Introduction. The Doctrine and Discipline of Divorce (DDD) first appeared in August 1643 as a tract addressed to both Parliament and the Westminster Assembly of Divines. Parliament at that time was in the early throes of assuming a position of political supremacy destined shortly to blossom into direct military hostilities against the crown, that is, civil war. The Puritan party in Parliament, with Milton's polemical help (Of Reformation [1641], The Reason of Church Government [1642], An Apology for Smectymnuus [1642]), had succeeded in abolishing episcopacy, the form of church government inherited from the pre-reformation Roman Catholic Church and challenging Charles I's "personal rule" (rule without calling Parliament). Reform was the watchword of the day. To most Puritans, including Milton, reform meant restoring institutions to the way they were before they were "corrupted" by the medieval Catholic Church.

The top item on the reformers' agenda was the church--how would it be structured? how much difference in organization and liturgy would it tolerate? what role, if any, would canon law play in a fully reformed Church of England? In large part, Milton offered the DDD as a specific proposal for church reform; he recommended that the new church abandon canon law on marriage since marriage was no longer considered a church sacrament. In Ernest Sirluck's cogent summary, Milton proposed to match and then exceed the reforms typical of most European Protestant states:

Milton's demand went very much further. It was for the recognition of divorce a vinculo with the right of remarriage for both parties; the liberalization of grounds, particularly to include incompatibility; and the removal of divorce from public jurisdiction, whether ecclesiastical or civil, to private. (Complete Prose Works of John Milton Volume 1. Edited by Don M. Wolfe [New Haven: Yale University Press, 1953, 146. Hereafter cited as Yale Prose)

Milton believed that the work of church reform was largely a process of restoring the dignity and liberties men (this is gender specific) once enjoyed but had lost to the tyrannies of prelacy, custom, and ignorance:

Yee have now, doubtlesse by the savour and appointment of God, yee have now in your hands a great and populous Nation to Reform; from what corruption, what blindnes in Religion yee know well; in what degenerat and fal'n spirit from the apprehension of native liberty, and true manlines. ("To Parlament")

One might well argue that Milton's entire effort in his political tracts is epitomized by his concern for restoring manly dignity to Englishmen. In Tetrachordon (1645) he wrote:

For nothing now-a-days is more degenerately forgotten, than the true dignity of Man, almost in every respect, but especially in this prime institution of Matrimony, wherin his native pre-eminence ought most to shine.

When he alleges that the "dignity of man" has suffered greater neglect in his day than any other single thing-- including, presumably many of Milton's other favorite things like scripture, learning, reason, and ancient liberties-- he probably did not mean to exaggerate; he meant that all the evil and corruption of medieval religion and politics can be epitomized as a general threat to manliness. He had been anxious about the degraded estate of manly dignity for many years before 1644, and in venues other than marital relations. In Reason of Church Government Milton's most frequent charge against prelacy is that, reform it however you choose, it will inevitably lead the country back to popish slavery; his second most frequent (and related) allegation is that prelacy un-mans men. As an ecclesiastical system it promotes servility among otherwise manly Christians (Yale Prose 1.844, 850); it makes merchandise of men's souls and bodies (849); and prompts abjection and self-loathing (843) among Christian men for whom a proper sense of self-esteem is not only healthy but soteriologically necessary (842). Prelates, announces Milton, are "man-haters" (851); and here he does not point his finger at particular prelates, he means that prelates are structurally constituted to be man-haters; he means man-hating is integral to being a bishop. I would avoid noting how much this sounds like a popular modern charge against feminists if Milton did not himself go out of his way to gender this accusation against prelates. Milton personifies prelacy as a whore, "making merchandise" of men's souls and bodies, inasmuch as men's souls and bodies are what literally is signified by the feminine personification of the church prelatical -- that is, the Great Whore.

To Milton, canon law was just another weapon used by the "Great Whore" against men, and since the English church continued to enforce such laws governing marriage and divorce, she was the whore's accomplice. Milton wants to restore manly dignity to the practice of marriage, first by restoring the power of divorce exclusively to husbands, and second by insisting that marriage is principally a kind of friendship much like the manly friendships described by Socrates in the Symposium and Aristotle in the Nicomachean Ethics--a kind of enlightened heteroerotic pederasty. Milton's zeal against canon law is the same as his zeal against bishops--the goal is to restore manliness to English Christianity. This is why he has no patience with the widespread European Protestant notion that divorce should be allowed to wives as a protection from abusive husbands. Milton wants to liberalize divorce, but for men, not for women.

