Milton and the Art of Rhetoric


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Shore demonstrates that Milton's renunciation of agency, audience, purpose, and effect in the prose tracts leads not to quietism or withdrawal, but rather to a reasserted investment in public debate. Shore reveals a writer who is committed to persuasion and yet profoundly critical of his own persuasive strategies. An innovative contribution to the field, this text will appeal to scholars of Milton, seventeenth-century literature, Renaissance literature, and the history and theory of rhetoric. Constraint as a Means of Persuasion.

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So Milton shows a Satan deeply isolated by his desires, because he cannot bear to put the common good before those desires. He exemplifies all that is dangerous about personal charisma, and his rhetorical dominance is bound up with that charisma. When Satan makes speeches to other people, he is always manipulative, always instrumental. He obtains an unobtrusive ascendancy in the initial debate between the fiends in Book II simply by speaking last, after they have argued themselves to a standstill.


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He has primed Beelzebub to set him up this way. Then, "with Monarchal pride" II.

Rhetoric

Beyond the bounds of hell his tricksily protean self-presentation becomes a visual metaphor too; he is a shape-shifter, sometimes cherub, sometimes toad, sometimes serpent. Actually this is because they have all been turned into snakes and have lost the power of language, but it is the shame of the failed speech which bites deepest:.

Team Milton: Rhetoric: The Art of Persuasion

And because Satan views all his relationships as instrumental, in terms of their means to power, he must be beyond measure lonely: Only the reader is allowed to witness — to overhear, really — a few rare moments when he speaks truth in isolation. These are, as critics have remarked, very seductive for the reader; but they are not, as on a stage they would be, shared moments. We spy on him spying on the mutual love of Eve and Adam and we hear what he thinks about it:. Satan, king of words, will never be able to risk the self-abandonment of true conversation.

For Milton, the judgment is damning. As Satan squares up to tackle Eve , Cicero, among others, is at his back: So standing, moving, or to highth upgrown The Tempter all impassiond thus began" IX. Romantic writers of the 19th century interpret Satan as something of a tragic hero, someone to be sympathized with in his struggle against the reigning power in Heaven.

Daniel Shore. Milton and the Art of Rhetoric.

In response to the sympathetic readings of Satan, critics such as C. However, it is difficult for contemporary readers to have a clear perspective on Satan in Paradise Lost. They heard, and were abashed, and up they sprung Upon the wind, as when men wont to watch On duty, sleeping found by whom they dread, Rouse and bestir themselves ere well awake. Choice implies consequence for characters and readers alike.

While Milton could not have foreseen future interpretations of the various translations of the Bible, it seems that Satan, Sin, and Death are a demonic parody of the Holy Trinity.


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  • Satan even spends seven nights planning the fall of man. Trying to construct a coherent version of Satan — and, therefore, of God — can be, for contemporary readers, nothing short of frustrating and confusing.

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    There is a continual dissonance between traditional epic depictions of a hero and narrative formations introduced by Milton to undermine the role of Satan as a heroic figure. Paradise Lost is indisputably a linguistically and theologically complicated text, especially for unsuspecting contemporary readers who are initially thrown for a loop by the introduction of Satan, having just awoken in Hell, who employs complex rhetoric in persuading his fallen comrades to join him in taking action against their punishment.

    The Reader in Paradise Lost. Harvard University Press, Grand Valley State University Library. Early English Books Online. Deconstruction and the Language of Satan in Paradise Lost. Logan Stephen Greenblatt, Barbara K. Lewalski, and Katharine Eisaman Maus.


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