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

Michael Gillum mgillum at unca.edu
Sat Jan 9 10:25:07 EST 2010


Satan already knew the dietary rules before conversing with Eve. He learned
them while eavesdropping on A&E's conversation in Book IV. So he is
definitely playing dumb.

According to PL, the reason for the prohibition is not that "you will die,"
nor, as in Genesis, to keep the humans from becoming godlike. The reason for
the prohibition is to prove A&E's continuing fealty to their creator. This
is an ethical justification that Eve has understood and approved, but that
she forgets when Satan claims that the Man is tryin' to keep her down.

In your post about the serpent's speech, you are correct. Milton has
contrived to make Eve's test much more strenuous than it is in the Bible,
thereby showing respect for Eve's abilities. One way he does this is to have
the previously silent serpent speak, thus providing evidence for the truth
of his claims about the fruit. In Genesis the subtle serpent seems already
to have had the power of speech.

I enjoy your comparisons to Dante. You make me want to reread P & P, which I
haven't visited for a long time.


On Sat, Jan 9, 2010 at 7:27 AM, Dario Rivarossa
<dario.rivarossa at gmail.com>wrote:

> 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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