The Dialectic Nature of God and Satan

A discussion of the portrayal of the characters Satan and God in John Milton’s epic poem Paradise Lost.

This paper discusses the manner in which Milton developed the characters of God and Satan in John Milton’s “Paradise Lost”. It examines how it often seems as though Milton is subtly encouraging the reader to empathize with Satan’s struggle against Heaven and how he possesses many of the characteristics of an epic hero his stature, nobility, and epic feats. Many of his characteristics are compared to those of another hero, Beowulf. In contrast, it shows how God exhibits many evil traits but at the end it is good that triumphs over evil and Satan degenerates into his demonic self and we see him for what he is.
While Satan possesses these heroic traits, they might not be enough to win our sympathy if Milton had not given the demon psychological depth. Far from being inherently evil, Satan undergoes a transformation, wrestling with fear and guilt. Milton summarizes: Satan now in prospect of Eden, and nigh the place where he must now attempt the bold enterprise which he undertook alone against God and Man, falls into many doubts with himself, and many passions, fear, envy, and despair; but at length confirms himself in evil (p. 317). To achieve his goal of revenge, Satan stifles his humanity but that means that he does have some humanity to stifle.