Milton's personal circumstances only increased his zeal for the restoration of manly dignity. In his address "To Parlament" Milton acknowledges the role played by "self-concernment" in his efforts. Most of the details of Milton's first marriage, to Mary Powell, will always be matter for speculation, but even the limited facts established by biographers and historians indicate that Milton had a strong personal stake in divorce reform. Having settled into a schoolmaster's life at the age of thirty-two, Milton acquired a wife rather suddenly and, to those around him, unexpectedly in June 1642. He travelled to Forest Hill near Oxford presumably to dun Richard Powell in person for late payment of interest on a £300 obligation Milton had inherited from his father. Whether or not Milton fell in love is unknown, but he returned to London having settled the financial matter and married to Powell's eldest daughter. He was thirty-three; she was seventeen. After six or eight weeks of married life, Mary received her husband's permission for an extended visit to her father's home; she promised to return in late September. Just before that date, the first blood of the civil war was shed (Parker [1996] 230); King Charles I was now openly at war with the militia Parliament had authorized the previous spring. Richard Powell (like Milton's lawyer brother Christopher) was an ardent Royalist. No doubt he hoped to restore his fortunes by pinning his hopes on the King. Mary Milton did not return to London until 1645.

Milton could, under existing canon law, have obtained a formally legal separation a meno et thoro, as it was called--from bed and board. She had deserted him and that was sufficient grounds. This would not, however, dissolve the marriage, and neither John nor Mary would be free to re-marry. For divorce and re-marriage, Milton would have to argue (and prevail in court) that the marriage had never been valid because it was never consummated, that he was impotent or Mary frigid, or that she had been previously betrothed to another. All these options involved terrible embarrassment to one's manly dignity. Such were the rules under canon law, virtually the same rules that obtained in the pre-reformation church.

Milton grounded his arguments against canon law much as he did those against prelacy--on his interpretation of scripture. But the scripture-based case for freedom for men to divorce and re-marry, unlike that against bishops, ran into two huge obstacles: Matthew 5: 31-32 and Matthew 19: 8-9. Milton had to argue that the apparently "plain words" Jesus spoke on these occasions do not mean what they seem to on first glance. He argued that the ancient Hebrew rules for divorce (Deuteronomy 24:1-2) were perfectly consistent with the purposes for which God instituted marriage (Genesis 2:18), that women were first created and marriage instituted for men, to remedy male loneliness. If a wife fails to remedy male loneliness, especially if she aggravates it, any man should be free to divorce her and take another with or without her consent, and no "civil or earthly power" may hinder him. Milton argues that such male-centered rules would benefit "both sexes." He believes hindering a man's prerogatives in these matters is irrational, unnatural, and uncharitable. Since Jesus could not have intended to introduce irrational, unnatural, or uncharitable restrictions on manly liberty, Milton argues, Jesus's words must not mean what they have usually been taken to mean; therefore Jesus must be exaggerating in order to rebuke the Pharisees.

Milton's radical position on divorce involved a fairly radical position on hermeneutics, too. The Bible cannot be interpreted, he implies, to teach anything or require any behavior that does not meet a rather strict standard for rationality, charity, and naturalness. Many regarded this as putting natural law and reason above the word of God. Presbyterian reaction to the DDD and Milton's subsequent tracts on divorce (The Judgment of Martin Bucer [1644] and Tetrachordon [1645]) was overwhelmingly negative. Many Presbyterian divines supported the anonymous An Answer to a book intituled, The doctrine and discipline of divorce (1644) that offended Milton so much and elicited from him the abusive response called Colasterion (1645). Milton's break with the Presbyterian party dates from the years of these debates about divorce, debates the Presbyterian leaders in Parliament and Assembly dearly wished to avoid or suppress. (See also Sharon Achinstein's useful chronology of the marriage debates in the Westminster Assembly and Parliament in 1644.)

The copytext for this edition of The Doctrine and Discipline of Divorce is a copy of the 1644 (second, expanded, and revised) edition owned by Rauner Library at Dartmouth College (Val. 824/M64/P8). What few textual problems this edition presents have been noted as they occur.

