John Milton’s Political Context and Political Poetry

Introduction

Milton’s political context and political poetry are essential for many reasons. Firstly, they help contextualize the work by assisting readers in understanding the historical and social setting in which these works were produced. Secondly, it can also give an understanding of some of Milton’s points within the text. Milton employs many polemical techniques–in other words, he uses literary devices to persuade his audience that the Bible is the true word of God. (his audience would have been primarily prospective parliamentary voters). Milton was a political poet who wrote about monarchy and the attitudes expressed in Tenure of Kings and Magistrates. Specifically, it will explore how Milton’s poems treat the institution of monarchy and how they reflect the views expressed in Tenure of Kings and Magistrates. This paper will examine these works in detail and argue that an understanding of Milton’s politics can help read his poetry.

Main body

In the reading of Paradise Lost and Paradise Regained, according to Flannagan, an understanding of Milton’s politics can help people see how Milton uses epic conventions and mythic allusions to express his republican beliefs. The poems treat the institution of monarchy in multiple ways. For example, they reflect attitudes toward kingship expressed by writers like Sir Walter Ralegh in his Discourse Concerning the Grounds of Monarchie and later expanded upon by Algernon Sidney in Discourses Concerning Government, which argues that kingship is a dysfunctional institution because it makes no logical sense for someone to reign over others when they have not been elected to do so; the divine right of kings involved an argument that God had chosen certain people as rulers without any outside interference from their subjects. They also contain arguments against imperialism similar to those made in works like Thomas Hobbes’s, which was published when Milton was an apprentice scrivener, arguing against monarchy because it gave too much power to rulers and not enough power to the people as a whole.

The political writings of John Milton have been a source of controversy for centuries, ever since he wrote his masterpieces Paradise Lost and Paradise Regained in the seventeenth century. The question of politics and Milton’s work is as old as Paradise Lost. From the start, readers recognize the poem’s political dimension, usually related to one or another power, whether divine or human. The more significant part of scholarly activity on Milton has focused on politics in some sense while ignoring the more apparent religious concerns. Today, our understanding of religion and politics has changed dramatically, suggesting new approaches to our critical reading.

Milton, who lived in politically tumultuous times, is often described as the most openly political poet in English literature. However, his politics are more complex than that. His epic poem Paradise Lost tells the story of Satan’s revolt and expulsion from heaven; his epic poem Paradise Regained narrates Christ’s temptation in the wilderness and his subsequent defeat of Satan in the second battle of heaven. These two works mark Milton’s transition from the politics of protest to the politics of consent—from denouncing an oppressive regime to championing his idealized version of Christian monarchy.

Milton’s poems reflect his political beliefs. The subtlety of the poetry, though, is that you have to look at the details of each poem to see how everything works together. Milton was very concerned with understanding politics and religion to write something worthwhile for England. In a way, he had an impossible task—try to create something acceptable to everyone. Knowing Milton’s political views and a little insight into how they affected his writing will help the reader better understand works such as Paradise Lost and Paradise Regained. Understanding helps illuminate some of the issues that have made these poems so controversial throughout history.

The poems of Milton show a majesty that is dually engaged with an authoritarian figure and God. The first use of the institution of monarchy comes in his poem, On the Morning of Christ’s Nativity. It sets up the stage by showing how God has replaced “kings and princes” with himself and his Son, Christ Jesus. The second poem, When I Consider How My Blessed Redeemer Made Me, starts in a very different tone when it discusses the concept of kingship through various biblical names for God, but then quickly dismisses them all and states, “his regal scepter raised/ On Man’s low state compassionately.” This sets up to explain how Christ, who is both God and man, became King over man at his crucifixion when he died for us all and made us royal princes through his bloodshed for our sins because we are his brothers and sisters in spirit.

