The ancient writers, such as Homer and Virgil, established the traditional grand role that Milton allows Satan to possess for the first books of the epic poem. 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 sky,/with hideous ru...
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...e but himself could survive, “But I should ill become this throne, O Peers,/And this imperial sovranty, adorned/With splendour, armed with power, if aught proposed/ and judged of public moment in the shape/of difficulty or danger could deter/Me from attempting” (2.445-450). This perilous journey Satan parallels that of other epic heroes, as it involves entry into Chaos, a supernatural phenomenon which could obliviate him, and he must use cunning and courage to both pass the gateway and enter it. He convinces Sin and Death to allow his passage through the gate through clever deceit. After completing this journey, Satan must still complete a task which no other Angel dares or can attempt, corrupting God’s creation. This task requires sly intelligence as well as great courage to directly defy and sabotage his creator, which Satan previously demonstrated during the war.
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