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Paradise Lost by John Milton - Barron's Booknotes
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LINES 451-653. MARRIAGE AND PARADISE

Do you know the word "uxorious"? It comes from the Latin "uxor," the word for "wife," and it is used to describe a man who is under his wife's domination (not henpecked-that's too small an idea). Adam comes dangerously close to uxoriousness in his adoration of Eve.

He has some excuse for his extreme love, for she was formed from a part of his own body. No other couple can possibly enjoy such closeness. Adam knows very well that she is intended to be his inferior, that she is less like God than he is. But this means nothing when Eve is near. What she wants to do or say "seems wisest, virtuousest, discreetest, best." She knows more than knowledge, is wiser than wisdom, has greatness of mind and "nobleness" as well.

Raphael isn't entirely pleased to hear Adam's extravagant praise of his wife. Adam, he says, don't be unwise in overvaluing what your better judgment tells you is "Less excellent." Eve is to be loved, but she must not rule. Sexual love should also not be overvalued, for animals reproduce in the same way and are lower in the universal order. Adam must love with reason, as suits a man.



Adam feels the force of this rebuke and hastens to assure Raphael that it is not Eve's body but her character which enchants him: "those graceful acts / Those thousand decencies that daily flow / From all her words and actions." He turns to Raphael: since love is the highest emotion and leads to Heaven, do angels love? And if they do, can they touch?

Raphael blushes as he explains that angels need no physical apparatus to express their love. With relief, he points out to Adam that the sun is going down and he must leave. He delivers a final summary of the advice he has given Adam throughout their long conversation (it has lasted more than three books of the poem) and departs.

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