[Milton-L] Sin, Death, and other improprieties

Watt, James jwatt at butler.edu
Tue Oct 29 13:50:33 EDT 2013

Dario Rivarossa:

it wasn't about Renaissance practice; it wasn't even about P.L.;
it was about stirring up the gang. Remember C.S. Lewis's remark
about Books XI & XII being "undigested lumps of futurity"? Same

jim watt
From: milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu [milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu] on behalf of Dario Rivarossa [dario.rivarossa at gmail.com]
Sent: Tuesday, October 29, 2013 8:54 AM
To: milton-l at lists.richmond.edu
Subject: [Milton-L] Sin, Death, and other improprieties

Having been off home in these past few days, I found a synthesis of
the M-L discussion about Sin and Death in Prof. H. Jeffery Hodges'
blog. Here's the brief remarks I posted there:

Your reconstruction of Milton's psychological process is vivid and
witty, but I can't get the point of Machaceck's problem. Renaissance
poems were full of allegorical figures. Milton, besides, had a big
classical culture, so he could easily remember Virgil's description of
the entrance of 'hell' in Aeneid 6.273-281, where a lot of allegorical
monsters were set, the first two of which being basically Death and
Sin (i.e. Grief and Remorse, v. 274). Then Milton reinterpreted this
in the light of James and Paul ("per peccatum mors," "through / out of
Sin, Death did come"), of course.

>Hodges: The problem lay in having real characters in a historical narrative interacting with unreal allegorical characters in a purely symbolic fable.

But precisely this was normal in Renaissance poetry and drama -- as
well as in Medieval plays before. See e.g. the whole episode of
Alcina's island in "Orlando Furioso," that shows a sort of hell on
earth (in fact, Tasso will draw on this when describing the actual
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