ABSTRACT

Milton's anthropomorphic representation of the Father and the Son in book 3 of Paradise Lost has always courted controversy. Early readers were divided, some faulting it for blasphemy, others praising it for the accuracy of its characterization. In the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, the dialogue in heaven became, and continues to be, embroiled in the debate concerning Milton's anti-Trinitarian beliefs, and the question of the Father's goodness, prompted by the discovery of De Doctrina Christiana. This article adopts a new perspective by situating the celestial scene in the context of the varied iconography of the Trinity that flourished in the Middle Ages in England and on the Continent, an iconography that would be subject to reform during the Reformation and considered anathema by Milton's more iconoclastic contemporaries. Focusing on this pictorial tradition allows us to revisit Milton's critique of the doctrine of the Trinity, to take note of his scripturally licensed iconophilia, and to see and hear the passion at the heart of the dialogue.

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