Hugo Grotius. Grotius was a Dutch jurist,theologian, poet, and statesman (1585-1645). Milton refers to his commentaries on the Gospels.

Paulus Fagius. (1504-1549) was a German Protestant divine, an intimate friend of Martin Bucer, and reader of Hebrew at Cambridge University.

purpose. Milton, his divorce tracts, set himself the nearly impossible job of demonstrating that in Matthew 5: 31-32 and Matthew 19: 8-9 Christ did not deny to Christians all hope of divorce on grounds of mental and emotional incompatibility without physical cause, nor deny to either party any prospect of a subsequent happier remarriage.

fond. Foolish, idly imagined.

lin. Cease (Old English linnan)

evill. See Genesis 8:21 and Matthew 15:19.

daughter. See Judges 11:30-40. Milton apparently thinks Jepthah did ill to keep this promise, resulting either in the unnecessary sacrifice of his daughter, or, as some thought, her perpetual confinement as a virgin.

Sabbath day. An example of the Jews' non-resistance that is recorded in I Maccabees 2: 31-38. The Jews' reluctance to defend themselves on the Sabbath has been a recurring theme in history. In 67 BCE, Pompey took advantage of the Jews, attacking Jerusalem on the seventh day of the week.

Moses. Deuteronomy 24:1 appears to permit divorce on the grounds of a wife's "uncleanness"; in Matthew 5: 31-2, Jesus seems to say that divorce is permissible only in cases of sexual impurity, claiming that a woman who remarries after a divorce granted on any other grounds commits adultery.

Genesis. See Genesis 2:18.

conversation. The Rauner collection copy of 1644 has "coversation." The action of dealing with others; living together, commerce, intercourse, society, intimacy; see the OED2.

not in necessity. Significantly, Milton does not argue that procreation is unimportant, nor even secondary in necessity; it is secondary in "dignity." That is, as concerns the dignity of man, and his needs, the primary purpose of marriage is conversation. As concerns necessity, however, sexual gratification and procreation are important. In Paradise Lost, book 8, Adam even implies that procreation may be necessary to the more dignified end of conversation, thinking that only by procreation could he obtain a fit conversation partner (see PL 8.418-424).

weapon'd. Equipped; that is, with genitals in working order.

antipathy. Incompatibility.

fadge. Tolerate each other.

Sunne. Ecclesiates 5:13. The Wise-man is King Solomon, traditionally considered the author of Ecclesiastes.

Canon. The Canon Law consists partly of certain rules, derived from Scripture, the writings of the ancient Fathers of the Church, the ordinances of general and provincial Councils, and partly of the decrees of Popes. Puritans like Milton disapproved of ecclesiastical rules that cannot be derived from Scripture.

Tertullian or Jerom. Both Tertullian and Saint Jerome possessed strong ascetic leanings. Tertullian's Exhortation to Chastity recommends remaining unmarried as the best way to achieve likeness to God. His On Monogamy argues against remarriage. Jerome exalts virginity in his Against Jovinian.

Sacramentall. The sacramental doctrine of marriage was affirmed by the Council of Florence in 1439 and reaffirmed by the Council of Trent (1545-1563); see the Tridentine article on marriage. According to this doctrine, a validly-contracted marriage, free from all recognized impediments, that has been consummated is indissoluble; see "The Sacrament of Marriage" in the Catholic Encyclopedia.

other reformed Church els. From Luther on, the Protestant reformers denied that marriage is a sacrament. Generally, they favored the granting of divorce for adultery, and permitted remarriage. In reformed countries, mostly, marriage became more of a civil than an ecclesiastical matter.

Christian Emperours. Roman Emperors from Constantine (306-337) to Justinian (527-565) offered no innovations to Roman marriage practices. Roman law treated marriage as largely a civil matter and permitted divorce and remarriage by common consent or for reasons of misconduct proved in court. Divorce by common consent lasted until it was abolished by Leo the Philosopher (886-912).

notes upon the Evangelists. Annotationes in Libros Evangeliorum (Amsterdam, 1641). Search the Dartmouth Library catalogue.

constituted. The actions of Parliament which led to the calling of the Westminster Assembly (1641) implied the termination of the existing ecclesiastical or spiritual courts.

period. End or goal.

at the beginning. That is, in Paradise.

lonelines. See Genesis 2:18.

yoke. See Matthew 11:30.

inveterate. The 1644 copy in Rauner Library has an inverted "n", spelling "iuveterate".

