The Evil Eye in Paradise Lost, Book 4
CHERYL H. FRESCH
Over the past twenty-five years, both genre theory and postmodernist theory have enriched readings of the intertwined roles of Satan and the bard in book 4 of Paradise Lost. In “Paradise Lost; and the Rhetoric of Literary Forms”, for example, Barbara Kiefer Lewalski, pointing out that Milton concentrates many epithalamic topoi in the fourth book of his epic, explains that within this sequence Milton casts himself as “choragus or master of ceremonies,” much as does Catullus in his epithalamic lyric 61.1 Gary M. McCown, in “Milton and the Epic Epithalamium,” anticipated Lewalski in this reading, recalling that the traditional choragus “uses language magically to make things happen,” as when the Miltonic bard “addresses the deity presiding over these nuptials 'Hail wedded Love' ” (4.750) or when he “addresses Adam and Eve directly” with “Sleep on / Blest pair” (773–74).2 McCown also argues that Milton's epithalamium presents both Satan and the bard as choragus, thereby establishing them as “rival choragi who vie to control the outcome of [Adam and Eve's] wedding”: “It is Satan's presence within the garden, of course, which makes the poet anxious for the future. And it is through Satan's eyes, moreover, serving as a kind of sin-tinted glass that we observe the couple's danger throughout the epithalamium.”3 Reexamining this application of genre theory, Sara Thorne-Thomsen departs from both Lewalski's and McCown's readings by identifying Satan and the bard as rival choruses, like those in Catullus's lyric 64, rather than rival choragi, but (in agreement with McCown) she also proposes that Satan and the bard have a “shared perspective.” Thorne-Thomsen notes, however, as McCown does not, that Satan's departure well before the bard's encomium to marriage, “Hail wedded love,” precipitates a change in the bard that she believes leaves him “chastened.”4
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Publication information: Book title: Living Texts: Interpreting Milton. Contributors: Kristin A. Pruitt - Editor, Charles W. Durham - Editor. Publisher: Susquehanna University Press. Place of publication: Selinsgrove, PA. Publication year: 2000. Page number: 118.
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