Religion in the Age of Enlightenment


John Milton, Book Review, Age of Enlightenment


John Milton evades literary categorization more than any of his early modern contemporaries. William Shakespeare and Christopher Marlowe primarily elicited fame through their contributions to English drama and poetry. John Donne is recognized as a master of both the sonnet and the sermon, though his love poetry remains a significant object of study as well. Milton, however, who wrote primarily as a poet and a pamphleteer, also worked as a government employee, actively engaging his social and political circumstances perhaps more than any other literary writer in early modern England. Milton's activism later led T. S. Eliot, when repenting his part in early twentieth-century attacks on Milton, to call Milton a "symbolic figure" of the Civil War (123). Understanding Milton's devotion to what he viewed as political and theological liberty suggests the impossibility of approaching Milton as an author whose literary contributions fit easily into individual categories.