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

John Leonard jleonard at uwo.ca
Thu Nov 17 15:20:32 EST 2005


Steve Fallon makes a strong case, and I agree that "Recognizing the eating 
of the apple as 'sinful indulgence'  fits a resolve not to eat it better 
than it fits a prior decision to eat it."  But I still think Ricks is right 
to attribute the pun on "excess" to Milton rather than to Eve--and I note 
that Steve thinks this too, though not for the reason I gave.  So I guess it 
behoves me to come up with a better reason.  Here's my best attempt:  if Eve 
were punning knowingly on "excess" as a sinful indulgence that she is 
determined not to commit, one would  expect her to use some other word than 
"though" ("Fruitless to me though fruit be here to excess").   One would 
expect an innocent punning Eve to say "Fruitless to me FOR fruit be here to 
excess" ("for" signalling that the prospect of committing sinful excess is 
her reason for remaining "Fruitless").  The fact that she says "though" (not 
"for") suggests that she is deaf to the pun on "excess" that we hear, but 
she doesn't.  I suppose one might argue that Eve's "though" signals a 
repressed desire to commit the excess (as in "Fruitless to me, though . . . 
wow, imagine the excess!"), but I just don't hear the line that way.  To my 
ears, the dark moment of dramatic irony described by Ricks fits this moment 
better than any other explanation I have read.  It certainly makes better 
sense than Prince's "one of Milton's sports."

Best,

John

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Stephen Fallon" <fallon.1 at nd.edu>
To: "John Milton Discussion List" <milton-l at lists.richmond.edu>
Sent: Thursday, November 17, 2005 1:25 PM
Subject: [Milton-L] Leonard on O Eve, in evil hour...


> Thanks to John Leonard for directing those who might not know it toward 
> Ricks' wonderful *Milton's Grand Style*, and for his clear analysis of 
> Ricks on 9.647-48.
>
> I agree with everything John says except for his argument for why the pun 
> on "excess" ("Fruitless to me, though fruit be here to excess") cannot be 
> Eve's.  He writes, "If Eve were knowingly punning on 'excess' as 'sinful 
> indulgence,' the implication would be that she has already decided to 
> fall. But the whole point of her pun on 'Fruitless' is that she does *not* 
> intend to eat the apple--not yet." I agree with Ricks and with John that 
> the pun is not Eve's, but not for John's reason.  One could as easily 
> argue that a knowing pun on 'excess' would fit her as yet to be broken 
> resolve not to eat the apple.  Recognizing the eating of the apple as 
> "sinful indulgence" fits a resolve not to eat it better than it fits a 
> prior decision to eat it.
>
> John is one of the very best readers of Milton, so I write with an uneasy 
> sense that I may be missing something.
>
> Steve Fallon
>
>
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