[Milton-L] assumptions about the fruit, a question for john leonard

Hannibal Hamlin hamlin.hannibal at gmail.com
Fri Apr 11 19:30:20 EDT 2014

I'm afraid I'm desperately far behind in this seemingly inexhaustible
thread. Plus, I'm writing from the SAA in St. Louis (how many here, I
wonder, think Shakespeare, contra Nigel Smith, is better than Milton?). If
the following seems out of place in light of what's gone before, I
apologize, but I find myself unsatisfied with the argument that the fruit
doesn't matter, which seems the prevailing view. I take the point about the
test being about obedience, but still. Milton is such an obsessively
gastric writer, I can't believe he doesn't think the fruit itself
important. Some things seem beyond absolute proof -- whether the FF is of a
totally different kind from the fruit of all the other trees, for instance.
(I suppose it might be a Cortland, whereas all the others are Macs and
Granny Smiths?) But the effect of eating the fruit is automatic, and
physiological. This particular fruit, when eaten and digested, has an
effect different from all the others. As others have noted, it is
intoxicating. It also seems an aphrodisiac. And whether it's flavor is
unique, it is certainly such as to stimulate the appetite (think of
whatever you can't eat only one of -- salted peanuts, Ritz crackers, BBQ
ribs). One could argue perhaps that these effects are not intrinsic --
Eve's appetite is unsatisfied because fallen, just as she and Adam rise
from sex unfulfilled. But Milton is constantly emphasizing food, digestion,
even excretion. Others know more than I do about Milton's
materialism/monism, but isn't it appropriate that the Fall of Man comes
about by eating something that doesn't agree with us? Of course, Adam and
Eve disobey God, but his prohibition is not, I think, arbitrary, but
connected to what this fruit does. (I know there are loads of theologians
who argue differently -- but they also have different views on angelic sex
and digestion, chaos and matter.) It's interesting in this light that God's
insistence that Adam and Eve must be expelled from Eden describes them as a
kind of waste product; what they have consumed and digested has altered
them physiologically (though for Milton body and soul are one), so they are
no longer a healthy part of the "body" of Eden, but must be purged or

But longer in that Paradise to dwell,
The Law I gave to Nature him forbids:
Those pure immortal Elements that know
No gross, no unharmoneous mixture foule,
Eject him tainted now, and purge him off
As a distemper, gross to aire as gross,
And mortal food, as may dispose him best
For dissolution wrought by Sin, that first
Distemperd all things, and of incorrupt


On Fri, Apr 11, 2014 at 5:21 PM, cbartonphd1 <cbartonphd1 at verizon.net>wrote:

> Good summation,  Oydin!
> Sent from my Samsung Galaxy S(R)III
> -------- Original message --------
> From: "Uzakova, Oydin Yashinova"
> Date:04/11/2014 4:28 PM (GMT-05:00)
> To: John Milton Discussion List
> Subject: Re: [Milton-L] assumptions about the fruit, a question for john
> leonard
>  Perhaps the last move could be:
>  The "taste" of the fruit of the forbidden tree is "unique" only in so
> far as it is prohibited from being known without disobeying the creator,
> because as soon as one tastes the forbidden fruit and thus has a chance to
> compare its flavor with other fruits, it becomes impossible.  Becoming
> immediately postlapsarian, this "new" taste cannot be accurately compared
> to prelapsarian Adam and Eve's tastes of Eden's other fruits.
>  Also, is it completely unthinkable to rephrase God's prohibition the
> following way: you must not eat the fruit of this particular (apple) fruit
> tree, *growing next to the Tree of Life*, nor is there any need for you
> to want it, since there are so many other similar (apple) fruit trees in
> the garden.  In other words, if a parent prohibits his children to taste
> apples from one particular apple tree while allowing them to do so from all
> of the other apple trees of the same species in the orchard, he still can
> say "amid the choice/Of all tastes else to please their appetite."  The
> children would still be tempted to taste the seemingly same apples from
> that "interdicted" apple tree simply because it was singled out by their
> parent.  That is why this particular (apple) tree's location is so
> important since there is no other sign of its difference from other trees
> of the same species.  That is also why Eve had to be physically brought to
> it by Satan before she realized that the fruit tree in question was in fact
> the forbidden one.
>  ------------------------------
> *From:* milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu <
> milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu> on behalf of Michael Gillum <
> mgillum at unca.edu>
> *Sent:* Friday, April 11, 2014 2:43 PM
> *To:* John Milton Discussion List
> *Subject:* Re: [Milton-L] assumptions about the fruit, a question for
> john leonard
>   I guess no one has laid out Greg's implied argument. This is how I
> understand it:
>  "So easily obeyed amid the tastes / Of all fruits else." A&E have the
> choice of all flavors different from the flavor of the forbidden fruit. If
> there were multiple trees of the FF kind bearing the same fruit, they would
> taste the same as the FF, and so would be forbidden.  However, we know that
> God singled out one particular tree for prohibition, the one growing next
> to the Tree of Life. Therefore, it seems that there are not multiple
> specimens of that kind.
>  I haven't figured out what Greg thinks would be Black's last move.
> --Michael G.
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Hannibal Hamlin
Associate Professor of English
Author of *The Bible in Shakespeare*, now available through all good
bookshops, or direct from Oxford University Press at
Editor, *Reformation*
The Ohio State University
164 West 17th Ave., 421 Denney Hall
Columbus, OH 43210-1340
hamlin.22 at osu.edu/
hamlin.hannibal at gmail.com
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