The character of Satan is the most glorious achievement of Milton in the sphere of character-dilineation. Satan is an admirable character. He is the most heroic of all the characters of Paradise Lost. The firm resolution and iron determination, the heroic courage and unbending will that went into the making of Marlowe's Tamberlaine are exhibited in the character of Satan in their most magnificent form. His very first speech in hell, couched in a language of unrivalled grandeur, shows the situation and the human passions which dwell with superhuman eternity in his heart.
Satan's pride, envy and revenge, obstinacy,despair and impenitance are all very artfully interwoven in his characteristic speech. As a shrewed leader, Satan sympathises with and encourages Beezelbub. He tries to cheer him up with bold words and sentiments:"What though the field be lost?All is not lost-the unconquerable will.And study of revenge, immortal hate, And courage never to submit or yield: And what is else not to be overcome?"
Defeat doesnot shake him from his purpose, or weaken his spirit of defiance. Though he is tortured by mental anguish and physical suffering, he will never submit to God's grace.
Satan meets the pessimism of his second-in-command Beezelbub, with a superb expression of a resolute opposition to the will of God, and proposes the terms of open warfare between good and evil. His utterance reaches his highest peak of glory when, standing at length on the burning shore, he welcomes the appalling region as his future home:"Hail, horrors! hail,Infernal world! and thou, profoundest Hell,Receive thy new possessor-- one who brings A mind not to be changed by place or time."
No doubt he feels poignantly the loss of heaven. But his mind is his own. He asserts the great principle of supremacy over its environment. His words:"Here at least we shall be free", embodies Milton's own passion for liberty. Satan would rather rule in hell than serve in heaven.
He addresses his followers in a grandiloquent manner,"Princes, Potentates,Warriors, the Flower of Heaven" and assuming the role of an aspiring leader tries to rouse his troupe from stupor by stinging words: "Or have ye chosen this place After the toil of battle to repose Your wearied virtue, for the ease you find To slumber here, as in the vales of Heaven? Or in this abject posture have ye sworn To adore the Conqueror,"
His sarcastic tone is very effective, for the fallen angels are abashed and start flying, though half awake.
Satan has sympathy for his followers who were deprived of heaven only on account of their following him.
But, inspite of the suffering that they were undergoing in hell, the fallen angels are devotedly attached to their leader,Satan.
When Satan prepares to address his follwers he is filled with profound pity for them, and inspite of his scorn for weakness, tears come into his eyes. this is one of the strikingly human traits which Milton has bestowed upon satan.
Satan is endowed with unbounded energy. He has to struggle against heavy odds, but he cannot give up the struggle. He is steadfast in his resolution. He has courage never to submit or yield. He will not suffer passively.He will be active even if it means doing evil. His spirit remain invincible.In short in Satan there is a singularity of daring, a grandeur of suffering and a ruined splendour. It is these qualities which constitute the height of poetic sublimity.