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Instead, it could be either a rhetorical exercise in the manner of those partaken by Milton himself as a young scholar--his academic Prolusions written whilst at Christ's College, Cambridge--or perhaps the argument is nothing more than a poorly devised mock dialogue which functions to present all the theologically necessary material in a convincingly dramatic form, rather like the retrospective narrations used to set the scene in Jacobean drama--Prospero's discussion with Miranda at the beginning of Act 2 of The Tempest is a case in point.
Before coming to the prolusion directly, it is worth widening the literary context a little by saying something further about the formal organization of the tracts.
In the following discussion, I shall describe how Milton handles his theme in Prolusion One, a speech in which he achieves a witty correspondence of form and content.
The prolusion begins with an elaborate, mockingly self-referential discussion of the conventions governing oratorical openings.
Masson's response is authoritative, recognizing the playful mood and spirit of the prolusion, and sensitive to changes of tone, notably in the movement from a mock-heroic "heaviness" to a lighter, more poetic surface.
Here we encounter a passage which unites rhetoric with joyous description in just the beneficently seductive, Orphean manner (linking the ends of rhetoric and poetry) which Milton defends, and illustrates, in Prolusion Three.
Hence, as we proceed towards the end of the prolusion, Day, after hearing so many praises of her virtues and too modest to hear more, proceeds towards the sunset, as Milton describes in an elegiac evocation: "Jam igitur declinat in vesperam dies, & nocti statim cedet.
In its complex, ironic and gracious way, the prolusion explores the apparently artificial question and delivers a victory for day over night whilst entertaining the audience with a vigorous display of oratory, sophistry, mythology, poetic evocation and wit.
Prolusion Two "examines" the concept of the harmony of the spheres.
The spirited Third Prolusion once again traces a movement from darkness to light, here from the darkness of medieval philosophy to the light and truth of humanist learning.
In Prolusion One, the similar movement from darkness/ contention towards enlightenment/peace implies a cosmic opposition between malevolent and benevolent forces.
The genealogical section of Prolusion One is conducted in terms of pagan mythology whose status and validity is questioned.