5 Things You Will Probably Like about Milton

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Milton was a rebellious student

Milton went to Cambridge but was expelled after just one term for fighting with a tutor and was one of the last Cambridge students to be publicly flogged.

Milton was a political rebel

James II visited the elderly Milton and implied that his blindness was a divine punishment for having written in defence of the execution of Charles I (one of the many things Milton disagreed with was Charles dissolving Parliament for a period of 11 years personal rule). Milton retorted, ‘If your Highness thinks that misfortunes are indexes of the wrath of heaven, what must you think of your father’s tragical end? I have only lost my eyes – he lost his head’.

Milton argued that sexuality was good

Milton’s actually being pretty radical in representing Adam and Eve enjoying a sinless sexual relationship before the Fall. See Paradise Lost (1667) Book 4 (see ll.288-318,440-8,477-91,635-8 re their relationship; ll.741-9 especially re their sexual relationship).

Milton argued in favour of divorce

Arguing for divorce is radical for the period. In his tract Doctrine and Discipline of Divorce (1643) Milton argued in favour of divorce becoming more widely available. In chapter 1 Milton argues that ‘contrariety of mind, arising from a cause in nature unchangeable, hindering, and ever likely to hinder the main benefits of conjugal Society, which are Solace and Peace, is a greater reason of Divorce than natural Frigidity’ ie divorce should be possible on the grounds of incompatibility.

Milton had a sense of humour

I had to work quite hard to find some evidence for this one! Story has it that the Duke of Buckingham once referred to Milton’s second wife as a rose and that Milton (now blind) replied: ‘I am no judge of colours anymore…but it may be so, for I feel the thorns daily’.

See my lecture on Milton for more.

Next time perhaps I’ll have some fun with things you probably won’t like about Milton. 🙂


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