Areopagitica: 'The Known Rules of Antient Libertie'

The European Legacy 17 (3):317 - 331 (2012)
Though Milton at no point in Areopagitica attacks monarchical government directly, his position in this treatise is implicitly republican. The vocabulary of Areopagitica is full of echoes of republican discourse, with terms like ?tyranny,? ?slavery,? ?yoke,? ?servile,? ?thraldom,? as well as ?true liberty.? In a number of eloquent metaphorical passages, the search for truth is presented both as a sacred duty and as a communal task, performed by free individuals working independently in a common cause. The extended metaphor of ?the virgin Truth,? hewed into ?a thousand peeces? to be patiently reassembled ?in every joynt and member,? like many passages in Areopagitica, is simultaneously classical and Christian in its allusions and its imagery. In the celebrated ?fugitive and cloistered virtue? passage, anticipating the action of Paradise Lost, the reading of books is presented as one of many instances of the exercise of moral choice, ?triall???by what is contrary.? Conflating Biblical and classical allusions, Milton here redefines ?the rules of antient libertie? in terms of the freedom of the will, extended to Adam and Eve and their descendants by their creator, in accordance with Milton's Arminian theology
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DOI 10.1080/10848770.2012.672184
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