John Milton’s Paradise Lost is an epic according to the Webster’s New Dictionary definition of epic as “a long narrative poem in a dignified style about the deeds of a hero or heroes” (p. 219). To classify Paradise Lost as an epic forces the reader to take into consideration the subject matters of the fall of Lucifer from Heaven; the fall of mankind from the Garden of Eden; and, if a reader can classify the actions of Adam, Eve or even Lucifer during these events as “heroic”. Taking into consideration that a hero is defined as “any person, esp. a man, admired for courage, nobility” (Webster’s New Dictionary, p. 303), I can think about what actions I might personally consider noble or courageous. Some of the things that I consider courageous are accepting responsibility for one’s one actions; speaking out for the greater good when it is unfavorable; or fighting against overwhelming odds to accomplish a goal.
In Milton’s poem, both Adam and Lucifer acted in ways that I consider courageous, albeit a little foolish but courageous nevertheless the fact that they faced death or banishment for their actions. Surprisingly, the actions of Lucifer are the ones that stand out as the more heroic despite the notion that he is generally perceived as the source of evil and hatred in the world. Lucifer’s plans to pervert all that is “good” to “evil” becomes heroic when the reasoning for his evil actions becomes what appears to be the desire to be free from life of servitude rather than jealousy. “…but rather seek / Our own good from ourselves, though in this vast recess, / Free, and to none accountable, preferring/ Hard Liberty before the easy yoke / Of servile Pomp.” (Milton, 252-257) It becomes harder to consider Lucifer a villain when he is the main focus of many of the twelve books of Paradise Lost. The reader does follow Adam as well but Adam’s actions when compared to Lucifer’s appear more consequential. Adam only accepts responsibility for disobeying God after initially denying all blame and then tries to repent for his actions.
“Epic.” Webster’s Fourth New World Dictionary. 2003. Print.
“Hero.” Webster’s Fourth New World Dictionary. 2003. Print.
Milton, John. Paradise Lost. New York: Signet Classics, 2010. Print