[Milton-L] How do you like them apples...?

Robert Appelbaum r_appel at yahoo.com
Thu Aug 7 19:45:52 EDT 2008

If I may, please consult the relevant section in my book on food in the Renaissance, where I show that the forbidden fruit was actually a peach.  Aguecheek's Beef, Belch's Hiccup, and Other Gastronomic Interjections.  An earlier piece I published in MQ also makes this argument.

Robert Appelbaum 
Department of English and Creative Writing 
Lancaster University 
Lancaster, LA1 4YT 


--- On Tue, 29/7/08, Horace Jeffery Hodges <jefferyhodges at yahoo.com> wrote:

From: Horace Jeffery Hodges <jefferyhodges at yahoo.com>
Subject: RE: [Milton-L] How do you like them apples...?
To: "John Milton Discussion List" <milton-l at lists.richmond.edu>
Date: Tuesday, 29 July, 2008, 2:06 PM

Red Herring? That depends upon what argument one is pursuing, and I don't have an argument yet. I want to know what "apple"' means in Paradise Lost. My hunch is that it has to do with Satan "scoffing in ambiguous words" (PL 6.568), but there may be more to it.
For the record, however, I think that the tree is not quite "a thing indifferent" (Means to Remove Hirelings). I do think it 'arbitrary' -- in the sense that some other object could have been forbidden, but once forbidden, it is "set apart" by God and therefore "sacred" -- though not a sacrament, as Milton notes in Christian Doctrine. It is sacred in the sense of being "under the ban," thus "dedicated to God." I develop this thought further in my article "Milton's Tree of Knowledge: Why 'Sacred' Fruit?"

Jeffery Hodges

--- On Tue, 7/29/08, FLANNAGAN, ROY <ROY at uscb.edu> wrote:

From: FLANNAGAN, ROY <ROY at uscb.edu>
Subject: RE: [Milton-L] How do you like them apples...?
To: "John Milton Discussion List" <milton-l at lists.richmond.edu>
Date: Tuesday, July 29, 2008, 7:42 AM

What hasn't been mentioned is that the fruit itself, or the type of fruit,
is what Milton called "a thing indifferent."  What IS important is
"Man's first Disobedience."  I think the "apple"
business is a red herring, and Satan's joking about a "mere
apple" is a joke on Satan, not on God.
Treating "apple" as "fruit in general" is not important as
compared with man's first disobedience.
If ikon-worshippers go after figs or apples or dogwood or Judas trees, in
positive or negative iconography, I think Milton deplores the over-emphasis on
a thing that has no meaning in itself.  The apple becomes an irrelevant fetish.
Roy Flannagan


From: milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu on behalf of Horace Jeffery Hodges
Sent: Tue 7/29/2008 5:36 AM
To: John Milton Discussion List
Subject: [Milton-L] How do you like them apples...?

I see that I am not the first to note the possibility that
"apple"' in Milton's time meant "fruit" . . .  as
well as what we mean by "apple." Karen Edwards notes this in passing,
or so it seems [see footnote 18: "apple may refer to fruit in


Living in Korea, I lack ready access to books (and Milton-Listers have often
been very generous with their help), but through Google Books and Amazon
Search-Inside-the-Book, I've managed to piece together the following from
Karen Edwards's book, Milton and the Natural World:


Karen L. Edwards, Milton and the Natural World: Science and Poetry in Paradise
Lost (1999 - 280 pages)




Page 96


[Concerning Satan . . .]


His fate follows hard upon and is a manifestation of his habit of interpreting
signs literally. Immediately before his metamorphosis, he boasts of deceiving
man with an apple: 

him by fraud I have seduced

>From his creator, and the more to increase

Your wonder, with an apple. (PL. X. 485-87)


The boast signals what Milton might call "apprehension, carnall" or a
to deny the spirit that inheres in the letter.[15] Satan is an unfit reader of
Creation: to call the forbidden fruit a mere apple attests to an inadequate
hermeneutics.[16] For his denial of the spirit, incorporation in the (dead)
letter is appropriate. 

The representation of Satan in book x is thus structured in direct opposition
what Milton sees as God's mode of representing himself in the Scriptures.
Although "God, as he really is, is far beyond man's imagination,"
God has helped human understanding, Milton argues, by providing descriptions of
himself in the Bible.[17] These contain all that it is requisite for human
beings to know about him.[18]


. . .


Page 234


15. Newton, ed., PL, IX.585n.


16 The OED (apple sb., sense 4) follows suit.


17 OED, apple, sb., sense 2.a.

18 Even if Satan could plead not guilty on the technicality that apple may
refer to fruit in general, the term is informal and familiar and hence
inappropriate to God's high prohibition. It constitutes a lie of stylistic



The footnotes look as though they do not fit the text. Are these correct? Of
did the more-recent edition confuse the notes?


Meanwhile, if any Milton-Listers know of other scholars who have commented upon
"apple" as "fruit in general," please let me know.


Jeffery Hodges_______________________________________________
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