John Milton: A Cause Without a Rebel

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Virginia Tech

John Milton has been frequently associated with rebellion, both by modern scholars and by his contemporaries. Objectively speaking, he may very well be a rebel; however, looking to his own works complicates the issue. In fact, Milton makes very clear in his writing, especially in The Tenure of Kings and Magistrates, that he abhors rebellion mainly because it is unlawful. Furthermore, he describes the uprising against King Charles I by disassociating it from any kind of rebellion, instead determining that the uprising was done lawfully. Milton writes about rebellion in the same way in many of his works leading up to and including Paradise Lost, where Satan resembles the rebel that Milton so vehemently despises. Given Milton's dislike of rebellion, his association of it with Satan complicates another commonplace scholarly argument; that Satan is sympathetic in Paradise Lost. This work will explicate Milton's definition of rebellion, especially through Tenure, and will then use that definition to demonstrate that Satan cannot be read as sympathetic.

John Milton, King Charles I, Rebellion, Satan, Paradise Lost, On The Tenure of Kings and Magistrates