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Milton’s Life and Times ENGL 622 Dr. Fike. Main Events in Milton’s Life December 9, 1608: Born to John and Sara (Jeffrey) Milton (a scrivener or notary.

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Presentation on theme: "Milton’s Life and Times ENGL 622 Dr. Fike. Main Events in Milton’s Life December 9, 1608: Born to John and Sara (Jeffrey) Milton (a scrivener or notary."— Presentation transcript:

1 Milton’s Life and Times ENGL 622 Dr. Fike

2 Main Events in Milton’s Life December 9, 1608: Born to John and Sara (Jeffrey) Milton (a scrivener or notary or lawyer’s assistant; and amateur musician). Theirs was a Protestant and Calvinistic household. MEncy 19: “Because of his father’s various business ventures, in some of which Milton himself became involved, Milton did not have to pursue gainful employment during his life, although he did receive a salary as a secretary to the Council of State.” 1620: St. Paul’s School (grammar school). Met Charles Diodati, his best friend. “Paules Pigeons.” Study of English, Latin, Greek, and Hebrew; plus grammar, rhetoric, and logic (the trivium). Milton learned French and Italian from private tutors. Also knew philosophy. Benchmark: The Pilgrim Fathers established a colony in New England. 1625: James I died. Charles I was crowned. At the age of 16 (Riverside 7, n. 5), Milton matriculated at Christ’s College, Cambridge University. B.A. in 1629; M.A. in 1632. His education was that of a person who was studying for a clerical career. His nickname there as “the lady” of Christ’s College (Prolusion 6, page 865). He may have been pale or effeminate; he was smaller than the other boys; and he believed that chastity was as important for boys as it was for girls. Tough customer, though—knew fencing and wrestling. He liked the nickname because it had also been Virgil’s. In 1632, Milton did not receive a fellowship and went home to Hammersmith, 1632-1635 (and later Horton, 1635-1638) to live with his family. From 1632-1638, he undertook a serious course of study in preparation for his career as a poet/writer.

3 Main Events 1632: “On Shakespeare” was published—Milton’s first publication. 1633: William Laud became Archbishop of Canterbury. 1634: Comus was first performed. William Prynne (a lawyer) was mutilated for attacking masques. 1637: Comus was published. The deaths of Sara Milton, Edward King, and Ben Jonson fueled “Lycidas” (published in 1638). Prynne, Henry Burton (a divine), and John Bastwick (a physician) were mutilated. April 1638-August 1639: Milton’s trip to Italy. MEncy 22: “The period was to be one of the most important in Milton’s biography because of the encouragement it yielded for a poetic career, because of the friends met and discussions held, and because of his immediate contact with the culture of Italy.” Milton later claimed in print that the civil war had called him back to England, but the war did not begin until 1642, and he took six months to get home. Important point: The trip exposed him to republican government, and he met important persons (met ambassadors, visited academies, met Galileo, etc.). 1639-48: Milton settled in London, establishing his own private academy and continuing his personal studies. 1639—Charles I tries to discipline Scotland. 1641—insurrection in Ireland (Protestant settlers vs. Catholic majority).

4 Main Events 1641: Milton began writing polemical prose (e.g., Of Reformation). 1642: Milton married Mary Powell (he was 33; she was 16). She deserted him within one to three months. The First Civil War, 1642-45, may have made it dangerous to travel. Milton published The Reason of Church Government. 1643: The Doctrine and Discipline of Divorce was published. Milton’s eyesight began to fail. 1645: Mary Powell returned. Her family moved into Milton’s house the next year. The first edition of Milton’s minor poems was published. During the 1640s, Milton began thinking about a tragedy that eventually became Paradise Lost. His prose tracts during this period included two major groups: – 1) works against the Episcopal system (bishops) – 2) works in favor of divorce (which opponents used to brand him as a “divorcer” and a “fornicator”). – Others fell outside these categories: Of Education and Areopagitica (freedom of the press). Both were published in 1644.

