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Paradise Lost Essay

Paradise Lost Essay

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Published by: Louis Miranda on Oct 20, 2011
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Miranda Professor Stevens Literary Tradition II April 27, 2011 Satan: the Anti-Hero John Milton’s epic poem, Paradise Lost, has caused much controversy as it recounts the poet’s distorted version of the Christian story of the Fall of Man and at times seems to contain a satanic characteristic. Nevertheless, Milton proves to deviate from producing a satanic poem through his contrast in the volunteering of Satan to ascend into God’s earthly creation and the coming of the Son of God. The poet’s important portrayal of Satan as a figure worthy of sympathy is drawn out through the illustration of his weaknesses and through the emphasis that is placed upon the fact that neither he nor any of the other demons are genuinely entirely evil. This characterization of Satan as a pathetic embodiment of evil and his depiction as neither a hero nor a villain reveal Milton’s intentions behind making Satan his protagonist: to make the reader realize that, “It is we who are Satan” (Gardner). Milton’s poem portrays Satan sympathetically through many of his actions and characteristics and especially through his weaknesses such that Satan becomes “[…] a character in an epic, [that] is in no sense the hero of the epic as a whole. But he is a figure of heroic magnitude and heroic energy, and he is developed by Milton with dramatic emphasis and dramatic intensity.” All through Paradise Lost, the demon’s frail points prove to be the reality that like the other fallen angels, he isn’t entirely evil and that “[…] the exposure of Satan’s malice and meanness seems curiously irrelevant.” At no point in the poem does Milton portray him as a legitimate villain; rather he produces an anti-hero that due in part to his shortcomings in

and doubtless Milton expected all readers to perceive that in the long run […] the Satanic predicament […] must be their own. It reminds the reader that even Satan was once a follower of God’s will. conscious or unconscious […]” (Lewis). As this reminiscence progresses. However. he concludes that he can no longer turn back and repent due to the “Disdain [that] forbids [him] and [his] dread of shame / Among the spirits beneath whom [he] seduced / With other promises and other vaunts / Than to submit. boasting [he] could subdue / Th’ Omnipotent” (82-86). This is pathetic in regards to what is expected from a classic villain. or a real human being in so far as he resembles Milton’s Satan. but it is unwarrantable to conclude that he was pleased with that part of himself or exposed us to be . Furthermore. is or ought to be an object of admiration and sympathy. 38-40). Milton illustrates a pathetic side to his villainy upon his entrance into Eden and his “remembrance from what state / [he] fell. It is therefore right to say that Milton has put much of himself into Satan. how glorious once above thy sphere / Till pride and worse ambition threw [him] down” (IV.Miranda 2 being a genuinely evil figure draws sympathetic feelings from the reader. Milton’s characterization of Satan as a pathetic embodiment of villainy through the extensive development of his character draws sympathy to the reader in that: It is too near [to] us. Milton’s extensive development of Satan’s character and his glorification “may mean that the real being (if any) whom Milton is depicting or any real being like Satan if there were one. Satan’s repentance shows how “good” still appeals to him even though he is an embodiment of evil and this leads the reader to sympathize with this anti-hero because of man’s constant struggle with sin and on going repentance. Although Satan is traditionally known as a character of evil. the demon begins to torment himself with guilt as to how he ruined his good state with a God whose intentions were good.

Milton can be seen to digress from a satanic work when he draws a clear contrast between Satan’s pre-meditated volunteer to travel to Earth and the Son of God’s coming. 402-404) he and Satan both know no that no other demon will be willing to risk nor possess the “strength. Through this plan.” (Lewis) The argument that Milton’s Paradise Lost is not a satanic work can be made by drawing examples from different parts of the poem. God’s election of his Son to be mankind’s hero is not “rigged” as he chooses his Son due to his greatness. Satan loses some of his “glory” through this comparison. “Whom [they] shall send / […]. it does not follow that he was. Milton portrays how even though at certain points in his poem. for example. Because he was. damnable. damned. This contrasts to the Son of God’s coming to Earth in order to be the sacrificial lamb and mankind’s hero as it can be seen to be an inverse of Satan’s volunteering to be the hero of the demons. in Pandemonium. Here. “Satan […] shows complete inability to conceive any state of mind but the infernal […] for Satan makes this ludicrous proposition a reason for hoping ultimate victory” (Lewis). “Satan’s career [as the protagonist] is a steady progress from bad to worse and ends with his complete deformity.Miranda 3 pleased. is that this is a pre-meditated plan and when Beëlzebub asks. like Satan. What is not known by the other demons. [that] can then / Suffice” (410-411).” (Gardner) such that. His Son does not have to prove his greatness and it is through this that Milton depicts Satan in a pathetic way in comparison to God . Milton attempts to draw a form of sympathy toward his anti-hero as he depicts how Satan isn’t all that great as Satan and Beëlzebub had to pre-arrange this plan in a way that was “rigged” and would result in Satan seeming great. however. In Book II. the demon appears to be heroic. whom [they] shall find / Sufficient?” (II. Milton tells of multiple demons’ ideas of how to approach their situation and concludes the debate with Beëlzebub’s plan to enter Earth and corrupt God’s pride: man. Here. like the rest of us.

to give it a run for its money—to show it first at the height. lead one to conclude that William Blake was mislead in his claim that Milton was “of the Devil’s party without knowing it. as he will never be a true hero. with all its rants and melodrama and “Godlike imitated state” about it. from politician to secret service agent. and then to trace what actually becomes of such self-intoxication when it encounters reality.Miranda 4 drawing sympathy as his imperfections are shown. too late. (Lewis) Unlike Dante’s portrayal of Satan as a figure of abstract and pure evil. a figure that readers can relate to. misunderstood has given rise to the belief that Milton began by making Satan more Glorious than he intended and then. rather. Milton wanted to make his version of Satan more relatable to man in order to create shock due to how similar the demon .” Although a bit bizarre. and finally to a snake—such is the progress of Satan. But such an unerring picture of the “sense of injured merit” in its actual operations upon character cannot have come about by blundering and accident. and thence to a thing that peers in at bedroom or bathroom windows and thence to a toad. This progress. from general to politician. John Milton was sure of what he was doing when he made Satan a main protagonist in his poem. Milton’s characterization of Satan as a pathetic embodiment of evil and the depiction of his understanding that Satan as not the hero nor the villain but. Its motive was to shift the poem’s emphasis and its centre in a way that would point more clearly to its stated intention” (Barker). We need not doubt that it was the poet’s intention to be fair to evil. Further evidence suggests that Milton purposely made Milton his protagonist to serve a purpose: From hero to general. attempted to rectify the error. Milton was “[conscious] of Satan’s power over the poem and [this] was meant to strengthen Satan’s chains.

"Structural Pattern in Paradise Lost. relates to sin’s temptation.Miranda 5 is to man through their vulnerability to sin. an anti-hero. in order to force the reader into a reluctant sympathy toward him because “A fallen man is very like a fallen angel” and similar to Milton’s Satan. Works Cited Barker. Milton makes Satan a protagonist. 20 Apr 2011. Web." (1965): 142-155. Arthur E. .

John. Paradise Lost. . 2005. Milton. Ed. Web. 19 Apr 2011. Print.” (1948). Arthur E. S. 1965. C. NY: W.Miranda 6 Gardner. “Milton’s ‘Satan’ and the Theme of Damnation in Elizabethan Tragedy. Print. Lewis. Barker. Helen. London: Oxford UP. "A Preface to Paradise Lost.W. Norton & Company." Milton: Modern Essays in Criticism. New York.

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