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

Carol Barton cbartonphd at earthlink.net
Mon Nov 21 17:23:43 EST 2005

She doesn't respond to the flattery, though:

"Serpent, thy overpraising [of me] leaves in doubt,
The virtue of that Fruit, in thee first prov'd:" (9.615-16).

She rejects "Fairest resemblance of thy Maker fair . . . Celestial Beauty"
(9.538-40) as well as "A Goddess among Gods" (547), too, asking only the
practical question "What may this mean?" (553) in response. She is
"credulous" because she buys too easily his Great Chain of Being argument (I
tasted, and moved up a notch, and you will, too), and she forgets that it
was Adam and Eve (not serpents) that God forbade to taste the fruit. She has
no evidence (other than her credulity) that the Fruit gave the serpent
speech, or right reason; she believes what she wants to believe.

Louis Martz (God rest him) counted the number of times
she (or the Serpent) mentions that "God said no." It isn't his praise that
wins her, but the promise of equality with Adam ("for inferior who is
free?"). She wants the confrontation, not to be seen (femme fatale), but to
prove that she is every bit as intelligent as Adam, and equally equipped to
deal with the Foe:

"hadst thou been there,
Or here th'attempt, thou couldst not have discern'd
Fraud in the Serpent, speaking as he spake . . .
Was I never to have parted from thy side?
As good have grown there still a lifeless Rib . . ." (1148-54).

I still can't see her as Madeleine Kahn (though I loved the latter dearly).
As a matter of fact, I can't think of a single modern actress I'd cast in
the role. Bette Davis, maybe. But certainly not Vivien Leigh.

Best to all,

Carol Barton

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