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John Milton was one of the greatest poets of the English language. Milton became a famous poet and writer because of his poem Paradise Lost. Miltons work had a great influence on all poetry, especially during the eighteenth century. Besides poems, Milton published pamphlets defending civil and religious rights.


Of Mans first disobedience, and the fruit


Of that forbidden tree whose mortal taste


Brought death into the world, and all our woe,


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With loss of Eden.


(from Paradise Lost)


John Milton was born in London. He was born at 60 a.m. on Friday, December , 1608. He lived most of his life at Spread Eagle, on Brad Street in London. His mother Sarah Jeffrey was the daughter of a sailor, and his father became wealthy as a scrivener or law writer. He also composed music. John Milton, Sr. had been sympathetic to the Protestant Reformation as a young man, a feeling that left him without the inheritance he would have received from his staunch Roman Catholic father. Milton had an older sister named Anne Milton who married Edward Phillips in 1615. He also had a younger brother named Christopher Milton. The family was wealthy enough to afford a second house in the country. Milton’s family moved to Westminister for a short time.


Milton was educated at St Pauls School. His teacher at St Paul’s School was Thomas Young, a Scotsman specializing in different languages. Milton was about two years older than the rest of his classmates. Even by the age of ten, he was writing poetry. After St. Pauls, Milton attended Cambridge University at Christs College where he was probably going to become a minister. While Milton was at college, he did not get along with his tutor, William Chappell. Some people think that the study he was forced to take was beneath his level. In his second year at Cambridge University, he got another tutor named Nathaniel Tovell.


While at Cambridge, Milton discovered his lifes passion. He had begun to write poetry in Latin, Italian, and English but soon realized his desire to devote his writing to the rest of his Christian ideas. This is one reason he decided not to become a minister. Another reason was the influence of William Laud in the organized Church of England. Laud, appointed by Charles I, was beginning to organize many Catholic rites and ceremonies into the Church of England, which was unfavorable to the Protestant part in the church.


Milton’s first published poem was “On Shakespeare” in the Second Folio of Shakespeare’s Works, his second published poem was, “A Mask”. It was dated in 167 and was probably published in the first months of 168. His third poem was Lycidas, printed in a memorial volume for Edward King.


He did not have a job but spent the next six years in his fathers home. While he was there he wrote “LAllegro,” “Il Penseroso,” “Comus,” and “Lycidas.” In 165, Milton and his family moved to Horton, Buckinghamshire, where John continued his studies in Greek, Latin, and Italian. He traveled in France and Italy in the late 160’s, meeting in Paris with the judge and theologian Hugo Grotius and the astronomer Galileo Galilei in Florence. There are references to Galileos telescope in Paradise Lost. His conversation with the blind scientist Milton recorded in “Areopagitic.” Milton returned to London in 16 and set up a school with his nephews and a few of his nephew’s close friends. For the next twenty years, Milton did not write because of the Civil War. War divided the country as Oliver Cromwell fought against King Charles I.


Because of the all the problems in the government mainly between Charles I and Parliament, Milton began the writing and publishing of pamphlets, which supported the Commonwealth opinion. Milton put everything that was anti-monarchical and against the literary restriction in those pamphlets. At this time he was known primarily as a prose writer, but was still writing poetry as well.


Miltons poetry, especially Paradise Lost, Samson Agonistes, and Paradise Regained, are some of his most famous works. Paradise Lost is considered to be Miltons masterpiece and one of the greatest poems in world literature. In its twelve books he tells the story of the fall of Satan and Adam in a context of drama and deep speculations. Milton’s goal was to “justify the ways of God to men” (from Paradise Lost). The poem was written with an open imagination. Paradise Regained, which tells of human salvation through Christ. It is a shorter work than Paradise Lost but it is still one of great richness and strength. Samson Agonistes, is a tragedy on the Greek model composed partly in blank verse and partly in unrhymed verse. Milton used the Old Testament story of Samson to inspire the defeated English Puritans with the courage to win with a great sacrifice.


Concerned with the Puritan cause, Milton wrote a series of pamphlets against the church, on divorce, in defense of the liberty of the press, and in support of the killing of King Charles I. He also served as the secretary for foreign languages in Cromwells government. After the death of King Charles I, Milton published The Tenurte of Kings and Magistrates in 164, supporting the view that the people had the right to punish and take tyrants out their position.


In 164, Milton married Mary Powell, the daughter of Richard Powell of Forest Hill, Oxfordshire, who owed Milton’s dad some money. When and where John and Mary met and why they were married is really not known. Some people think that Milton went to Oxfordshire to collect the money that Mary’s dad owed his dad. While he was in London he was married to Mary. Milton was thirty-three and Mary was sixteen. Whether them getting married was prearranged between their parents is unknown. Mary Powell grew bored with the life of a poet soon after the honeymoon was over and went back home where she stayed for three years.


The next few years in Milton’s life were very hard. This is when he started going blind. Milton’s wife Mary died a few days after she had given birth to their daughter on May 5, 165. On November 1, 1656, Milton married his second wife Katherine Woodcock. Katherine gave birth to a girl on October 1,1657. Her name was Katherine. But another tragedy struck Milton when Katherine died on February , 1658. Then his daughter died on March 17, 1658. Milton and his children lived alone from March 1658 to February 166. In February 166, Milton married for the third time. He married Elizabeth Minshull.


Milton was married three times His marriages were unhappy. This is when Milton wrote his famous essays on divorce. In “The Doctrine and Discipline of Divorce,” Milton argued that a true marriage was of mind as well as of body. Though Milton was Puritan, he had good morals and a good conscience. But some of his religious beliefs were unusual to the point of where nobody knew if they were right or not, and came into conflict with the official Puritan belief.


In 1651, Milton became blind. People have argued for years about what caused Milton to go blind. Some say that his retina became detached. Others say a cyst or a tumor caused Milton to go blind. Stories say that his eyes were always weak and he abused his eyes with long hours of studying in low candlelight.


When Milton became blind he started to write more poetry. “He sacrificed his sight, and then he remembered his first desire, that of being a poet,” (from The Cambridge Companion to Milton) Borges wrote in one of his lectures. After the Restoration of Charles II in 1660, Milton was arrested as a defender of the Commonwealth, but was soon released. Besides public burning of Eikonklastes and the first Defensio in Paris and Toulouse, Milton escaped from more punishment after Restoration, but he became a relatively poor man. In the 1660’s Milton moved with his third wife to what is now Burnhill Row. He lived there for the rest of his life except for a short visit to Chalfont St Giles in 1665 to avoid the plague. His late poems were dedicated to his daughter, nephews, friends, and disciples.


Milton’s career as a writer may be divided into three periods. The first, from 165 to 1640, was the period of early poems written while he was still at Cambrigde. His second period, from 1640 to 1660, was devoted mainly to writing pamphlets. Milton attacked the institution of bishops and argued in favor of extending the English Reformation. During the third period, he was a prose writer and a government servant.


Milton probably died of heart failure brought on by various illnesses such as gout. Gout is a disease that causes swilling of the legs. Milton died on Thursday, November 1, 1674 in Chalfont St. Giles, Buckinghamshire. He was buried beside his father in St Giles, Cripplegate. Many writers believe that Miltons grave was lost when the church was undergoing repairs. As a writer, Miltons towering figure was recognized early, but his personality and works have continued to stir up discussion.


I think, from the research that I have done, that Milton had a hard life. The poems that he wrote are considered to be some of the greatest poems ever written. Milton had a lot of faith in the Puritan belief. Milton had a good education for that time period. In my opinion John Milton was a pretty good guy.





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