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Milton’s ‘Of Divorce’ Tracts
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  1. Milton’s ‘Of Divorce’ Tracts Aka: No Likey, No Wifey

  2. (Brief) History of Divorce • The Catholic Church forbids divorce. - Marriage can only be dissolved by the death of one of the partners, or if the marriage has not been sexually consummated. • 1529 – Pope refuses to annul Henry VIII’s marriage to Catherine of • Aragon so that he can marry Anne Boleyn. • Henry VIII establishes Church of England in 1534. • Henry VIII was reluctant to divorce. • Council of Trent (1560 – 1563) – establishing marital indissolubility • Protestant Reformation – established doctrines on divorce.

  3. Milton’s Wives Here Comes The Bride! ( y

  4. Mary Powell 1642-52 1. ‘Miss Davis’ Katherine Woodcock 1657-8 2. Elizabeth Minshull 1663 - 1674 (Milton’s death) 3.

  5. CONTEXT End of 1642 ‘filling the void left by the overthrow of the Bishops was surely recognized as a pressing concern’ (Campbell ,148) 1638 1642 Mary Powell Campbell, G. & Corns, Thomas N. John Milton: life, work, and thought (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008)

  6. August 1643 Parliament reforming church Restoring the dignity of man Only initials and no publication information

  7. Key Points of Milton’s Argument • ‘a meet and happy conversation is the chiefest and noblest end of marriage’ (chapter 2) • Divorces give people experience not only in relationships but in sex (chapter 3) • If a man is unsatisfied in marriage, he may ‘sucumb to sinful temptations’ (chapter 5) • No mutual love = no marriage (chapter 6) • The Jewish faith permits divorce (for similar reasons to Milton) (chapter 6) • Christ spoke about prohibiting divorce in relation to two of the same religion – therefore one must be allowed to divorce an unreligious wife (chapter 8) • Unhappy marriages may shorten or endanger one’s life. (chapter 11) • A marriage is a covenant of God – but if there is no mutual happiness then God was never with them and therefore his laws don’t apply. (chapter 13)

  8. Reception 1644 Herbert Palmer gave sermon to parliament branding Of Divorce as a ‘wicked book’ (Miller, 122) Only book length response printed , Answer to a Book, Intituled, The Doctrine and Discipline of Divorce, or, a Plea for Ladies and Gentlemen, and all other Married Women against Divorce (Campbell, 165) CONSEQUENCES Miller, Leo. John Milton among the Polygamophiles(New York: Loewenthal Press, 1974)

  9. Stationers Company Response: ‘to inquire out the Authors, Printers and Publishers, of the Pamphlet against the Immorality of the Soul, and concerning Divorce’ (Campbell , 165) PARLIAMENT Turn focus on ‘frequent printing of scandalous books’ (Campbell, 166) FAILURE Milton and Hezekiah Woodward brought before Judge ‘to be interrogated in the presence of the Stationers’ representatives’ (Campbell, 166) No further action against Milton and Woodward released on bail (Campbell , 167)

  10. To read it, click here. Full name – not initials

  11. Tetrachordon (March 1645) Milton connects four Scriptural passages, (Genesis 1:27-28, Deuteronomy 24:1, Matthew 5:31-32 and 19:2-9, and I Corinthians 7:10-16), in order to argue that Scripture supports the legalization of divorce. In addition to this argument, the work is targeted at Herbert Palmer, who attacked Milton's The Doctrine and Discipline in a sermon to Parliament, and pamphlets published in support of Palmer's position. In particular, Milton attacks: ...his arrogance, that censures not onely before conviction so bitterly without so much as one reason giv'n, but censures the Congregation of his Governors to their faces, for not being so hasty as himself to censure.

  12. The Anonymous Pamphlet “Now a word to your last Argument and so farewell. Every law is made for some good, which good may be attained unto without a greater inconvenience: but such is not the law that prohibits Divorce for disagreements of mindes and dispositions: Ergo, it is not a just law. We denie this your Argument, and say,  that there are many laws which are made for good, and yet that good is not attainable through the defaults of the partie, but a greater inconvenience followes, and yet are indeed still just lawes. I will give you two or three instances in our lawes of England…” Milton's argument “smels very strongly of little lesse than blasphemie against Christ himself.” The ‘anonymous’ pamphlet attacking of divorce can be found here. Extracts:

  13. Colasterion – Milton’s reply to the anonymous pamphlet.

  14. Cheers!