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Eve in Milton and Lanyer

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  1. Aemilia Lanyer wrote Eve's Apologie in Defense of Women in 1611 as a feminist tract within a larger work, Salve Deus Rex Judaeorum. Although spoken from an unusual view point, that of Pontius Pilate's wife, the piece is principally about Eve of the Biblical creation story
  2. Lanyer's very first descriptions of Eve are consistent with perceptions of women in her time
  3. While Lanyer argues the radical idea that women should not be vilified for Eve's role in the Fall, she does not threaten traditional conditions of man's dominance
  4. In the original sin itself, Lanyer and Milton's Eves display different motivations. Lanyer's Eve is too ignorant to rebuff the serpent's overtures
  5. According to the Biblical story, Eve shared the fruit with Adam after she accepted it from the serpent; this part of the story, too is treated differently by each author

Aemilia Lanyer wrote Eve's Apologie in Defense of Women in 1611 as a feminist tract within a larger work, Salve Deus Rex Judaeorum. Although spoken from an unusual view point, that of Pontius Pilate's wife, the piece is principally about Eve of the Biblical creation story. About sixty years later, John Milton published Paradise Lost, an epic work that tells the creation story from the beginnings of heaven itself up to the point at which Adam and Eve are expelled from Eden. Eve, the first woman of God's creation, is historically held responsible for mankind's fall from grace. Eve's temptation and the resulting fall are at the heart of both works. Lanyer reinterprets the Biblical telling of the story, as does Milton; however, their depictions of Eve are quite different. Lanyer, writing as a female in a time of prevailing anti-feminist repression, chose to respond to classic misogynist arguments, creating an Eve who is good-hearted but ignorant; Milton, who chose not to directly address gender issues, instead presents a much more human Eve whose motivations and emotions are multifaceted. The social conditions surrounding Lanyer, including traditional notions that women are ignorant and emotional, necessitated a version of Eve that plays into such arguments, whereas Milton, as a man, is free to create a more complex character that equally represented women's value.

[...] This is ignorance in two senses: first, Eve's actual inferior intelligence, and secondly her lack of direct knowledge from God about the tree. Lanyer claims that [Eve] known of what we were bereaved,/To his request she had not condescended? (27-8). This explanation exonerates Eve of purposeful evil. In contrast, Eve's role in the temptation scene from Paradise Lost is much more involved. Satan, in the form of the serpent, has to try several different approaches before he persuades Eve to taste the fruit. [...]


[...] Eve in Milton and Lanyer Aemilia Lanyer wrote Eve's Apologie in Defense of Women in 1611 as a feminist tract within a larger work, Salve Deus Rex Judaeorum. Although spoken from an unusual view point, that of Pontius Pilate's wife, the piece is principally about Eve of the Biblical creation story. About sixty years later, John Milton published Paradise Lost, an epic work that tells the creation story from the beginnings of heaven itself up to the point at which Adam and Eve are expelled from Eden. [...]

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