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Milton and Toleration$
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Sharon Achinstein and Elizabeth Sauer

Print publication date: 2007

Print ISBN-13: 9780199295937

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2007

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199295937.001.0001

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Milton, Natural Law, and Toleration

Milton, Natural Law, and Toleration

(p.126) 7 Milton, Natural Law, and Toleration
Milton and Toleration

Jason P. Rosenblatt (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

Reading Milton's prose chronologically, there is no way to prepare for the differences between the last antiprelatical tract (April 1642) and the first divorce tract (July 1643) — or, for most readers, between Volume 1 and Volume 2 of the Yale edition of Milton's prose. The earlier, antiprelatical treatises are marked by a Pauline absolutism that will not compound with human weakness as an inevitable condition lying within the bounds of divine forgiveness. But beginning with the first divorce tract and extending through the Areopagitica, Milton confronts with compassion a life of mistake and the inseparability of good and evil in this imperfect world. This transformation can be understood in part by a shift in sources: Whereas the antiprelatical tracts apotheosize the spiritual aristocrats of the Reformation who emphasize difference, the divorce tracts draw on natural law theorists such as Hugo Grotius and John Selden, who emphasize commonality.

Keywords:   Hugo Grotius, John Selden, Jean Barbeyrac, divorce, antiprelatical tracts, reformation, natural law, Pauline absolutism, commonality

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