The very descriptions of Satan’s physical dimensions and the size of the tools he carries mark him out as a kind of hero.His limbs are long and large; his bulk is as huge as that of the Titan who fought against Jove or that of Leviathan which God of all His works created hugest that swim the ocean stream.
This paper examines the question whether Satan is really the hero of John Milton’s great epic poem Paradise Lost (1667).
There are controversial debates over this issue, and most critics believe that, although Satan acts and speaks heroically, God is the real hero of the poem, not Satan. The findings of the paper reveal that the central character Satan is a devil that acts for his own self-interests, and cannot do good, even to his followers, the fallen angels.
This description may be valid if we consider the epic as showing Satan as a character who "materializes hope, basing his hopes to gain power on the acquisition of land" (Fenton, 2003: n.p.).
Combined to these great qualities, Satan was the first of created beings who, for endeavoring to be equal with the highest and to divide the empire of Heaven with the Almighty, was hurled down to Hell.
Hazlitt (1818) shows both the strength and the limitations of this view, and according to him, Satan is the most heroic subject that was ever chosen for a poem; and the execution is as perfect as the design is lofty.
In the poem, Satan was endowed with certain attributes which are worthy of epic heroes, and which make him a sympathetic, almost tragic character.This shield is compared to the moon as seen through a telescope.His spear is so big that the tallest pine tree would be but a wand by comparison, etc.Hardly therefore shall we believe that Milton meant us to see in the fallen and ever falling archangel the hero of his poem. The view has been expressed that Satan is the real hero of John Milton’s great epic poem Paradise Lost, or that Milton permitted Satan to develop into a character far more appealing than Milton’s theology could have allowed.In the words of Banisalamah (2015), people of the seventeenth century were encouraged to and inspired by the revolutionary writings of Milton, who was a Puritan poet, to seek freedom from the king and the Roman Catholic Church, in order to improve their conditions and live a more pleasant life, and this is represented by Satan’s revolt against God, a revolt which makes him appear as if he were a hero in the eyes of some critics and readers.Milton’s Devil as a moral being is as far superior to God, as one who perseveres in some purpose which he has conceived to be excellent in spite of adversity and torture, is to one who in the cold security of undoubted triumph inflicts the most horrible revenge upon his enemy." (12).But the most eloquent and balanced expression of the Romantic view has been given by William Hazlitt.Milton was too magnanimous and opens an antagonist to support his argument by the bye-tricks of a hump and cloven feet.He relied on the justice of his cause, and did not scruple to give the devil his due.He has a mighty stature so that, when he rises, the flames on both sides of him are driven backward and roll in billows.He carries a ponderous, massy, and large shield on his shoulder.