[Milton-L] Nature of evil cont...

James Rovira jamesrovira at gmail.com
Sat Aug 12 20:02:58 EDT 2006

It may help to keep in mind that both Milton and Tolkein were
depicting evil in a pre-Christian society, and in Milton's case, a
pre-lapsarian.  "Evil" in Adam and Eve's case begins with a simple act
of disobedience: they were commanded only not to eat of the fruit of
the tree of knowledge of good and evil.  They were not commanded not
to think about it, not to want it, or not to talk about it.
Hypocrisy, though it clearly exists in Milton's Satan, didn't exist in
Milton's A and E until after the fall, not that I can tell.

Dante's Satan is indeed hardly a character at all compared to
Milton's: he's frozen in ice and does nothing but chew on the three
great betrayers, but Blake still got a lot of mileage out of Dante's
mistaking Satan's wings for giant windmills.  But aren't we being a
little unfair to extend this to Dante's conception of evil?  His hell
is populated with a wide variety of sinners guilty of a wide variety
of sins, and there's a specific moral reasoning behind the arrangement
of the levels. Also, the design of Dante's Hell is such that Hell can
be extended.  For example, while all betrayers are frozen in ice,
there is a level of Hell unknown to both Virgil and Dante--it begins
beneath Satan's feet and goes on indefinitely from there, and is
populated by those who make children's toys with no off-switch,
alongside the person who invented those little stiff paper inserts
that go into magazines and the person who invented telemarketing.

Jim R

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