Eve, the Hero.


“Until Eve arrived, this was man’s world…” (Richard Armour)
“…but every song must eventually come to an end.”  (Eve)

She would have you believe that she was ribbed into existence, but all is just the navel plot, for his life of sacrifice would not exist without her being. Her name, a mere alias, thought given by some greater cause, just like him, is but a guise, a corset-armor of underestimation, rivaling any of his strength.  Oft, the one who claims to have created Eden is asked, if only in the scolded minds of those who praise him, “Does the creator have a creator?” To describe him as powerful, strong and beautiful is to describe her. Yet, to escape the gravity of time, and the minds of those who would prefer a patriarchal head, womanhood’s strategic and stealth presentation of naiveté, her tears,  her seduction, or in the minds of some men, ignorance, is her weapon. It’s her children, born or reared, that is her omnipotence. In her quest to save mankind from itself, she chooses to go by many names throughout the ages: Mary, Lilith, Hawwa, or Eve. She is the Dead Hand of man and the failsafe of mankind. Should she ever choose to withdraw herself from man or God, then his reign and his legacy would be forevermore naught.  Indeed, all heroic acts on Earth are but a sum of that who births it. A sacrifice by blood, a life threatening challenge in itself, and though she may die in her labor, she may resurrect by child.

Since dawn, through Eden’s prison bars break, Eve has been saving mankind from his own death for centuries, liberating Adam through reproduction despite her forewarned knowledge of the consequences. Some may argue that she brought sin, but there can be no light without darkness, and such claims would further compel me that the one who cast this curse, at his (“God’s”) birth, had a mother whose nature had brought him into existence. Like her name, Eve is the hero in literature and legend to explain how we, her children, have crawled out from her, from the wilderness. God, who would appear to be bound by similar laws of nature as men, must prove his worthiness in this life by the goodness he defends, and not, by what he can create. (For his creations continuously need saving.) For they have only made themselves (created in his image), unless, otherwise God should choose to be Eve. Men and gods with their codes of chivalry and honor merely try to resemble woman.

Is friendship not a woman’s sidekick, gossip her flyting with friends? Generosity her dowry, that keeps the noble from poverty? Is it not a woman’s coy chasteness that keeps men in marriage motivated, and that also keeps him in orbit at courtship? Piety is not a trait of men, for they would sin and kill their own brother than suffer dishonor. A woman’s courtesy is her respect for the preciousness of life and her ability to mother any child while men father illegitimacy with no consequence.

Of course then, the perfect hero has been with us all along. A timeless hero cautiously shrouded in the tales of Beowulf, the words of Shakespeare, or almost any written account. Censored by men,  she is the infinite hidden between the finite. Sometimes the names are lost, but there, in Hrothgar’s tavern, Eve as Wealhtheow, she who served the mead and by the drink (liquid courage) thereby providing the power and strength of the dozen men who fought of that courage. She’s there as Grendel’s mother, protecting her son, a misunderstood and innocent child.  She’s there at the epic’s end, standing over Beowulf’s body, if only to show to him a reflection of his own successes and thereby becomes the true victor as the survivor, the champion of the story. Should we need a warrior princess, do we need to look any further than Judith? Lest not forget Boudicca, a ginger Celt who led a 100,000 warriors to victory, then subsequently sliced off her enemy’s genitalia and stuck it in their mouths.

She was huge of frame, terrifying of aspect, and with a harsh voice. A great mass of bright red hair fell to her knees: She wore a great twisted golden necklace, and a tunic of many colors, over which was a thick mantle, fastened by a brooch. Now she grasped a spear, to strike fear into all who watched her. -Dio Cassius (Dudley)

As society’s codes changed Eve must also change as a hero. With each new cycle, she is given a chance for renewal. As Shakespeare once famously wrote in As You Like It, “…all the men and women merely players.”

