John Milton – “Paradise Lost” Book 11

The prayers of Adam and Eve are carried to the throne of God. Milton, as a good Protestant, doesn’t omit to point out that Adam and Eve wouldn’t be able to pray without God’s prevenient grace. The Son brings the prayers to God and asks him to accept his sacrifice on their behalf. God accepts, which is not a surprise, since he already agreed to do so, but he says they have to be expelled from the Paradise, or rather the Paradise itself will expel them, because their nature became now too gross for the refined air of the Paradise. He gave man two gifts, of happiness and immortality, and without the former the latter would be more of a punishment. God summons all his angels and tells them that now man knows of good and evil, although it would be preferable for him to know only good. Now to prevent him from eating from the Tree of Life and achieving immortality, or dreaming of immortality, he needs to be expelled from the Paradise. The Helpful Footnote adds that Milton used the qualifier “dream” to indicate that God’s words, taken from Genesis, are ironic. What he really does here, I think, is trying to make this part of Genesis match the traditional Christian interpretation, so he explains the word “we” used by the monotheistic God by making it mean “me and my angels”, and he tries to make the words about the fruit from the Tree of Life appear like a bad joke, although it really doesn’t make sense. His God gave earlier a perfectly good explanation to his Son, and the only reason for his later explanation “we must prevent Adam from eating from the Tree of Life” is that it appears in the Book of Genesis. But it doesn’t quite square with his earlier explanation: if man had been created immortal and lost his immortality because of the original sin, no amount of the miraculous fruit would have saved him.

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