Paradise Lost provides for the reader a built-in reading device which, through saving him from a single uncritical reading of the epic, stimulates his self-knowledge as an ignorant sinner. This is fully observed in the function of the form of soliloquy uttered first by Eve and echoed by Adam at the Fall, the traditionally defined epic crisis in the poem. By beguiling the speaker into a selfhood which is nothing but a Satanic appetence, the form of soliloquy betrays itself as the form of self-tempting. Only the reader can fully understand what is taking place in the speaker's mind. As for Adam's fall the need of soliloquy is more crucial because of his conscious self-temptation from the start. The reader witnesses that Edenic language deteriorates into fallen language that is enacted by, and acts on, the speaker who is falling. The once harmonious dialogue ceases to make the couple happy but drives them to face the shame of their nakedness and set them in enmity against each other. The fate of the honest language of their quarrel illustrates Milton's critical attitude toward the contemporary problem of the so-called improvement of the language for the secularistic sake of utility.

The text of this article is only available as a PDF.
You do not currently have access to this content.