Paradise Lost: Yes, Satan is the greatest character | Book Review

★★★★★/★★★★★ Paradise Lost by John Milton. 

“This having learnt, thou hast attained the summe
Of wisdom; hope no higher, though all the Starrs
Thou knewst by name, and all th’ ethereal Powers,
All secrets of the deep, all Natures works,
Or works of God in Heav’n, Air, Earth, or Sea,
And all the riches of this World enjoydst,
And all the rule, one Empire; onely add
Deeds to thy knowledge answerable, add Faith,
Add Vertue, Patience, Temperance, add Love,
By name to come call’d Charitie, the soul
Of all the rest: then wilt thou not be loath
To leave this Paradise, but shalt possess
A Paradise within thee, happier farr.”



This is the story of the Fall of Man from Eden, the temptation of Adam and Eve by the fallen angel Satan, and the loss of their almost tangible relationship with God, however, later on, we realize the most beautiful story, is that of the fall of Satan, his descent into Tartarus, his role in the Angelic War, and his quest to destroy God’s most precious creation, humanity. Satan is the main protagonist, the protagonist of one of the greatest poems, not just of English literature, but of all time. This is not to say that it is his sole story, nor that this was Milton’s purpose, but to the regular man, Satan represents most of what humanity is, a brash, arrogant, confident, flawed, curious, courageous, hypocritical, mostly all that encompasses the human experience.


For his desire for more, his need to be appreciated over God’s flawed creation, leads him to befall to the darkest pit of Hell, and he vows revenge, and boy does he get it.
The second strength of this poem, aside Satan, comes from the magnificent black verse in which it is written.
“Farewel happy Fields
Where Joy for ever dwells: Hail horrours, hail
Infernal world, and thou profoundest Hell
Receive thy new Possessor: One who brings
A mind not to be chang’d by Place or Time.
The mind is its own place, and in it self
Can make a Heav’n of Hell, a Hell of Heav’n.
What matter where, if I be still the same,
And what I should be, all but less then he
Whom Thunder hath made greater? Here at least
We shall be free; th’ Almighty hath not built
Here for his envy, will not drive us hence:
Here we may reign secure, and in my choyce
To reign is worth ambition though in Hell:
Better to reign in Hell, then serve in Heav’n.”

This traitorous angel actually managed to make Hell sound good, not amazing, but a paradise for free-thinkers apparently. he saw himself as such a saviour to those that followed him, that sometimes, in our hearts, we feel a tinny bit sad for his outcome. And then we remember it is because of him that many horrid things happen and we feel good that he is where he is again. BUT HE IS THE MOST HUMAN CHARACTERS OF ALL THE ONES IN THE POEM.


“I sung of chaos and eternal night, Taught by the heav’nly Muse to venture down the dark decent, and up to reascend…”

Milton wrote this for humans to have an understanding of all God did all the way to the Great Flood. Which has led many to question: Why does Satan have a political reason to rebel against God? Why was God such a barbarian? Why is Satan our temptation still? Why is Gabriel such a do-gooder and butt-kisser? Why does he give Adam and Eve such vague hope, “a paradise within thee, happier far”? WHY IS SATAN SO CHARISMATIC WHEN HE IS SUPPOSE TO BE THE BAD GUY? I am not sure we get the answers to these questions unless we look very close, I am of those that rather remain with the questions.


“All is not lost, the unconquerable will, and study of revenge, immortal hate, and the courage never to submit or yield.”
We are made to sympathize with the Devil, but we are also to know that doing so is wrong, and that no man should align themselves with him. The debate is left to us, we make the final choice, and choosing wrong will lead us down a similar path to Lucifer.



Now look at this description of God’s creation:
“And of the sixth day yet remained
There wanted yet the master work, the end
Of all yet done: a creature who not prone
And brute as other creatures but endued
With sanctity of reason might erect
His stature and, upright with front serene,
Govern the rest, self-knowing, and from thence
Magnanimous to correspond with Heaven,
But grateful to acknowledge whence his good
Descends, thither with heart and voice and eyes
Directed in devotion to adore
And worship God supreme who made him chief
Of all His works.”

Better Than Food: Book Reviews did an incredible review, it is my favourite for this book so far: John Milton – Paradise Lost
The images used here were drawn by Gustave Doré, they are most beautiful. He also did Dante’s Inferno and The Rime of The Ancient Mariner, all equal in beauty.


2 thoughts on “Paradise Lost: Yes, Satan is the greatest character | Book Review

  1. Picked this back up today and started re reading it as I love epic poetry but milton’s Satan is so damn seductive and most fascinating character I have come across that’s why I keep coming back to paradise lost.


    1. When it comes to well written characters, it goes to Satan in this work. Of all the characters, he is the most dynamic, the most human, the most comparable. I really need to give this book a re-read.


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