Ulysses and the Devils: The Imaginative Organization of Book 2 of Paradise Lost
David Quint, Yale University
This essay demonstrates how allusion to various versions and episodes of the myth of Ulysses organizes and unifies the fiction of the second book of Paradise Lost. Milton includes the Ulysses who defeats Ajax in the debate over the arms of Achilles, the Ulysses who puts down Thersites at the council of the Greeks in Iliad 2, Ulysses the spy of the Doloneia of Iliad 10, the Ulysses of the Telegony who unwittingly fights the son he never knew he had sired, as well as the canonical wandering Ulysses of the Odyssey. The fiction of the book additionally presents repeated versions of the non-choice between Scylla and Charybdis as an emblem of the devils’ condition, condemned to a living death without the alternative of dying—pointedly opposed to the human condition where death becomes the ground of choice, the choice to live which is the better fortitude. After all the Ulyssean matter of Book 2, Book 3 begins with an imitation of the beginning of the Odyssey, and the poem starts over with a new and finally non-Ulyssean hero, the Son. Papers will be precirculated.
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