Images of Kingship
Milton's Politics and Christian Liberty
University of Missouri Press
Missouri & London 1983 
It will rapidly establish itself as a classic of Milton criticism.
The Year's Work in English Studies

How could John Milton support the republican cause in the English Civil War, even writing to justify the execution of Charles I, and then portray Satan's rebellion against the heavenly monarchy as evil in Paradise Lost? This apparent paradox, dealt with in recent decades by critics such as Christopher Hill, Joan Bennett, and S.P.Revard, is the starting-point for Davies' brilliant analysis of images of kingship in Milton's epic. Rather than simply attempting to parallel events in English political history or Milton's life with aspects of Milton's poem, though, Davies does something much more important: she shows how Milton's poetry absorbs and recreates the political material on which it draws, charging with new life and meaning the bare statements of political theory and yielding rich clusters of meaning that transcend any specifically political content.

After briefly establishing the historical context, Davies examines various images of kingship as they apply to the major figures of the poem, each of whom is alluded to by Milton as a king in some way. Linking each phase of her study to Milton's prose works, the author shows how Milton used historical archetypes such as the oriental tyrant and the Roman emperor in the characterisation of Satan and used feudal conceptions of the king as fatherly and liberty-guaranteeing in the presentation of God and Christ. Finally, the picture of Adam as king over Eden is analysed, revealing that he, like Solomon, loses himself in concupiscence and gains a world where power is coercion and nakedness shame.


Out of Print

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