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In Paradise Lost, does Milton's Satan resemble portrayals of Satan that you have read,...

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lehcir | Student | Valedictorian

Posted April 23, 2013 at 2:00 PM via iOS

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In Paradise Lost, does Milton's Satan resemble portrayals of Satan that you have read, seen, or heard in the past? Why or why not?

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted April 24, 2013 at 8:03 AM (Answer #1)

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The characterisation of Satan is worthy of much attention: the presentation of this character, particularly compared to the presentation of God in this epic poem is something that has caused critics throughout the ages much consternation. In some ways, it appears hard to come to the conclusion that Satan is a very likable character, and he is certainly a far more interesting and attractive individual than God. This is certainly different from the other representations of Satan that occur in literature that present him as a completely evil character, normally, red, with a tail and with a pitchfork. It seems hard in places not to sympathise with Satan and his lot but also to admire his determination to make good of a bad situation. For example, consider his assessment of his situation in Book I as he finds himself in the fiery domain of hell:

The mind is its own place, and in itself

Can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven...

Better to reign in hell, than serve in heaven.

Ironically, the first two lines of this quote have been used to witness the triumph of the human mind and its ability to find positives in any situation, no matter how bleak or depressing. Satan's determination to make the best of his situation and his unyielding decision to rule, even if it means he stays in hell, is something that is attractive and is easily understood by readers. The portrayal of Satan is therefore very different and challenging compared to stereotypical presentations of Satan in literature as a whole. It is important to consider Milton's reasons for this and to what extent he is being deliberately subversive.

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