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The Doctrine and Discipline of Divorce (1644) ENGL 622 Dr. Fike.

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Presentation on theme: "The Doctrine and Discipline of Divorce (1644) ENGL 622 Dr. Fike."— Presentation transcript:

1 The Doctrine and Discipline of Divorce (1644) ENGL 622 Dr. Fike

2 Purpose To show that DDD can be understood from the following six perspectives: – History – Autobiography – Unifying Themes – The Bible – Critique of Milton’s Positions

3 1. The Historical Context English law allowed divorce only for “physical conditions: impotence, frigidity, consanguinity [kinship], adultery, desertion” (L 166). Milton wanted the law to allow divorce for incompatibility or mutual unhappiness. His Protestant view was that marriage was a covenant, not a sacrament; if the other party does not fulfill his/her end of the covenant, it is null and void. August 1642: First Civil War began. July 1, 1643: The Westminster Assembly of Divines began meeting for the first time. Purpose was to review church doctrine and promote a secondary Reformation. August 1, 1643: Milton published the first edition of DDD; it was addressed to the Assembly. February 2, 1644: 2 nd ed. was published, addressed to Parliament. 1651: Parliament published a statement accepting only adultery and desertion as grounds for divorce. 1971: No-fault divorce such as Milton favored became English law. Milton position was more than 327 years ahead of its time.

4 2A. Autobiography May 1642: Milton married Mary Powell. – Apology: “I care not if I tell him [the Modest Confuter] thus much profestly, though it be to the losing of my rich hopes, as he calls them, that I think with them who both in prudence and elegance of spirit would choose a virgin of mean fortunes honestly bred, before the wealthiest widow.” – Whether or not he had MP in mind, Milton was plugging into the trend toward companionate marriage. June 1642: She west back home. August 1642: First Civil War began, preventing MP from returning to Milton’s home. – Milton in London, Parliamentary stronghold. – MP in Oxford, Royalist territory. 1645: Mary Powell returns.

5 2B. Things in DDD That Reflect MP First, M seems to offer a reason why he had made a bad choice when he married Mary Powell on 939, left bottom: “Since they who have liv’d most loosely by reason of their bold accustoming, prove most successful in their matches, because their wild affections unsetling at will, have been as so many divorces to teach them experience.” He seems to be terribly disappointed in Mary’s intellect: 939* middle left: “the bashfull mutenes of a virgin may oft-times hide all the unlivelines and natural sloth which is really unfit for conversation.”

6 More Things in DDD That Reflect MP Milton had saved himself until marriage, had deferred gratification; and now he’s disappointed in the results of his marriage decision on 941, left top: “... if he be such as hath spent his youth unblamably, and layd up his chiefest earthly comforts in the enjoyment of a contented mariage... sees withall that his bondage is now inevitable...he will be ready to despair in vertue, and mutin [mutiny] against divine providence: and this doubtless is the reason of those lapses and that melancholy despair....” Milton’s own personality probably contributed to the problem on 947, right top: “... those persons who being of a pensive nature and cours of life, have sum’d up all their solace in that free and lightsome conversation which God and man intends in mariage....”

7 More Things in DDD That Reflect MP Well, Mary was not just a disappointment in herself; in addition, she left Milton on 969: “... by adding a case wherein a person deserted, which is something less then divorc’d, may lawfully marry again.” Milton was branded a “divorcer and fornicator” for writing DDD. He seems to respond to this condemnation on 974 top right: “That it should not be counted a faltring dispence a flattring permission of sin, the bil of adultery, a snare, is the expence of all this apology. And all that we solicite is, that it may be suffer’d to stand in the place where God set it amidst the firmament of his holy Laws to shine, as it was wont....”

8 3. Unifying Themes in DDD Liberty to do the right thing (basic faith in human goodness) vs. license to do the wrong thing: “honest liberty is the greatest foe to dishonest licence” (931 top right). He thinks that reinstating the Mosaic right to divorce will enable people to seek the good. Charity: The law of charity is the law of love (charity is from the Latin caritas). Milton calls it “the supreme dictate of charitie” on 939 middle right. It is more loving to divorce somebody than to stay in a hate-filled relationship with him or her. Milton is arguing that a strict interpretation of Christ’s statement goes against the grain of charity; and it does not make sense for Mosaic Law to be kinder in this sense than the Gospel. N.B. See 932 top right for a good passage on charity (“The superstition of the Papist…”). “Charity” is the last word of DDD (976).