There, peering over his shoulders is Eve who was too generous that men corrupted themselves.  By the time we reach The Wife of Bath’s tale, Alisoun defends her self-worth from the institution of marriage by using it to her advantage. Her battle with husbandry is fraught with the risk of traditional matrimony looming to imprison her. Yet, we see her defend against five husbands who might claim her riches as theirs, like men of earlier times. Many of Chaucer’s tales revolve around women’s use of their bodies as sexual weapons. The female form becomes the great equalizer to men’s power and the institution of marriage, a prison for those defenseless. “For indeed, I don't want to keep myself entirely chaste; when my husband has gone from this world" (Chaucer, Wife of Bath).

Marriage becomes man’s attempt to steal the powers of procreation of women. Where is the honor in theft? Indeed, the first Eve and Adam were never truly, properly married. Perhaps there was a reason? If man was successful then he might attempt to populate the world over with a replicate of himself. Yet, women are entrusted to protect mankind, or more directly, men from this self-genocide.  Indeed, it’s in Chaucer’s tales we’re able to see a juxtaposition of Eve’s ability to be both The Wife of Bath’s Alisoun and the dainty Prioress and who would ultimately use her broach as lure to reflect back the concept of “love conquers all” ... not men’s construct of marriage conquering creation.

Constructs like gardens, which men similar to Marvell complain about, yet hypocritically embrace when Eden’s fall lends them divine right. Yet, any power men claim from God would not, without Eve, have ever transpired. Mankind would be like Marvell’s pale powerless polished statues adorning a garden.

Their statues polished by some ancient hand,
 May to adorn the gardens stand…
            -The Mower, against Gardens, Andrew Marvell

Marlowe attempts to suppress the truth by the time we get to Doctor Faustus and ventures to strip a woman’s seduction by equating it, as many have also in their interpretation of Genesis, with evil. "'Bad texts, as it would seem, can sometimes become acceptable if they confirm ancient wisdom about the danger of the feminine." (Marlowe) However, once again Marlowe fails to recognize the fallacy in his thinking. For are we to call Virgin Mary evil too? Marlowe attempts to deflect his arrival into existence by his own mother, with this story, one in which Faustus is granted powers of creation and knowledge and it is wasted. Indeed, even in Marlowe’s attempt to remove the female figurehead from the piece, she is forever present as one of the key motivators in Faustus by signing the pact. As Faustus capitulates his soul to Satan by story’s end it’s obvious that he never succeeded in having the control over female-kind he had wished for. Indeed, this strengthens the argument that a woman, Eve’s power, appears to be stronger than “Satan”. At this point in the literature time-line she becomes that common-sense voice in our heads, a hero of the mind, as man willfully self-destructs. Faustus is indeed the one who sins while Helen, though beautiful, cannot be blamed for her beauty. Yet, she is  the one convicted for driving the doctor into this maddening dilemma despite the fact that, Helen, must bear the guilt of his sin. It is her who stoically stands to protect mankind’s honor when man cannot bear it.

Though our hero’s journey begins with one man and one woman, the sum of each individual is a reflection of his or her deeds. Eve is a reflection of man’s ideal self, innocent, pure, beautiful, and capable of creation, while man struggles to be what he cannot. Man is a dis-simile, that in reality like our world, can never be Eden,  and therefore, Adam can never be Eve. Though Adam has tried, and in the 17th century both monk Gabriel De Foigny and poet John Cleveland (among others) attempted to suggest Adam before Eve was the embodiment of the two sexes:

Adam, till his rib was lost,
Had both sexes thus engrossed,
When Providence our Sire did cleave
And out of Adam carved Eve.
-Upon a Hermaphrodite, John Cleveland (Almond)

Even if you somehow bastardize Adam into androgyny, metaphorically superior Eden is Eve. (Adam was made outside of perfect Eden.) Mother Nature is the world and creation. Man is but a vessel carrying good and bad traits (genes) for women to choose from and to facilitate our return to Eden through procreation. The ability of seduction allows women to form and weave their descendants, thereby shaping the fate of mankind. It is, after all, a woman who decides by a man’s deeds if he shall produce an heir and thereby attain immortality.

