• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

Is Milton's Satan rightly regarded as a tragic hero?

Extracts from this document...


Is Milton's Satan rightly regarded as a tragic hero? Aristotle, inventor of the concept of heroism, defined the hero as 'noble or honourable by birth or deed'. Both classical myth and history influenced Milton greatly in his writing, and no doubt he knew Aristotle's works and applied his formulae to the creation of perhaps his most attractive character, Satan. He is certainly of noble birth, having been created by God as the brightest of all the archangels, but do his deeds justify his title as 'a tragic hero'? Since the writing of 'Paradise Lost' there has been an ongoing argument as to whether Satan is a tragic hero. Romantics such as W. Hazlitt regard him as the 'most heroic subject that ever was chosen for a poem', whilst others, such as C.S. Lewis, see him as fundamentally flawed in both his tragic and heroic intentions. Satan's conduct throughout Paradise Lost displays many attributes which facilitate his status as a tragic hero. He is tragic in the extent of his loss. He has fallen from Heaven's 'happy realms of light' to a 'dungeon horrible'. There is a tragic sense of waste in his fall; in Heaven he was the glorious Lucifer, brightest of all the angels; now he is the 'new possessor' of 'profoundest hell'. ...read more.


Scholars may delve into Satan with extensive attention to every connotation and detail, but Satan's true nature is the one that is perceived by the more 'everyday' audience of the poem. That said, Satan is primarily flawed in a number of ways, being self-exalting and vastly over ambitious in assuming that he can overthrow his maker. There is strong evidence throughout Books I and II that Satan is in love with himself. He feels that he deserves Godlike status, admitting to feeling 'high disdain from sense of injured merit' at God's increasing the rift between Satan and himself by creating Jesus, whom, being his son, he loved more. Perhaps such vanity is unsuitable in a tragic hero. Satan dramatises himself as a result of this narcissism, and this undermines his seemingly natural dramatic status. The fact that Satan sees himself as a tragic hero detracts from him gaining such an epithet. He ennobles himself by appearing untroubled by his predicament, saying 'be it so' at the 'mournful gloom' that has replaced Heaven's 'happy fields'. Here he is contradicting his words earlier in Book I, having described their new situation as a 'dire calamity'. ...read more.


These flaws do not conclusively disprove that Satan is a tragic hero. Imperfection is often necessary in a hero to breed tragedy, such as with the immoral overambition of Macbeth or the credulity of Othello, in fact a hamartia can be considered essential for a hero to be tragic. But are Satan's flaws too great and too numerous to allow him to be the tragic hero that romantics have often claimed that he is? It can be argued both ways, but it would be reasonable to conclude that his flaws are of a nature that particularly undermines the essence of heroism, but perhaps not of tragedy, considering the extent and pith of his loss. The complexity of this issue would be furthered if the question were asked, 'is Milton's Satan a classical or biblical tragic hero'. Being an immoral being, inappropriate in a biblical hero, and bearing in mind Milton's love and following of the classical myths, he may have created Satan as a classical hero, which may shed a more sympathetic light on some of his faults such as his depravity and sin. Either way, he has the intricacy and depth of any tragic hero, and for this reason is a vastly appealing character. ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our University Degree Milton section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related University Degree Milton essays

  1. The Dualistic Genesis of Paradise Lost

    He contends that; "just as Milton needed the doctrine of creatio ex deo in order to establish that the 'original matter . . . was good, and . . . contained the seeds of all subsequent good' (CD, p.

  2. In order to be able to discover the relevance Milton and Paradise Lost still ...

    Individuality also enables them to have the freedom to explore particular talents and interests. All three aspects combined ensure that people will aim to achieve higher goals. At the time Paradise Lost was written this was now more possible due to the fact that there was no longer a King and people were 'more equal.'

  1. 'Paradise Lost' - "Our Flesh is An Eve Within Us"[1]- The Presentation of Eve ...

    They enjoy fertility as ripe as that of the lush Garden which provides them with sustenance, and were created to continue the cycle of Life on Earth, as they themselves help to maintain the cycle of Life in Eden. God's instructions to Adam and Eve to tend the garden are

  2. By means of what textual strategies does Milton seek to 'justify the ways of ...

    In the first sentence, the muse who inspired Moses is implored to help the poet rise above his classical predecessors ('Sing, Heavenly Muse'): measuring his fame in relation to biblical and classical traditions. In the second sentence, the poet wishes to go beyond the limits of human history and fame and to participate, instead, in the divine viewpoint.

  1. A Study of Traherne's Metaphysical Poetry

    The fact that the Earthly Eden is hidden makes this undiscovered Paradise even more special - the quest to find it becomes obsessive. This urgency is conveyed by the internal rhyme in the last two lines of each stanza. This subtle use of rhyme gives the end of each stanza

  2. How does Milton use generic systems in Paradise Lost?

    The terrifying dignity of the fallen Satan reigning over Pandemonium attains an heroic glory from his immensity alone. Secondly, by associating Satan with the great heroes of literary tradition, Milton prompts the reader to contrast Satan's heroism with that of Achilles or Aeneas. Lewalski (1999) notes that 'Like Achilles ...

  1. How far do you agree with this judgment on Milton's handling of Satan in ...

    He insists that the battle's outcome was "dubious" and that God goaded him as He "tempted [his] attempt". In this sense, he is in the vein of Othello's Iago or King Lear's Edmund as both believe their actions are not subjection to moral judgment.

  2. Jean-Baptiste Molire's Don Juan has all the outward appearances of seventeenth-century French farce - ...

    Sganarelle (his character perhaps interpreted as the conscience that Don Juan never developed), views the consumption of tobacco not only as aristocratic behavior, but more importantly, as a root cause of that social nobility (rather than a manifestation). If Sganarelle confuses cause and effect to achieve a higher status, his

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work