Milton’s Satan as likeable, as not a toppled hero but as the real hero

The Character of Satan in Milton’s Paradise Lost (6-7 pages)some readers have understood Milton’s Satan as likeable, as not a toppled hero but as the real hero of Paradise Lost, a bad boy who rocks the boat and shakes up the world in ways that compel us, that arouse our sympathies. Poet William Blake argued that Milton “was of the devil’s party without knowing it.” Poet Percy Shelley declared that “nothing can exceed the energy and magnificence of the character of Satan as expressed in Paradise Lost.” Strong words- Shelley’s. One reader (Stanley Fish) plays it both ways: Satan (unlike God who is serious, steadfast, omnipotent in Milton’s poem) is ultimately petty and impotent, even as he is energetic, and so Satan is not the real hero of Paradise Lost; but then Fish adds that this pettiness is exactly what we like about him, in other words, just as Satan is a fallen broken imperfect creature in Milton’s work so too are we equally fallen and capable of sin, and for this reason, Fish says, we like the guy. C.S. Lewis argued that Milton’s Satan, though energetic, is ultimately impotent, self-degrading and absurd, and, in contrast to Milton’s God, Satan is downright pathetic. What do you think? Is Satan the real hero of Paradise Lost or not? Why?

 

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