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ENL 3230
British Literature 1616-1780

Class 6 -- 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." Read the notes provided on the handout for a summary.

DUE: Weekly Post #3 for Scotland and Ireland groups


The readings for today reflect, perhaps, the best known of the biblical stories that Milton adapted, the creation of Adam and Eve. For this reason, it is particularly interesting to compare the selections from Genesis with Milton's text. See Paradise Lost for excerpts from both the King James Bible and a modern bible to compare.



Reading Notes and Discussion Questions:


As you read the poetry, always aim for comprehension first. Milton's diction and epic similes can sometimes lead the mind away from the narrative he is developing. You need to pay careful attention to what Milton is doing in every line.

1.

Note in Book Four Satan's initial despair: "Which way I fly is Hell; myself am Hell" (4.75). Examine the implications of this statement.

Adam and Eve are introduced in the lines beginning at 289. How does Satan see them?

Note the description in lines 295-299. How does this characterize the sexes? What does this tell us about Milton's worldview? How important is this hierarchy in the outcome of the poem?

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?

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?

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 apple? (This question is different, perhaps, then why does Eve eat the apple.) 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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