Eve’s Apology in Defense of Women – Summary

In Eve’s Apology in Defense of Women, Aemilia Lanyer takes up the case of inequality of all womankind and their ill treatment by men. She refers to the Original Sin committed by Adam and Eve of eating the forbidden fruit and tries to prove that as opposed to Eve being blamed solely for the fall of Man, Adam’s fault was much greater compared to Eve. Lanyer presents her argument as an address to the Roman official Pontius Pilate who was responsible for authorizing the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. Prior to his judgement betraying Jesus, his wife had dreamt of Christ’s innocence and had tried to persuade him to not punish a good and harmless man unjustly. Here Lanyer presents Adam and Pilate as representatives of all men while Eve and Pilate’s wife represent all women.

Summary

Pontius Pilate is the Roman official responsible for hearing the case of Jesus and for ordering his execution. These lines begin with a plea to Pilate to not let an innocent man suffer and to listen to his wife, who had dreamt of Jesus’ innocence and consequently pleaded to save his life.

Push barbaric cruelty away from you and instead indulge in true justice. Open your eyes and see the truth, don’t condemn him to crucifixion who is mankind’s savior. Here the fall of Pilate is compared to the fall of Adam.

Eve did not cause the fall of mankind out of any malice but simply through the goodness of her heart, which made her share the fruit, that she held most dear, with Adam. She could not have foreseen the consequences of her actions and how mankind would be cursed with death and made to leave Eden. Had she known of Satan’s trickery and what mankind would be deprived of, she would have never eaten the fruit. Her harmless heart did not intend to cause any damage.

Even though Eve was at greater fault, but Adam’s fault cannot be excused either. Eve cannot be solely blamed for Mankind’s fall because Adam was the “Lord of all” the Earth long before Eve was even born; he should have been strong where Eve was weak. While Satan as a serpent deceived Eve, God’s words should have guided Adam. He was the “perfectest man” and had received the direct command from God himself to not eat the fruit unless he wanted to incur death and suffering.

Adam lacked discretion. While Eve’s fall was caused by deception of the serpent (Satan), Adam’s fall had no such excuse since he was not deceived at all. Eve’s only fault was her excessive love for Adam so that he could also experience what she experienced. If Eve sinned, it was for the sake of knowledge. She shared her knowledge with Adam and yet men now boast of gaining that knowledge, as if not from Eve but directly from a book itself.

If still there’s any evil that Eve has, she was made from the rib of Adam and therefore, that evil comes from Adam too. If Eve’s sin could stain the reputation of all womankind, as if they all have sinned, what would be the consequence of Pilate’s sentencing death to Christ? Eve at least sinned due to the serpent’s (Satan’s) deception while Pilate betrays God’s Son (Jesus Christ) out of pure malice. Thus, Eve’s sin was small compared to the sin Pilate commits. In fact, it is the biggest sin and all other sins are small in comparison. It eclipses all other sins like the Sun eclipses all the other stars (at the time, Sun was considered the biggest star).

Since, Eve’s sin was not greater than Adam’s and Pilate’s sin was the greatest of all, women should get back their liberty and equality which was taken away by the tyranny of men who wish to be their ruler. Man cannot be born without a woman’s pain (labour pain during childbirth). If Eve did sin out of weakness, there’s no excuse at all for Pilate’s sin. Nor is there any end in sight to the sin of men of persecuting women and not considering them equals.

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