ABSTRACT

The heroic metaphors and allusions in Milton's prose have received little attention in their own right, having been subordinated to study of either his early epic plans or his mature rejection of classical epic. But following Milton's heroic language from pamphlet to pamphlet one finds a coherent and partly self-contained pattern. In wrestling with the problematical role of the intellectual in times of crisis, and in trying to define that role as heroic, Milton created a linguistic and metaphoric synthesis of action and contemplation which differs from the passive fortitude of the great poems. Its affinities are with Ciccro's definition of the orator, and with Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics at the point where they lead into the Politics, rather than with the Book of Job; and its emphasis is on the hero as public benefactor. Developed in part to justify his decision to enter the church reform debates, Milton's synthesis is held defensively in the divorce pamphlets, actively in the Areopagitica; set aside for political expediency in the regicide pamphlets, it is triumphantly restated in the Second Defence; and finally, in the Pro Se Defensio, Milton found it crumble in his hands. When Milton dropped out of politics, his civic heroism had become impossible to maintain, not only because of the Restoration, but because, as his language reveals, his confidence in his own impartiality and unselfishness had been destroyed.

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