Women, Children, and the Rhetoric of Milton’s Divorce Tracts
van den Berg, Sara
Early Modern Literary Studies 10.1 (May, 2004)
In his divorce tracts, Milton uses vignette, metaphor, and vituperation as rhetorical strategies to augment his rational argument that English marital law should be reformed to permit divorce on grounds of personal and spiritual incompatibility. Vignettes of unhappy marriage not only reflect Milton’s own biographical circumstances when he wrote the tract but also give his readers a way to understand the experiential motivation of marriage, divorce, and the call for reform. Images of women and children in the divorce tracts augment his rational argument, indicating Milton’s deep awareness of the cost of failed marriage. His vituperative rhetoric in Colasterion displace onto an anonymous critic the rage he felt toward Mary Powell.