John Milton: The Doctrine and Discipline of Divorce

(3082 words)
  • Neil Forsyth (Université de Lausanne )

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 grounds for divorce: sexual o…

Please log in to consult the article in its entirety. If you are a member (student of staff) of a subscribing institution (see List), you should be able to access the LE on campus directly (without the need to log in), and off-campus either via the institutional log in we offer, or via your institution's remote access facilities, or by creating a personal user account with your institutional email address. If you are not a member of a subscribing institution, you will need to purchase a personal subscription. For more information on how to subscribe as an individual user, please see under Individual Subcriptions.

Forsyth, Neil. "The Doctrine and Discipline of Divorce". The Literary Encyclopedia. First published 20 December 2011
[, accessed 01 October 2016.]