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What argument does Aemilia Lanyer make in "Eve's Apology in Defense of Women?"Choices...

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homeschool11 | (Level 1) Salutatorian

Posted February 12, 2012 at 3:11 AM via web

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What argument does Aemilia Lanyer make in "Eve's Apology in Defense of Women?"

Choices for this question are a) Eve asserts the superiority of women over men, b) Adam is to blame for the expulsion from Eden as he is wiser, more powerful and should have known better, c) Eve is not to blame because she was tricked by a male, or none of these.

My first thought was b but then as I reread the excerpt, I thought that Lanyer in "But surely Adam cannot be excused; Her fault though great, yet he was most to blame," doesn't place the entire blame on Adam nor does it excuse Eve. Help please. I'm leaning towards none of these.

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belarafon | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

Posted February 12, 2012 at 4:55 AM (Answer #1)

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Amelia Lanyer (also Emilia Lanier) makes all of these arguments in "Eve's Apology," and definitively decides on none of them. In a multiple choice question, the teacher generally has one choice he or she prefers, even if the others are debatable; in this case, I feel as if the choices are all valid, but they do not address these lines of the poem:

He never sought her weakeness to reprove, (805)
With those sharp words, which he of God did hear:
Yet Men will boast of Knowledge, which he took
From Eve's fair hand, as from a learned Book.
(Lanyer, "Eve's Apology," charlesyoungs.com)

The implication is that although each had a part in the sin, and Adam did not blame Eve for "her weakness," man still goes on to "boast of knowledge... from Eve's fair hand." Man's knowledge of Good and Evil, the basis for all moral and ethical systems, is biblically a direct result of Eve's actions, but today it is not seen as a sin in itself; that is, the knowledge is not a sin, but the disobeying of God was the sin. We are proud of our moral and ethical codes, but without that first sin, we would have nothing to "boast" of.

Addressing the choices themselves, (b) is the closest to definitive, as it is placed directly in the text:

Her fault though great, yet he was most to blame;
What Weakness offered, Strength might have refused,
Being Lord of all, the greater was his shame: (780)
Although the Serpent's craft had her abused,
God's holy word ought all his actions frame,
For he was Lord and King of all the earth,
Before poore Eve had either life or breath.
(Lanyer, "Eve's Apology," charlesyoungs.com)

The emphasized lines show that Adam should have resisted the urge to eat the apple based solely on his connection with God, who obviously had set his rule to be followed. Since Eve was created later, she had a lesser connection to God's direct orders (not to his love, as is professed later in the poem). Adam's responsibility as first-created was to follow God's laws, and as he followed Eve's urge instead of God's commandment, he bears greater responsibility for the sin.

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