Milton and the Politics of Public Speech

Research output: Book/ReportBook

6 Citations (Scopus)


Using Hannah Arendt’s account of the Greek polis to explain Milton’s fascination with the idea of public speech, this study reveals what is distinctive about his conception of a godly, republican oratory and poetics. The book shows how Milton uses rhetorical theory – its ideas, techniques and image patterns – to dramatise the struggle between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ oratory, and to fashion his own model of divinely inspired public utterance. Connecting his polemical and imaginative writing in new ways, the book discusses the subliminal rhetoric at work in Milton’s political prose and the systematic scrutiny of the power of oratory in his major poetry. By setting Milton in the context of other Civil War polemicists, of classical political theory and its early modern reinterpretations, and of Renaissance writing on rhetoric and poetic language, the book sheds new light on his work across several genres, culminating in an extended Arendtian reading of his ‘Greek’ drama *Samson Agonistes*.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationFarnham, Surrey, UK, and Burlington VT, USA
Number of pages302
ISBN (Electronic)978-1-4724-1521-9, 978-1-4724-1522-6
ISBN (Print)978-1-4724-1520-2
Publication statusPublished - 2 Jan 2015

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© Helen Lynch 2015.


  • John Milton, Milton poetry, Milton prose, Samson Agonistes, Hannah Arendt, Civil War polemic, rhetoric, Paradise Lost, Paradise Regained, Lycidas, Comus, cosmetics, embroidery, gardening, imagery, gender, genre, romance Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Demosthenes, Isocrates, Cicero Jurgen Habermas, public sphere, politics, Greek polis, Puttenham, Sidney, Peacham, Wilson, Spenser, Hobbes, Tudor rhetoricians, renaissance rhetoric, rhetorical handbooks, renaissance poetics, seventeenth-century language theory, classical oratory, seventeenth-century women’s writing, early modern political oratory, Shakespeare Antony and Cleopatra, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Faerie Queene, Jesus, St Paul, Hercules, political theory, classical republicanism, English Civil War, English revolution, Restoration, Commonwealth, Cleopatra, Mark Antony, seventeenth-century pamphlet war
  • English Literature, Early Modern Literature, Milton studies, Classical and Renaissance Rhetoric, gender studies, women’s studies, cultural history, reception of classical rhetoric in the renaissance, the history of polemic, poetics, history of civil war polemic and seventeenth-century newsbooks, political theory of Hannah Arendt, the public sphere, and genre studies, especially romance.


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