[Milton-L] help interpret a line

Harold Skulsky HSKULSKY at email.smith.edu
Tue Jan 20 13:54:33 EST 2004


"Your fear itself of death removes the fear" sums up the argument of the
previous four lines. 

The first occurrence of "fear" refers to Eve's fear of death, the
second refers to her fear of eating the fruit.

Paraphrase: Eve's desire to avoid death is precisely what should
"remove" (i.e., invalidate) her fear of a fruit that enables its
partakers to "know" (recognize) evil and hence avoid it--a fruit that no
just and hence genuine God would have banned.    

The equivocation on "fear" generates the cadence of  paradoxical wit
(the verbal scheme is a cyclus, beginning and ending on the same phrase
or concept). Satan is a virtuoso rhetorician as well as a virtuoso
sophister.

In addition to the equivocation on "fear," the argument as a whole
(including the previous four lines) also equivocates on the notion of
"knowing evil." 

It's a poisoned argument; Eve knows better than to swallow it--though
she swallows it anyway.  

As they say in the math texts, I leave the untangling of the second
equivocation (on "knowing evil") as an exercise.                        
                                                                        
                                                                        
                                               


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