John Milton: Catching the Conscience of the King? Politics and Paradise Lost

28 Pages Posted: 26 Feb 2009

Date Written: November 30, 2008


The paper analyzes John Milton's activities as a political polemicist before and after the killing of Charles I. It examines in particular his Tenure of Kings and Magistrates, and Eikonoklastes, his support for the regicide, and his concept of governance of the Commonwealth. It argues that there neither any literary merit, nor any polemical brilliance in these tracts, and that they are inadequate in outlining any approach either to the law of the constitution or to improving the position of the Commonwealth. It shows that they were based on a complete misunderstanding of the legal position of the monarch, either in ignorance or wilfully. It suggests that in Paradise Lost, Milton himself may well have perceived it as a vehicle for articulating an until then unarticulated remorse for his rabid utterances in his tracts.

Keywords: John Milton, Tenure of Kings and Magistrates, Eikonoklastes, seventeenth century polemic, coronation oath, Oliver Cromwell, Charles I, regicide, Eikon Basilike, Commonwealth, Paradise Lost

Suggested Citation

Kelly, Margaret R.L.L., John Milton: Catching the Conscience of the King? Politics and Paradise Lost (November 30, 2008). Available at SSRN: or

Margaret R.L.L. Kelly (Contact Author)

Macquarie Law School ( email )

Macquarie University
Balaclava Road, North Ryde NSW, 2109, Australia
Sydney, New South Wales 2109


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