Essay on John Miltons's Paradise Lost: Is Satan a Villain or Hero?
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The question of whether Satan is the hero or the villain of John Milton’s Paradise Lost has been largely debated by scholars over the centuries. The ones who believe Satan is the villain of the epic, more commonly known as the Anti-Satanists, tend to argue that Satan is too foolish to be considered a hero, as his “hostility to Almighty power” is ultimately a futile endeavour (as God’s power is omnipotent) (Carey, 135). C.W. Lewis, also an anti-Satanist, goes as far as to claim that to “admire Satan, then, is to give one’s vote not only for a world of misery, but also for a world of lies and propaganda, of wishful thinking” (Lewis, 203). The ones who claim Satan is the hero of the epic, the Satanists, perceive him as the rebellious angel…show more content…
The preliminary depiction of Satan’s actions in Paradise Lost appears after Milton describes God, his kingdom of heaven, and his children; Adam and Eve. As Rostrevor states, “we can expect nothing but fierce condemnation” of Satan after the initial portrayal of the goodness of heaven (Rostrevor, 9). Satan, therefore, is also described in the traditional Christian sense; as the prideful antichrist who attempts to usurp God Almighty, the creator of the universe, and is subsequently cast out of heaven once he fails to do so. This negative depiction is further demonstrated here, where Satan is described as the “infernal Serpent… whose guile / Stirred up with envy and revenge, deceived / The mother of mankind, what time his pride / Had cast him out from Heav’n” (34-37). Satan is immediately associated with two sinful vices, pride and envy, which, along with his rebellion against God, frame him as the villain. However, one must also understand that our “preconceived ideas of Good and Evil, [along with] the idea of Satan as the evil power,” place us in a position of prejudice (Rostrevor, 8). In fact, Satan’s rebellion in Paradise Lost is textually ambivalent, and can be interpreted as both a heroic and villainous action. Through Milton’s narrative, Satan rises up “against the throne and monarchy of God,” whereas Satan