Paradise Lost

Milton's Different Versions of the Heroic Figure College

Milton’s exploration of heroism in Paradise Lost has been the focus of much debate and controversy since the poem was first published. Critical attention has shifted through the years from Satanism to feminism, from the exultation of Adam to the Anti-Satanist redemption of the character of Christ. So many extremely opposing theories are only possible because of Milton’s manipulation of the epic genre, and of his readers’ expectations: at different times he both utilizes and parodies the classical image of the military hero in the character of Satan; he draws upon the Biblical ideal of humility in his depiction of Eve; and includes in Adam many of those qualities typical of the tragic hero. Milton’s purpose in this is not simply to challenge the previously accepted forms of literary heroism, but to illuminate those same qualities found intensified and complete in Christ. To this end, Christ embodies Adam’s failed martyrdom, embraces Eve’s humility without having sinned and follows through with Satan’s repeated empty threat of domination.

The first and perhaps most prominent heroic figure we encounter in Paradise Lost is Satan. Milton intentionally draws a series of parallels between the introduction to Satan’s character with the...

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