible even to make a conclusion that in some parts of the book, Satan is represented as the innocent victim, but not the embodiment of all evil.

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The next important issue is that in Paradise Lost, the speeches of Satan are conveniently and ingeniously turned out to be alike to the animals', whose shape has been taken by Satan in order to tempt Eva. Satan has become a Serpent. According to the Bible, the story of Adam and Eva looks the following way: the people have been settled in the Garden of Eden by God after their creation. Adam has been charged by God to take care of the garden, but, at the same time, not to eat from the tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Adam and Eva have followed that command until the serpent has asked Eva a question, why they would not like to try the forbidden fruit, get knowledge about good and evil and to live as gods.

At the beginning of the dialogue, Eva has refused his proposal and referred to the God's commandment not to eat of this tree, but finally, the serpent has succeeded and persuaded Eva to try the fruit. She has done that, and she has also convinced Adam to try this forbidden fruit. After God has seen their deed, he has become angry for violating his command, judged them for disobeying and expelled them from Eden (Greenblatt 185). That is why it is possible to consider Satan in the role of Serpent as a clever, wily and tricky hero. That is obvious that he has got too much power in Paradise Lost.

To conclude, it is crucial to pay the additional attention to the fact that Satan has been represented by the author as a great speaker, and at the same time, the author has made an attempt of representing him as the mean creature. This hero is smart and is able to understand willing and desires of all other characters of the book: what do they want to hear and feel, and that, in turn, makes him more dangerous.

It is possible to say that such a significant part of the poem is dedicated to the negative hero due to the fact that Satan is an interesting character with the integrated set of all the dangerous features, which are inherent to human beings. All the actions undertaken by Satan represent core negative features of human beings, namely the desire for power, seduction, avidity and flattery.

That is why many readers of Paradise Lost consider Satan as a charismatic hero because some of the actions undertaken by him lead to the core goal, inherent to many human beings, which is getting the power. It is important to make a final emphasis that all the tools, applied by Satan for that purpose, represent negative features of the humanity, leading to wars, conflicts and making human beings sinners.

Works Cited:

  1. Anderson, Gary A. "The Fall of Satan in the Thought of St. Ephrem and John Milton." Hugoye: Journal of Syriac Studies 3.1 (2000). Print.
  2. Black, J. "Paradise Lost." The Broadview Anthology of British Literature. Peterborough, Ontario: Broadview Press, 2007. 998-1061. Print.
  3. Greenblatt, Stephen. The Norton Anthology of English Literature, Volume 1: The Middle Ages through the Restoration and the Eighteenth Century. W. W. Norton & Company, 1962. Print.
  4. Marshall, W. H. "Paradise Lost: Felix Culpa and the Problem of Structure." Modern Language Notes 76. 1 (1961): 15-20. Print.
  5. Milton, John. Paradise Lost-(2nd ed.). London: S. Simmons, 1674. Print.-
  6. Youngblood, Ronald, F., F. F. Bruce, Roland Kenneth Harrison, and Thomas Nelson Publishers. Nelson's New Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Rev. Ed. of: Nelson's Illustrated Bible Dictionary. Includes Index. Nashville: T. Nelson, 1995. Print.
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