Milton and Early Modern English Studies: "Forbidden Fruit as Impedimental Peach"
My article "Forbidden Fruit as Impedimental Peach: A Scholarly 'Pesher' on Paradise Lost 9.850-852" has been published in Milton and Early Modern English Studies, Volume 18, Number 2 (2008), and since I've woken up so late this morning, I'll just post the "Abstract" here and call it a day:
This paper builds upon recent scholarship by Robert Appelbaum, who has argued that John Milton depicted the forbidden fruit not as an apple, in our contemporary sense of the term, but as a peach instead, based upon the description of the fruit as "downy," among other characteristics. I find Appelbaum's interpretation persuasive, but what remains not entirely clear in Appelbaum's account is Milton's motive for choosing the peach. The implication seems to be that the peach's technical name, Malum persicum -- or "Persian apple" -- enabled Milton to associate the peach with paradise, supposedly located in Persia. The commonly described 'nectarous,' 'ambrosial' qualities of peaches would also perhaps accord better with the 'divine' forbidden fruit as a peach rather than as an apple. Milton, however, might have found additional motivation. As this paper shows, the poet could have been working with a couple of wordplays: (1) from the French pun on pêche (peach) and péché (sin) across the language barrier and (2) from peach (Malum persicum) and peach/appeach (accuse) within the English language. The argument relies upon circumstantial evidence and layers of interpretation to make its case. For instance, following their sin in eating the peach, Eve and Adam fall into mutual accusations in the postlapsarian portion of Book 9, in which they effectively "appeach," or "peach" (aphetic form of "appeach"), one another. Adam even 'appeaches' Eve rather formally before the divine judge early in Book 10 of Paradise Lost, and he does so in a way that Milton advises against in his Doctrine and Discipline of Divorce, in which he argues that one should deal privately with an adulterous wife rather than publicly appeaching her as an unfaithful woman. The argument is somewhat speculative, but it is justified, given Appelbaum's persuasive argument that the "downy" fruit is a peach, and it adds a potentially significant depth of meaning to how we interpret Milton's understanding of the forbidden fruit that brought evil into the world.Anyone interested in an electronic copy of the article itself can let me know, and I'll send one by email attachment.