[Milton-L] Bk 3 and Jeffrey Shoulson's link

Bryson, Michael E michael.bryson at csun.edu
Sun Oct 27 16:37:29 EDT 2013

"Unless he's more heretical than previously imagined..."

Indeed. And is it really so hard to imagine? If so, why?

"Milton surely doesn't mean that sin gets you into Hell and more sin can get you out!"

Fascinating idea. Blakean in its suggestion of a road of excess, and drawn from a scene written by a poet/revolutionary who was hardly a model of moderation. Not really so hard to imagine, I think.

Michael Bryson

-------- Original message --------
From: Horace Jeffery Hodges <horacejeffery at gmail.com>
Date: 10/27/2013 12:53 PM (GMT-08:00)
To: John Milton Discussion List <milton-l at lists.richmond.edu>
Subject: Re: [Milton-L] Bk 3 and Jeffrey Shoulson's link

Maybe the solution is 'stupid' because there is no solution. At best, Milton can note that sin is the 'key' to entering Hell, so if sin can open the gates to admit sinners, then . . . but the allegory breaks down because Milton surely doesn't mean that sin gets you into Hell and more sin can get you out!

Unless he's more heretical than previously imagined . . .

Jeffery Hodges

Ewha Womans University
Seoul, South Korea

Novella: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00E18KW0K (The Bottomless Bottle of Beer)

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Bottomless-Bottle-of-Beer/204064649770035 (The Bottomless Bottle of Beer)

Blog: http://gypsyscholarship.blogspot.com/ (Gypsy Scholar)

Doctoral Thesis: "Food as Synecdoche in the Gospel of John and Gnostic Texts"

Ph.D., History, U.C. Berkeley
M.A., History of Science, U.C. Berkeley
B.A., English Language and Literature, Baylor University

Home Address:

Dr. Sun-Ae Hwang and Dr. Horace Jeffery Hodges
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On Mon, Oct 28, 2013 at 4:39 AM, James Rovira <jamesrovira at gmail.com<mailto:jamesrovira at gmail.com>> wrote:
Louis --

Thanks very much for the response. I don't mean to call the entire episode stupid. Remember, I did take pleasure in it as well. I only meant to claim that its function as an explanation of how Satan gets out of Hell is rather stupid. Elsewhere in PL Milton seems to be aware of conceptual problems associated with his narrative, such as the guilt of the snake, and he addresses them. We may or may not be satisfied with his solutions, but at least he offers them. I've just reread the Sin and Death episode, and I don't see a solution to what I perceive as a conceptual failing offered here, but I do still take pleasure in the imaginative qualities of the episode. I can see how an episode such as this one can inspire Blake and how it would make for great film.

Here's another way that I would rephrase the problem that I see with this part of the narrative: Is it credible that the God of PL couldn't see this coming?


The key of this infernal Pit by due, [ 850 ]
And by command of Heav'ns all-powerful King
I keep, by him forbidden to unlock
These Adamantine Gates; against all force
Death ready stands to interpose his dart,
Fearless to be o'rmatcht by living might. [ 855 ]
But what ow I to his commands above
Who hates me, and hath hither thrust me down
Into this gloom of Tartarus profound,
To sit in hateful Office here confin'd,
Inhabitant of Heav'n, and heav'nlie-born, [ 860 ]
Here in perpetual agonie and pain,
With terrors and with clamors compasst round
Of mine own brood, that on my bowels feed:
Thou [SATAN] art my Father, thou my Author, thou
My being gav'st me; whom should I obey [ 865 ]
But thee, whom follow? thou wilt bring me soon
To that new world of light and bliss, among
The Gods who live at ease, where I shall Reign
At thy right hand voluptuous, as beseems
Thy daughter and thy darling, without end. [ 870 ]

Of course Sin feels more loyalty to Satan than to God. Do we need to be God to figure that out?

I'm only offering one criticism of one feature of the episode, though. I don't mean for my claim here to exhaust everything important and interesting that can be said about the episode, which I agree would be mistaken to attempt. I would say in fact that even the failure is instructive, perhaps revealing something about attitudes towards authority and towards rebellion. If I were to develop my ideas along those lines, I may be led to say something rather interesting about this episode, but that wouldn't mean that the episode wasn't flawed: my (hopefully) interesting remarks would only be possible because of the flaw.

Now suppose I took back my language calling this feature of the episode stupid and only suggested that I see a serious conceptual problem in terms of narrative development? Milton gives Sin the keys to the gates of Hell in keeping with the allegory, but in the process makes his God look rather ridiculous because Sin then rather predictably lets Satan go. How might you respond to that criticism? I realize I should reread Bk 3 as well, but I haven't yet.

Jim R

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