[Milton-L] Re prelaps seasons: when is a question a good one?

Dario Rivarossa dario.rivarossa at gmail.com
Sat Jan 9 07:27:54 EST 2010


Something more about the hard times Milton had harmonizing his own poem and
the Bible.

After the first contact between Eve and the Serpent, something new happens:
the Tempter tells her, “It is not true that you will die. Look at me! I ate,
and I still live. More than that: I got a better status!”.
The ingenuity of this detail keeps shocking me from the first time I read
PL.

In Genesis it is simply assumed that the Serpent can speak, without giving
any explanation (I mean, in Wonderland every animal can speak; not so in the
Bible). In Genesis he no way says that he has already tasted the fruit, let
alone showing it as - supposedly - the cause of his sudden language. On the
contrary, in PL Satan acts as a “spin doctor”: he USES this very
circumstance as a trick to convince Eve.
This changes everything. That’s why Eve so quickly forgets God’s command.
Ant that’s why, in my opinion, it was honestly difficult to Milton to avoid
contradictions.

P.S. Cannot help putting PL constantly in relationship to Dante’s poem.
Dante had the rare opportunity to meet the very Serpent who tempted Eve
(Purgatorio, canto 8). Like PL, but unlike most Medieval paintings, the
Divine Comedy shows the adder as a different being from Satan: it was just
as a temporary “carrier” (Dante had personally seen Satan in Inferno, canto
34, where he had nothing reptilian).
Thanks to Dante’s Purgatorio we learn that the original Serpent was still
alive in the 14th century AD, some 18 centuries after the events, Biblical
Time. It was still dangerous, but it didn’t say a word.
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