[Milton-L] Re: Eve seeking temptation

Schwartz, Louis lschwart at richmond.edu
Mon Sep 7 13:45:57 EDT 2009

I think he's unnerved by the way Eve took his first speech, and he's trying to come up with a less insulting way of framing his initial argument.  This is one of the things that comes his mind, and it's maybe the weakest.  He makes some good points in the speech, and they require Eve to respond complexly (the stuff about other's aid and witnessing, for example), but this one, I think, she dismantles pretty handily.  It's just a silly argument, and I don't think it can be supported by anything in the poem.  Does God require that Abdiel cleanse himself of taint when he returns triumphantly from HIS trial?


Louis Schwartz
Associate Professor of English
University of Richmond
Richmond, VA  23173
(804) 289-8315
lschwart at richmond.edu<mailto:lschwart at richmond.edu>

From: milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu [mailto:milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu] On Behalf Of Nancy Rosenfeld
Sent: Monday, September 07, 2009 1:26 PM
To: milton-l at lists.richmond.edu
Subject: [Milton-L] Re: Eve seeking temptation

Dear all,

Any comments on the following remark made by Adam in his attempt to convince Eve not to go off alone?

For he who tempts, though in vain, at least asperses
The tempted with dishonour foul, supposed
Not incorruptible of faith, not proof
Against temptation (IX.296-9).

The above sounds to me like a claim on Adam's part for the validity of a sort of "guilt by association," i.e. even if one successfully resists temptation, the very fact of having been seen by the enemy as a possible victim in some way sullies one. Of course I haven't lost sight of the identity of the speaker: Adam may be giving expression to his own idea--one which Milton may not have found acceptable.

In Adam's defense we might note that although disturbed by Eve's narration of her dream of yielding to Satan's temptation in Book V, he explains to her at some length why:

Evil into the mind of god or man
May come and go, so unapproved, and leave
No spot or blame behind: which gives me hope
That what in sleep thou didst abhor to dream,
Waking thou never wilt consent to do (V.117-20).

So why does Adam attempt to play the "aspersion" card in the opening of his debate with Eve in Book IX? Has he (or Milton) rethought the issue? Or is he trying to bring forward as many arguments as possible, hoping that one of them will convince Eve?

All the best,
Nancy Rosenfeld.

Nancy Rosenfeld, PhD.
English Studies Unit
Max Stern College of Jezreel Valley, Israel.

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