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The Unrepentant RenaissanceFrom Petrarch to Shakespeare to Milton$
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Richard Strier

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780226777511

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: September 2013

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226777535.001.0001

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Milton against Humility

Milton against Humility

(p.248) Chapter 6 Milton against Humility
The Unrepentant Renaissance

Richard Strier

University of Chicago Press

This chapter examines Milton’s work wherein the ethical position contained from the beginning to end is fundamentally classical rather than Christian. It also examines key terms in Milton’s works, such as the virtue of megalopsychia or “proper pride” in classical ethics, and “humility” from the Christian tradition. For Milton, “humility” functions as a negative term that attacks one’s dignity or worthiness. Milton is attempting to liberate the soul of man from continuously being belittled and undervalued. The appeal to human dignity is at the heart of Milton’s polemical prose. To receive the sacrament of baptism out of a sense of unworthiness, for example, is not humility but “fleshly pride.” This chapter is also dedicated towards revealing the instances through which Milton attacks this “specious humility.”

Keywords:   megalopsychia, proper pride, classical ethics, fleshly pride, specious humility, Milton, polemical prose, appeal to human dignity

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