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Milton’s True Character As A Writer Is That He Is An Ancient, But Born Two Thousand Years After His Time…All His Images Are Pure Antique. (Jonathan Richardson) How Valuable Is This Approach To Milton Notes

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Milton's

true

character

as

a

Writer

is

that

he

is

an

Ancient,

but

born

two

thousand

years


after

his

time...all

his

images

are

Pure

Antique.

(Jonathan

Richardson)

How

valuable

is


this

approach

to

Milton


Describing

Milton

as

an

"Ancient"

is

indeed

useful

as

it

points

to

the

interesting

issue

of


reputation

within

Milton's

writing.

How

he

wished

to

characterize

his

role

as

writer

and

poet

in


a

time

not

only

of

political

upheaval

but

when

the

role

of

writer

was

still

being

explored

and


mapped

out,

is

reflected

in

his

choice

of

form

and

use

of

imagery.

Despite

Richardson's

remark,


that

Milton

was

"born

two

thousand

years

after

his

time"

the

fact

that

Milton

tended

to

reach


back

to

the

past

in

search

of

classical

imagery,

suggests

not

a

sense

of

anachronism

but

rather

a


writer

who

was

searching

for

the

best

language

and

forms

in

which

to

express

his

dissatisfaction


with

the

present.

In

the

tumultuous

period

of

the

1640

to

Milton's

death,

a

time

which

included


civil

war,

regicide,

restoration

and

then

the

impending

'Glorious

Revolution'

of

William

of

Orange


(1688),

Milton

explored

different

metaphorical

expressions

and

literary

forms

in

order

to


express

his

political

and

religious

concerns,

such

as

in

Aeropagitica

and

his

earlier

prelate

tracts.


Milton's

shaped

many

of

his

works

for

political

purposes

and

the

Ancients,

with

their

classical


associations

of

ideal

commonwealths,

free

speech

and

an

elevated

status

of

national

poet,


provided

him

with

the

ideal

rhetoric.

Milton

may

have

used

classical

imagery

as

a

tool,

but

it

is


also

,as

Richardson

pointed

out,

part

of

his

character,

or

more

accurately

'self

presentation',

one


which

he

seems

ultimately

to

have

been

ambivalent

towards

as

can

be

seen

in

the

two

variant


publications

of

Paradise

Lost.


In

Milton's

1644

speech

Areopagitica,

his

use

of

classical

imagery

is

specifically

tailored

to

serve


a

political

purpose

yet

it

also

reveals

his

own

views

towards

his

role

as

a

writer.

Milton's

use

of


classical

imagery

to

persuade

his

opponent

is

clear

within

Aeropagitica.

In

describing

the

follies


of

censorship

and

how

it

will

only

limit

mans

ability

to

exercise

his

reason,

Milton

offers


Parliament

two

models

for

emulation;

either

the

Classical

commonwealth's

who

supported

free


speech,

or

the

Papish

states

which

do

not.

The

eloquence

of

Milton's

translation

of

Euripides

is


contrasted

with

his

visual

depiction

of

the

disease

of

censorship,

which

"crept

out

of

the


Inquisition,

was

catch't

up

by

our

Prelates

and

have

caught

some

of

our

Presbyters".

By


comparing

the

licensing

act

with

the

Catholic

"projects"

of

the

tyrannical

societies

of

Spain

with


the

enlightened

policies

of

the

ancients

within

a

form

which

itself

recalls

those

writers

and


commonwealths

of

antiquity

which

did

not

support

censorship,

Milton

convincingly

depicts

the


dichotomy

between

enlightenment

and

tyranny.

Milton

supports

this

methods

and

avoids

any


accusations

of

atheism

in

his

stout

appeal

to

the

classics,

by

reminding

his

listeners

how

the


apostle

Paul

in

Athens

preaches

to

the

Athenians,

also

at

the

Areogaus,

and

uses

the

language

of


Aratus,

a

pagan

poet

(Acts

17).

Milton

states

"Paul

thought

it

no

defilement

to

insert

into

Holy


Scripture

the

sentences

of

three

Greek

poets,

and

one

of

them

a

Tragedian".

The

use

of

classical


and

biblical

allusions

here

shows

an

attempt

to

reconcile

these

two

aspects

of

Milton's

argument.


By

demonstrating

how

Roman

and

classical

learning

can

reside

within

the

boundaries

of


Christian

morality,

Milton

appeals

both

to

faith

and

to

reason

and

ensures

that

this

use

of


classical

models

is

applicable

to

contemporary

society


The

title

of

Milton's

speech

is

derived

from

the

classical

Areopagititcus

of

Isocrates'

speech

'On


the

Areogus'

which

itself

outlines

a

program

for

political

reform,

namely

the

degradation

of

the


judges

of

the

highest

Greek

court

-

the

Aerogaus.

Isocrates

speech,

given

at

the

end

of

the

Social


War,

commends

the

ancient

constitution

of

Athens

and

so

provided

Milton

with

the

perfect

form


for

emulation

here.

Milton's

speech,

given

also

during

a

time

of

civil

war

uses

a

similar

technique

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