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Infernal Triad: The Flesh, the World, and the Devil in Spenser and Milton

Infernal Triad: The Flesh, the World, and the Devil in Spenser and Milton

Patrick Cullen
Copyright Date: 1974
Pages: 304
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    Infernal Triad: The Flesh, the World, and the Devil in Spenser and Milton
    Book Description:

    One of the few theological formulas of medieval times to survive the scrutiny of the Reformation was that of the infernal triad of the sins of the Flesh, the World, and the Devil. Through a close analysis of the structural and thematic role that this triad plays in Books I and II of theFaerie Queeneand inParadise Lost, Paradise Regained, andSamson Agonistes, Patrick Cullen explores the imaginative continuity between two of the greatest poets of the English Renaissance, Edmund Spenser and John Milton.

    By presenting the two poets in a single focus. Professor Cullen demonstrates the profound indebtedness of Milton to Spenser, a relationship which has not received due scholarly attention, despite Milton's praise of Spenser as "a better teacher than Aquinas" and his admission according to Dryden, that Spenser was his "original."

    Professor Cullen's new approach allows him to define a clear allegorical lineage between some of the major poems of the period, demonstrating the imaginative affinity of Spenser and Milton with great concreteness and specificity.

    Originally published in 1975.

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-7225-1
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Prologue
    (pp. xiii-xxiv)

    Few of the schemata of medieval Catholicism survived the light of the Reformation. One of those that did was the infernal triad of the Flesh, the World, and the Devil—the three all-inclusive temptations of intemperance (or despair), avarice, and vainglory, which Adam experienced in the garden, Christ in the wilderness, and which all Christians vow at their baptism to renounce. The central contention of this book is that the infernal triad is the major structural motif for Spenser’s Legend of Holiness and Cave of Mammon as well as Milton’sParadise Regained and Samson Agonistes, and that it also enters...

  5. Introduction
    (pp. xxv-xxxvi)

    Renaissance man, no less than medieval man, inherited the belief that as a son of Adam, he was heir to the temptations Adam experienced; and that as man born again in Christ, he was, like Christ, to overcome the sins the first Adam had succumbed to—an infernal triad of sins, comprising all the sins of the world and all the lures of the devil: lust, avarice, pride;concupiscentia carnis, concupiscentia oculorum, superbia vitae;the Flesh, the World, and the Devil.² The ultimate origins of this concept of an inclusive triad of sins are uncertain;³ but within Christianity the idea...


    • 1. Red Crosse and the Pilgrimage of Christian Life
      (pp. 3-67)

      These and related texts, elaborated on by the Christian fathers, gave birth to one of the grand conceptions of Christian life: man’s life is a pilgrimage to God, a war against the forces of evil. “First, pan, [fight] manly agens pe devell, þe world, and þe flessh, and ouercome hem—je, pe vij devels þat beþ chefe vppon pe vij dedely synnes, as Lucifere, Mammona, Asmodeus, and oþur. / Slee also pe world and þe flesshe. And when þou hast slayn þise felons, pan þou shalst be þe Kynges of heven champion while þou lyvest here, euer to reigne with...

    • 2. Guyon Microchristus
      (pp. 68-96)

      The Legend of Temperance, like the Legend of Holiness, takes as its subject the pilgrimage of a Christian knight whose quest is the restoration of a garden; and like that book, too, its quest is conceived in terms of the baptismal vow to “forsake the deuil, . . . the world, and . . . the flesh.” Unlike Red Crosse’s pilgrimage, however, Guyon’s is not structured around the Flesh, the World, and the Devil. Nonetheless, the infernal triad does play a crucial role in the episodes concluding the two major movements of the pilgrimage, first in the Cave of Mammon...


    • 3. Paradise Lost: The Infernal Triad in Hell and Eden
      (pp. 99-124)

      All of Milton’s longer works—Comus, Paradise Lost, Paradise Regained,andSamson Agonistes—focus on temptation; and with the possible exception of Comus, all of them make the Flesh, the World, and the Devil the basis of temptation. The first temptation inParadise Lost,however, is surprisingly not in Eden but in Hell. The first three angels advising the infernal council, Moloch, Belial, and Mammon, represent respectively the Devil, the Flesh, and the World.¹ Pandaemonium thereby provides a comic parody of Adam’s temptation in Eden and Christ’s in the wilderness. The fallen angels are presented in the act of self-temptation;...

    • 4. The Structure of Paradise Regained
      (pp. 125-181)

      In 1671 Milton grouped together two poems under the titleParadise Regained. A Poem. In IV Books. To which is added Samson Agonistes.He did so with good reason: the two works were companion-pieces, comprising the poet’s final words on Christian heroism, and providing a Christian definition of the two great poetic modes, the heroic and the tragic.¹ Although Paradise Regained is a brief epic, Samson a tragedy, both are brief heroic poems with the common subject of a hero coming to knowledge of his identity through temptation: Christ in the darkness of the wilderness, and Samson in the darkness...

    • 5. Samson Agonistes: Milton’s Christian Redefinition of Tragedy
      (pp. 182-250)

      Old definitions do not apply well to Milton. Never one to leave tradition where he found it, for him the genres of pagan literature became a vehicle whereby he could explore and re-answer the central questions they embodied; and this exploration led inevitably to a Christian redefinition of those genres. In the Nativity Ode, for example, Milton takes the conventions of the Virgilian messianic eclogue to celebrate not a secular messiah as Virgil had done but the true Christian Messiah, who alone could bring to fulfil-ment the golden age Virgil's pastoral longs for; and in “Lycidas,” Milton employs the conventions...

  8. APPENDIX: Biblical Passages: The Fall and the Temptation in the Wilderness
    (pp. 253-256)
  9. Index
    (pp. 257-267)
  10. Back Matter
    (pp. 268-268)