Milton’s message is that the institution of monarchy is an insult to all moral order. God, who established the monarchy, has, as a consequence, allowed Satan to fall and corrupt humankind. Milton believes that monarchies will always be evil because their power is based on force rather than divine right. The institution, therefore, should be abolished. In Paradise Lost, Milton takes a critical look at the institution of monarchy. He writes of Satan, who was once an angel in heaven but fell from grace. The Devil may have tempted Satan to rebel against God, but he is also willing to take his place as King in hell (or on earth). Satan is driven by pride, and therefore he must be stripped of his powers and position if he is ever to repent for his sins.

Milton’s political views are best understood in his literary works. His poetry provided him with a vehicle for reflection on political issues, as he believed that poetry was superior to prose in engaging the reader on essential topics. The poem is a celebration of the King and his authority. Milton upholds the notion that the monarchy is an important institution because it can unify the people, including different regions and even faiths (Milton). He also suggests that monarchs take on roles that include helping govern the country, ensuring justice and fairness are served, providing guidance in times of war, and acting as heads of the Church. One specific example of how Milton uses elements from royal life to emphasize his points is when he lists virtues essential to a good king: wisdom and strength have traditionally served as symbolic attributes of kingship. These descriptions are cleverly juxtaposed with Edward’s literal blindness to death.

There are many ways in which Milton’s works reflect the attitudes expressed in Tenure of Kings and Magistrates. Milton was a protestant who believed that monarchs were responsible for ruling with moral authority. Still, it was up to the people to ensure that this happened through their elected representatives, believing that it could lead to tyranny. This meant that he wanted a stable government that would respect individual liberty, where everyone had an opportunity for prosperity and happiness.

Milton’s writings were to make a statement about the way society should be run. He seemed to suggest that there should be no kings or magistrates except for God because he believed in his religion, and for most of his life, he protested against the government. Penseroso is also a thoughtful man with lines such as “In these sweet solitudes and these voluptuous bowers, What pleasures have we both enjoyed before this hour!” This poem provides us insight into Milton’s personality and how he feels when he thinks back on some of his best times. The poem is used as a form of discussion to reflect upon their own lives and realize that it is crucial to make a difference by helping them.

In Tenure of Kings and Magistrates, Milton argues that the King’s authority should be limited. He explains his reasoning by saying that a human ruler cannot be excellent, so the people must limit their power in case something terrible happens. This idea is reflected throughout his poems; when describing Nero burning Rome, Milton says, “Yet vilest worms in greatest warrior fallen or survive their mighty conqueror and his proudest day.” This suggests that even though the strongest people die out, there will always be one person with more power than anyone else. Milton’s poetry is full of admiration for the great men of history. He is mainly influenced by classical and biblical sources and uses them to express what he believes are essential truths about human nature. His works reflect that man should be free to choose his road in life, even if it means going against convention.

The Tenure of Kings and Magistrates is a short pamphlet that defends the idea of government and society being ruled by a just God. There is little tolerance for people who go against his laws, and Milton explains that although people might think it wrong to punish them in this life, God will ensure they are appropriately punished after death (Milton). Milton was an advocate of freedom, so his opinions favored these positions. He tends to focus on the responsibilities of these positions rather than feelings or attitudes toward the roles themselves. This may be because his poetry is meant to convince an audience to think like he does rather than draw attention to his emotions or opinions.

Conclusion

In conclusion, Milton’s political context and political poetry are vital because it helps contextualize the work; that is, it helps readers understand the historical and social setting in which these works were produced. Milton’s poems reflect his political beliefs. The subtlety of the poetry, though, is that you have to look at the details of each poem to see how everything works together. Milton explains his reasoning by saying that a human ruler can’t be perfect, so the people must limit their power if something terrible happens. In Paradise Lost, Milton takes a critical look at the institution of monarchy. The more significant part of scholarly activity on Milton has focused on politics. There are many ways in which Milton’s works reflect the attitudes expressed in Tenure of Kings and Magistrates. Milton expresses the attitude of moral authority to the Tenure of Kings and Magistrates.

Work Cited

Milton, John. The Complete Poems and Major Prose of John Milton. New York: Oxford University Press, 2003.

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