Paradise Lost Week 4

I think knowledge is a bit of a problem in Paradise Lost.  I mean, we know it is – eating from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil resulted in Adam and Eve’s expulsion from the Garden of Eden and the general downfall of all humanity.  Y’know, casual.  What interests me, however, is that we are never told the exact nature of the this forbidden knowledge.  Some have postulated that the fruit was actually carnal knowledge.  Evidence for this can be found in the lust that consumed Adam and Eve after they ate from it.  However, we know for a fact (vis a vis the poem) that the first two humans had sex before eating from the tree. We know, thanks to Raphael, that even angels have sex.  So what exactly was so carnal, so forbidden, about the knowledge of the tree?  We know that Adam and Eve became embarrassed and ashamed of their nakedness after eating from the tree, and that they began to find fault with each other.  Maybe this knowledge is simply an awareness of their bodies and their faults.  Leonard’s essay discusses the difference in knowledge between Adam and Satan, especially each individual’s questions about creation.  He writes: “The purity of Adam’s prelapsarian request emerges when we compare it with Satan’s very different way of asking about Creation” (138), which establishes a distinction between the two entities and extrapolates based on their personalities from there.  Leonard continues by asserting that Adam’s form of inquiry is acceptable because he does not question God’s will, he only questions what currently exists around him.  Satan, on the other hand, directly questions and, ultimately, defies God.  The fruit, then, might be a stand in for this very questioning or, if we take this claim a step further, a need to rebel.  Could it be that the knowledge that was so forbidden to Adam and Eve was really the will, the ability to question God?  This would certainly support a reading of Milton’s God as tyrannical; this lends even more credence to the claim that Satan can be read as the hero of Paradise Lost.  He did, after all, give humans the ability to question.  Were Adam and Even merely mindless robots before the fall?