The Role of Eve in Paradise Lost

1589 Words May 22nd, 2008 7 Pages
The importance Milton attached to Eve’s role in Paradise Lost and in the Garden of Eden is now recognised and acknowledged. (Green, 1996) Milton’s treatment of Adam and Eve’s relationship is complex. Sometimes referring to them in ways that indicate equality, (ibid) sometimes stressing their separateness as individuals (ibid) and other times they are complementary halves of a whole. (ibid) Taking on the view that many support; that Milton intended Eve to seem completely inferior to Adam, we can examine Eves role in the fall.
Traditionally, readers and critics have responded to Eves actions with compassion and concern. (Revard, 1973) Two critics who particularly react this way are Dennis Burden and Fresdon Bowes. (ibid) A.J.A Waldock has
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If Adam had forced Eve to stay with him, he would have Eve’s without free choice. This would have tarnished the liberty of Eden. (ibid)
Adam has tried to make clear to Eve what her responsibilities are and what her place is in the garden. He has also warned her of the dangers in the garden. Eve knows also of the dangers of Satan by overhearing Raphael talking about them “as in a shady nook I stood behind.” (Levi, 1996) Eve is clearly at a disadvantage in encountering Satan in an intellectual debate; however Milton does lead the reader to question the role of intelligence in the poem. It wasn’t the intellectually able angles “the politically astute Beelzebub and the rhetorically expert Belial” (Revard, 1973 p.76) who unmasked Satan in Book V. Many feel that Adam is guilty of negligence; however, others feel that he is merely an ineffective leader. (Revard, 1973) Stella p.Revard goes as far as saying that God is in fact to blame. Since refusing Eve the permission to leave would break the rules of free will “then God is blameworthy for having left uncompelled the wills of human beings in the first place and having permitted Satan the opportunity to try them.” (Revard, 1973 p.74)
Is it only Milton’s portrayal of Eve that is the cause of so much controversy? In examining two different examples of the portrayal of Eve, the reader can decide if it was Milton who created the controversy surrounding Eve, or if the
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