[Milton-L] Re: Eve seeking temptation

Carol Barton cbartonphd1 at verizon.net
Mon Sep 7 14:39:58 EDT 2009

I think that rather than actually "tainting" his intended victims, Nancy and Louis, Adam is saying that the Adversary, by the mere assumption on his part that they *can* be tempted, casts aspersions on their presumed integrity. If you think about it in the context of Satan's very unsubtle (and ultimately almost comic) attempt to "woo" Jesus with women, the nature of the "aspersion" is pretty clear--he insults the Son's integrity *and* his intelligence (as well as his piety, temperance, and so on) by the mere assumption that such a stupid bribe will work. Adam has already assured Eve that evil may come into the mind unbidden without tainting the person to whom the thought (or dream) occurs. Satan doesn't defile the object of his seductions by the mere fact of his attempt--but he does imply that they're capable of being tempted.

Best to all,

Carol Barton


  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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