[Milton-L] Re: porno vs. art?

Carol Barton cbartonphd at earthlink.net
Thu Nov 24 16:12:29 EST 2005


Jeffery Hodges writes, "And here's where I'd disagree somewhat with Carol.
Satan's flattery is effective. His words make their way into her heart
because they elevate her, precisely the promise offered in the temptation
scene as Satan's words begin to have their effect. The fruit is offered as
the solution: This will elevate you, Eve, to goddess."

I think this is a matter of semantics, Jeffery: I don't think she cares
about being "Queen of the Universe" or a _Sports Illustrated_ cover
model--and it isn't figurative "flattery" that will elevate her to a station
above her present one--but, according to the serpent, the power of the
Fruit. I think it's important to see the Great Chain of Being in the
backdrop: just like Malvolio in _Twelfth Night_, she is reaching beyond the
proper limits of her grasp, only here, the stakes are much higher, and the
consequences far more dire. The (anti)ethical claim that everyone has his or
her price--that if you push the right "button," promise what the other
desires most, you will have him or her in your power--applies here. If all
the serpent offered were flattery, Eve wouldn't fall: she doesn't want to be
worshipped sexually, she wants to be EQUAL to Adam intellectually--and
that's what the Fruit (according to the serpent) will give her: the
intelligence of the angels.

In this regard, I see her as very close to Dame Alisoun's old hag in the Wyf
of Bath's Tale: she doesn't want to dominate the man who loves her, but she
wants to be loved for her intelligence, her capabilities, her spirit, and
her soul--not her outside . . . and above all, she wants not to be "the
little woman"--she wants her voice to have equal weight with his--"for
inferior, who is free?" If the analogy will help (though it's not one I
like), Eve is the English people under Charles I: no matter what they think
or want, he is the king, and he will do with their lives as he pleases (even
take them, if he chooses). Charles insisted that he loved his people, and
maybe, after his fashion, he did: but being loved, even adored, is not the
same thing as being free--sometimes, it's the opposite (ask any bird in a
gilded cage). Eve wants to be a person in her own right, not an appendage of
Adam, and she wants to have a say in her destiny. The Fruit promises her
that--in the serpent's voice--and that's the only suasion she hears.

Best to all,

Carol Barton






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