A look within Milton's " Paradise Lost " Looks at Satan as the tragic hero in the Poem

Essay by Santiago GomezUniversity, Master'sB, February 1996

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Milton's Satan continues to fascinate critics largely because he is so complex than the Devil of the Christian tradition appears. Satan's rebelliousness, his seeking of transcendence, his capacity for action, particularly unconventional action, endeared him to certain types of minds, even if their viewpoint might be considered theologically misleading. Milton often follows the road of intellectual definition for his characters, of reasoning demonstration. This serves well his theological and intellectual cohesiveness. However, when his thought becomes more conceptual rather than metaphoric, it falls trap to its own special kind of static imprisonment. Most of the images in Paradise Lost, however, have a substantial life of their own; they are properties rather than metaphors.

In the presentation of Satan, Milton is dealing with a special difficulty. He is not presenting a human intelligence, but an angelic one-a being the nature of which is almost impossible for the human mind to grasp.

Milton simplifies the matter by making spiritual intelligences more highly refined versions of human intelligence. He is still left with one problem, that of introducing a flaws in this refined beings. Because of these refined intelligence, these creatures should incline solely to good.

'So farwel Hope, and with Hope farwel Fear,

Farwel Remorse: all Good to me is lost;

Evil be thou my Good;'

(IV, 109-111)

In this intensely dramatic statement, Satan renounces everything that's good. His is not a lack of intelligence, or weakness of character, very simply an acceptance of evil. It almost justifies C. S. Lewis' observation. 'What we see in Satan is the horrible co-existence of a subtle and incessant intellectual activity with an incapacity to understand anything.'

Although the statement 'Evil be thou my Good,' makes no sense on the surface, it has a symbolic meaning as an expression of Satan's will...