AD's English Literature : The Entire Procession of Epic Heroes: Satan of Dauntless Courage and Inflexible Power of the Will

The Entire Procession of Epic Heroes: Satan of Dauntless Courage and Inflexible Power of the Will

"The lower still I fall, only supreme
in misery; such joy ambition finds."

John Milton (1608 - 1674)

The entire procession of epic heroes ranging from  those of  Iliad, Odyssey ,Beowulf, Ramayana and Mahabharata as well as the later day ones like Faerie Queen, Hyperion, Divine Comedy and The Dynasts are unlikely to reveal themselves to be as perforating, intriguing, paradoxical and contradictory as Satan in Paradise Lost, the angel turned demon.

Satan is  a proud of contradictions not only because of his transformation from a Seraphim to a villain, from a magnificently glorious appearance to a smoke-laden figure, lent also license even in hell, he is capable of evoking the most contraries responses from readers and critics alike. Although to many he is the apocalypse of evil, the personification of sin, the eternal heretic and desecration, to others he is quite the opposite, to Hazlitt, “Satan is not the principle of malignity or the abstract love of evil” to Shelly he is a “moral being” and to many others he embodies the justifiable rebellion and forthrightness which all men should afire to.
To Milton himself, Satan appears to be a divided soul. Although he began to write  the Christian epic with the specific desire to ‘justify the ways of God to men’. He seems to be justifying Satan instead. As Blake put it so aptly, ‘the reason Milton wrote in fetters’ when he wrote angels and God, and in liberty when he wrote of deals and hell is because he was a true poet and of the Devil’s party without knowing it. 

Satan may appear to be the undermanned villain of tragedy, and yet, he does not appear to be as much an unalloyed Image as the redoubtably Macbeth. Here in lies his tragedy. With a wearing ambition- The ideal of Renaissance hero-which makes him a parallel of Macbeth, he has all of Macbeth’s admirable qualities: his dauntless courage and inflexible power of the will, a mired imagination, a glorious power of compression, an infinite capacity of bear torture-physical and psychological and finally have capacity for evoking emotions. If he is a villain, it is of a magnificent dimension-a heroic villain.

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