            "Her lips sucks forth my soul, see where is flies!" –Faustus

     Indeed, Shakespeare was firmly aware of the female hero looming in the shadows. Was it not Juliet who sacrificed her honor with her parents to bring honor to the one she loved? Her faux death provides Romeo an opportunity to prove his worth, and by his death we value his life as honorable. By story’s end it’s once again Juliet who awakes and acts upon her life with dagger that keeps Romeo from dishonor. It was only by her actions that the two families would ever come together to meet in the crypt and end the feud.

Shakespeare didn’t always write women as the innocent and romantic. Oft they were ambitious, manipulative and like that of the Dark Lady... the night before the dawn. Her charms, the tools of battle, weren’t physical beauty but raw captivation. Eve, as the Dark Lady is the hero unmasked. Just as we realize the identity of the Green Knight in Gawain, here without the façade of womanhood, we find a strikingly more egalitarian relationship to man. Indeed, it’s an interesting parallel to the previous sonnets in which the fair youth could be the focus of a homosexual relationship. Yet it’s clear that the dark lady is still saving him from himself. By Sonnet 138 she purposely saves him from the truth, “Thus vainly thinking that she thinks me young, although she knows my days are past the best” (Shakespeare). Her selflessness is the heroics of a period in which society is beginning to peel back gender norms as courtly beauty was still a pre-requisite for the leading lady. Coincidentally, the woman who some believe to be the real life Dark Lady, Emilia Lanier, who was both Jewish and Italian by descent, would go on to respond to her portrayal in Shakespeare’s work with a book of poetry and letters called Salve Devs Rex Judaeorum (Hail God, King of Jews).  In it she suggests men would be powerless without birth or rearing by women (Company). The irony that she herself was an illegitimate child and freakishly became pregnant as a mistress of Henry Carey, then paid to go away, continues to exemplify the sacrifice and intrepidation the real life Dark Lady paid to save those men involved.

     Women in literature (at least concerning pre-18th century British literature) are crafted by men. It's through their bias that we can witness their insecurity in a chaotic world. Their attempt to balance chaos using chivalry and code to create order serves as their denial that women control their fate. Woman’s ability to conform and change under the cloak of men’s false patriarchal logic, like Hume’s concept that conscience is based “entirely on experience”,  makes Eve’s heroics valid for any time-period (Hume). Of men I ask when has any woman ever forgotten anything? Yet you assume that we like yourself may forget from generation to generation? I suggest to the men who have written history that we have not forgot and work in the vastness of time itself to change you, generation by generation. One day shall we exceed, perhaps we shall turn you into us. Each succession of Eve codifies the values of society at the time unlike the knight, the noble, the poet, or the aristocrat. She can be or not be all these and still be a mother, whereas a man without a title is but a genetically doomed man.

While they are still sometimes coy and chaste, women have also been described recently as sexy and sometimes promiscuous creatures, manipulating fatherhood by the timing of orgasm and using their sexuality to garner resources from men. - (Cashdan)

               It’s the right of womankind to protect men from themselves and it is her who is entrusted with the survival of mankind. She alone carries this burden and goes forth with the courage and determination to wield the greatest power in the universe: the power to create or destroy. Indeed, at the end of Paradise Lost we’re confronted with the final heroic turn as Eve reconciles her sacrifice with the “fact that she will people the world and produce Mary and the Son of God” (Cerritelli).

               Eve is Every woman, and every mother. She is every servant, the fair beauty, and the Dark Lady. She is you and she is me.  The meaning of the word Eve translated from its semitic root means simply, “Live”.

BE the HERO.

Works Cited
Almond, Philip C. "Adam and Eve in seventeenth-century thought." (1999): 5-6.
Cashdan, Elizabeth. "Women’s Mating Strategies." Evolutionary Anthropology (1996): 1.
Cerritelli, Jennifer. "Milton's "Accomplished Eve" (4.660) : feminism in Paradise Lost / Jenifer Cerritelli." (1998).
Company, J. Carelli / Hudson Shakespeare. "Dark Lady Sonnets." n.d.
Dudley, D. R. and G. Webster. "The Rebellion of Boudicca." (1962).
Hume, David. "A treatise of Human Nature." (n.d.).


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