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Paradise Lost: Bk X, XI, XII 
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Post Paradise Lost: Bk X, XI, XII
Book X, XI, XII Discussion

Please use this thread to discuss Book X, XI, XII



Last edited by Saffron on Fri Feb 27, 2009 10:38 am, edited 1 time in total.



Sat Jan 24, 2009 9:55 am
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Oh God. He's rather a drag, isn't he? After the drama of Book IX, Book X arrives with its machinery all manipulated by God to effect the changes on the world that result from Adam and Eve eating some fruit. So we get not only pain and disease, but extremes of weather, animals no longer immortal but at each other's throats, and many other symptoms of the fallen world. But God praises himself for his mercy, because one day he and the Son will rescue mankind (or part of it) and wipe out the whole Satanic crew for good. What they're waiting for is never explained.
I felt a bit sorry for the snake, condemned for nothing more than being inhabited by Satan. It reminds me of Jesus cursing the olive tree because it didn't bear fruit, or the Jews being cursed for killing Christ (even if they did kill him, shouldn't they be thanked for making man's redemption possible?). The book is such a set-up, and an illogical one. Makes one a little cranky.


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Wed Feb 25, 2009 11:07 pm
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Matters get a little better in BK X when the scene turns to Adam and Eve after their lapse, I mean in terms of the drama. It often seems that in PL what readers find compelling is what Milton doesn't intend, not what he does. As an example, when Adam is agonizing over his new misery, he goes through all the reasons that his punishment seems extreme, the justice of it mysterious. These are all reasons that Milton intends to expose as false, but as readers we say, "Yeah, good point, Adam!" Adam says, starting at about line 750, that reducing him back to the dust from which he came would be a just punishment for his crime. Why, then, add "The sense of endless woes," extending not just through life, but perhaps after death in perpetuity? Very good question. By the end of Adam's soliloquy, he has reconciled himself to the total justice of it all, but it is a reconciliation based only on "He's God and whatever he does is right." When the standard Christian theology is laid out for us like this, its threadbare logic becomes glaring.

When Eve enters to try to mollify Adam, there is a disconnect in the drama. Adam has accepted full responsibility for what he did, yet on seeing Eve he reviles her as a "serpent," berating her extensively for being the cause of his downfall and attributing to her gender a good share of the misery that will follow as humans live out their mortal lives. What interferes with Adam displaying more understanding is Milton's need to make sure his readers know that woman's weakness and manipulativeness are responsble for our woes. It is purely a mission of misogyny. This is the charitable interpretation of Adam's behavior. The less charitable one is that, like God himself, he is a prig.

By the end of the book, Adam is beginning to see the light, in the sense that he sees the possibility of a positive in the tragedy that has befallen them. It's not so bad to be be able to earn a real living, after all, he says. We can harness fire to keep us warm in the less hospitable world we have now. He is envisioning the transition from a non-evolved, not really human being, to the evolved human beings who invented the Eden story in the first place. This realization is to blossom in the next book as the expression of the "happy misery" (nice oxymoron) of the Fall.


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Thu Feb 26, 2009 11:05 am
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It's not so hard to dispose of Books XI and XII. They mostly are a recapitulation of biblical history-- for us, that is. Dramatically, for Adam, they are a prophecy, as the archangel Michael shows him from a mountaintop a panoply of human history played out below. The point is to show Adam the deep harm that his sin has injected into the human race for all time, but also to indicate by some positive examples what humans can do to "bruise the head of the serpent,", i.e., not allow Satan the dominion on earth that he expected to be his. This is pretty tedious reading that appears to be filler to expand PL to the required epic length of 12 books.

Eve speaks only once, I think, and that is to give her an opportunity to thoroughly abase herself and declare her everlasting satisfaction in submission to the man. She is then ushered off stage. Milton here presents to us his epic hero, Adam. The idea is that in accepting his fate and his new role on earth as revenger on Satan, he actually becomes greater than he was before. That may be true, but small accomplishment since he wasn't very great before. Jesus was later on called the second Adam, so we can see by that the esteem reflected back on Adam. Only it is somewhat hard to be very impressed by Adam's heroism. He doesn't achieve anything, he more or less submits. He does eventually enthusiastically take on the role of crusader against Satan, but I simply don't see heroism in him. His self-awareness seems lacking as well. He never acknowledges that his agreeing to eat the fruit was the cause of his troubles. As late as XI, l. 632, he says, "But still I see the tenor of man's woe/Holds on the same, from Woman to begin." Michael upbraids him: "from Man's effeminate slackness it begins..../who should better hold his place/By wisdom, and superior gifts received." However, Michael himself just a few moments earlier had announced to Adam that he would show him scenes of misery caused by "The inabstinence of Eve" (l. 475), so Eve is far from off the hook.

