Knowledge and falling in Milton's Paradise lost and Imre Madách's The tragedy of man
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Arts
Milton's Paradise Lost and Ilnre Madach's Az ember tragediaja [The Tragedy of Man] were written in different centuries, in different languages. Yet as reworkings of the story of the Fall of Man both attempt to explicate the phenomenon of human selfawareness.
A comparison of their treatment of knowledge and its relationship to the Fall discloses this similarity of intent, as well as the fundamental difference that underlies the philosophical position of the two authors. The thesis is divided into chapters that examine prelapsarian knowledge, the Fall itself, and postlapsarian knowledge in Paradise Lost and The Tragedy of Man respectively, with occasional reference to the Biblical story and literary analogues in order to illustrate the development of central themes.
As elements of the story are considered - Adam's conversation with God in Eden, the injunction against the Tree of Knowledge, the role of Satan or Lucifer, Eve's otherness, the consequences of the Fall, expulsion from the garden, and Adam's postlapsarian [re]discovery of knowledge - it becomes clear that Milton and Madach deploy them differently to different ends: for Milton self-knowledge is only possible within the context of a relationship with God, while for Madach selfknowledge begins when man has abandoned God and, although the final stage of selfunderstanding can only be achieved by returning to a relationship with the divine, certain knowledge is never possible.
The comparison of Paradise Lost and The Tragedy of Man illustrates the fact that the desire to know remains a constant through the vagaries of human development, but the approach to knowledge taken by different generations shifts, drawing the story of the Fall away from its original context of religious mythology into the realms of anthropocentric philosophy.