Paradise Lost And Satan
The argument over who is the true protagonist of Paradise Lost, has been brewing
for centuries. One would gather that Milton, a Puritan, would have no problem
casting God as the hero, and Satan as the antagonist. But looking back in
history, Milton saw that most epic heroes had conflicts that prevented them from
accomplishing their goals. God and his Son have no conflict, and Adam’s story
doesn’t really begin until the Fall of Man. Therefore, Milton was forced to
select Satan as the hero of Paradise Lost because he adheres to the guidelines
of epic poetry set by Homer, Vergil and others. There many examples of how

Milton uses and edits the tradition of these previous epics in the formation of
the Devil as a hero. One of the most basic examples of heroism in epic poetry is
the exhortation of the leader to his followers. In The Odyssey, Homer lets

Odysseus give a speech that would convince anyone they could survive the journey
to the Strait of Messina, "Then we die with our eyes open , if we are going
to die, or know what death we baffle if we can.(ln.1243-1245)" After
passing the Sirens, the ship approaches the Strait, and the crew sees the twin
terrors of Scylla and Charybdis, they are mortified. Odysseus again lifts their
spirits with this speech, Garcia 2 "Friends, have we ever been in danger
before this? More fearsome, is it now, than when the Cyclops penned us in his
cave? What power he had! Did I not keep my nerve, and use my wits to find a way
out for us? ... Heads up, lads! We must now obey orders as I give
them.(1294-1302)" Here Odysseus shows the true ability of a hero to lead in
the face of adversity. Of course Odysseus had the assurance that he would
survive the journey and his crew will not, but that does not stop him from
leading them. In Paradise Lost, this device is used in the opening scene. After
suffering a major defeat at the hands of the Almighty and his angels, Satan
awakens in a lake of fire. He first speaks to Beelzebub, his second in command,
telling him, "All is not lost, the unconquerable Will, and study of
revenge, immortal hate, and courage never to submit or yield: and what else is
not to be overcome?... Since by Fate the strength of Gods and Empyreal substance
cannot fail, Since though experience of this great event in Arms not worse, in
foresight much advance’s, We may with more successful hope resolve to wage by
force or guile eternal War irreconcilable, to our grand Foe, who now triumphs,
and in th’excess of joy sole reigning holds the Tyranny of

Heav’n.(106-109,116-124)" Beelzebub, perhaps showing signs of little
faith in his leader (like Odysseus’ crew), raises some important questions.
"What if he our Conqueror, (whom I now of force believe Almighty, since no
less than such could have o’erpow’r’d such force as ours) have Garcia 3
left us this our spirit and strength entire strongly to suffer and support our
pains, that we may so suffice his vengeful ire, or do him mightier service as
his thralls by right of War, whate’er his business be, here in the heart of

Hell to work in Fire, Or to do his errands in the gloomy Deep; What can it then
avail though yet we feel Strength undiminisht, or eternal being to undergo
eternal punishment?(143-155)" Satan, as any good leader would, quickly
allays his companion’s fear with more speech. During the speech, Satan casts
doubts about God’s supremacy and boldly states that they are better off where
they are, "Here at least we shall be free... Here we may reign
secure...Better to reign in Hell, than serve in Heaven.(258-263)" Beelzebub
is taken aback by Satan’s words and awakens all of the fallen angels. Once

Satan has their attention, he rouses these fallen angels with another speech,
asking "How such united force of Gods, how such stood like these, could
ever know repulse? For who can yet believe, though after loss, that all these
puissant Legions, whose exile hath emptied Heav’n, shall fail to re-ascend
self-raised, and repossess their native seat.(629-634)" Finally, at the end
his speech, Satan sets them all on their course of conflict, "Peace is
despaired, for who can think of Submission? War then, War open or understood,
must be resolved.(660-662)" The fallen angels respond with a rowdy
confirmation, waving their swords in the and hurling defiance at Heaven. Milton
has given you Satan in the tradition of the epic hero. Even