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

Horace Jeffery Hodges jefferyhodges at yahoo.com
Wed Nov 16 23:31:01 EST 2005


Roy Flannagan is surely correct to note that the pun
"Eve/evil" is Adam's and that Milton knows the true
etymology. I hadn't yet seen Flannagan's reply when I
reworked my original post a bit and blogged on it at
my blog (else I'd have reworked it more):

---------------------------------------------------------------------------

http://gypsyscholarship.blogspot.com/2005/11/o-eve-in-evil-hour.html

I recently posed a query, on a listserve to which I
belong, about Milton's depiction of Adam and Eve's
sin, and while I'm waiting for their responses, I
thought that I'd rework my query and pose it here as
well.

The Milton scholar Christopher Ricks has cited
Paradise Lost 9.1067, "O Eve, in evil hour...", and
argued 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).

I have a question related to this: Has anyone noted
the possibility of a double pun here?

"evil" = "Eve ill"?

Since Milton has used the term "ill" to mean "evil"
just twelve lines earlier, in 9.1055, then the
following sequence could be derived:

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

This sequence fascinates me for two reasons:

First, one can read the sequence as ontological but
delving endlessly into levels of sameness, and thereby
understand it to suggest a vicious regression in which
evil has no ground other than evil itself.

Second, one can read the sequence as temporal and
extending endlessly into the future, and thereby
understand it to suggest that evil inevitably
generates ever more evil from out of itself.

I propose that Milton intends for us to read his
double pun both ways, for each of the two readings
fits Milton's view of evil as a lack of being that
generates ever more lack of being.

Incidentally, I don't think that Milton shares Adam's
misogynistic view of Eve, for Adam is speaking as one
fallen and equally to blame for evil.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------

As you can see -- if you've read this far -- I'd
altered some points, but my basic query still remained
(and remains): Does "evil" contain two puns, on "Eve"
and "ill"?

I'd add the suggestion that even if Milton is
portraying Adam's misogyny, couldn't a larger truth
emerge from Adam's malicious wordplay, namely, that
evil, mirrored in an evil wordplay, gives rise to more
evil just as empty as Adam's pun?

Jeffery Hodges

---------------------------------------------------------------------------

--- Roy Flannagan <Roy at gwm.sc.edu> wrote:

> One thing certain about puns is that their secondary
> meaning can't be established with certainty unless
> the context establishes it.  I am uncomfortable with
> Ricks's reading because I can't believe that Milton
> would ever foist off on his reader the false
> etymology that "evil" is derived from "Eve." 
> Certainly Milton draws attention to the fact that
> when Eve ate she made her own evil hour, but nothing
> in Paradise Lost indicates that evil derives
> primarily from Eve, as in the "crooked rib" of
> monkish thinking.  Adam may be giving in to Satanic
> thinking when he associates Eve with evil.
> 
> It is very difficult for an editor even to try to
> establish the connections in a pun between what it
> says directly and with what other word it may lead
> us to.  Ricks may be wrong, unless Adam is speaking
> Satanically, but is Neil Forsyth wrong to play with
> Adam's being "dis-Eved" when Eve has eaten and he
> hasn't (perhaps he is, because Adam falls "not
> deceiv'd").  And what about the meaning of "fruit"
> or "mortal" in "the Fruit . . . whose mortal tast":
> does "fruit" mean "outcome," and does "mortal" mean
> "inducing mortality" or "poisonous"?  Certainly Eve
> is "ill" after she falls, but is her illness
> contained in the word "evil"?  I can't be sure.
> 
> My point is that we can speculate on the meaning of
> puns as long as we like, and they do add richness
> and something like musical overtones to Milton's
> language, but that their ultimate meaning cannot be
> established.  I do know that Satanic language is
> characterized by its bad puns.
> 
> Roy Flannagan    
> 
> >>> jefferyhodges at yahoo.com 11/11/05 10:23 PM >>>
> 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":
> 
> "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: 
> 
> 4.75-78
> 
> 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 
> 
> Blog:
> 
> http://gypsyscholarship.blogspot.com/ 
> 
> Office Address:
> 
> Assistant Professor Horace Jeffery Hodges
> Department of English Language and Literature
> Korea University
> 136-701 Anam-dong, Seongbuk-gu
> Seoul
> South Korea
> 
> Home Address:
> 
> Dr. Sun-Ae Hwang and Dr. Horace Jeffery Hodges
> Sehan Apt. 102-2302
> Sinnae-dong 795
> Jungrang-gu
> Seoul 131-770
> South Korea
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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

Blog:

http://gypsyscholarship.blogspot.com/

Office Address:

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

Home Address:

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


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