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Miranda 1 Luis A.

Miranda Professor Stevens Literary Tradition II April 27, 2011 Satan: the Anti-Hero John Miltons epic poem, Paradise Lost, has caused much controversy as it recounts the poets 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 Gods earthly creation and the coming of the Son of God. The poets 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 Miltons intentions behind making Satan his protagonist: to make the reader realize that, It is we who are Satan (Gardner). Miltons 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 demons frail points prove to be the reality that like the other fallen angels, he isnt entirely evil and that [] the exposure of Satans 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

Miranda 2 being a genuinely evil figure draws sympathetic feelings from the reader. Miltons extensive development of Satans 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, or a real human being in so far as he resembles Miltons Satan, is or ought to be an object of admiration and sympathy, conscious or unconscious [] (Lewis). Although Satan is traditionally known as a character of evil, Milton illustrates a pathetic side to his villainy upon his entrance into Eden and his remembrance from what state / [he] fell, how glorious once above thy sphere / Till pride and worse ambition threw [him] down (IV, 38-40). As this reminiscence progresses, the demon begins to torment himself with guilt as to how he ruined his good state with a God whose intentions were good. 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. Satans 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 mans constant struggle with sin and on going repentance. It reminds the reader that even Satan was once a follower of Gods will. Furthermore, Miltons 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; and doubtless Milton expected all readers to perceive that in the long run [] the Satanic predicament [] must be their own. It is therefore right to say that Milton has put much of himself into Satan; but it is unwarrantable to conclude that he was pleased with that part of himself or exposed us to be

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

Miranda 4 drawing sympathy as his imperfections are shown, as he will never be a true hero. Miltons 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, rather, a figure that readers can relate to, lead one to conclude that William Blake was mislead in his claim that Milton was of the Devils party without knowing it. Although a bit bizarre, John Milton was sure of what he was doing when he made Satan a main protagonist in his poem. Milton was [conscious] of Satans power over the poem and [this] was meant to strengthen Satans chains. Its motive was to shift the poems emphasis and its centre in a way that would point more clearly to its stated intention (Barker). Further evidence suggests that Milton purposely made Milton his protagonist to serve a purpose: From hero to general, from general to politician, from politician to secret service agent, and thence to a thing that peers in at bedroom or bathroom windows and thence to a toad, and finally to a snakesuch is the progress of Satan. This progress, misunderstood has given rise to the belief that Milton began by making Satan more Glorious than he intended and then, too late, attempted to rectify the error. 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. We need not doubt that it was the poets intention to be fair to evil, to give it a run for its moneyto show it first at the height, with all its rants and melodrama and Godlike imitated state about it, and then to trace what actually becomes of such self-intoxication when it encounters reality. (Lewis) Unlike Dantes portrayal of Satan as a figure of abstract and pure evil, Milton wanted to make his version of Satan more relatable to man in order to create shock due to how similar the demon

Miranda 5 is to man through their vulnerability to sin. Milton makes Satan a protagonist, 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 Miltons Satan, relates to sins temptation.

Works Cited Barker, Arthur E. "Structural Pattern in Paradise Lost." (1965): 142-155. Web. 20 Apr 2011.

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