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‘The Strangest Piece of Reason’: Milton's Tenure of Kings and Magistrates

Stephen M. Fallon

in The Oxford Handbook of Milton

Published in print November 2011 | ISBN: 9780199697885
Published online September 2012 | | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/oxfordhb/9780199697885.013.0013

Series: Oxford Handbooks of Literature

 ‘The Strangest Piece of Reason’: Milton's Tenure of Kings and Magistrates

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The Tenure of Kings and Magistrates appeared on 13 February 1649. While simple and straightforward enough on its face in style and argument, it can be a challenging read. The new argument clashes not only with the argument of the beginning of the Tenure, but also with the work's subtitle. The discontinuity in the Tenure runs deeper than adjusting argumentative proof to convince differing factions. John Milton offers two political visions in the Tenure. The first is a contract theory of government that is predicated on the fall of man and which addresses the partiality, fallibility, and vice inherited by fallen human beings. In this model the coercive authority of the king or magistrate is essential to the functioning of government. For Milton's second vision, he falls back on his own perspective as a godly man subject to government.

Keywords: Tenure of Kings; John Milton; contract theory; government; coercive authority

Article.  5634 words. 

Subjects: Literature ; Literary Studies (1500 to 1800) ; Literary Studies (Poetry and Poets)

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