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An uncompromising defender of liberty as well as a sublime poet, John Milton published the "Areopagitica" in 1644, at the height of the English Civil War. The impetus arose from Parliament's Licensing Order, which censored all printed materials and ultimately led to arrests, book burnings, and other authoritarian abuses. Milton's polemic, strengthened by biblical and classical allusions, remains enduringly significant and ranks among the world's most eloquent defenses of the right to free speech.
In addition to the "Areopagitica," this collection of Milton's most significant prose works includes "Of Education," a tract on educational reform; "Meditation Upon Divine Justice and The Death of King Charles the First," a rationale for the overthrow of the monarchy; "The Doctrine and Disciple of Divorce," in which the author urges the enactment of a virtually unheard-of reform allowing divorce for incompatibility and the right of remarriage; and "Autobiographical Extracts," featuring highlights from Milton's memoirs.
John Milton was a seventeenth-century English poet, polemicist, and civil servant in the government of Oliver Cromwell. Among Milton s best-known works are the classic epic Paradise Lost, Paradise Regained, considered one of the greatest accomplishments in English blank verse, and Samson Agonistes.
Writing during a period of tremendous religious and political change, Milton s theology and politics were considered radical under King Charles I, found acceptance during the Commonwealth period, and were again out of fashion after the Restoration, when his literary reputation became a subject for debate due to his unrepentant republicanism. T.S. Eliot remarked that Milton s poetry was the hardest to reflect upon without one s own political and theological beliefs intruding.
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