Paradise Lost: Is Satan a Tragic Hero?

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In Milton's Paradise Lost, he writes the story of the fall of Satan, his followers, and mankind. Many critics often view Satan as the unlikely or tragic hero of the epic poem. Satan is, obviously, the main character throughout most of the poem, but not necessarily the hero. Satan's main purpose is to fight G-d, and try to be on the same level as Him. The important thing is to realize that Satan is sin, and being humans, who are all born into sin, we can easily relate to a sinful character. G-d is holy and perfect. This is something which we, being fallible humans, cannot begin to comprehend. Satan does, at the beginning, follow many of the attributes which coincide with Aristotle's definition of a tragic hero; however, after the first few Books, Satan looses his status as a tragic hero rather rapidly. 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. Eventually, the tragic hero falls from a high status, realizes the mistake that was made, faces and accepts their death, and finally ends in a tragic death. It is important to state that, in all tragic heroes, the audience is affected by fear and/or pity. In Paradise Lost, the reader is easily able to relate to Satan, even pity him at some points...

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