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20091022-930 Paradise Lost, Book 9 (Group 2)

Page history last edited by Cody 10 years, 9 months ago

Summary

 

     Today we discussed epic conventions as they appeared in Paradise Lost.  Milton attempts to go "above the Aonian mount", or write better than the Greeks, while trying to reinforce Christianity.  Similes appear frequently throughout the text, however, we see that passages about God (Book 3) do not contain similies, while passages about Satan do.  This is because God is above everything and nothing can compare to him.  Another reinforcement of Christianity is seen through magic.  Magic appears only when talking about Satan; his flight, turning into mist, speaking through the serpent etc...  However passages about God do not contain magic, because God is all powerful without the use of trickery or magic.

 

     We also discussed who the hero is.  We determined that God is a hero or Militon is not a Christian, however the story doesn't center around God. Adam has similar heroic characteristics to Rama; not omnipotent, image of God/God incarnate, self-sacrificing, and he could possibly be a tragic hero for the big mistake he makes of eating the apple.  Jesus could be a hero in that he is human, saves the world, and is the Birthright son.  Ironically Satan seems to fit the bill of an epic hero best.  He is comparable to Odysseus as a central character with his story followed closest, his quest to seek revenge on God, and his frequent reliance on metis to complete his quest. Twice his words help him get closer to his goal; first when he uses flattery on Death and Sin to get out of hell and then we he tricks Eve into eating the apple. This book can also be seen as Satan's epic, because the same way Adam and Eve lost Eden, this can be the story of Satans fall from grace and his Epic quest for revenge.

 

 

 

 

Word Count: 300


Passages

 

There are many passages that relate to Greek culture, especially the Odyssey.  The following passage is an example of Milton's direct correlation with characters from Homer's work.  The allusion to Scylla, the cave dwelling monster, is to compare it to Sin.  Milton displays Scylla's hideous qualities in order to show how Sin is even more terrifying.  Sin has many things in common with Dante's character, Geryon, as well.  They both have a human face and a stinger.  For Sin, there is a first impression of a fair, beautiful woman.  As the description continues, the danger of the stinger presents itself.  This is a metaphor for how sin seems appealing in the beginning but becomes dangerous once all is realized.  Here Milton goes "above the Aonian mount" by making his monster worse than those of Greek writers.

 

The one seemed woman to the waist and fair

But ended fould in many a scaly fold

Voluminous and vast, a serpent armed

With mortal sting.  About her middle round

A cry of hell-hounds never ceasing barked

With wide Cerbean mouths full loud and rung

A hideous peal.  Yet when they list would creep

If aught disturbed their noise into her womb

And kennel there, yet there still barked and howled

Within unseen.  Far less abhorred than these

Vexed Scylla bathing in the sea that parts

Calabria from the hoarse Trinacrian shore.

          Book 2, Lines 660-671

 

This passage coming from Book 1 when Satan is speaking is one of the most well known from Milton's Paradise Lost and shows how Satan uses words to convince his horde of demons.  His speech is to the demons in Hell explaining to them the freedom that they posses and the power that they hold.  Satan tells of God as an overzealous ruler that dictates all and that should be rebelled against.  He is rallying the deamons together.  The two most famous lines are "Can make a Heav'n of Hell and a Hell of Heav'n" and "Better to reign in Heav'n, then serve in Hell."

 

 

Is this the Region, this the Soil, the Clime,

Said then the lost Arch-Angel, this the seat

That we must change for Heav'n, this mournful gloom

For that celestial light? Be it so, since he [ 245 ]

Who now is Sovran can dispose and bid

What shall be right: fardest from him is best

Whom reason hath equald, force hath made supream

Above his equals. Farewel happy Fields

Where Joy for ever dwells: Hail horrours, hail [ 250 ]

Infernal world, and thou profoundest Hell

Receive thy new Possessor: One who brings

A mind not to be chang'd by Place or Time.

The mind is its own place, and in it self

Can make a Heav'n of Hell, a Hell of Heav'n. [ 255 ]

What matter where, if I be still the same,

And what I should be, all but less then he

Whom Thunder hath made greater? Here at least

We shall be free; th' Almighty hath not built

Here for his envy, will not drive us hence: [ 260 ]

Here we may reign secure, and in my choyce

To reign is worth ambition though in Hell:

Better to reign in Hell, then serve in Heav'n.

  Book 1 lines 242- 263

 

Milton often uses satan and his evil hoards as an inverted symbol of christ and God.  In this instance, Death is born as an inversion of Christ and Sin, his mother impregnated by Satan, her father, can be considered the polluted version of the Virgin Mary.  Line 782 draws a direct parallel between Death and Christ with Sin's statement "thine own begotten" in reference to the birth of Death as a parody of Christ's.  This passage also shows how cultures frown upon incest.

 

Pensive here I sat

Alone, but long I sat not, till my womb,

Pregnant by thee, and now excessive grown,

Prodigious motion felt and rueful throes.    [ 780 ]

At last this odious offspring whom thou seest,

Thine own begotten, breaking violent way,

Tore through my entrails, that, with fear and pain

Distorted, all my nether shape thus grew

Transformed; but he my inbred enemy     [ 785 ]

Forth issued, brandishing his fatal dart,

Made to destroy. I fled, and cried out Death!

  Book 2 lines 777- 787


Key Terms

 

Simile- comparison between two things as a means of further describing the initial subject

Comments (1)

Brian Croxall said

at 12:09 pm on Oct 30, 2009

Your notes for this day of class are excellent. The summary touches on the two main points of class--epic conventions and the problem of the text's hero--and your passages flesh out things that didn't have time to be touched upon in the summary. You've also chosen some of the passages that I think were most important from our reading. Perhaps my only comment would be that your second passage could make it clear that this is a moment when we might be tempted (pardon the pun) to consider Satan as the hero of the poem. All in all, excellent work.

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