[Milton-L] "Ontological superiority"

Michael Gillum mgillum at unca.edu
Wed Jul 19 16:37:40 EDT 2006

What Richard Strier says is true from the standpoint of a modern 
skeptical person like Shelley or Empson, or perhaps a modern 
Christian who is willing to set aside a great deal of the O.T. and 
Revelation. What James Rovira says is a true account of traditional 
theist beliefs that Milton shared. Anyone who takes the O.T. as 
seriously as Milton did would have to believe that God sometimes 
punishes disobedience, and obviously Milton believed God was right to 
do so, for reasons explained by James Rovira. Likewise, any reader is 
free to reject this concept of God. In previous posts, I was just 
objecting to writers trying to project this rejection onto the author 
or text of Paradise Lost. The rightness of the Father/Son's rule and 
the wrongness of Satan's revolt proceed from the Father's 
"ontological superiority"--that might be a curiously medieval phrase, 
but the doctrine itself is inscribed all over PL, and insistently so 
in the political contexts. We really need to consider this doctrine 
before worrying overmuch about how Milton's resistance to mortal 
kingship squares with his portrayal of heavenly kingship.

Lewalski's article in Milton Studies (2000) develops this rather 
obvious argument better than I can. 

Incidentally, Stevie Davies' book Images of Kingship in PL (1983) is 
terrific.  I thought her discussion of the Son's kingship in the 
light of feudal monarchy and English coronation ritual was brilliant.

Michael Gillum
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