Satan and Jesus in John Milton's Paradise Lost

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Satan and Jesus in Paradise Lost

The subject, the drama, and the importance of Paradise Lost is grand. The epic represents what can be accomplished with the English language as sounds and syntax are carefully crafted. But the work is not shallow, because Milton argues forcefully the wisdom and justice of God Almighty for His dealings with mankind. In the words of Samuel Johnson, Milton attempts to show "the reasonableness of religion."

No doubt, Ezra Pound represents the most vocal of the anti-Milton faction. In his essay, "Notes on Elizabethan Classicists," Pound accuses Milton of "asinine bigotry," and dislikes the "coarseness of his mentality." Pound admires the Byronic hero--alone and rebellious--who struggles to fight for his lost cause in spite of overwhelming odds. According to Pound, because of his heroic willingness to fight against God and to never give up, Satan is the true hero in Paradise Lost. However, based on his actions, Satan fails to be any kind of hero. The real hero of Paradise Lost is the Lord Jesus Christ.

Satan is anything but a hero. Satan is a complainer and a whiner. When he realizes that he is in Hell, Satan begins complaining about his "injur'd merit." For Satan, life is not fair since God the Father loved and preferred His Son more than him. Even though Heaven was lost, Satan states that "All is not lost." According to Satan, "the unconquerable Will," the "study of revenge," and "immortal hate" remained. However, everything worthwhile is lost. Satan is in Hell because he rebelled against God and God cast him with the rebel angels out of Heaven. Here Satan whines because he blames God for not revealing all of His power. Indeed, Satan states that God tempted the angels to rebel in order that the Lord could use His superior strength to crush the rebellion.

Also, Satan is a coward. Not willing to confront the angels of Heaven, Satan resorts to disguise and to lying. As a "stripling Cherub," Satan asks Uriel, an archangel, for directions to paradise in order to adore man and to praise God. Uriel does not see Satan's hypocrisy, "the only evil that walks / Invisible." Once on earth, Satan changes into a wolf, and then into a cormorant where he sits in the Tree of Life "devising Death / To them who liv'd." Satan is not contented to be angry with God alone; he wants to destroy the innocent and powerless.

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