Thursday, November 21, 2013

Paradise Lost, Book Three: Spoilers!

One of the scholars on the Milton List linked to a very funny blog entry by Esther Inglis-Arkell on "10 Ways John Milton's Paradise Lost Is Like a Bad Comic Book," and here's what she writes about Book Three:
This is an interstitial book that's more focused on character study than actual plot development. This is fine. I've often found God to be a bit underdeveloped in books. Milton has God looking down at Satan flying up towards Eden. He remarks to his Son that he knows what Satan is going to do, and in fact he knows what Adam and Eve will do as well -- give in to Satan and fall from heaven -- but he's not going to interfere, because he needs to allow everyone to have free will. Fine. That's as good an explanation as any.

But then he goes on to spoil the whole story. And when I say, "the whole story," I don't mean just sucking the tension out of Paradise Lost. I mean God keeps gabbing until he reaches the book of Revelation. He talks about man's fall, he talks about Jesus's saving of humanity, he talks about how Satan will eventually be defeated once and for all, and how there shall be an eternal paradise. Letting alone that this is a kind of a reverse-villain's speech, he's totally ruining it for those who haven't read the Bible. Respect other people's work, Milton! Did God really have to speechify all the way through to the end of time? It's like a bad crossover, where one issue spoils the other.
I thought this 'critique' was hilarious, and so did some of the scholars at the Milton List, but other scholars there were annoyed at the humor -- reading it more as sophomoric ridicule of Milton than as humorous parody of blogger-style critique (though even if it were the former, it'd still be funny . . . and partly on the mark).

If I wanted to get picky, however, I'd note that Satan is not "flying up towards Eden" because he doesn't yet know of Eden; rather, he's flying up towards the universe, in search of mankind, of whom he has somehow heard a rumor . . .

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At 4:56 AM, Blogger dhr said...

Actually, Milton gives away the story from the very title: Paradise LOST.

At 5:27 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

And he does the same damned thing with the sequel! Some writers are just hopeless . . .

Jeffery Hodges

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At 5:44 AM, Blogger dhr said...

Do scholars know the name of the editor who prevented him from calling his other Biblical poem "Samson Blinded and Suicide"?

At 7:06 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

I heard he wanted it titled "Samson: Blind Suicide Terrorist Who Got His Strength Back in the End and Killed a Bunch of Philistines to Get Revenge on the Woman Who Betrayed Him, Though Maybe Also for the Glory of God, But That's Not Clear, And Would That Be a Good Thing Anyway?"

Jeffery Hodges

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