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ENL 3230
British Literature 1616-1780

Class 7 -- VIRTUE AND TRUTH -- THE EPIC --

Reading Assignment:

Note: Books I, II, IV and IX are included in the Demaria text, pp. 42-130; supplement your readings from the on-line Paradise Lost from New Arts Library.

    John Milton: selections from Paradise Lost 1667, 1674

    Book Four: (Satan enters Paradise; Adam and Eve)

      ll 1-775

    Book Five: (Eve's Dream>

      ll 1-135

    Book Nine: (The Fall)

      lines 1-1189

Also read the headnotes to each book for a statement of the "argument."

DUE: Weekly Post #4 for England and Wales groups


We will continue to discuss the readings from Thursday and move into a more detailed discussion of Adam and Eve in Paradise and their fall in Book IX.

I have also asked you to consider the meaning of the "Tree of Knowledge" and what the prohibition (which they transgress) signifies in Milton's poem.

Keep in mind some of the formal poetic devices that we reviewed in last class so as to practice some skills in close reading the lines; in particular we discussed blank verse, enjambment, amplification and epanalepsis, and inverted syntax. Also consider his use of epic similes.



Notes and Discussion Questions:


1.

How does Milton characterize Adam and Eve through their speech? What is Adam like? What is Eve like? In particular, what does Eve's memory of her birth suggest?

How does Satan react to Adam and Eve's love? What is the allegorical signficance of this?

Note Milton's description of the domestic bliss of Adam and Eve. In particular pay attention to the lovely lines of Eve: 635-658. These lines can be read alone as a love poem. Note how this exemplifies the different forms of poetry incorporated into the epic.

Milton's description of their connubial love is quite famous -- compare this description of sex with what follows after the Fall in book nine. What argument does Milton make in favor of wedded love?

Consider the last lines I asked you to read in Book IV: "Sleep on / Blest pair; and O yet happiest if ye seek / No happier state, and know to know no more" (773-775).

What does the poet's admonition suggest about the state of bliss /paradise? How might this relate to God's prohibition on the Tree of Knowledge? Given that the purported knowledge to be gained is that between good and evil, what does this prohibition (and admonition) have to do with Geoffrey's question regarding the presence of evil (ie. why does God allow evil to exist in paradise? Or at all for that matter?)?

Eve's dream in Book Five is important in terms of the action of the poem and the characterization of both Adam and Eve. What does the dream portend? Why does it upset Adam so much? What is his reaction? And what does his reaction tell us about his character?


2.

Book Nine begins with the poet's announcement of the upcoming fall. Why does Milton include this? What does this suggest about the voice of the poet? What does this suggest about the tragic scope of this epic?

He also includes another invocation at this point. What effect does this have?

In this important book, Milton makes many arguments. Eve will argue with Adam for her right to garden separately, and Adam will argue with Eve. Satan in the form of the snake will argue with Eve about the virtues of knowledge, and then Eve will argue with herself. One argument leads to another until after the Fall utter discord breaks out. Examine the allegorical significance of these arguments and results.

Why does Eve ultimately decide to eat the fruit? (This question is different, perhaps, then why does Eve eat the fruit.) Why does Adam follow her example? What consequences do they consider?

Compare the impulses described in line 1015 and on with the earlier description of pure love.

Why do Adam and Eve know shame at this point? What is the allegorical significance? Describe their communication after the Fall and compare it to earlier.


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