Sunday, 17 April 2016

Paradise Lost: A Reading Guide

The historical-political context

  • Marriage and the right of man to seek divorce, in an unhappy marriage was something that Milton worried about after his first wife, Mary Powell abandoned him. 
  • Milton appealed to parliament in a prose treatise called 'The Doctrine and Discipline of Divorce' to allow a man to divorce his wife and remarry on grounds of intellectual incompatibility resulting in loneliness of desertion. 
  • Milton wrote 4 highly unorthodox, divorce tracts 
  • According to English canon law - complete dissolution of marriage bond allowing the parties to remarry if there was threat of polygamy or incest or if one person entered the marriage because they were forced
  • Milton argued that marriage was to alleviate loneliness in fit companionship therefore it is unchristian an uncharitable to allow a marriage if the conditions are not met
  • Presence of marriage in paradise- politicizes Eden
  • A + E marriage = ideal married state where wife is obedient intellectual helpmeet to her husband but also ideal human household where masculine principles of rationality and hierarchical liberty must hold sway  
  • A + E split the ideal spiritual and intellectual union they shared
  • Fall becomes a type of divorce = dissolution of the ideal union between man and God, man and wife
  • In earlier divorce tracts, Milton was snobbish towards those who entered marriage solely for the purpose of enjoying legitmised sexual intercourse 
  • Milton stated that the act of procreation when enjoyed for its own sake 'a quintessence of an excrement' BUT narrator celebrates A + E's prelapsarian sexuality
  • Love is founded not in lust but 'reason, loyal, just and pure.'
  • Before the Fall, A + E enter 'Handed' but after inflamed with a sudden lust, Adam'seize' Eve by the hand dragging her 'nothing loath' into a 'shady bank' 
  • In PL, the Fall and the loss of liberty entails debase human desires
  • The resulting slavery of the rational faculties to sensual appetites and passions leave humanity in a state of naked shame divested of 'native righteousness' 

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