[Milton-L] The Failure of Milton's Theodicy

Michael Travis Streeter streetm at stthom.edu
Tue Feb 8 22:57:51 EST 2005

Dear Miltonists and Milton fanatics,

I am endeavoring to transform an essay of mine into something more scholarly and I could profit from everyone's consultation.

William Blake once placed Milton with the devil's party and I am inclined to agree with him.  Milton issues a sizable portion of his theodicy to the character of Satan and leaves little room for any other character to take the helm.  Yet it is precisely Milton's deep investment in the devil that makes me hesitant to call his project a theodicy - for a theodicy is motivated chiefly by faith to "justifie the wayes of God to men" I.25.  Satan, as a perversion of the good, is not motivated by _faith_ but instead by _doubt_ to _try_ the ways of God to men (he even drifts so far as to doubt the entire act of creation).  So, Milton's project seems to fail as a theodicy and triumphs more as a critique.  And if I am wrong, is there any other character who champions Milton's cause of theodicy other than Satan?  The only alternative I can contrive is a prelapsarian Adam and Eve who exhibit the Christian humility and faith necessary to justify God's ways.  But here again, even their the
odicy fails after the fall.  That would only leave Gabriel, Abdiel or Michael to vindicate God and they all seem to respond more to the questions of theodicy rather than provoke them.

Also, I have one minor question.  Was it Milton or Tennyson after him who inaugurated the phrase "Nature, red in tooth and nail"?


Mike Streeter
streetm at stthom.edu

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