Wesley R. Sholtes ó Honors in English
The Temptation Ethic: Synthesizing Virtue and Monarchy in Miltonís Post-Restoration Poetry
My project seeks to place John Miltonís post-Restoration poetry in a religious context that can explain Miltonís political views regarding monarchy. In particular, I introduce the literary theme of temptation found in his early works, including Comus, Lycidas, and (later) Paradise Lost. This theme presents itself in a form of dogma that is echoed even in his latest poetry, including Paradise Regainíd and Samson Agonistes, a dogma I refer to as Miltonís temptation ethic. The ethic is very works-based and is influenced liberalizing forces of Arminianism which Milton espouses over the conservative, predestinarian Calvinism which predominates English religious thought for many, many years before Miltonís time (and especially in the uber-Protestant Elizabethan era). For Milton, salvation can (and must) be earned, and perhaps one the most important ways of earning it and becoming a self-fulfilled individual is to take advantage of the free will God has given us to resist temptation and perform good deeds. As such, the humanistic side of Milton is less important. The temptation ethic, with the role that Arminianism play within it, translates into a view of English politics diverging from the most obvious view seemingly espoused by Milton in The Ready and Easy Way to Establish a Free Commonwealth. In short, Miltonís position toward monarchy is not nearly as negative or volatile as critics have shown, nor does his post-Restoration stance favor a republic. Rather, Milton yearns for the government that will most abide by his temptation ethic, though his disillusionment with Cromwellís Commonwealth leads him to realize that such a government may never emerge until Christís reign. So, Paradise Regainíd and Samson Agonistes look forward to the day when this momentous event will occur, and they see a monarchy adhering to the temptation ethic as the best government.