5 Main Events 1645: The First Civil War ended at the Battle of Naseby (Thomas Fairfax commander; Oliver Cromwell his deputy). New Model Army. 1947: Father and father-in-law died. The Powells returned to their own home. The Scots hand Charles over to Parliament. 1648: Second Civil War begins. New Model Army takes Charles into custody. Pride’s Purge. 1649: Charles I was executed. During his trial, Milton was writing The Tenure of Kings and Magistrates; it was not published until after the execution. The king’s execution was on January 30 th. On March 15 th, Milton became Secretary for the Foreign Tongues (“Latin Secretary”) for the Commonwealth that Oliver Cromwell had established. He wrote polemics for the state, e.g., Eikonoklastes, a response to Eikon Basilike, purportedly by Charles I. He kept this job until 1659. Reasons for his selection: – He was fluent in Latin, the language of international diplomacy. – He also knew other useful languages: Italian, Spanish, French. – He was an experienced polemicist of unquestionable loyalty. Note: Milton’s languages included Hebrew, Greek, Latin, Spanish, Italian, French, and German. Cf. Riverside 22, col. 1, bottom.

6 Major Events 1652: Mary died in childbirth. The Miltons had 4 children (Anne, Mary, Deborah survived their mother; a son, John, predeceased her). Milton was now totally blind. Modern doctors determined from his description in a letter to Leonard Philaras (page 1055) that he had glaucoma. 1656: Married a widow, Katherine Woodcock (she was 28; he was 48). 1658: Katherine died. Oliver Cromwell died. His son Richard Cromwell was appointed in his place. 1659: Milton published a number of things that argued against the restoration of the monarchy, e.g., The Readie and Easie Way To Establish a Free Commonwealth. The Protectorate ends. 1660: Restoration of Charles II. Milton went into hiding. He was arrested and was imprisoned in October through December. He was released after paying a huge £150 fine. Milton also lost much of his personal fortune because it was in government bonds that the new government would not honor.

7 Reasons Why Milton Was Not Executed (C&C 308-10) He had not been directly involved in the trial and execution of Charles I: Tenure came out after the execution. He was not perceived to be still dangerous: ineffectual once excluded from the government. He was potentially useful to the new regime. He was perceived as mercenary. Maybe he would use his pen for the new state. He had powerful friends and few powerful enemies. Andrew Marvell and Sir William Davenant probably argued for his release.

8 Main Events 1663: Married Elizabeth Minshull (he was 54; she was 24). It is possible that having a young wife contributed to the positive portrayal of “wedded love” in Paradise Lost. 1665: Paradise Lost was completed. 1665-1666: Plague and the Great Fire of London. Milton’s own home was not damaged, but he lost a house elsewhere. 1667: Paradise Lost was published. 1671: Paradise Regain’d and Samson Agonistes were published. 1660s and 1670s: Milton was visited by foreign dignitaries and well- known people like Marvell and John Dryden, as well as close friends. 1674: Milton died on November 12 at age 65, probably of heart failure.

9 Literary Highlights Devotional poem: “On the Morning of Christ’s Nativity” (1629) Short poem: “Lycidas” (1638) Sonnets: autobiography and politics Masque: Comus (1637) Polemics on religion and politics Epic: Paradise Lost (1667) Short epic: Paradise Regained (1671) Closet drama: Samson Agonistes (1671) Defense of freedom of the press: Areopagitica

10 What Milton Advocated Liberty: – Religious freedom—worship should not be regulated by the state. – Political freedom: In a republican government, the people, the law, and the Parliament should have more say than the king. Rulers should be held to account. – Domestic freedom: Marriage based on mutual affection and intellectual compatibility; divorce okay in cases of misery. – Freedom of the press. Patriarchal, misogynistic, anti-Catholic. Not for expanded suffrage or the rights of those who did not own property. END

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