There have been many different interpretations of John Milton's epic, Paradise Lost. Milton's purpose in writing the epic was to explain the biblical story of Adam and Eve. Although the epic is similar to the Bible story in many ways, Milton's character structure differs from that of the Bible's version. Through-out the epic Milton describes the characters in the way he believes they are. In book II of Paradise Lost, Milton portrays Satan as a rebel who exhibits certain heroic qualities, but who turns out not to be a hero.
Milton's introduction of Satan shows the reader how significant Satan is to Paradise Lost. He uses Satan's heroic qualities to his followers, and his ability to corrupt to show the thin line between good and evil. Satan was one of the highest angels in Heaven and was know as Lucifer, meaning, light bearer. This shows he was once a good angel. Milton makes the reader see him as a leader and a strong influence to all in his presence. He best describes Satan's ways when stating, "His pride/ had cast him out from Heaven, with all his host. / Of rebel angels, by whose aspiring/ To set himself in glory above his peers" (Milton Book I). Satan's pride was the main reason that God banned him from heaven. Satan always tried to be number one and a leader, instead of following in God's shadow. He would of lived a life in Paradise forever, but he had to follow his feelings as he states, "Better to reign in Hell than serve in Heaven" (Milton 31). This shows how strongly he felt about not being above everybody else.
Milton uses many events like the ones listed above to encourage the reader to view Satan as a hero. "Satan is described to be the brightest and most important angel" (McColley 32). These traits of Satan show...
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...e lead to ingratitude towards God" from the beginning of the epic (Weber 25). Although Satan is a great warrior and can give wonderful speeches, he seems to be hypocritical of what he tells his followers he believes and what he really does. An example of this is when we are first introduced to Satan. Satan and the other fallen angels are in hell and Satan tells the others to not be frightened, when he is frightened as well.
The character of Satan "deteriorates" greatly through the epic (Ruma 81). Satan is viewed as a great warrior and then as time passes, his own followers begin to doubt him. "Milton has his brilliant hero advance to be met and repulsed, first verbally, and then in arms" (Revard 225). This explains how the two most heroic qualities, that Milton uses to describe Satan as a rebellious hero, were diminished and Milton's Satan is not a hero after all.
At times he becomes torn with conflicting emotions. His inner debates and self-criticism reveal him as a dynamic being. Satan flows through his heroic story, allowing himself to be the anti-hero the story. The authors believes that Satan is created as “an example of the self deception and the deception of others which are incident to the surrender of reason to passion.”
Milton prompts the reader to understand God’s grace as the most almighty and powerful aspect within the first twenty-six lines. God is a powerful ruler who bestows blessings if his policies are followed and eternal damnation if not. The first two books of Paradise Lost portray Satan as a confused, resentful man who feels the need to rebel against God. Since Satan rebelled against God, he was banished from heaven and summoned into an eternal hell. While in hell, Satan gathered his fallen angels for a pep talk and exclaimed to them, “Farewell, happy fields, where joy forever dwell; in my choice to reign is worth ambition though in Hell” (Book 1, Line 1). In this exclamation Satan bids adieu to the pleasure and blissful surroundings of paradise and greets the gloom and dreadfulness that now surround him with open arms. The reader can conclude that Milton relays Satan’s speech as remorseful and full of regret at the penalty of his rebellious actions, but accepts what he has done and is ready to rule the underworld. The reader can also note one difference between Satan and God in this passage because unlike God, Satan chose to speak to all who follow him and wanted their feedback for his rebellious plans. Satan continues his speech by adding, “Receive thy new possessor. Not to be changed by place or time” (Book 1, Line 1). Satan is regulating his mental perception as he greets Hell. He portrays himself as equipped and ready for Hell to receive him as the leader. Like God, Satan brought his autonomous mentality, free of time or location, to Hell. As the new supreme leader of the underworld, with his independent mind, Satan boldly compares himself to God through the element of
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. It is troubling to say that in this particular poem, Satan resembles humans. However, our human nature is to have an instant reflex to justify our actions without taking any responsibility, which resembles the way Satan justifies his mischievous acts in this poem. Most of the time, we would never think of Satan as a victim; yet, we find ourselves discovering our human nature in Satan’s rationalizations. So, what humanizes this monstrous figure? After thoroughly reading book one, there are many instances when Satan justifies what he has done to make sense of it. Satan believes that God deceived him because he did not know how much power he possessed. According to Satan, God did unjust things that justified his actions. Satan has a whole rationale that God had arbitrary power that caused Satan to become the way he is in the poem. This perception serves as Satan’s foundation on behalf of his justification, which we all can relate to because he does not take responsibility but pr...
In the story Milton describes Satan in many different manner. He first talks about him as a form of a snake, tempting 'our grand parents'; to eat the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden. Milton also shows Satan's appearance as a beast. Pretty much you can see how his appearance and personality are quite related. Milton gives us a vivid description of Satan. That he has eyes that sparking blaze, monstrous size. This describes to us how Satan looks now, but before Satan was an Angel. He is not the same being that he was before.
