Milton and the Culture of Violence

Milton and the Culture of Violence

Milton and the Culture of Violence

Milton and the Culture of Violence

Synopsis

In this powerful work of criticism, Lieb explores the culture of violence--shaped by myth as well as historical circumstance--that colors Milton's outlook and permeates his art. In Lieb's view, a central image in Milton's writings is the specter of sparagmos, or bodily mutilation and dismemberment. Tracing this image across Milton's entire career, Lieb offers authoritative new readings of Areopagitica, A Mask, Lycidas, Samson Agonistes, and Paradise Lost, as well as of lesser-known works.

Excerpt

In the remarkable passage that concludes Mansus (ll. 85-100), Milton envisions the aftermath of his own death. What he offers is a fantasy of wholeness, fulfillment, and the solicitous endeavors of a close friend who attends upon him in these crucial moments to keep his body safe and unviolated. Bequeathing (relinquam) to death (cineri) that which is owed to it, Milton has no concern about what will happen to his body. His friend will make certain that his limbs (artus), no longer animated by life, are deposited with due care and respect in an appropriate receptacle. So deposited, Milton's body will be accorded all the rites that accompany the veneration of one who has achieved such acclaim. His friend will erect a memorial in Milton's honor. As a sign that the poet will endure, his features (vultus) will be engraved in marble, a memorial that will depict his flowing hair (comas) wreathed with myrtle or laurel, foliage befitting his poetic vocation. Because of the care, indeed veneration, exhibited in these burial rites, the poet, so nobly and solicitously interred, will be entirely at peace (at ego secura pace quiescam). Fully satisfied that such care has been taken with his remains, the poet is then able to undergo an apotheosis to the celestial realms. There, "suffused with brilliant light" on his "serene face," he shall congratulate himself (plaudam mihi) on all he has accomplished, as he observes his body so well attended to in its final state of rest.

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