[Milton-L] help interpret a line

Derek Wood dwood at stfx.ca
Fri Jan 23 13:23:29 EST 2004


This discussion has been very interesting and at times brilliant.Perhaps I am naive but it seems the falseness of Satan's conclusion is more obvious than some of the complex commentaries have suggested. Milton is surely demonstrating a false rhetorician at work: we saw Satan at his logical inventio earlier:             
             One fatal tree .. Why should their Lord      

                 envy them that? Can it be sin to know

             Can it be death? And do they only stand 

             By ignorance Hence I will excite their minds

             With more desire to know . 

                     whom knowledge might exalt

              Equal with gods; aspiring to be such

             They taste and die: what likelier can

                                            ensue?            (4: 512-27)

 He prepares for his speech with the studied gestures of the trained rhetorician: "each part, Motion, each act won audience." Then he begins his "fraudulent temptation." The logical process is perfect and so the conclusion (about fear) is faultless, but the starting point, or premise, is false. One such premise is: "God cannot hurt ye and be just; Not just, not God." Not only has Eve been warned about the truth but so has all Heaven at that terrible climactic moment earlier, "Die he or justice must." God's mercy is one thing but it cannot cancel out his justice. He makes clear his Law and requires obedience. It is not ambiguous though it may be mysterious.
            Best wishes,
            Derek Wood,
            St. Francis Xavier University.


 "His fraud is then thy fear, which plain infers / Thy
equal fear that my firm Faith and Love / Can by his fraud be shak'n or
seduc't;" (285-7)

 "His fraud is then thy fear, which plain infers / Thy
equal fear that my firm Faith and Love / Can by his fraud be shak'n or
seduc't;" (285-7)

  ----- Original Message ----- 
  From: Gardner Campbell 
  To: milton-l at koko.richmond.edu ; milton-l at koko.richmond.edu ; David.Harper at usma.edu 
  Sent: Wednesday, January 21, 2004 7:20 PM
  Subject: RE: [Milton-L] help interpret a line


  I agree with this analysis and with most that have preceded it. My particular focus was not so much on the process of Satan's logic as on the wording of its triumphant conclusion....
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