Thursday, August 14, 2008

Milton's 'Apple' of Discord?

Peter Paul Rubens, The Judgement of Paris, ca 1636
No wonder there was discord!
(Image from Wikipedia)

Because today is a very busy one for me, I'll just post a remark by John Leonard, which I've lifted from his edition of Paradise Lost (Penguin Classics, 2003), for it contains Milton's oblique allusion to an 'apple':
[Milton] likens Eve to 'the fairest goddess feigned / Of three that in Mount Ida naked strove' (v 381-2). This refers to the beauty contest in which Juno, Minerva and Venus strove naked for the apple of discord. Paris awarded Venus the apple and so precipitated Troy's fall. Eve too will win an apple and bring about a fall. The simile is ominous. (Leonard, "Introduction," Paradise Lost, page xiii)
This "apple of discord," or malum discordiae (and note the pun on "evil of discord"), was probably not what we mean by "apple," for the Latin "malus" -- as we've already seen, and like the earlier use of the English word "apple" -- could mean practically any fruit.

Of course, since Milton is alluding to the malum discordiae, his own understanding of the expression would be useful to know. He does, at least once in his writings, use the expression "apple of discord." In Considerations Touching the Likeliest Means to Remove Hirelings Out of the Church, Milton refers figuratively to "an apple of discord in the church," but this says little to nothing about his view of the original affair.

As for figurative uses of malum discordiae, the scholar Eugene Stock McCartney states that the expression malum discordiae was "used figuratively by Justinus," and he gives a number of citations: "Justinus, xii, 15, 11. 2 Dial. Mar. 5; Dial. Deor. 20, 7. Cf. Hyg. Fab. 92; Tzetzes on Lycophron, 93; Myth. Vat. I, 208; II, 205" (Eugene Stock McCartney, "How the Apple Became the Token of Love," Transactions and Proceedings of the American Philological Association, Vol. 56, (1925), pp. 70-81). I'll need to figure out these references on my own later, but readers can have them for homework.

That's enough to chew on for today.

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