[Milton-L] Adam's better half

Michael Gillum mgillum at unca.edu
Sat Aug 14 18:37:25 EDT 2010


Jeremiah, the entities were split into halves rather than thirds because
each entity was composed of a double person. They were rowdy, roly-poly
creatures with four arms, four legs, etc.

Michael

On Sat, Aug 14, 2010 at 4:09 PM, Jeremiah Douglas <jdcommonly at gmail.com>wrote:

> The OED, under "better, a., (n.), and adv. 3.c.:
>
> c. Hence, better half: orig. my better half, the more than half of my
> being; said of a very close and intimate friend (cf. ‘the better part of me’
> Shakes.; ‘meæ partem animæ,’ ‘animæ dimidium meæ’ Horace; ‘animæ
> partem...nostræ majorem’ Statius); esp. (after Sidney) used for ‘my husband’
> or ‘wife’; now, jocularly appropriated to the latter. Formerly also applied
> to the soul, as the better part of man.
>
> 1580 SIDNEY Arcadia III. 280 [Argalus to Parthenia, his wife] My deare, my
> better halfe (sayd hee) I find I must now leaue thee. [c1600 SHAKES. Sonn.
> xxxix. 2 When thou art all the better part of me. 1646 BUCK Rich. III, II.
> 61 As if his [Richard's] body must suffer more, because they could not kill
> his better part.] 1709 J. STEVENS Quevedo's Wks. 33 [A woman to her husband]
> Thou dear better-half of my soul. a1720 SHEFFIELD (Dk. Buckhm.) Wks. (1753)
> I. 274 My dear and better half is out of danger. 1742 R. BLAIR Grave 733 The
> lag flesh Rests, in hope of meeting once again Its better half [the soul].
> 1842 T. MARTIN in Fraser's Mag. Dec. 241/2, I..shall look out for a
> better-half.
>
>
> I would have guessed, however, that the concept (if not the English phrase)
> predates Sidney.
>
> Thanks for reminding me about Plato. Do you remember what happened when the
> three parts were split? Why halves and not thirds? And what happened to
> the hermaphroditic?
>
> Jeremiah
>
> On Sat, Aug 14, 2010 at 3:50 PM, Jason Kerr <aelfric at gmail.com> wrote:
>
>> The idea of a spouse or lover as one's "other half" goes back to Plato's
>> Symposium, in which one of the speakers (can't recall who at the moment)
>> proposes that people were initially created in three genders (male, female,
>> and hermaphroditic), but these people were too powerful, so the gods split
>> them in two--whence the idea of love as the quest for one's other half. Now,
>> as to when this other half became "better" (or "dearer," as Milton has it)
>> perhaps another list member will have more insight than I.
>>
>> Jason A. Kerr
>>
>> On Sat, Aug 14, 2010 at 3:38 PM, Jeremiah Douglas <jdcommonly at gmail.com>wrote:
>>
>>> Milton's Adam says of Eve in P.L. 5:95 "Best image of myself and dearer
>>> half" -- so, when did all this "better half" stuff start?
>>>
>>> Jeremiah
>>>
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>>
>>
>>
>> --
>> The purpose of poetry is to remind us
>> how difficult it is to remain just one person,
>> for our house is open, there are no keys in the doors,
>> and invisible guests come in and out at will.
>>
>>            —Czeslaw Milosz, from "Ars Poetica?"
>>
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>
>
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