9 4. DDD = Context for PL There are more interesting things here than the mere mention of “the serpent” on 956 bottom right. Bringing the world out of Chaos is similar to divorce: a dividing into two parts is as natural as God creating the world--947 left bottom. The configuration of the universe is continued on page 954 right middle: the world, chaos, and hell. N.B. “a locall hell” vs. despair. The marriage of Adam and Eve was perfection itself. So was their sex life. The fall changed all that. Now sex is – the “work of male and female” (936 bottom left) – “the quintessence of an excrement” (938 bottom right) – To have sex is now “to grind in the mill of an undelighted and servil copulation” (942 top left). – “a bestial necessity” (942 top right) – “two carkasses chain'd unnaturally together” (965 right top)

10 More on PL Nature is fallen; therefore, marriage and sex are both fallen. So the Fall ushered in the need for divorce. Adam himself needs a divorce. Eve is now "unclean" after eating the apple. But they stay together, and the resulting duality/binary opposition necessitates the option of divorce. After the Fall, love does not just exist apart from its opposite; love and hate are now opposite sides of the same coin--946 right bottom (“love and hatred”).

11 More on PL Instead of Eve, Milton gives us Pandora on 954 right top. In terms of curiosity, Pandora is the classical equivalent of Eve. Page 956 right middle to the end of the section: The action of Satan in the Fall is equated with the view that divorce is a dispensation that promotes adultery and hardness of heart on 956 right middle. Milton’s view—that God could not give a law that promoted “licence, and statute for uncontroul’d adultery”—appears at the bottom of the section.

12 More on PL He goes on to argue on 960 right top that the divorce law is wrong because it imposes expectations appropriate for an unfallen relationship on a fallen marital situation. Moses’s law is seen as more properly fitted to our fallen situation. And besides, the Ten Commandments did not include “Thou shalt not divorce.” As the image on 963 top left clearly indicates, we can't go back to paradise (the flaming sword; cf. PL ), so we need to deal with the consequences of our fallenness: 963 top left. Acknowledging the necessity of divorce is part of this. Feminists would say that Milton’s masculinism is one of the results of the Fall. See the attitude Milton has about men and women on 964 right middle anticipates PL: “Who can be ignorant that woman was created for man, and not man for woman... ”; HIERARCHY: “Hee for God only, shee for God in him” (PL 4.299). “God is thy Law, thou mine: to know no more / Is woman's happiest knowledge and her praise” ( ).

13 Milton’s Point POINT: Christ's prohibition of divorce, as Milton says on 965 bottom left, is just a corrective measure He addresses to the Pharisees rather than a denial of people’s Law-given right to divorce. Christ was just trying to draw the Pharisees back to more acceptable behavior. POINT: In short, divorce is necessary because marriage is affected by the Fall. POINT: Therefore, Mosaic law is available for use by Christians; divorce for incompatibility is okay.

14 5. The Bible See the DDD handout for specific passages. Milton uses redefinition and distinction to address the following points: – Uncleanness now = incompatibility. – Loneliness is the opposite of what marriage should bring. – What God has joined together let no man put asunder = a reference to marriage before the Fall. – Fornication now = “stubborn disobedience against the husband” (968 right). – Burning in passion: Paul meant more than satisfying carnal desire; your partner should be a good spiritual match. – Marriage and divorce are civil rather than ecclesiastical matters.

15 6. Critique of Milton’s Positions The Gospel neither requires nor enables a higher standard of behavior by a Christian than the Law required. A woman is lucky to be cast off by an unloving husband who finds some “unpleasingnesse” in her. We are “one flesh” with our parents and leave them; you are one flesh with your wife, so you should be able to leave her too. King Henry VIII divorced because he wanted to; therefore, all men should be able to do it. Women would not be allowed to initiate divorce proceedings. END


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