Milton is still read hundreds of years after his death primarily because of the breathtaking beauty of his poetry. We read him today for the same reasons that we still listen to the works of Mozart or Beethoven and still stand before the paintings of Raphael and Rembrandt. Milton's medium is words, and with his words he is always arguing and championing ideas—ideas about politics and government, gender relations, free speech and toleration. Here he has much to teach us, not only about ideals toward which we still strive, but also pitfalls we would do well to avoid, for Milton is in many ways a divided figure: a proto-egalitarian on gender question who is also a fierce advocate of male privilege; an advocate of free speech and toleration, but within limits; a republican who distrusts the people; and a theocrat who inspired architects of democracy.

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