“Paradise Lost,” a poem in blank verse written by John Milton, an English poet, was published in 1667 in ten books and republished in 1674 in twelve books. In general, the poem presents the story of the Fall of Men, when Adam and Eve were tempted by the fallen angel Satan and driven away by God from the Garden of Eden. Throughout the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, Adam and Eve were considered to be the only protagonists of this story, for its plot centers mostly around their heavenly life in Paradise and they’re losing this life because of a mere desire to taste the forbidden fruit. Closer to the nineteenth century, the Romantics insisted that Satan was a protagonist of the story as well; at present, most scholars agree with this fact.
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Satan can be considered as one of the protagonists of the “Paradise Lost” by John Milton because he is the main reason why the story began; Satan plays a role of a liberator who frees Adam and Eve from God’s control and a hero who shows them the reality of life.
To begin with, Satan is the protagonist of “Paradise Lost,” because, without him, the Fall of Man would not have begun. He is the main reason why the events presented in the story take place, as well as why the modern world is so imperfect. There exists prehistory to the “Paradise Lost” which sheds light on the conflict between God and Satan. Long ago, Satan used to be an angel who was so arrogant and ambitious that he refused to praise the name of God.
He had his own plans for the Universe and persuaded several other angels to follow his plans; God found out about this and cast the fallen angels out from Heaven. This was when Satan decided to take revenge on Him for this expulsion and developed a plan on tempting Adam and Eve. Thus, Satan is a protagonist of the story in question, because his pride and vengeance gave this story a start.
Moreover, Satan plays a role of a liberator in “Paradise Lost” trying to free people from God’s unwavering control. His main intention is to open up Adam and Eve’s minds to the realities, to show them what the freedom of choice is like, and to prove that it exists. His plan has several purposes. Firstly, he shows Adam and Eve how unfair God was to them by imposing rules on them, such as the prohibition to taste the forbidden fruit.
And secondly, he convinces them that it is only in their power to break that main rule and to choose what they themselves want to do. By proving this to Adam and Eve, Satan could reach his main purpose, namely, to undermine God’s authority and to show that he, Satan, is more powerful and fair than God. By liberating Adam and Eve, he let them understand that they could make decisions by themselves and that they did not have to obey anyone.
Finally, Satan opens to Adam and Eve the reality of life by making them break the rules. He has a definite goal, a so-called mission, in this story, which makes him a hero to some extent. Of course, it is impossible to call Satan a hero as such, but the fact that Milton presented him as a protagonist with whom the readers sympathize cannot be denied. From the beginning of the story, Satan can be identified as a character “with ambitious aim/ Against the Throne and Monarchy of God,/ [who] Raised impious war in Heav’n and Battel proud/ With vain attempt.” (Milton and Hughes 7)
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The readers sympathize with him because he himself believes that he makes good to humanity. He blames God for concealing the truth from Adam and Eve, who lived in the Garden of Eden without knowing what pain, suffering, shame, fear, or any other kind of negative emotions were all about. It is hard to consider Satan a hero, but he can be called an antihero who, though he lacks common heroic attributes, still has a concrete goal and believes that his actions are right.
In sum, it has been proven that Satan can be regarded as a protagonist of “Paradise Lost,” as well as a liberator and a hero who, as he himself believed, had good intentions. Satan is the initiator of the events presented in the story and without his trying to take vengeance on God for driving him out from Heaven, Adam and Eve would have not been cast out of Paradise. His role as a liberator consists in freeing Adam and Eve from God’s control and showing to them how unfair God was in depriving them of the freedom of choice. To some extent, Satan can be regarded as a hero who opened to Adam and Eve the realities of life which were concealed from them for so long.
Milton, John and Hughes, Merritt Y. Paradise Lost: A Poem in Twelve Books. Indianapolis, IN: Hackett Publishing, 2003.