For Knowledge Is As Food: Digesting Gluttony and Temperance in Paradise Lost
Speller, Emily E.
Early English Studies, vol. 2 (2008)
In his Commonplace Book, the young John Milton cites Tertullian’s indication of the first sin as gluttony; in De Doctrina Christiana, Milton asserts that gluttony was one of several sins compounded in the Fall. Through analysis of alimentary, gluttonous, and scatological metaphor throughout Paradise Lost, this paper evaluates Milton’s use of the long theological and literary tradition of a gluttonous first sin. Such an examination, allowing for the medieval consideration of excessive selectivity in diet as a form of gluttony, expands the philosophical implications of Raphael’s analogy comparing knowledge to food in Book Seven. In depicting the insidiousness of Gluttony, Milton not only underscores his theme of temperance but also clarifies the position of right reason within the poem and reinforces the importance of the divine exhortation to ‘Know thyself.’