Exploring the Complexity of Satan’s Character in the Epic Poem ‘Paradise Lost’ by John Milton

John Milton’s Paradise Lost is one of the greatest epic poems in English literature. Written in blank verse, it tells the story of Adam and Eve’s fall from grace and their subsequent expulsion from the Garden of Eden. The poem is a powerful exploration of human nature and its consequences, with a complex array of characters including God, Satan, Adam, Eve, and angels. Milton’s portrayal of Satan as a sympathetic figure has become one of his most famous contributions to literature. Through Paradise Lost, Milton offers an insightful look into the human condition and its consequences that still resonates today.

John Milton’s epic poem Paradise Lost is a classic example of the power of literature to captivate readers. In it, Milton paints a vivid portrait of Satan as an enigmatic yet tragic figure. His characterization of Satan is layered and complex, making him both captivating and sympathetic. Through his words, Milton captures the audience’s attention and creates an unforgettable image of Lucifer in Paradise Lost.

Satan has been portrayed as a rebel leader and an antihero archetype in literature, art, and other forms of media. He is seen as a tragic hero who challenges the status quo and stands up against the oppressive forces of the world. His defiance serves as a catalyst for change, inspiring others to stand up against injustice and oppression. As such, Satan’s role is to be an example of courage and strength in the face of adversity. He provides hope for those who are oppressed or marginalized by society, giving them the courage to fight for what they believe in.

In book 1 of Paradise Lost, Satan is painted as a much more complex figure than just being evil or on the opposite side of goodness. Milton renders Satan as a revolutionary leader with beauty and authority who charges his enslavement against the tyrannical God. Satan motivates and organizes the fallen legions just as any other revolutionary in our history, who rebuttals against the crown or an unjust government.

Milton builds Satan to be a beautiful angel and “above the rest in shape and gesture proudly eminent stood like a tow’r; his form had yet not lost all her original brightness, nor appeared less than archangel” (line 589). If Satan remains bright and the angels lust for the light then Satan must hold the answer.

Milton uses Satan’s beauty to inspire and make the angels feel as if they have found a “glimpse of joy, to have found their chief not in despair, to have found themselves not lost in loss itself” (line 526). Milton also describes Satan’s armaments in colossal measurements. His “ponderous shield … massy, large and round, behind them cast; the bred circumference hung on his shoulders like the moon” and “his spear, to equal which the tallest pine hewn on Norwegian hills” that he used to walk around with in Hell. Such grandeur is to be admired and respected.

These physical qualities are what makes Milton’s Satan, a devil to be in love with; he is the warrior who faces opposition in spite of knowing the outcome to be a loss.


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After the fall, Satan is the first to rise with an infinite resounding speech although the fallen angel’s usurpation has failed. Satan comments “all is not lost; the unconquerable will, and study of revenge, immortal hate, and courage never submit or yield… that glory never shall his wrath or might extort from me” (line 106).

These are the kinds of words and speeches that boil men’s blood and give them a reason to erupt. Satan has not yet given up; this failure has only fueled the assault for another attack against the “tyranny of Heav’n” (124). Paramount to a good leader, Satan motivates his fallen equals on multiple accounts. When a comrade informs Satan about his distress about being in hell, Satan responds “Fall’n Cherub, to be weak is miserable doing or suffering” (159). To affirm more power in Satan’s words, he then charges the rest of the fallen angels to “awake, arise, or be forever fall’n” and when they heard they “were abashed, and up they sprang” (330).

Clearly, Satan is their opulent protagonist to whom they pledge their loyalty. These fallen gods look to Satan similar to the central Americas looking to Che Guevara to liberate them from the tyrannical government.


Once Satan has called his “legions, angel forms, who lay entranced thick as autumnal leaves that strow the brooks,” they arise to the voice of their general to transform Hell into their new Heaven because “the mind is its own place, and in itself can make a Heav’n of Hell, a Hell of Heav’n” (302) (250). When Mammon dives underground to retrieve the gold, he arises to build a temple that “not Babylon nor great Alcairo such magnificence equaled in all their glories, to enshrine Belus or Serapis” (720).

This is evidence that Milton suggests a new kingdom of freedom, with more wealth and luxury than any human could construct. A revolution is once again being debated as the Angels swarm to the palace of pandemonium, “as bees in springtime, when the sun with Taurus rides, pour forth their populous youth about the hive in clusters” (770).


It is the Miltonic verse that sketches the ethereal beauty in Satan and the eternal revolution. Milton depicts Lucifer as a strong leader with grandeur, beauty and the intelligence to confront God in guise. It is this dynamic protagonist who drives the human emotion of this epic.

Milton’s Paradise Lost is a masterpiece that has been studied and analyzed by many readers. In this work, Milton uses irony to make Satan appear as a glorious figure despite his defeat. Through this technique, Milton creates an interesting dynamic between the characters of Heaven and Hell, showing the power of both sides in their respective realms. By using irony, Milton allows readers to gain insight into the characters’ motivations and feelings toward each other.


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Published by Willy Martinez

Willy Martinez is a creative writer, Integrated Marketing Specialist, and Boxing coach. Since being honorably discharged from the Marines in 2004, he has pursued his passion for telling stories, whether they be through film, graphic design, and writing for digital art.

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