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Paradise Lost: Satan Hero Or Villain?

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Satan: Epic Hero or Villain?

John Milton wrote one of the greatest epic poems of all time when he wrote

Paradise Lost in 1667. The book tells about man's creation and fall while detailing

characters and the plot beyond what the Bible taught. One of these characters is Satan,

which is one of the most argumented, controversial, and popular characters in the history

of literature. The reason for controversary is the unclarity of whether or not Satan is a

hero or a villain. He contains many qualities that distinguish him as a hero. On the other

hand he also has qualities which say he is a villain. Scholars have written over time to

support each argument of hero or villain and have explained why Milton decided to

create such a character.

In Paradise Lost there are many times where we see Satan partaking in heroic

acts. His bravery and heroism is shown when he encounters Sin and Death at the gates of


Whence and what art thou, execrable Shape,

That dar'st, though grim and terrible, advance

Thy miscereated front athwart my way

To yonder gates? Through them I meant to pass,

That be assured, without leave asked of thee.

Retire, or taste they folly, and learn by proof,

Hell-born, not to contend with the Spirits of Heaven.

(Milton 80)

This shows us Satan not being scared to fight. He looks Death right in the face

and says that he doesn't get out of the way he will physically move him out of the way.

By this readers are not impressed because it is only Satan, but a great heroic figure like

Odysseus would get praised for this. Satan is marked villain because of his reputation.

But it is obvious that Satan is a hero for he contains so many heroic characteristicts.

Another instance in the book in which Satan shows his heroism is when he is leading the

charge against Michael. A regular soldier would stay in the back of the army or linger

around in the middle of the pack. But not Satan, he is right there in the front of the

swarm leading his men. He has no hesitations even though he knows that he has very

little chance to win. He would never show his men fear and by this he leads the charge

and gives him men confidence. This is only something in which a hero would do. This

is something in which Odysseus a great hero had done.

Satan also shows that he was smart and knew what to do in a complicated

situation. This is shown when he is in battlle against the good angels, and Satan invents

the cannon. We see the genius in Satan but he is still denied the title of hero. Any other

person would be considered a hero for doing something great like this, but not Satan. But

it is so hard not to see him as one for all the heroic things he did.

In the book we see Satan's heroic qualities when he talks to his devils giving

them passion and confidence.

I should be much open for war, O Peers,

As no behind in hate, if what was urged

Main reason to persuade immediate war

Did not dissuade me most, and seem to cast

Ominous conjecture on the whole success..

Worth waiting, since our present lot appears

For happy thought but ill, for ill not worst,

I we procure not to ourselves more woe.

(Milton 65-67)

In this we see that Satan has great leadership qualities. He has the great

leadership as many other heroes of literature. He talks to his men with great passion and

desire, this allows them to feel every word that he is saying. When he finally finishes,

they are ready to attack heaven. He has the attention of the devils so greatly that they feel

his words and want to live them out immediately. This great quality is shared again with

Odysseus as he had the same great charisma when he rallied his troops before battle in

the underworld. Satan's leadership is first seen when he stands up and takes control and

leadership over all the devils. By this we see that Satan has the urge to lead and be in

control of the situation. He would rather have it in his hands than someone elses. Yet he

isn't given the credit he well deserves.

Satan possesses another heroic quality and this is pride. He shows great pride

throughout the story and it is most seen when he admits he misses God's grace.

...How dearly I adide that boast so vain,

Under what torments inwardly I groan;

While they adore me on the throne of Hell,

With diadem and sceptre high advanced,

The lower still I fall, only supreme



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