There is a curious shift in Books XI and XII, as Adam refers to his big mistake as being to seek forbidden knowledge. "Favor unmerited by me, who sought/Forbidden knowledge by forbidden means." (XII, 278-279) And again in XII, l. 558:

Greatly instructed I shall hence depart.
Greatly in peace of thought, and have my fill
Of knowledge, what this Vessel can containe;
Beyond which was my folly to aspire.

One would think he would frame his lesson as not giving in to the Woman, because that is what has been directly told to him. The cause of his fall was not seeking after knowledge of astronomy, etc., though he was warned to be "lowly wise." The Tree of Knowledge did not even concern the type of knowledge Adam was after, but instead the knowledge of evil, which up till then only God and the angels had. In any case, though, Adam did not seek even that knowledge. Tradition and PL are very clear that Adam was not deceived by the serpent's wiles, but ate the fruit because he was besotted with Eve.

Paradise Lost ends on a peaceful, even hopeful note. God had instructed Michael to usher the couple out of Paradise and to bar the way for anyone to ever return there. But he wanted this to be done with a certain gentleness. Accordingly,

In either hand the hastning Angel caught
Our lingring Parents, and to th' Eastern Gate
Led them direct, and down the Cliff as fast
To the subjected Plaine; then disappeer'd. [ 640 ]
They looking back, all th' Eastern side beheld
Of Paradise, so late thir happie seat,
Wav'd over by that flaming Brand, the Gate
With dreadful Faces throng'd and fierie Armes:

As we see the pair for the final time, they are once again hand in hand. Their prospect is also hopeful to an extent, even welcome to them, as they are now fully human beings.

Som natural tears they drop'd, but wip'd them soon; [ 645 ]
The World was all before them, where to choose
Thir place of rest, and Providence thir guide:
They hand in hand with wandring steps and slow,
Through Eden took thir solitarie way.


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Fri Feb 27, 2009 9:48 am
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DWill:

Quote:
I felt a bit sorry for the snake, condemned for nothing more than being inhabited by Satan.


I agree. Punishing the snake was completely unfair. The snake did not do anything.



Sun Mar 01, 2009 10:04 pm
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seespotrun2008 wrote:
DWill:

Quote:
I felt a bit sorry for the snake, condemned for nothing more than being inhabited by Satan.


I agree. Punishing the snake was completely unfair. The snake did not do anything.


I agree too! This afternoon I was just looking back over the last several books and came up with 2 observations I want to share. The first is that as part of the punishment God changes the climate on Earth. Instead of perpetual Spring, Milton has God create the changes of season. This struck me as funny in two ways. Milton's source for PL is the Bible which comes from the Middle East; which does have extreme conditions but no winter (except in the Mountains). As I thought about this I had to smile, one of the reasons I never wanted to go west or south to live is that I love the change of seasons and felt I couldn't do without each season.

The second observation is a thought I had after considering the immediate reaction that Adam has after he realizes that God is going to be pissed off at him for eating the apple. He turns on Eve, blaming her for his actions. He is now disillusioned with the woman he "loved" desperately only hours before (and do I even need to mention that it is this very love that gets him into trouble). Eve has not changed, however love is no longer blind. She was a vulnerable, flawed woman; now Adam can see her as she is -- naked. Isn't this, to some degree, what we all experience as the insanity of falling in love fades? This is the moment of truth in all love affairs; when the lover lets us down by turning out to be human after all, as they most certainly will. We are very lucky indeed if our partner still appears beautiful to us in all of their glorious nakedness.


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Thu Mar 05, 2009 4:10 pm
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Quote:
The first is that as part of the punishment God changes the climate on Earth. Instead of perpetual Spring, Milton has God create the changes of season.


How interesting! I did not think of this. It sort of reminds me of the Chronicles of Narnia, 'always Winter and never Christmas'.



Thu Mar 05, 2009 6:15 pm
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Book X beginning at line 389:


Th' Infernal Empire, that so neer Heav'ns dore
Triumphal with triumphal act have met, [ 390 ]
Mine with this glorious Work, and made one Realm
Hell and this World, one Realm, one Continent
Of easie thorough-fare.

I think this sounds a bit like the news these days. The bridge Sin & Death construct is the out of control lust for growth, profit and material possession.


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Fri Mar 06, 2009 5:35 pm
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