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They were commissioned by the Reverend Joseph Thomas at an unrecorded date, sometime before Although the sheets were trimmed at some time, obliterating the date from several, some still retain the date of , establishing the year of their completion. Thomas' grandson inherited them from his father, and sold them at Sotheby's in By they were in the collection of Alfred Aspland, who by took them to Sotheby's again, dispersing the set among several downloaders. Henry Huntington reunited the works in , and today they are still in the collection of the Huntington Library. The Butts set The dimensions of the Butts set, also known as the "large set", are

Dated , they were commissioned from Blake by his patron Thomas Butts, who also commissioned many paintings on biblical themes from Blake. In the early s, Butts' son Thomas Butts Jr. Today it remains divided between four museums. Nine of the paintings were sold at Messrs. Foster in to J. Strange, passing through several other hands before they were acquired by the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston , their present owner.

The other three were sold to one "Fuller" at an unknown date, from whom they passed to H. Munro further complicated matters by selling the three paintings to separate downloaders at Christie's in These are exactly the same as their corresponding entries in the Butts set in both size and composition, the major difference being their loose handling of the watercolor.

An entry in Linnell's journal dates the commission to 9 May Sanesi ed. Danielson ed. See B. With them he blended notions derived, directly and indirectly, from rabbinic commentaries, apocryphal documents, Christian-Lat- in biblical epics, medieval legends and recent plays, poems and tracts on the same subject Through the words of the protagonists, a series of significant topics is dealt with, which express the personal ideas of John Milton.

As a political activist and Presbyterian Milton wrote several pamphlets against corruption within the Catholic Church and in particular within the Anglican one; some of these pamphlets even caused his imprisonment.


The expression of such ideas both in his poems and in his prose led to his gradual estrangement from Presbyterianism, thus making him an advocate of the abolition of religious figures such as priests and bishops, and, subsequently, of the suppression of any kind of Church.

With Paradise Lost Milton aimed to show what the fall of the first parents had caused and its consequences for the world, both positive and negative. Moreover, as he states in ll. Actually, despite describing God as a strict judge like the poet of Genesis B, Milton develops the felix culpa topic, according to which the banishment of the first parents from Eden should be understood not as a tragic and negative event, but as a positive opportunity for humankind13 as, in this way, God has given them the chance to redeem themselves through repentance and true faith, thus allowing the coming of the Redeemer Is it possible that Milton came into contact with the texts contained in the codex?

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The issue is long-standing and extremely complex, and 11 Ibidem. Rumble, Junius manuscript, in Medieval England: An Encyclopedia, P.

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Szarmach — M. Tavormina — J. Rosenthal ed. Some of those scholars, such as Masson, deemed plausible that Milton may have come into contact with the texts before his blindness16; others, including Conybeare17 and Lever18, have speculated that Junius him- self might have talked to Milton, reporting the contents of the codex. Masson him- self in his biography of Milton pointed out how Christopher Arnold, future professor of history at the University of Nuremberg, reported his meeting with the poet on 7 August Arnold stated that he had been admitted to the library of Selden, who was working for the Cottonian Library and had allowed him to consult some significant ancient man- uscripts.

He also confirms the personal relationship between Milton and Junius, also stating that the latter at that time was working on an Anglo-Saxon grammar and dictionary However, other scholars, such as Halleck for example, argue that it is not certain that Milton was aware of the existence of the Old English Genesis, for he was already blind three years before it was published by Junius In addition, Gollancz claims that the similarities between the Genesis poem and Paradise Lost are nothing but interesting coincidences Moreover, there is no evidence for the possibility that Milton had abilities in Old English; Disraeli, for example, concluded that Milton was not familiar with the language Tim- 16 D.

Conybeare, London , p. Benskin — B. Murdoch, The Literary Tradition of Genesis: Of the Old English Theolo- gians and their commentaries on the Books of Holy Scripture, the erudition of which I can attest, he seemed to me altogether to entertain [ Masson, The Life of John Milton, 4, pp. Gollancz ed. At that day, who did? On the contrary, Bolton26 proposes the comparison between selected passages from the Old English Genesis and Paradise Lost; the most noteworthy compares a passage relating to the construction of the Tower of Babel ll.

Wuelcker thus concludes that it is improbable that Milton could have read the Old English Genesis in the original language; however, he could not rule out that anyone could have read it on his behalf and reported its contents Consequently there is no concrete evidence for the possibility that Milton knew the texts of Junius 11, since there are no documents to corroborate or refute this possibility.

Nevertheless, the correspondences that will be examined in this paper support the likeli- hood of the influence of the Anglo-Saxon poem on Paradise Lost. In this regard, beyond the theories advanced by scholars so far, it is crucial to keep in mind that, as noted by Turner30, during the period in which Milton was active there were some Latin translations, albeit perhaps inaccurate and unsatisfactory, of the Old English Genesis.

Moreover, the so- 25 B. Timmer, ed. Bolton, A further echo, pp. See H. This theory is shared by Bradley, who argues that the poet, in his History of Britain, used some versions of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle as sources, but probably not in the original language. See A. Bradley ed. His interest in such languages and literatures thus offered a wealth of literary sources for his texts. For this reason, it seems reasonable to presume that among the many languages with which he was familiar Milton could also understand Old English and have access to Anglo-Saxon literature.

