John Milton: The Doctrine and Discipline of Divorce

(3199 words)

In 1643-44 Milton published four tracts relating to marriage and divorce. He argued that “the chief and noblest end of marriage” is “a meet and happy conversation” which works as a remedy “to comfort and refresh ... against the evil of solitary life” (DDD 2, CPW 246). Absence of this possibility justifies divorce. Milton apparently expected that most of the Presbyterian divines who now controlled Parliament would rally to his cause. He was very wrong. In spite of Henry VIII, or perhaps because of him, divorce was virtually impossible in England. In exceptional cases it might be granted by parliament, but was mostly a matter for the ecclesiastical courts. Canon law had stipulated six …

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Forsyth, Neil. "The Doctrine and Discipline of Divorce". The Literary Encyclopedia. First published 20 December 2011
[, accessed 26 November 2015.]