[Milton-L] "Of female seed"

Dario Rivarossa dario.rivarossa at gmail.com
Sat Nov 28 01:56:13 EST 2015

Dear friends and scholars

while rereading Paradise Regained, I just noticed an interesting
detail. Maybe it is an excess of subtlety, but it made me curious. In
bk 1 (sorry, no line number: I own a very spartan edition), God says
that He can produce a new and improved Adam "Of female seed."
Now, this it does not look precisely the same at the usual phrase
"woman's seed" -- where "woman's" simply meant "passing through the
woman's body". It seems to convey the idea that the woman plays an
active role in the conception of a child, together with the male seed.

At that time, in the 17th century, in Italy the dominant philosophy
imposed by the Catholic Church was Aristotelianism, according to which
solely the man provided the seed / form / active principle, while the
woman passively provided the blood / matter to be shaped and turned
into an embryo.
Milton, besides being no Roman Catholic, was learned enough to know
that already among the ancient Greek philosophers there existed
different explanations of human conception.
Again: Is this an excess of subtlety, or did Milton really suggest a
non-Aristotelian embryology?

Many thanks.

il Tassista http://tassonomia.blogspot.it e http://stornielle.blogspot.it
co-artist with the Magic Trio http://tiziafra.wix.com/the-magic-trio

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