Milton’s poem is written from the point of view of Satan and in such a way that he appears to be the heroic figure of the tale. Satan is given lines to uplift the demons of hell, seeming to empower them and as he sets off to derail the lives of Adam and Eve, the insight the reader has into the thoughts of the Devil almost make him appear to be the hero. The Satanic character of Milton’s Paradise Lost is shown to be primarily motivated by revenge against God, the creation of chaos, and the gain of power yet somehow he is stilled viewed as the hero to the reader and the other fallen angels in the story. As Satan and his followers were thrown from the heavens by God, during the poem, the fallen Angel seeks his revenge by creating another revolt against the Lord. At the beginning of the poem the Angels who have been cast down to hell speak of the actions they should next take, whether they should seek revenge or should be peaceful and submissive to the lot they have been given.
Along with this, Satan's thoughts parallel the idea of "Evil, be thou my good," (p76, line 110) which is the opposite of what G-d intends. In order to attempt to discern if Satan is a tragic hero, his character must fit a certain profile. According to Aristotle's theory, the tragic hero has the potential to be great, but is doomed to fail. The tragic hero, although fallen, still wins a moral victory. The general characteristics follow that the tragic hero is a noble, is responsible for their fate, contains a tragic flaw, and is doomed to make a severe error in judgment.
By using part of the black-and-white Genesis story which paints Satan as evil and juxtaposing a narrative which paints Satan as a sympathetic hero, Milton raises a question about morality that largely define the audience’s reaction to the story: what is immoral? Two important things that make Satan a hero are identified in the beginning of Paradise Lost: an obstacle Satan is trying to overcome and flaws that Satan has. In the beginning of the poem, Satan falls into Hell, which sets up the en media res (starting with action in the middle of the story) narrative so that the reader does not know the circumstances under which Satan rebelled against God. Satan despairs at first at the thought of eternal damnation and debates making up with God, but decides that if he tried to redeem himself he would eventually rebel again. Instead, Satan decides to corrupt the rumored new race, the human race, that God has created and, with his host of demons, “reascend / self-raised, and repossess their native seat [in Heaven]” (1.633-634).
Christ and Satan are therefore epic machines. (268-272) Although Satan may be an epic machine, he is best portrayed as the tragic anti-hero of "Paradise Lost" or, at the very least, a main character who possesses the stature and attributes which enable him to achieve tragic status. In the Greek tradition, the essential components of tragedy are admiration, fear and pity for the 'hero', who has to display a tragic weakness or flaw in his character, which will lead to his downfall. It might be argued that the flaws in Satan's character are such that we should feel no admiration, fear or pity for him, yet he can be seen to inspire these emotions. Satan's tragic flaws are pointed out in Book I.
Despite recognizing that revenge eventually becomes bitter, Satan wants to make others as miserable as he is. It is i n destruction that he finds comfort for his ceaseless thoughts. (Bk. 9, lines 129-130, 163-165). Satan is described at length in an epic simile that compares his great size to that of mythical figures.
In his epic poem Paradise Lost, John Milton presents Satan as a complex and multifaceted figure. As Jeffrey Burton Russell describes in The Prince of Darkness, Milton’s goal in writing this epic poem was to “justify the ways of God to men” (Russell, chap.12, p.15). With this in mind, it is easy to interpret the character of Satan as a mere foe, the evil at the opposite of God’s goodness, and to see God as the obvious protagonist of the poem. Things in Milton, however, are not quite as black and white, and while the justification of God’s actions is at the centre here, it is the character of Satan who drives the poem forward, as a protagonist should. Satan is presented as a heroic figure from the very beginning of the poem.
The reader no longer needs to label the morality of such a character; Satan defines himself with the use of the pronoun 'my' and the preceding definition and assessment that 'My self am hell'. Furthermore through Satan's own assessment the distancing technique by the word 'my' appears to exaggerate the notion of the definition of himself, the natural pause due to the unusual syntax further accentuates this. The use of Milton's alliteration in 'Racked with deep despair' when describing Satan's countenance only empathises this pitiful nature. However this sense of self dou... ... middle of paper ... ...ng that G-d deliberately leads Satan into greater evil. From the outset it appears that G-d and Satan remain in opposition together, an important characterisation of Milton.
Satan possesses similar qualities to the epic heroes of antiquity, except in a distorted and unorthodox manner. By placing a villainous character as the seeming hero of his work, Milton satirizes the epic tradition. As stated by Matt Wallace in his essay, “A Devil of a Problem: Satan as Hero in Paradise Lost”, “Milton wrote Paradise Lost as an inverted epic or anti-epic. He has twisted and reversed the epic conventions to conform them to his retelling of the Biblical account of Creation and the Fall as given in Genesis” (Wallace). The epic tradition calls for the hero to possess distinct traits and experience certain events, all of which Satan embodies and encounters.
In John Milton’s Paradise Lost, Satan is an ambiguous character that puts a twist on this retelling of the Biblical villain. Milton forces the reader to look at evil and the antagonistic Satan in a more complex light in contrast to the unsympathetic figure referenced in other texts. As the fallen archangel, Satan is a struggling hero fighting against an oppressor, the devil that tempts man to their downfall, and the rebel that involuntarily does God’s bidding. Many of Satan’s attributes are complex and contain contradictory dualities. Satan is determined and believes in his own righteousness when he sees God as a dictator that uses his creations as amusement.
In the former, John Milton uses the devil to display how vanity and pride are the sins that halt us in an opportunity to live blissfully, with and under God. Philip Pullman, in his twist on Paradise Lost, The Golden Compass, claims that the original sin was the first, and most essential, step in human beings claiming their free will. He writes the devil (Lord Asriel) as a manipulative, selfish but ultimately admirable character. One who stands his ground and holds onto his beliefs with an intense passion. Milton’s Satan, on the other hand, comes off originally as charming, but slowly presents himself to be weak and unsure, and his ideals are eventually presented as a mask for his insatiable pride.