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date: 22 February 2020

Abstract and Keywords

Milton’s religious outlook blends Christian humanism, including its dedication to close textual analysis, with idealistic, even futuristic or Baconian longings for a new, thoroughly reformed church and state. His most radical and unpuritanical ideas include ending state censorship, state support of the clergy, and clerical control of divorce, since he views marriage as a civil contract cancellable on grounds of incompatibility. Milton’s early prose and poetry express these ideas, but his most successful early poems blend Neoplatonic motifs of ascent with a strong moral emphasis on free choice. Paradise Lost continues that emphasis, but tempered by a vivid portrait of Satan and a deferred, if still sublime vision of heavenly reward. Its expanded epic cosmos reappears in Paradise Regained, but without the extraterrestrial landscapes or dynamic conflicts of the original. This chapter concludes that Samson Agonistes is truly ‘Greek’ in its tragic, meditative focus on self-betrayal, self-knowledge, and social renewal.

Keywords: radical Christian humanism, individualism, free will, Neoplatonism, Bacon, Dante, Spenser, Protestant epic, Greek tragedy, progress

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