Paradise Lost

Homer and Virgil in Milton's Characterization of His Epic Hero

“The reason Milton wrote in fetters when he wrote of Angels and God, and at liberty when of Devils and Hell, is because he was a true Poet and of the Devil's party without knowing it” (389). While this analysis by William Blake recognizes clear stylistic choices John Milton made in his epic Paradise Lost, the implied conclusion is not accurate. Although Satan is portrayed to be a majestic character with many traditional heroic qualities, Milton does not depict him as the epic's central hero. He instead reserves that role for Adam as a representative of humankind. An examination of the basic definition of a hero reveals that, although Satan is endowed with many heroic qualities, Milton intends this to be understood as a sharp commentary on the relative importance of these traditional values within the Christian world order.

To determine the central epic hero of Paradise Lost, a concrete definition of the term and concept must be established. While etymologically meaning “the timely one,” this definition only partially describes the role of epic heroes. Achilles decides to rejoin the Achaean army just as all hope seems lost, just as Odysseus returns to Penelope right before her proposed remarriage, yet both Homeric...

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