Satan As An Epic Hero In John Milton's Paradise Lost

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John Milton’s Paradise Lost continues the epic tradition developed by the ancient Greek and Roman poets. Composed in exact imitation of its predecessors, the work depicts all characteristics of a traditional epic poem—including the epic hero, a powerful embodiment of societal values. Milton presents his hero in a most unpredictable form: Satan. Despite the unorthodox oddity, the former archangel exhibits the conventions of an epic hero. Milton’s forced perception of Satan as the hero of the poem reflects his stated purpose for writing the piece. By placing Satan in a traditional heroic role, Milton illustrates his manipulative and cunning nature, which anyone can easily fall prey to, and resultingly fashions Satan into an antihero.
The ancient
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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. Milton’s initial introduction of Satan immediately places him into the epic hero role, “Him the Almighty Power/Hurled headlong flaming from the ethereal…show more content…
After defeating the rebellious angels, God cast them out from Heaven, placing them in Hell, a despairing and horrid place. Satan describes God as a tyrant who believes himself better than all, placing God as his epic adversary, “...our grand Foe/Who now triumphs, and in the excess of joy/Sole reigning holds the tyranny of Heaven” (1.122-124). Satan refuses to accept his defeat, and rather seeks to enact revenge against God either by once again leading his minions into battle or using his guile. Satan demonstrates his leadership, intelligence, and traits valued by his fellow fallen angels within the first several books of Paradise Lost. Satan speaks eloquently throughout the entire work, which demonstrates both his intelligence and ability to manipulate others, “Powers and Dominions, Deities of Heaven!/For, since no deep within her gulf can hold/Immortal vigour, though oppressed and fallen,/I give not Heaven for lost...claim our just inheritance of old,/Surer to prosper than prosperity/Could have assured us, and by what best way, Whether of open war or covert guile,/We now debate; who can advise, may speak” (2.11-42). Satan beautifully addresses his peers and cunningly proposes a democracy, disguising his leadership and intentions of making the decisions himself. However, his companions in Hell blindly
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