preview

Essay On Satan In Paradise Lost

Better Essays
What everyone remembers about Milton’s Paradise Lost is Satan. In the opening two books of this twelve part epic, Satan steals the show, completely overwhelming the imagination. Indeed, he is arguably the most compelling figure of the entire work; an intriguing and even sympathetic character. This statement raises a troubling conundrum for the reader, for Milton’s Satan does not appear to be particularly Biblical. How is one intended to view this compelling characterization of Satan and to land upon some kind of moral judgment of his nature? Milton chooses Satan as the protagonist of his work as he desires to challenge society’s understanding of him. He transforms the ultimate evil into a tragic heroic figure, more convincing than God, Adam, Eve, and God’s son. Through turning on its head society’s preconceived notions of human nature, Milton shows that challenging authority is an intrinsic and necessary facet of our humanity.
The traditional image of Satan is that of a destroyer, tempter, and all-around malevolent being, possessing no sympathetic qualities. Yet in Milton’s epic, Satan is not simply indomitable. He is also empathetic and sensitive, and lacks neither imagination nor resourcefulness. Milton works with the tension created by his character to question the reader’s long standing beliefs of the angel of the bottomless pit. In Areopagitica, Milton had already laid the foundation to this idea: “Good and evil we know in the field of this world grow up together almost inseparably; and the knowledge of good is so involved and interwoven with the knowledge of evil…” (). A character who would be considered the ultimate good, on the other hand, stands distant and irate: God. Indeed, the reader comes to resent God for his auto...

... middle of paper ...

...his Protestantism. In creating the poem of Paradise Lost, Milton has put together a poem that must be read in the same way as the Bible. Reading Milton’s epic is not simply an appeal to reason, to understanding. One actually has to work their way through it. Tie this in to the italicized words below.

The virtues of Satan are not lost. What seems to happen is that in Paradise Lost they are recreated, they survive, alive and well in a self-knowing version of Satan. A self knowing figure is able and willing to challenge authority and not take things on writ. The entirety of the poem recounts what takes only a few verses in Genesis to articulate, which leads Milton to create a complex individual, who is at times unsure of himself, allowing the reader to relate to his inner struggles.
Even the most condemnable of characters can display positive features of human nature.
Get Access