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21. The Radical Religious Politics of Paradise Lost

David Loewenstein


Subject Politics, Religion
Literature » Seventeenth Century Literature

People Milton, John

Key-Topics Paradise Lost, radicalism

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405113700.2003.00023.x


Extract

Milton most likely composed Paradise Lost between 1658 and 1663, a period of great political turmoil and transition during which this godly republican writer strenuously resisted the oncoming Restoration and lamented its inevitable realization. In the second edition of The Readie and Easie Way (April 1660), published just weeks before King Charles II entered London, Milton daringly cried out with prophetic fervour against his countrymen for ‘chusing … a captain back for Egypt ’, especially after ‘all this light among us’ during the revolutionary decades; and he characterized, with a sense of alarm, the reckless popular rush towards monarchy, warning ‘to what a precipice of destruction the deluge of this epidemic madness would hurrie us’ ( CPW VII: 462–3). The impending Restoration returned not only the king, but the Church of England, and with this came a great wave of militant Anglicanism, strict censorship and religious persecution. Radical as well as orthodox puritans (including Presbyterians) suffered ( Baxter 1696 : Parts I and II). Conventicles or unauthorized meetings for religious worship were suppressed and godly ministers ejected ( Matthews 1934 ). The so-called Clarendon Code enacted by the Cavalier Parliament (1661–5) consisted of a series of repressive, savage acts aimed at all those who refused to conform to the established church. Milton himself was arrested ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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