John Milton, Book 1: Is Satan a Hero?

Book 1 of John Milton’s Paradise Lost tells the tale of how man disobeyed God, the things that became from this disobedience, and the main reason for the fall of man – the serpent, or more commonly referred to as Satan. Many critics of the poem have said that Milton portrayed Satan to be a hero, or anti-hero in this case, in the beginning, books of Paradise Lost.

The first book starts with the demise of man because of Satan, not really a portrayal of a hero with actions of deceit and trickery. However, later within the book, when Milton refers to the revolting of Satan from God and how he was able to persuade many angels to follow him, fight for his side, and be cast out of Heaven by God, the story switches to describing the state of affairs with Satan.

In the burning lake of darkness, Satan and his followers, as if awakening from a confused state, rise up and collect their thoughts. Satan comforts them with hope, of regaining heaven, and the tale of the creation of Man. Satan proclaims “Since through experience of this great event /
In Arms not worse, in foresight much advanc’t, / We may with more successful hope resolve” (120)  signifying his determination and heroic state of mind.

At the end of Book I, Satan calls forth for a meeting:

“Though without number still amidst the Hall
Of that infernal Court. But far within…
…Frequent and full. After short silence then
And summons read, the great consult began.” (791-798)

Milton describes Satan almost as a military hero within these verses, and perhaps that is why he is viewed as a hero. Satan seeks council with his high ranking demons to strategize and regroup from their loss in battle, such an act that would befall any military hero that had lost in a great battle.

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