Paradise Lost Questions and Answers
by John Milton

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Do you agree with this comment by William Blake about Milton's Paradise Lost: "Milton was of the devil's party without knowing it." This is in reference to John Milton's poem Paradise Lost, Books 1 and 2.

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lynnebh eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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I think that Blake might have meant that Milton presented Satan as a heroic figure in his epic poem Paradise Lost. One of the characteristics of epic poetry is that there is a hero, a character that is greater than life. In Paradise Lost, there is no real hero but the character that comes closest to the definition of hero is Satan. Making Satan the hero, however, contrasts with Milton's purpose in Paradise Lost, so that is why Blake could say that Milton was in the devil's party without knowing it - he did not mean to present Satan as a hero, but he did.

If one understand's Milton's Christianity, however, there is no way that one could say that Milton favored Satan and what he represents, or that Milton felt sorry for Satan. Rather, I believe that when the poem is read as strictly literature, then Satan is strictly a character, and therefore larger than life and, in that...

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jewelofsonoma | Student

I agree 100% with Lynnebh.  Milton knew very well what he was doing and why. He is creating, in Satan, a fictional character and of of course we can relate to him because he symbolizes the struggles of human life "east of Eden", planet earth. We, as readers, can identify, sympathize, and detest this character simply because we identify with his struggle. One can even ignore the biographical data on Milton, and simply look closely at the text. You will see that Milton never ignores an opportunity to degrade Satan, often in humorous ways. In fact, Milton has a grand sense of humor that can be missed. Milton's choice of words (I don't have the book in front of me, so I can't offer textual evidence), the metaphor and similies used to describe Satan, is the key to understanding his view of his "hero". The big picture appears to be that Satan has won, but that is the point. What appears to be is truth is an illusion. The truth is that free will is the winner, and Satan believes, as the reader may believe that Satan is the winner. I belive that Milton was too meticulous of a writer and such an intelligent man that he would not have mistakenly allowed Satan to reign.