Milton Classical Friendship, and the Republican Tradition

Document Type

Grant Proposal

Date Accepted

Spring 2005

Project Description/Abstract

Part of a book-length study of Milton, this chapter will examine the influence of Ciceronian and Stoic theories of amicitia on Milton’s political writings, especially The Tenure of Kings and Magistrates (1649), Eikonoklastes (1649), and A defense of the people of England (1651). Classical writers frequently juxtaposed examples of perfect friendship with tyranny, and this opposition increasingly appears in English drama leading up to the Civil War. The chapter will situate Milton’s political works within this context, examining how the “mutual bond of amity and brother-hood between man and man” that he describes in The Tenure legitimates civil disobedience and tyrannicide. It will argue that this model of friendship serves as a complicated form of self possession and established the basis for resisting monarchical claims of absolute power over political subjects. At the same time, however, the chapter will reveal how the male political subject’s mastery over his own household, and thus the subordination and enclosure of his wife, provides the cornerstone of his political agency.

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