Toleration and Nationhood in the 1650s: ‘Sonnet XV’ and the Case of Ireland

Elizabeth Sauer

in Milton and Toleration

Published in print July 2007 | ISBN: 9780199295937
Published online September 2007 | e-ISBN: 9780191712210 | DOI:
 Toleration and Nationhood in the 1650s: ‘Sonnet XV’ and the Case of Ireland

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This chapter locates Milton's Sonnet XV ‘On the late Massacre in Piedmont’ in the political and cultural milieu in which it was produced, in order to present a new facet to the poem's critical tradition and the work it performs in the history of tolerationism and nationhood. The first section establishes a framework for interpreting Parliament's reaction to the Piedmont massacre and to the corresponding English-Irish crisis, revealing the ways that toleration and imperialism operated side by side and were integral to the Interregnum government's mission to advance a nationalist agenda. The second part of the argument historicizes the ‘resolution’ Milton presents in the ‘sestet’ of his sonnet, specifically the advancement of the Reformation through the planting of Protestantism in Catholic soils. By studying Sonnet XV in these contexts, one discovers how ‘the blood of the martyrs becomes the seed of colonialism’, thus capturing the imperial potential implicit in the acts and expressions of tolerationism.

Keywords: Milton; Irish crisis; Piedmont; Waldensians; tolerationism; imperialism; Interregnum government; poetry

Chapter.  10067 words. 

Subjects: Literary Studies (1500 to 1800)

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