In this article, I argue that for John Milton in Paradise Lost and Areopagitica freedom was a rhetorical quality of action: an ethical capacity to address a situation by means of language. I contrast Milton’s approach to that of Thomas Hobbes, for whom freedom was only a state. These reflections suggest that Milton’s rhetorical freedom, a capacity to act amid oppositions by virtue of the wisdom and power of discourse, offers the outlines of an alternate modernity.

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