“My self / Before Me”
The Erotics of Republicanism in Paradise Lost
Chapter Eight argues that Milton’s conception of republican virtue looks very different in light of his self-described debt to Spenser. Milton inherits Spenser’s doubt in the human ability to recognize, much less control, self-destructive and perverse impulses. As Milton’s divorce tracts acknowledge, and as Paradise Lost illustrates, the need for others may really express a narcissistic wish for mastery and coherence that threatens not only conjugal harmony, but also the formation of any state grounded on ideals of public service, debate, and compromise. In making Eve’s submission the model by which Adam regains his proper relation to God, Milton situates such feminine humility as a model for political subjects who wish to restore godly rule. This Christian ideal of submission modulates the classical republican ideal of hard masculinity into a more androgynous imitatio Christi, which for Milton is the truest form of human authority.
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