"Thir Sex Not Equal Seem'd": Equality in Paradise Lost

Michael Wilding


The first description of Adam and Eve is a crucial passage for our understanding of Paradise Lost. Not surprisingly it is provocative, confrontational, argumentative and fraught with ambiguity. How could it be otherwise? Twenty-five years ago Helen Gardner wrote of IV 296-9, 'No lines have, I suppose, been more quoted and quoted against Milton than these. But all that is Milton's is the unequivocal firmness and clarity with which he states the orthodox view of his age' Twenty years earlier, similarly troubled by the passage, Balachandra Rajan had resorted to a similar explanation: 'it typified the deepest and most impersonal feelings of the time.'2

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