Satan as a Hero

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John Milton’s Paradise Lost is an epic poem that describes the fall of Satan and the expulsion of Adam and Eve from Paradise. Satan is the protagonist of Paradise Lost and has several characteristics in which readers may identify with him. Throughout the poem, Satan is not only a tragic hero but also the key character that drives the plot and portrays many flawed human qualities. As an angel fallen from the high esteem of God and a possessor of hubris that leads to his downfall, he represents a tragic hero but also a character in which readers may identify with.

Following the standards of classic tragic heroes, Satan is a determined leader with an extreme amount of hubris. He knows that God is the most powerful being and yet he still rises against him, wanting more than just God’s highest approval. As compared to most tragic and epic heroes, Satan begins in a position of supreme status but his tragic flaw leads to his downfall. In Book I, Milton describes Satan’s fatal flaw of hubris:

“Th’ infernal serpent; he it was, whose guile

Stirred up with envy and revenge, deceived

The mother of Mankind, what time his pride

Had cast him out from Heav’n with all his host

Of rebel angels, by whose aid aspiring

To set himself in glory above his peers,

He trusted to have equaled the Most High” (34-40)

Satan proves his leadership by managing to cause the fall of other angels as well. He has a legion of rebel angels that he has somehow convinced to join him in his revolt against God. The angels and he mistakenly believe him to be just as powerful as God (line 40). Perhaps his futile attempts to win are what attract the sympathy and understanding of human beings, for mankind is constantly trying to change things they will never be abl...

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...ubts himself, has jealousy, confidence and does not know he is wrong when he is; all of which a reader can identify with. Satan is in the same position as human beings under an omnipotent God who has foreseen their fate and yet argues that they possess free will. Both Satan and mankind have a choice to obey or do evil, and that is where they are similar.

Works Cited

Milton, John. Paradise Lost. Ed. William Kerrigan, John Peter Rumrich, and Stephen M. Fallon. New York: Modern Library, 2008. Print.

Wallace, Matt. "A Devil of a Problem: Satan as Hero in Paradise Lost." The Compleat Heretic. 08 12 2008. Web. 26 Oct. 2011. .

"Milton, John." Encyclopedia Britannica's Guide to Shakespeare. Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc., 2011. Web. 26 Oct 2011. .
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