Milton, John

   English poet, political figure, and au-thor of tracts on political and religious issues. Though his life is to-tally contained in the 17th century and so falls chronologically into a post-Renaissance age, his prodigious mastery of Renaissance hu-manistic learning and the Protestant theology of the Reformation has caused him to be conventionally treated as a very late represen-tative of the Renaissance in England. The son of a distinguished mu-sical composer of the same name, he received a superb classical ed-ucation and studied at Christ's College, Cambridge. He published his first poem in 1632. He had intended to enter the clergy, but his strong Puritan sympathies made him unwilling to conform to the Church of England. He published poetry in English, Latin, and Italian and in 1638-1639 travelled on the Continent, meeting many prominent scholars and literary figures and even visiting the aged Galileo Galilei during the astronomer's years of house arrest following his condemnation by the Roman Inquisition.
   Milton's hostility to the authoritarian tendencies of Archbishop Laud's church and King Charles I's secular administration made him support the Puritan side in the English civil wars that broke out in 1642. In 1649, after the victory of the revolutionaries, he became sec-retary of foreign tongues for the Council of State, the man responsi-ble for correspondence (normally in Latin) with foreign powers. He also emerged as a political pamphleteer, defending the republican government and insisting that the king was not above the law and could be held responsible for unlawful acts. In 1652, however, Mil-ton became totally blind, though he continued his government work with the aid of a secretary.
   Milton always regarded poetry as his true calling and from an early age aspired to succeed in what literary theory regarded as the highest and noblest form of literature, epic poetry. His collected poems pub-lished in 1645 contained his early lyric and religious poems, includ-ing several sonnets in Italian. His prose works were not limited to po-litical controversy; he also wrote on religion, including a notorious treatise on divorce that gave limited endorsement to legal divorce with the right of remarriage in cases where a marriage had broken down irretrievably. His most admired prose work, however, is Are-opagitica (1644), a defense of intellectual freedom particularly di-rected against the censorship traditionally exercised by the English state over the press.
   Milton's close association with Oliver Cromwell and the other re-publican leaders who abolished the monarchy and executed King Charles I made it inevitable that he would be one of the few individ-uals not included in the general amnesty promised by the new king, Charles II, when the monarchy was restored in 1660. What saved him from execution was partly the recognition of his greatness as a poet and partly his blindness. Only after the Restoration in 1660, now out of office and out of official favor, did he concentrate on his lifelong ambition of producing the great poetic epic that English literature had lacked. The result was Paradise Lost, not an epic of warlike heroism or a returning hero's wanderings but an epic of the relationship be-tween humanity and God, focused on the sin of Adam and Eve, their eviction by God from the Garden of Eden, and God's promise to send a savior who would redeem humanity. Milton's other major poems were a shorter epic, Paradise Regained, and a poem in dramatic form, Samson Agonistes (both published in 1671). Even while subject to close censorship and operating in a society that now shunned his po-litical and social ideas, Milton in these final epic poems firmly re-stated his commitment to human dignity and human freedom.

Historical Dictionary of Renaissance. . 2004.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • MILTON, JOHN° — (1608–1674), English Puritan poet, whose works contain an unusual concentration of biblical and Judaic sentiments. Milton may have learned Hebrew while he was at Cambridge from the Semitic scholar, Joseph Mede (1586–1638). His knowledge of Hebrew …   Encyclopedia of Judaism

  • Milton, John — Milton, John, John, der Dichter des verlorenen Paradieses, ward 1608 in London geb., empfing eine sorgfältige Erziehung, hielt sich nach beendigten Studien zu Cambridge einige Zeit auf dem Landgute seines Vaters auf, schrieb dort einige Komödien …   Damen Conversations Lexikon

  • Milton, John — born Dec. 9, 1608, London, Eng. died Nov. 8, 1674, Chalfont St. Giles, Buckinghamshire English poet. A brilliant youth, Milton attended Cambridge University (1625–32), where he wrote poems in Latin, Italian, and English; these included L Allegro… …   Universalium

  • Milton, John — ( 1608 167 4)    British Puritan poet    John Milton was born on December 9, 1608, in London to a well to do family. His father was a scrivener (law writer) who also composed music. John Milton studied for the Anglican priesthood at Christ s… …   Encyclopedia of Protestantism

  • Milton, John — (1608 1674)    Born in London, he was educated St. Paul s School and graduated M.A. from Christ s College, Cambridge, in 1632. He aligned himself with the Parliamentarians and for ten years he was Latin secretary to Cromwell s Council of State… …   British and Irish poets

  • Milton, John — (1608–74)    Poet.    Milton was born in London and was educated at the University of Cambridge. During the English Civil War, he supported the Parliamentary cause and he wrote various pamphlets, urging Church reform, freedom of the press and a… …   Who’s Who in Christianity

  • Milton, John — ► (1608 74) Poeta inglés. Recibió una gran formación humanística. Autor del famoso poema bíblico El Paraíso perdido (1667), narración de la caída de Adán y Eva y de El Paraíso reconquistado (1671). * * * (9 dic. 1608, Londres, Inglaterra–8 nov.… …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • Milton, John — (1608 1674)    Poet, was b. 9th December 1608 in Bread Street, London. His f., also John, was the s. of a yeoman of Oxfordshire, who cast him off on his becoming a Protestant. He had then become a scrivener in London, and grew to be a man of good …   Short biographical dictionary of English literature

  • Milton,John — Mil·ton (mĭlʹtən), John. 1608 1674. English poet and scholar who is best known for the epic poem Paradise Lost (1667), an account of humanity s fall from grace. * * * …   Universalium

  • MILTON, JOHN —    poet, born in London, son of a scrivener; graduated at Cambridge, and settled to study and write poetry in his father s house at Horton, 1632; in 1638 he visited Italy, being already known at home as the author of the Hymn on the Nativity,… …   The Nuttall Encyclopaedia

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