Milton's Euripides and the Superior Rationality of the Heathen
The Seventeenth Century
Taylor & Francis (Routledge)
Reason for embargo
If arguments have always been made either that Milton maintains the primacy of the Bible over classical literature, or that he often presents classical sentiments as congruent with the biblical, one claim that has rarely been made is that Milton is willing to assert the truth of classical literature over that of the Bible. This article argues that there are moments in the canon that show him capable of doing precisely this, with particular reference to the invocation of his favourite Greek dramatist, Euripides. The article considers Milton’s reading and interpretation of Euripides in his early poetry and prose, before examining more closely the citation of Euripides in two of the prose works which bear heavily on the question of how politically and religiously radical Milton was: The Tenure of Kings and Magistrates and De Doctrina Christiana. The turn to Euripidean authority over the biblical reveals Milton’s willingness to subject Scripture to the test of pagan wisdom, if he judges that wisdom to have superior claims to rationality. This willingness derives from the development of his ethical thought in the 1630s and early 1640s, and from his understanding of classical, patristic and contemporary authorities, including John Selden.
This is the author accepted manuscript. The final version is available from Taylor & Francis via the DOI in this record.
Vol. 31 (2), pp. 215-237