From reading of Paradise Lost(TM) book IX how has Milton Essay
What appear to be Milton’s main concerns-regarding gender issues?
Adam and Eve’s relationship is not portrayed as smoothly as some people may have pre-empted. Milton is keen to show the reality of life in his writing of ‘Paradise Lost’, this is achieved by the disagreement between the couple in book IX. During this period Milton also deals with many social concerns about gender that may have been raised at this period.
The relationship between Adam and Eve has been portrayed in a far from perfect way. Some would say that Milton is a Misogynist and tends to personify Eve as a weaker woman character:
“Sole Eve, associate sole, to me beyond
Compare above all living creatures dear..”
This language used by Milton whilst talking to Eve could be seen as patronising and supporting the belief that Milton believes women to be inferior. This belief would be understandable at this time period because most 16th century poets believed women to be the inferior sex, such as Shakespeare’s Katherina in ‘The taming of the Shrew’. However, Milton’s use of language here could simply portray the amount of care and love Adam holds for Eve.
This love and care that Adam expresses for Eve is portrayed throughout the poem by Milton. Although Adam disagrees with Eve in her decision to work alone, he does continue to offer his support and love:
“Daughter of God and man, immortal Eve,
For such thou art, from sin and blame entire:”
Milton could be portraying the belief that Adam truly does care and these are all positive attitudes towards her, re-iterating his love for Eve. However, some might believe that Adam is warning Eve of the dangers and reminding her of her position and the importance of her role. She is an example to future generations and should make God proud. This theory would mean that Adam is very sensible and responsible and takes his role seriously perhaps, unlike eve?
Milton does portray Adam in a more positive way that Eve. This would be expected once again due to the social context of the text. However, modern interpreters would consider this to be vital evidence that Milton was a Misogynist who believed that women first brought sin into the world:
“O woman, best are all things as the will
Of God ordained them, his creating hand
Nothing imperfect or efficient left…”
Some of the listeners would interpret this behaviour as sexist towards Eve. Adam becomes quite aggressive and refers to Eve as “Woman” which is seen to be disrespectful. Milton is trying to portray Adam’s attempt at controlling Eve. Eve’s character represents the women who are strong willed and determined, who challenge the conventional, quintessential idea of Women in the 16th century:
“The willinger I go, nor much expect
A foe so proud will first the weaker seek;”
This represents Eve’s assertiveness and stubbornness with which she maintains her original plans and ignores Adam’s advice of working together. Milton uses this to represent the women who challenge his possible idea that women are inferior and should be controlled by men.
Milton creates this relationship in a way which can be related to for many of the listeners during the 16th century. The idea that relationships are not perfect, even though Adam and Eve were the first human beings; they were unable to have an entirely perfect relationship without disagreement. Many of the women would have felt controlled by men at this time. Milton seems to exaggerate Eve’s wrong doings and her decision to work alone; he does this by the excessive comparisons to greek goddesses. This emphasises the theory that Milton believed women to be inferior:
“To Pï¿½lï¿½s or Pomï¿½na when she fled
Vertï¿½mnus, or to Cï¿½rï¿½s in her prime
Yet virgin of Proserpina from Jove.”
Milton’s comparisons become more and more sinister and express Milton’s prophesy of doom that is about to impact upon Eve and her decision to work alone. This blame for sin and wrong doing seems to be placed on the woman and it portrays a very negative image of Eve and her decision making.
Some might say that Milton uses Adam’s caring character to represent what happens when women are not controlled and told what is wrong and right. Eve is a perfect example of a disobedient wife who falls into a trap which was intelligently prophesised by the man of the relationship previously:
“Firm we subsist, yet possible to swerve,
Since reason not impossibly may meet
Some specious object by the foe suborned..”
This idea represented by Milton emphasises the critical thoughts that women are easily tricked and that men are able to for see these events. Milton uses the extremes of his characters to represent his views. He portrays Adam as a very intelligent and responsible male. Eve on the other hand is represented in a very poor way, as someone who makes bad decisions and cannot cope alone without the support of a male.
I believe that Milton was a sexist poet. His portrayal of Eve was unjust and exaggerated. He portrayed Adam as extremely wise and intellectual. These ideas would have been very impacting on a 16th century audience. However, now with modern critics of this poem Milton is consider a sexist in many peoples opinions.