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Paradise Lost

Ever wonder how the apple became the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden?

This month marks 350 years since John Milton sold his publisher the copyright of Paradise Lost for the sum of five pounds. His great work dramatizes the oldest story in the Bible, whose principal characters we know only too well: God, Adam, Eve, Satan in the form of a talking snake — and an apple. Except, of course, that Genesis never names the apple but simply refers to “the fruit.” To quote from the King James Bible:

And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden; but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.'”

“Fruit” is also the word Milton employs in the poem’s sonorous opening lines:

Of Mans First Disobedience, and the Fruit

Of that Forbidden Tree, whose mortal taste

Brought Death into the World, and all our woe

But in the course of his over-10,000-line poem, Milton names the fruit twice, explicitly calling it an apple. So how did the apple become the guilty fruit that brought death into this world and all our woe?

The short and unexpected answer is: a Latin pun… read more >

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