ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Satan in Milton's Paradise Lost

Updated on November 30, 2012
Satan, Sin and Death (A Scene from Milton's `Paradise Lost')
Satan, Sin and Death (A Scene from Milton's `Paradise Lost') | Source

Satan in Book One

Satan is, perhaps, the most important and influential character in Milton’s Paradise Lost. Edward Pechter calls him “in many ways an impressively heroic figure” (164). Arnold Stein argues that “one need not choose between Satan's being a tragic hero or an absurd villain” (221). Satan’s character is unclear for the reader from the beginning when he is presented as a study in contradictions in Book 1: he is great and awful, powerful and proud. While he is “stirr’d up with envy and revenge” (Milton 212 line 35) he is also filled with “courage never to submit or yield” (Milton 214 line 108). Satan is “vaunting aloud, but rackt with deep despair” (Milton 214 line 125). Milton does not present Satan as simply evil; he is instead multi-faceted and complex.

Satan, as drawn by Gustave Doré, in John Milton's Paradise Lost.
Satan, as drawn by Gustave Doré, in John Milton's Paradise Lost. | Source

Satan in Book Two

Milton continues his study of Satan’s complexity in Book II where Satan is presented as a reflection of God. Satan is pictured “High on a Throne of Royal State” (Milton 232 line 1) while he argues with his followers, fallen angels. The argument can easily be seen as a reflection of God and his angels up in Heaven. The reflection is further enhanced when Satan’s followers bend to him as angels in Heaven would bend to God: “Towards him they bend/With awful reverence prone; and as a God/Extol him equal to the highest in Heav’n” (Milton lines 243 477-479).

Satan in Book Three

Satan is compared with sun spots in Book III during lines 585 to 590. This is an interesting comparison for Milton to make on two levels because Satan can be seen as a blot on the Son (of God) and also a blot on the sun (something that God created for man). The duality of the image again showcases how Milton sees more than one level of Satan.

Illustration for John Milton’s “Paradise Lost“ by Gustave Doré, 1866.
Illustration for John Milton’s “Paradise Lost“ by Gustave Doré, 1866. | Source

Satan in Book Four

In Book IV, Milton’s previously views of Satan as a beautiful (if fallen) Angel are replaced with less appealing imagery, with Milton calling Satan “squat like a toad” (297 line 800) and “the grisly King” (297 line 821). Satan also begins to feel the need to justify his actions. “…conquering this new World, compels me now/To do what else though damn’d I should abhor./So spake the Fiend, and with necessity,/The Tyrant’s pleas, excus’d his devilish deeds” (Milton 287 391 – 394).

Satan in Book Five

The comparison between God and Satan continues in Book V when Satan argues against the “knee-tribute” that God demands from his followers. Satan does not understand why Adam and Eve feel the need to offer thanks and worship; he does not think that they owe anything to God. This parallel’s Satan own desire to be worshipped by those he led from Heaven. He wants them to worship and praise him, and expects their obedience. This is shown again in Book VI when Satan and Abdiel argue over Satan’s rebellion against Christ. Abdiel, like Adam and Eve, believes that God is worthy of praise and “worthiest to be obeyed” (Milton 328 line 185).

Illustration for John Milton’s “Paradise Lost“ by Gustave Doré, 1866.
Illustration for John Milton’s “Paradise Lost“ by Gustave Doré, 1866. | Source

Satan in Book Nine

Finally, in Book IX, Satan admits that he is afraid. Unlike the brave warrior who fought with Michael and Abdiel, Satan is suddenly a fearful minion. He must sneak around, turning into mist and avoiding being caught. Satan finally admits that he is no longer able to enjoy anything: “I in none of these/Find place or refuge; and the more I see/Pleasures about me, so much more I feel/Torment within me, as from the hateful siege/Of contraries; all good to me becomes/Bane” (Milton 381 lines 118 – 123). Satan can not find pleasure, but he can inflict pain on others. It does not ease his suffering, but it does help to ease his “relentless thoughts.”

Do you think that Milton intended to portray Satan as evil, misguided, or tragic?

See results

Satan: Villain or Heroic Figure?

In the end, Satan is turned into a serpent as seeming revenge for his actions when he tricked Eve. Satan claims that “spite then with spite is best repaid” (Milton 383 line 178), but it appears that God is truly the one who repays spite with his actions towards Satan and the fallen angels. The reader is left wondering if Satan is indeed a heroic figure and not just the simple villain that he is normally portrayed to be. The complexity and contradiction are shown throughout the books of “Paradise Lost” through comparisons to God and Satan’s own actions.

Bibliography

Milton, John. "Paradise Lost. A Poem in Twelve Books." Ed. Merritt Y. Hughes. John Milton: Complete Poems and Major Prose. New York: The Odyssey Press, 1957. 207-469.

Pechter, Edward. “When Pechter Reads Froula Pretending She’s Eve Reading Milton; Or, New Feminist Is but Old Priest Writ Large.” Critical Inquiry: 11, 1. Sept 1984. Pp 163-170.

Stein, Arnold. “Satan: The Dramatic Role of Evil.” PMLA. 65, 2. Mar 1950. Pp. 221 – 231. < http://www.jstor.org/stable/459465 >

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • ambercita04 profile image

      Amber 

      5 years ago from Winter Park

      Milton does a fad job of showing how the Biblealso protrays Satan. It is I believe in the book of Isaiah where the prophet shares how Satan fell. It is believed that Satan was the angel that led the worship of God. He decided to rebel and wanted to become like God himself. God rebuked him and threw him from Heaven. 2/3 of the angels followed Satan in his fall. Satan claimed that he would become more powerful than God and eventually rise above Him. Satan is fearful in the Bible because he knows his end. Revelations tells that he will be defeated and thrown into the lake of fire. So yes, Satan is a tragic creature. He allowed his pride to take over. He sinned against God. And his demise will come.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)