How does Milton Depict Satan’s Leadership Qualities in Paradise Lost?

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Strong leadership is often a key aspect for a group to work well together. In Paradise Lost, John Milton depicts Satan as a strong leader who is able to lead a loyal group of fallen angels through adversity. Milton depicts Satan as possessing key leadership qualities that allow him to lead the group powerfully, such as his ability to motivate others, his courage, and his confidence and loyalty to his group.

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“How does Milton Depict Satan’s Leadership Qualities in Paradise Lost?”

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Satan’s most important and obvious leadership quality in Paradise Lost is his ability to motivate others. This ability is shown multiple times throughout both books, but especially in book one, where the group is demotivated and defeated from losing the battle with God. After being cast down into Hell by God after the battle, Satan gives multiple motivational speeches. In his first speech, Satan says:

What though the field be lost?

All is not lost; the unconquerable Will,

And study of revenge, immortal hate,

And courage never to submit or yield:

And what is else not to be overcome?

That Glory never shall his wrath or might

Extort from me. To bow and sue for grace

With suppliant knee, and deifie his power

(Book 1, 105-112)

This passage is part of Satan’s first motivational speech after being cast into Hell. This passage is important due to Satan encouraging the fallen angels to not lose spirit and to not give up. Satan refers to losing the ?field’ of Heaven, yet the spirit of the fallen angels is not lost. He encourages the fallen angels that their will, courage, and effort is not lost, and that he is not prepared to give up. This is an important idea as a leader because a good leader doesn’t give up on their team, and continues fighting. This passage makes it clear that the defeat hasn’t stopped him from trying, and he encourages the others to not give up either. Milton displays this resilient and motivational quality in Satan to support that he is a good leader, and that he will fight for his team.

Two more key passages that highlight Satan’s motivational qualities come in his third speech of the Book. These passages come after Satan’s acceptance of losing Heaven and his shift to accepting Hell. In these passages, Satan says:

The mind is its own place, and in it self

Can make a Heav’n of Hell, a Hell of Heav’n.

(Book 1, 254-255)

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.

(Book 1, 261-263)

Both of these passages show a shift in mentality for Satan and how he is encouraging the others to accept Hell and the positive qualities that it holds. In the first passage, Satan is encouraging a mental shift to changing the focus onto the positive aspects of Hell, and how they can make the best of the situation. This is an important realization for a leader, because leadership can succeed when the best is made of a situation. The second quote follows the same idea, looking at the positive side of Hell. Satan shows his leadership with his desire to reign in Hell, stating that he would rather be a leader in Hell than a servant in Heaven. This passage makes Satan’s desire to lead clear.

Another key aspect in Satan’s leadership is his ?halftime speech’ in which he encourages the other fallen angels to continue fighting and to not back down, along with offering the solution to have a meeting about the next steps. Milton portrays Satan as somewhat similar to a sports team captain with this speech, even with the wording he uses before Satan’s speech. Milton writes:

He now prepar’d

To speak; whereat thir doubl’d Ranks they bend

From wing to wing, and half enclose him round

(Book 1, 615-617)

This introduction to Satan’s motivational speech draws similarities to a team captain, even to the likeness of half enclose him round to a huddle. Team captains are the leaders of teams and motivate the team, which is the same role that Satan has taken on with the fallen angels.

Another important aspect of Satan’s leadership is his courage. A strong leader must have courage to powerfully lead a team through adversity, and Satan is not lacking. The most obvious factor of Satan’s courage is his leadership in the rebellion against God. God is known as all-mighty and all-powerful, and Satan still had the courage to lead his team in battle against him. In Book two, Satan also volunteers to make the voyage to Earth himself, and while Milton portrays the rest of the fallen angels as afraid to make the dangerous journey, he shows Satan as brave and taking the role of leadership to make the journey:

The perilous attempt; but all sat mute,

Pondering the danger with deep thoughts; and each

In others count’nance read his own dismay

Astonisht: none among the choice and prime

Of those Heav’n-warring Champions could be found

So hardie as to proffer or accept

Alone the dreadful voyage; till at last

Satan, whom now transcendent glory rais’d

bove his fellows, with Monarchal pride

(Book 2, 420-428)

This passage shows yet again how Satan is willing to take leadership for the fallen angels and even do things that the others may be afraid of. Satan is keen for these leadership opportunities and displays his courage by stepping up.

Another aspect of Satan’s leadership that is important to investigate is his loyalty and compassion for the other fallen angels. His sympathy for the other fallen angels is clear, and their loyalty even makes him tear up. Milton shows Satan’s emotion, both with sympathy that he has for the other fallen angels, and his gratefulness of their loyalty. Before one of Satan’s motivational speeches, Milton writes:

Above them all th’ Arch Angel: but his face

Deep scars of Thunder had intrencht, and care

Sat on his faded cheek, but under Browes

Of dauntless courage, and considerate Pride

Waiting revenge: cruel his eye, but cast

Signs of remorse and passion to behold

The fellows of his crime, the followers rather

(Far other once beheld in bliss) condemn’d

For ever now to have thir lot in pain

(Book 1, 600-608)

This passage overall shows Satan in a favorable light, but highlights his care and emotion that he maintains. This gives Satan more human-like qualities in which humans can relate to him closer and look at him in a more favorable light, which is part of Milton’s attempt to not only make Satan a clear leader, but also make him appeal to the audience. His compassion and loyalty to the fallen make him a strong leader because he is able to fight for them and see from their perspective.

Overall, Milton shows Satan as a strong leader and a favorable character. With his motivational ability, courage, loyalty and compassion, Satan is depicted as a powerful leader. This also makes him appeal to the audience because he is leading a team of ?underdogs’, which audiences generally support. All in all, Milton depicts Satan to possess multiple strong leadership qualities.

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How does Milton depict Satan's leadership qualities in Paradise Lost?. (2019, Nov 27). Retrieved December 5, 2022 , from

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