In Milton’s Paradise Lost, Milton characterizes himself as a prophet in order to encourage us to listen to God’s order and turn away from our evil. As one becomes aware of Milton’s prophetic intentions, one recognizes how Milton uses Satan and his reaction to his downfall with God as a way to lead us to think of our own human sins and experience. Milton’s characterization of Satan’s envious, jealous, prideful and rebellious nature while battling God allows us to see Satan as mirror reflection of our own selves. By characterizing Satan, an evil icon, as a being with human flaws, Milton encourages us to see our own weaknesses in order to turn away from these sins.
As a period rift with anxiety over changes in faith and the subsequent loss of it, political climate of the time permeates in Milton's writings. Even though Satan is residing in hell, he is free to not worship God. Satan's mind is not only unconquerable and unconditionally opposed to God, but he also influences other minds to use their free will to oppose the will of God. This concurs with my claim that Satan's sinful acts are intentional, God's other creations, Adam and Eve made a mistake but they are repentant, whereas Satan's actions are calculated and meaningful. He is an eloquent orator; his power of persuasion is compelling. The two major events in the poem would never take place if not for his forceful sermons, he persuades the angels to rebel against God and he tempts Eve to eat the fruit. One leads to the damnation of all the angels who follow into his footsteps and the other leads the whole human race astray. Therefore evil is not an essential attribute, something existing in itself. It is not independent and exclusive from that which is good. Evil is rather something chosen, acting through free will in conscious opposition to God's
Throughout time, John Milton's Paradise Lost has been studied by many people and comprehended in many different fashions, developing all kinds of new interpretations of the great epic. There have been many different interpretations of this great epic. Milton's purpose in writing the epic was to explain the biblical story of Adam and Eve. Although the epic is similar to the Bible story in many ways, Milton's character structure differs from that of the Bible's version. All through out the epic Milton describes the characters in the way he believes they are. In book II of Paradise Lost, Milton portrays Satan as a rebel who exhibits certain heroic qualities, but who turns out not to be a hero.
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). While Satan determines his end-game, however, some of his flaws are revealed, such as pride and vanity. Satan is not afraid of eternal damnation, rather he figures since he is immortal he can keep rebelling and causing harm ...
Readers admire Satan’s independent attitude, that he feels he would rather be free and reign in Hell, than be under someone else’s authority in Heaven. This speech elevates Satan in the minds of readers to hero status, willing to defend what he believes in, even if it means suffering. His advocacy of freedom gains him reader support, which serves useful later in the poem when Milton uses this perception to highlight Satan’s destructive attitude. Milton is able to do this because it is always worse, and more shocking to see a liked individual reveal himself to be bad, than to always know a bad individual to be bad. Thus, the initial support that Satan gains from readers is designed to alienate him further when his evil side prevails.
Satan is shown to have heroic qualities during the first two books of Paradise Lost. His first quality is that Satan is at the center of the beginning books of Paradise Lost. Sarker states this in his book “Milton,” when he says, “Milton has obviously lionized the character of Satan, particularly in the first three Books of the epic (Sarker 210).” This shows that Satan is the hero of Paradise Lost because Milton spends more time on him than any other character (Sarker 210,211).
Another part of a traditional epic poem is that the hero must perform great deeds of valor to defeat the villain. Milton wants his readers to be forced to face the problem of Satan seeming invincible. Satan is, after all, an angel. He is a mighty angel that is removed from Heaven. In order for us to see the power of God, it is necessary that Satan also be powerful. It is important that Satan, a parody of God, is viewed as an eloquent, bold being; one that possesses superhuman strength, extraordinary martial prowess, and fortitude so that he can be a foil to show how great God is. In order for God to vanquish and control this awesome being, his characteristics must exceed the characteristics of Satan. Therefore, it emphasizes the great valor God possesses to successfully defeat Satan in their battle.
Although the epic poem centers around the story of the fall of man, it is interesting that Milton intertwines in this story the fall of Satan from heaven and the consequences it has not only for Satan himself, but for Adam, Eve, and the world as a whole. Milton allows the reader to see the fall from the point of view of Satan, God, as well as Adam and Eve. Because Milton gives insight into these characters feelings regarding the fall, it is no surprise that he uses “eternal providence” in conjunction with the stories of Satan, Adam, and Eve. The providence being described here is the knowledge of good and evil. However, ev...
Since Paradise Lost is an epic, the reader is instinctively drawn to the search of deeds typical of a heroic figure that could be either legendary or based on real historic personages. However, Milton displays several characters that could perform that role, as all of them prove their heroic courage by accomplishing deeds of great valour. Satan is portrayed as a rebellious lord displaying energy and drive. That contrasts with the fact that he is the enemy of God and mankind, as his name in Hebrew indicates; ‘adversary’ (Loewenstein, 1993, p.58). In turn, God’s Son is the expected hero, responding to the admirable quality of classical heroes (Bradford, 2001, p.98), who redeems the world God had created from sin and sacrifices himself for mankind. Similarly, Adam and Eve heroically face the struggle of living in a fallen world infested by sin.
The identity of the true protagonist in Paradise Lost is a mystery. One would gather that Milton, a Puritan, would have no problem casting God as the hero, and Satan as the antagonist. However, 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 does not 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, Virgil and others. There are 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, "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?