As a matter of fact, as noted above, his History of Britain testifies to his interest in the past of his nation and in the Anglo-Saxon period, as the use of Bede and of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle as sources also demonstrates. It seems therefore incorrect and im- proper to rule out a priori the possibility that Milton could know the Old English Genesis and that he could have drawn on, and have been influenced by it during the composition of Paradise Lost.

Rewriting, reuse, and the problem of the sources In order to compare the two poems, it is essential to bear in mind the complex issue of their sources.


As mentioned above, at a first reading it is evident that the two texts share a series of topoi deriving from a common literary tradition.

For example it is particularly evident in the physical descriptions of Hell, which in both texts occur after the defeated demons have been hurled into their new dwelling. In both poems the passage from Paradise to Hell is not just a physical movement but also emphasizes the altered relationship between God and Satan: Both poets describe the new abode of the devils as consisting of a deep and narrow ravine where absolute darkness reigns, symboliz- ing the punishment inflicted on the brightest of the angels.

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In Genesis B Satan, who indeed desired a higher throne, is now forced to live in a place totally in contrast to its previous condition, dominated by darkness and featuring immensely long evenings, bitter cold, icy and sharp wind, a paradoxical place where obscurity coexists with the flames of eternal tor- ment, which also produce an acrid smoke ll. In Paradise Lost Hell is a gloomy place as well, where darkness is not only dim and obscure in a physical sense but also from an allegorical and psychological point of view.

Regarding the sources of Genesis B, the plot of the poem differs from the Biblical ac- count in several aspects. For example, the fact that Eve is not tempted by Satan himself but by an emissary because the devil is bound in Hell and cannot move, is very unconven- tional and, as noted by the scholar, probably derives from the Book of Enoch The scholar then observes that the presence of two antithetical trees in the Garden of Eden — the Tree of Life and that of Death — is not Biblical and could have been drawn from Ambrose and Alcuin.


Regarding the account of the temptation of the first parents, Robinson focuses on the mitigation of the sin of Adam and Eve. The scholar highlights interesting parallels in the temptation episode of the Latin Vita Adae et Evae, where the fiend transforms himself into an angel of light, as well as in the Greek Apocalypse of Moses, where Eve relates the story of their fall to her children and states that Satan appeared to her in the form of an angel The issue regarding the sources of Paradise Lost is, if possible, even more complex than in the case of Genesis B, for, as already noted above, Milton could access an extremely large number and variety of texts, that he assimilated and from which he took inspiration; hence the vibrant literary richness of his poem but also the difficulty in tracing the texts that have actually influenced him in his writing.

Each of the languages that Milton read produced sources for Paradise Lost. Ambrose, to name just one of the authors Robinson, A note on the sources of the Old Saxon Genesis, p. Campbell, Milton and the Languages of the Renaissance, p. Campbell, Milton and the Languages of the Renaissance, pp. No poet has ever exploited them more extensively and more deliberately than Milton From this brief introduction to the sources of the two poems it is thus evident that both Genesis B and Paradise Lost are two different rewritings of the same Biblical and apocry- phal episodes.

As a matter of fact, both poets, even separated by centuries, created two original texts of undoubted literary richness and complexity drawing on and reusing ex- isting — and sometimes shared — sources. The character of Satan is part of this rewriting: This results in greater difficulty in discerning whether and to what extent Milton was actually influenced by Genesis B. However, the similarities between the two poems, which will be examined in this study, suggest that Milton was veritably influenced by Genesis B in writing his masterpiece.

It is indeed very curious and interesting to notice how the two poems share the same differ- ences from the Biblical account and the same references to apocryphal sources in similar narrative contexts.

Since we are dealing with two rewritings of the same episodes, it seems incorrect to look for exact matches or for the occurrence of precise phrases in the two poems as evidence for the possible influence of the Anglo-Saxon poem on Paradise Lost.

It seems more appropriate to look for echoes of, and references to, the Anglo-Saxon poem, and to search cues, imagery, and ideas that Milton may have assimilated and then rewritten and reused in a new and original way. It is therefore necessary to reconsider the two poems on the whole, focusing not only on echoes, but also on passages in which both diverge from the Biblical account in order to determine whether they share interesting similarities.

For example, both poets repeat the story of the fall of the rebel angels twice: When the first parent asks who this en- emy is, the angel tells the story of the war caused by Satan and the fall of the rebel angels Another similarity regards the two different physical shapes of the tempter.

As already noted, the text of Genesis B follows an apocryphal tradition and the emissary chosen by Satan to tempt the first parents appears in the shape of an angel of light However, before the temptation he takes the shape of a snake by means of devilish craft In addition, in one of the illuminations that accompany the poem, the tempter appears as a serpent, while in some others he is depicted as an angel.

In Book IX, instead, Satan is described as the serpent of Biblical tradition as he appears to Eve, approaches her, and persuades her to eat the forbidden fruit For now, and since first break of dawne the Fiend, Meer Serpent in appearance, forth was come, And on his Quest, where likeliest he might finde The onely two of Mankinde, but in them The whole included Race, his purposd prey ll.

