Paradise Lost

Speech and Performance in Paradise Lost

The world of Milton's Paradise Lost is a world of discourse, full of divine as well as human speech. When God creates Christ, he calls him "thou my Word, begotten son, by thee/ This I perform" (VII. 165-6). Indeed, the concept of the "Word" (Greek logos) figures centrally in the world of the poem ÃÂ" not only in the traditional figuration of Christ as "the word made flesh", but also in more general revelatory speech. In Book VIII of Paradise Lost, a dialogue between Adam and God about loneliness reveals the various natures and uses of such words. While God's speech is performative (in the sense of semantic use theory) and Adam's only descriptive, both work toward the ends of expression and request. In fact, Adam's use of speech mirrors that of the divine, setting up a figurative counterpart for the literal enactment God performs. Through speaking, Adam proves that he has learned to think, as he was made, in ÃÂÂthe image of GodÃÂ? (VII. 527) ÃÂ" to exercise free will in judging his own situation and in imaginatively constructing what he desires.

In Book VIII, Adam recounts to the angel Raphael his reply to GodÃÂÂs question: ÃÂÂSeem I to thee sufficiently possessed/ Of...

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