[Milton-L] help interpret a line
bradbure at wfu.edu
Mon Jan 26 08:46:34 EST 2004
Thank you to Harold Skulsky for this very helpful post. I have one
Harold Skulsky wrote:
> (1) As the context requires, the fear the Tempter needs to discredit to
> succeed in his project is Eve's fear of eating the apple. His purpose
> all sublime is to get her to eat. In the quoted line he claims that fear
> of eating is removed by another of Eve's fears, viz., the fear of DEATH.
> Improving the quoted line by replacing "death" with "God" (among other
> strange inventions recently offered) is rewriting the text, not
> interpreting it.
But isn't Eve's fear of eating the apple the same as her fear of God?
She has not expressed fear of eating the apple per se. She tells the
serpent that God has commanded them not to eat the fruit "lest ye die"
(9.663). It's possible that she is expressing some visceral fear of the
act of eating the fruit here, but, given that she doesn't have a clear
idea what death is, it seems to me at least as likely that she fears
eating the fruit in the sense that she fears God and respects His
In the conversation at the tree, the word "fear" is first introduced by
Satan, at 701: "Not just, not God; not fear'd then, nor obey'd." Here
the object of fear is clearly God. In 702 Satan summarizes the argument
he has just completed at 701. Is it unreasonable to interpret the first
"fear" in 702 as the same kind of fear referred to in 701? This would
force the second "fear" in 702 to take Death as its object, making the
literal meaning of the line: "Your fear of God removes the fear of death."
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