[Milton-L] Flaws

srevard at siue.edu srevard at siue.edu
Thu Oct 24 02:33:36 EDT 2013

This is Carter Revard again.  Stella and I have followed with interest this
thread.  Something that it seems to me (as to her also) has been completely
ignored, which matters very much, is that Milton did not just invent these
figures out of his English poet's mind. He drew them, did he not, in part from
Hebrew/Old Testament/Apocryphal/Talmudic/New Testament/Early Christian
writings? So it is somewhat sophomoric, jejune, pedantically mistaken, to sniff
and snuff and whoof (okay, shoot me?) without considering Sin and Death as to
some extent "found art." Any critical reading of Paradise Lost should consider
these facts. Milton "found" them, then he re-created them so as to advance the
action of his epic poem. He used the Greek birth of Athena as one "source" for
the birth of Sin; this is a part of his epic's reshaping all of Greek myth as
damned lies put about by demons.  He is rewriting, not just referencing, the
Bible and Homer and EVERY God-damned God-blessed THING.

Look, Milton knew a great many epic and other versions of Satan--Neil Forsyth
has done a great deal on a'that and a'that, eh what?--but his Satan is not
Dante's, nor Tasso's, nor Matthew's, and yet his Satan certainly comes directly
at one point in Paradise Regained out of 2 Samuel and 1 Chronicles, when Jesus
asks him bluntly about his having tempted David and brought down a plague upon
Jerusalem and the Israelites. Milton drew on damned near (literally damned?)
everything from everywhere to create his figures. Audacious is far too timid a
word to describe Milton's ambitious epic.

To take another instance of Milton's creating a dramatic character, Comus is not
allegorical, exactly, but like Sin and Death, has a very complex "parentage."
So should Comus not be interacting with the "real historical" children of a
particular noble English family in an actual English town and its castle?

Just for fun, how many of you want to stomp on Spenser for "mixing" historical
English figures in with the allegorical ones in The Faery Queene?  I can't
recall whether Sam Johnson ever read that poem, or had anything to say about

Quoting "Hugh M. RICHMOND" <hmr at berkeley.edu>:

> I do agree that our generic tastes are more circumstantial than absolute. I
> always saw Satan as a mere element of human consciousness (an allegorical
> figure?) not a complete personality, and his associates (and Sin and Death)
> as aspects or consequences of that frustrated egotism, which we see
> integrated into full human consciousness only in the psychological
> progressions of Adam and Eve. This is how they all emerged in our
> production of "Paradise Lost" (see "John Milton's Drama of 'Paradise Lost'
> ", Peter Lang, 1992). In our production, the encounter of Satan, Sin and
> Death was a real shock to the audiences - perhaps Milton's violation of
> decorum was deliberate. Best wishes, Hugh richmond
> On Wed, Oct 23, 2013 at 5:38 PM, alan horn <alanshorn at gmail.com> wrote:
> > We may regard our own standards of taste as natural and correct, but it is
> > interesting to note how different standards have prevailed at other times.
> > Addison and Johnson were offended by the mixing of modes and genres they
> > found in Shakespeare, a judgment which seems peculiar now when such
> > conventions no longer have the same significance. But overt allegory has
> > been out of fashion long enough that the allegorical interlude involving
> > Sin and Death tends to bother contemporary readers of PL as much as it did
> > certain eighteenth-century critics--we’re not used to THIS kind of mixture.
> > Registering our distance from the work in this respect is important to do
> > and can be instructive. But to take the conventions we’re used to for
> > timeless norms is, it seems to me, to fall into a rather old-fashioned
> > error.
> >
> >
> >
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> >

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