• Created by: Pip Dan
  • Created on: 20-09-17 16:57

Satan is the traditional villain of the Fall. When studying Book IX in isolation there is the a danger that he is simply seen as a tortured character or even one with mental health issues. However, once the context of the previous books is considered this sympathy for the devil must be questioned. Milton does broadens the character of Satan into having a complex background and motives throughout the poem. Some critics have interpreted this portrayal as positive, even go so far to argue that 'Milton is of the devil's party' (William Blake).

Satan's Fall

According to Milton, Satan was called Lucifer in heaven before his disobedience. Satan was one of God’s favourite angels until consumed by pride and he turned away from God. In Book 5 and 6 Raphael discusses Satan's down fall. Satan had grown envious after God appointed his Son as second-in-command. So, Satan gathered together other angels who were also angry at the favour shown to the Son, and together they plotted a war against God. The angels began to fight. Michael and Gabriel served as co-leaders of Heaven’s army.  A tremendous, cosmic three-day battle ensued between Satan's forces and God’s forces. On the first day, Satan’s forces were beaten back by the army. On the second day, Satan seemed to gain ground by constructing artillery, literally cannons, and turning them against the good forces. On the third day, however, the Son faced Satan’s army alone and they quickly retreated, falling through a hole in heaven’s fabric and cascading down to hell. In hell, Satan reigns as king but he remains obsessed with his hatred for God and becomes extremely jealous of Adam and Eve. Whilst Satan's character is one that certainly develops through the books, this development is a regression. He starts a glorious angel and through his own choices becomes a cursed snake.

Elements of a heroic character

Satan has an interesting position in the poem, as different interpretations view him as a hero or a villain. There is a strong argument for a perhaps sympathetic or heroic reading of  the character of Satan. Writers and critics of the Romantic era advanced the notion that Satan was a Promethean hero, pitting himself against an unjust God, and the popularity of this interpretation has continued.

  • Most of these writers based their ideas on the picture of Satan in the first two books of Paradise Lost. In those books, Satan rises off the lake of fire and delivers his heroic speech still challenging God. Satan tells the other rebels that they can make 'a Heav'n of Hell, a Hell of Heav'n' (I, 255) and adds, 'Better to reign in Hell than serve in Heav'n' (I, 263). Satan also calls for and leads the grand council. Finally, he goes forth on his own to cross Chaos and find Earth. Without question, this picture of Satan makes him heroic in his initial introduction to the reader.
    • Besides his actions, Satan also appears heroic because the first two


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