Women and Marriage

  • Created by: Pip Dan
  • Created on: 20-09-17 17:00

John Milton's epic of theology and politics, heaven, hell, creation, free will, and redemption features a human relationship at its centre.


Much of Milton’s social commentary in Paradise Lost focuses on the role of women. In Book IV he suggests that men are superior to women, alluding to biblical passages that identify man as the head of woman. Milton’s depiction of women in Paradise Lost may seem misogynistic by today’s standards, but it is almost progressive by the standards of Milton’s day. He never suggests, as many did at the time, that women are utterly inferior or evil. He presents Eve’s wifely role as important and her presence as crucial to Adam’s character. Adam voices a harsh view of womankind only after the fall, when Satan has poisoned the naturally idyllic relationship between men and women. However, with Eve as the only female character in the poem (apart from Sin), the argument whether she is portrayed correctly becomes a wider debate about gender. So whether women are portrayed fairly is fundamentally linked with the character of Eve.


Milton’s views on marriage were considered shocking and heretical. He fought for the right to divorce in an age when nearly all denominations prohibited divorce except in some cases of adultery. But in his Doctrine and Discipline of Divorce, Milton expresses his belief that any sort of incompatibility, be it sexual, mental, or spiritual, justifies divorce. In the same essay, he argues that the main purpose of marriage is not necessarily procreation, as most people thought at that time, but the joining of two people into one unified being. He felt that conversation and mental companionship were supremely important in a marriage and seems to blame mental incompatibility for his own failed marriage. Milton believed that the partners in a marriage must complement each other, as Adam and Eve do, compensating for faults and enhancing strengths.

Conflict between God and spouse

In Genesis, the story of Adam and Eve's fall is told in a single line: "she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did…


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