By Harold Bloom
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Additional info for John Milton (Bloom's Classic Critical Views)
Even if the Son does not know about the Cruciﬁxion, he knows a good deal about the consequences of his offer; if we suppose the Father to have told him this beforehand we must still picture them, as M. Morand does, hammering out in private the scene of propaganda dialogue which they will present to the assembled angels. But their Heaven 43 background is impossible for us to envisage, and the Father may simply put into the mind of the Son as much foreknowledge as he chooses on the instant, so that the Son acts, as we would call it, spontaneously.
It was intended to be a perfect sinecure; there was no one to be let in and no one to be let out. The single occasion that presented itself for a neglect of their duty was by them eagerly seized. (p. 108) —though later he approves of the absurdity, because “they are the only creations of English poetry which approach the Latin in grandeur” (p. 238). Surely the explanation is very simple; God always intended them to let Satan out. Critics somehow cannot bring themselves to recognize that Milton does this steadily and consistently, after announcing that he will at the start.
De personnages extra-terrestres, le moins éloigné de la modestie est encore Satan. (p. 171) This is at least a splendid reply to the argument that pride is the basic fault of all the characters who fall. The Morand line of argument can be taken an extra step, to argue that the Son too is being cheated by the Father; and this excites a suspicion that there is something inadequate about it. He says nothing of the means of his death, and speaks as if he is going to remain on earth till the Last Day: Behold mee then, mee for him, life for life I offer, on mee let thine anger fall; Account mee man; I for his sake will leave Thy bosom, and this glory next to thee Freely put off, and for him lastly die Well pleas’d, on me let Death wreck all his rage; Under his gloomy power I shall not long Lie vanquisht; thou hast giv’n me to possess Life in my self for ever, by thee I live, Though now to Death I yield, and am his due All of me that can die, yet that debt paid, Thou wilt not leave me in the loathsome grave His prey, nor suffer my unspotted Soul For ever with corruption there to dwell; But I shall rise Victorious, and subdue My Vanquisher, spoild of his vaunted spoil; Heaven Death his death’s wound shall then receive, and stoop Inglorious, of his mortal sting disarm’d.