In addition, the fact that both poets somehow lighten the sin of Adam and Eve, albe- it in different ways, is particularly relevant. Given the similarities between Genesis B and Paradise Lost some of which have already been mentioned, others will be highlighted in the analysis of the characterization of Satan and given that Milton had the extraordinary ability of drawing on various sources, thus implementing a personal and original rewriting, it is plausible that he derived the felix culpa topic from Genesis B.

Consequently, it is possi- 49 See also A. Milton might have been struck by the unconventional treatment of the episode so that he lightened the sin of the first parents, but in a completely different way. Through the Original Sin God will allow the coming of Christ the Redeemer and thus the salvation of humankind, as the Archangel Michael foretells while consoling Adam Through a series of opposites the first man stresses the fact that from his deplorable sin much more good for humankind will derive: O goodness infinite, goodness immense!

That all this good of evil shall produce, And evil turn to good; more wonderful Then that which by creation first brought forth Light out of darkness! Different ways of representing Satan The choice of focusing this comparative analysis on Satan is due to the fact that he is the protagonist and the most complex figure in both poems.

In Genesis B, however, Satan is not one among others but is the chief protagonist: He is a character qualified by a very complex narrative and psychological dynamic. As the scholars have observed, his character is extremely con- tradictory and ambivalent in that he has a plurality of meanings: Satan is the most interesting character of Paradise Lost in that he is the most developed character, not only in terms of the rich literary style, but also in terms of characterisation.

As Carey puts it As a dissimulator, he displays imagination in ways that are unavailable to God or the other good characters. Unlike him, they do not depend on lies, so the constant imaginative effort by which Satan sustains himself is foreign to them.

They remain, from the viewpoint of imagination, relatively undeveloped beings Even at a first reading of the poems despite both accounting for the fall of the rebel angels, their revenge, its fulfilment in the temptation of the first parents, and their expulsion from Paradise it soon becomes clear that the two poets have employed different strategies in the characterization of Satan.


In Genesis B he is treated as a static figure, in that he never changes his mind and keeps pursuing his evil goal without hesitation; he is coherent and linear, as he never evolves; he is a flat character, also considering the fact that he is described concisely and schematically.

Molinari, La caduta degli angeli ribelli: Kaiter — C. Milton devotes a good portion of the first books of the poem to the description and characterization of Satan, who changes significantly from Book I to his final appearance in Book X.

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As a matter of fact, at first he is described as an imposing titan and as a respect- ed and trusted leader, but throughout the poem he undergoes various metamorphoses, transforming gradually into a smaller and smaller creature for example, a cormorant and a toad , and in the temptation account he takes the shape of a serpent.

His darkness is both physical and psychological, but also allegorical, for obscurity implies distance from God as well as from his former great status. Although he has deep scars on his face due to the battle against God, his facial expression still betrays his pride and his need for revenge Book I, ll. He oscillates between remorse and defiance. He confesses that his rebellion was com- pletely unjustifiable […], even Satan […] admits God was right.

Milton gives Satan the status of the tragic hero, providing him with a vivid language characterized by a lively rhetoric, in contrast with God, whose vocabulary is rather dull, flat and devoid of metaphors However, Milton depicts him also as an anti-hero, given the fragility of his heroic vir- tues and their susceptibility to demonic perversion As Kaiter and Sandiuc put it Milton does not accept the standard interpretation of the heroic figure, he reinvents it. He creates a character who is at once someone we tend to appreciate as heroic, and someone we want to see defeated.

He is the antagonist who drives the plot with his machinations, the great adversary who we are to loath for his rebellious nature and a character with a great vital force of his own, even if it lies in the direction of evil In using this device in Paradise Lost, Milton was aiming to make his story and his protagonist more dramatic and was following the example of Virgil, who did likewise in composing the Aeneid.

A crucial difference between Genesis B and Paradise Lost that ought to be highlighted before analysing the characterisation of Satan concerns the motives of his revenge.

In Genesis B the feudal relationship between God and the angels is conceived with par- ticular reference to the comitatus, whose basis is obligation God is a gener- ous lord who, after creating them with His own hands70, gives his thanes several gifts. The Almighty made him stronger and gave him power to govern so that he was second only to God. Moreover, it is interesting to note that all his qualities which are the gifts of God are restated by him in his first monologue ll.

In the first part of his speech ll. He cannot find a reason to serve God and insists on his refusal to subject himself to Him His speech culminates in the resolution that he will no longer serve God: Doane, The Saxon Genesis, p.

He claims his independence as a lord and praises his own band of followers When asked by Adam who this enemy is, the Archangel recounts the story of the war in Heaven caused by Satan and the resulting fall of the rebel angels. However, in the second book the poet describes the relationship developing the metaphor of vassalage through the influence of his time, culminating in the metaphor of colonialism and slavery.

On the contrary, He has extended His power to Hell and still rules them. In this sense, God has expanded His empire and Hell has become a colony over which He rules with His iron sceptre ll.