[Milton-L] help interpret a line

Carrol Cox cbcox at ilstu.edu
Wed Jan 21 12:36:06 EST 2004

Beth Bradburn wrote: But Satan isn't "trying to examine the consistency
between underlying principles and instances of their application."  He's
trying to persuade someone to do something that she already believes to
be illegal [clip]

jfleming wrote: Is there really anything "poisoned" or "Satanic" about
the logic of "your fear itself of death removes the fear"? Granted, "bad
logic" is the sort of thing that we think we are supposed to say about
the sorts of things that Satan says [clip]


The problem lies in the habit of so many Milton critics (especially in
the 1960s, 1970s and into the '80s) to confuse _Paradise Lost_ with the
universe, and to argue on the (sometimes explicit) premise that Milton's
God was God, his Satan Satan, his Adam & Eve Adam & Eve (etc), and that
hence in speaking of PL we were speaking of Reality Naked as it were.
But if we see PL as having no more (and no less) relation to an external
reality than the _Iliad_ or the _Cantos_, then we can treat Satan as
satanic, eve as deceived, just as we can treat Achilles as a man of deep
moral and political insight and Mussolini, Sisgismundo & Andrew Jackson
as exemplars of humanity at its best in those poems.

And of course in all three poems we can find a significance that goes
far beyond the explicit intentions or beliefs of their makers. For
example, the 'defenses' of Milton against the charge of male supremacy
are utterly unconvincing as applied to Milton and his intentions, but
they certainly are profoundly true as exhibiting the significance which
we can see in the poem (reading over Milton's shoulder as it were).


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