My production of Conor McPherson’s The Seafarer opened last night. It’s a terrific play (and I have a cast to match it, on a grittily atmospheric set). The devil, one of the characters, has a riveting speech about hell, which he depicts as a vast, cold sea with “no one to love you.” The moment is deeply tragic, a true vision of the void.
But Conor McPherson didn’t write the title of today’s blog; a long-ago student did, explaining the situation of the Snake in the Garden.
Probably she meant “rebuke” and merely committed a typo. I don’t mean “probably”; I mean “of course,” or “obviously.”
I’m not sure “rebuke” is the word she should have chosen, anyway, carrying as it does the implication that the rebuker is the rebukee’s superior (Webster’s gives the synonym “reprimand,” which has the same connotation). Satan may have considered himself God’s equal, at least, if not his superior; but the story is told in Genesis, which, we are told, is the word of God, and I don’t think God would have intended the reader to have adopted Satan’s point of view or standards of judgment. As Milton later tells the story—and even though Milton clearly disapproves of Satan and celebrates God, the reader can detect a certain sympathy, or at least appreciation, in his depiction of Satan—Satan decides to lead Adam and Eve into a betrayal of their promise to God in order to avenge himself on, “get back at,” God for defeating his rebellion in Heaven and condemning him and his allies to an eternity in Hell (part of which Milton paints as a burning sea). So if the student had understood these celestial relationships she would have written, perhaps, “Satan wanted to avenge himself on God.”
All of that aside, “repuke” is kind of nice. I shocked a young friend a few evenings ago by commenting that Shakespeare used the word “puke.” Well, he did, and quite a nice word it is, nearly onomatopoetic and also symphonious with our “eeeuuuuuwwww!”
Just think of some of our expressions: “I’m fed up with you!” “I’ve eaten your crap long enough!” “I’m not going to swallow any more of your bullshit!” Now consider Satan’s battle cry as he and his minions attacked God and the rest of the cherubim and seraphim—couldn’t it have been “I’m fed to the teeth with you”? Stuffed with the obligation to praise, sated with God’s superiority, Satan vomits it all up in the War in Heaven.
And then he loses, and has to eat crow, eat his hat, eat worms, eat…it…all, the power and the glory and all.
Down in Hell he plots. He will return. He will revenge. He will repuke.