[Milton-L] O Eve, in evil hour...

Horace Jeffery Hodges jefferyhodges at yahoo.com
Fri Nov 11 19:23:53 EST 2005

Christopher Ricks cites Paradise Lost 9.1067, "O Eve,
in evil hour...", and notes that Adam puns here on
"Eve" and "evil" to "proclaim ... that the word evil
is derived from Eve, and that evil derives from her"
(Ricks, Milton's Grand Style (Oxford University Press,
1963) p. 103).

My question is this: Has anyone noted the possibility
of a double pun here?

"evil" = "Eve ill"?

Milton has used the term "ill" to mean "evil" just
twelve lines earlier, in 9.1055.

What's fascinating about this is the vicious
regression that results when one then reads "ill" as

"evil" = "Eve ill" -->"Eve evil" = "Eve Eve ill" -->
"Eve Eve evil" = "Eve Eve Eve ill" --> "Eve Eve Eve
evil" ...

The infinite regression of evil would fit with
Milton's portrayal of Satan, for example, as
ungrounded in his evil: 


Which way I fly is hell; myself am hell;
And in the lowest deep a lower deep,
Still threat'ning to devour me, opens wide,
To which the hell I suffer seems a heaven.

What do all of you think -- was this really what
Milton intended in 9.1067, namely, a double pun
resulting in an infinite regression of evil to reflect
its utter groundlessness?

Jeffery Hodges

University Degrees:

Ph.D., History, U.C. Berkeley
(Doctoral Thesis: "Food as Synecdoche in John's Gospel and Gnostic Texts")
M.A., History of Science, U.C. Berkeley
B.A., English Language and Literature, Baylor University

Email Address:

jefferyhodges at yahoo.com



Office Address:

Assistant Professor Horace Jeffery Hodges
Department of English Language and Literature
Korea University
136-701 Anam-dong, Seongbuk-gu
South Korea

Home Address:

Dr. Sun-Ae Hwang and Dr. Horace Jeffery Hodges
Sehan Apt. 102-2302
Sinnae-dong 795
Seoul 131-770
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