Satan, as a character, has been satirized, mocked and made foolish in our modern world. John Milton, however, presents quite a different Satan from the devil-on-your-shoulder image people are used to seeing. In Paradise Lost, Milton draws on the Bible for his source of Satan’s character, thereby creating a horrifyingly corrupt Satan. Despite this portrayal, readers often find themselves sympathizing with Satan’s cause, and his determination, viewing him as a hero for his cause, as evidenced by his long, brave speeches. Later, however Satan’s speeches begin to show signs of regret, making the reader question their initial reaction to him.
Humanizing Satan: An Examination of Satan as a Victim In John Milton’s, The Paradise Lost, Milton’s representation of Satan makes us uncomfortable due to the recognition of his humanizing and relatable reaction to what happened to him. The reader expects Satan to be an evil, and malevolent figure who does evil acts because he loves it and there is no defense for it. While these aspects are prevalent in his character in the poem, Satan does not come across as a completely wicked person but instead, a victim. The representation of Satan has a personifying quality that any of us may have and do not want to admit. In book one, Milton’s portrayal of Satan makes us uneasy because we relate to his actions, which are ordinary human responses to similar situations.
Paradise Lost is a story of Genesis told as it normally would be, but with a protagonist focus on Satan. The story is told largely with Satan being favorably portrayed and God having little presence other than cursing things, which convinces the audience that Satan’s view of God as a tyrant may not be too far off. Still, Satan is portrayed as the villain of the story. However, he has characteristics of a classical hero; including flaws that make the audience relate to and feel sympathy for him. 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?
These instances displays Milton's portrayal of Satan’s ineptitude to win against God’s supremacy. Although Satan is a dark figure that everyone wants to escape from, Milton maximizes the devil’s qualities to portray him as the oppressed fighter for freedom. Milton also humanizes Satan’s attributes by displaying his weaknesses and defeats in the face of the all knowing Creator. Then he is the absolute enemy that deceives and enchants man to succumb to their weaknesses. Milton deliberately creates a reason why Satan is necessary to God by examining the Scripture and was further elevated by C.S.
The question of whether Satan is the hero or the villain of John Milton’s Paradise Lost has been largely debated by scholars over the centuries. The ones who believe Satan is the villain of the epic, more commonly known as the Anti-Satanists, tend to argue that Satan is too foolish to be considered a hero, as his “hostility to Almighty power” is ultimately a futile endeavour (as God’s power is omnipotent) (Carey, 135). C.W. Lewis, also an anti-Satanist, goes as far as to claim that to “admire Satan, then, is to give one’s vote not only for a world of misery, but also for a world of lies and propaganda, of wishful thinking” (Lewis, 203). The ones who claim Satan is the hero of the epic, the Satanists, perceive him as the rebellious angel who rises up and defies God’s monarchy and “the tyranny of Heav’n” (174).They choose to focus on Satan’s “nobler qualities, his loyalty in leadership, fortitude in adversity, unflinching courage and splendid recklessness” (Satan/Promo, 3).
I personally believe that this book could be a story told to John Milton by the Holy Spirit. Milton's Satan is somewhat different to our thought of Satan largely because he is more complex than the Satan of the Christian tradition. Satan's rebelliousness, his seeking of transcendence and his capacity for action, particularly evil action, change certain people’s viewpoints on him, even if their viewpoint might be considered theologically misleading. The question is: do we actually understand Satan and evil by means of the book Paradise Lost? In John Milton's Paradise Lost, Satan is banished from Heaven for his defiance against God.
He has the faults and doubts associated with humanity rather than being a character of pure evil who operates in a dichotomic black and white world. In Paradise Lost, Satan is envious, prideful, angry, rebellious, argumentative, and manipulative. He envies the son of God’s position and with clever argumentation convinces others to follow him in a rebellion against God. He manipulates others to get what he wants, such as when he convinces Eve to eat the fruit or when he lets Belzebuth present what is his own plan to convince the other dwellers of Hell to follow it. Despite all those traits, Satan is seen as having glimpses of remorse throughout the story, even doubts as to his own behaviour.
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. When Milton’s Satan tricks Adam and Eve into leaving paradise, they are ultimately worse off. Pullman, on the other hand, shows that human beings are essentially crippled without their right and ability to sin and make choices. It is through their differing portrayals of Satan, that Milton and Pullman present their respective cases on how the original sin caused man to lose paradise and eternal bliss, or find free will. When Paradise Lost begins, the vainglorious actions of Satan have resulted in his removal from heaven and placed him on the path to exact revenge against those who have done so.
Satan’s Myth of Free Will in Paradise Lost Milton, through Satan's soliloquies in Book 4, shows that Satan's idea of free will is a facade, and God carefully manipulates him to fulfill his plan of Adam and Eve's fall. While speaking, Satan inadvertently places doubts in the reader's mind that his will is free. Satan proves through his actions that God created him to act in a very narrow range, even though he himself does not realize this. The combination of pride, ambition, abhorrence of subordination, and ignorance of his own state as a puppet lead to perpetually diminishing stature and divinity. Satan introspects in the first soliloquy (lines 32-113), searching for the motivation and reasoning behind his fall.
Throughout Paradise Lost, written by Milton, there are many primary motivations that consequently guide Satan in his actions, revenge, power, and lastly, praise of his own followers. First, Satan is guided throughout Paradise Lost by the revenge he wants God to deal with. He decided to go against the lord and live in the dark place where the damned go. Satan must live with the fact that he was one of the highest angels in heaven, but it still was not good enough to become a ruler along with god. He got mad, and lost his spot that he once held.