[Milton-L] Flaws

Neil Forsyth neil.forsyth at unil.ch
Thu Oct 24 09:45:33 EDT 2013


Many thanks to Carter and Stella for the plug. Interestingly enough, the version of the plague story is quite different in 2 Samuel  24 and 1Chronicles 21.1. In the latter it is indeed Satan who provokes David to call for the census, for which the plague is a punishment, but in the Deuteronomic Historian's earlier version it is Yahweh. I discuss the difference, and what it has to do with the development of the Satan figure, in The Old Enemy at pages 119-123. 

Yes, Johnson does discuss Spenser from time to time. Curiously, in view of the topic of this thread, he writes at one point that 'Allegory is perhaps one of the most pleasing Vehicles of Instruction.'

Neil Forsyth
neil.forsyth at unil.ch



On Oct 24, 2013, at 3:04 PM, Achsah Guibbory wrote:

> Carter, as usual you and Stella are brilliant!!!! 
> Achsah
> 
> Sent from my iPhone
> 
> On Oct 24, 2013, at 2:33 AM, srevard at siue.edu wrote:
> 
>> 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
>> it.
>> 
>> 
>> 
>> 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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