Law. Milton refers specifically here to the details of the ceremonial law of the ancient Hebrews; reformers and Christians in general agreed that the "new covenant" of the Gospel promised release from the demands of that law.

spel. Milton perhaps intended a play on the words "dispell" and "spel."

children. See Matthew 11:16-19, Luke 7:31-35, and Luke 4:18.

what learned Fagius hath observ'd. Milton translates excerpts from Fagius's Thargum, Hoc Est, Paraphrasis Onkeli Chaldaica in Sacra Biblia (Strassburg 1546). Original Latin from the Yale edition of Milton's prose: "Lex dei in subsidium humanae imbecillitatis divortium permisit. Non enim cuivis datum est celebem agere vitam, Christo attestante. Quod Christus libellum repudii antiqaverit, & negaverit suis, nihil obstat. . . . Quid hoc ad vulum? qui ad illud perfectionis nondum est eluctatus. . . . Igitur inferioribus proposita medicina non aspernetur. . . . Et quando Christus subiicit in sua responsione, Qui repudiatam duxerit, adulterium committit, id intelligendum est de eo, qui in fraudem prioris matrimonii repudiatam duxerit."

astronomy. The Copernican planetary tables of Erasmus Reinhold appearing in 1551, were called Tabulae Prutenicae in honor of Duke Albrecht of Prussia. Milton's extended metaphor here implies that much of the rhetoric of and about Canon law is little but elaborate efforts to "save the apperances," that is the status quo, much as scientific discourse aims to "save the appearances" of the heavens by producing astronomical theories that explain what we see there.

learned interpreters. See the Geneva notes on Deuteronomy 24; Compare Wesley's and Matthew Henry's notes.

enormous. Unusual, extraordinary.

reclaimes. Cries out in protest, denies.

helpmeet. See Genesis 2:18.

Fagius, Calvin, Pareus, Rivetus. The combined authority of these four names was quite substantial. Calvin's biblical commentaries were obviously highly regarded (see his commentary on Genesis 2:18). David Pareus was a respected theologian and teacher. Andrew Rivetus was a teacher and leader of the orthodox party. For Fagius, see above.

complexion. The combination of the four "humours" of the body in a certain proportion.

performance. The Gregorian Decretals 4.15 suggest sexual incapacity as a cause for annulment of marriage, provided that it is judged to be permanent after three years.

excrement. The human "seed" which was thought to be contained in both seminal and menstrual fluid. Commonplace notions of reproduction in Milton's time were largely derived from Aristotle's Zoology.

examples. The inclusion of this clause in the revised edition suggests that Milton is aware of the fact that the argument might be taken as suspiciously self-concerned.

torch. The same thing is said in Paradise Lost 11.590: "then all in heat/They light the Nuptial Torch."

disworship. Dishonor, disgrace.

It is better to marry then to burn. 1 Corinthians 7:9.

cattell. Rubbish, trash. But see 1 Corinthians 9:9 as well.

desire which God put into Adam. That is, desire for fit company; see Paradise Lost 8.383-398.

diet. In Burton's Anatomy of Melancholy Part 3, Sec. 2, Mem., Subs. 1: "The first rule to be observed in this stubborn and unbridled passion, is exercise and diet" (Yale Complete Prose 251).

joyning. The copytext misprints "joying" here.

many waters. The phrase is quoted from Song of Solomon 8:6-7; following centuries of tradition, Milton reads these lines as "mysteriously" signifying the relationship of Christ to the church and not truly about carnal erotics. That is to say, the surface sense of the allegory is no more "true" than the speaking animals in "just-so" stories.

which. The copy in Rauner Library used in preparing this edition mispells the word as "whch."

provender. Editors have not satisfactorily explained what "a provender burning" is. Some suggest supplying the past participle here — "a provender'd burning." Either way the sense is probably meant to stand in opposition to "a more human burning" in the following sentence. Thus "a provender burning" is a carnal or bodily burning that, unlike "rational burning," can be controlled by diet and exercise. It is the same as "that other burning, which is but as it were the venom of a lusty and over-abounding concoction," a burning that is fed by food and wine.

meer. The copytext misprints "meet" here for "meer."

Diotima. Classicists generally believe that the woman prophet Diotima from whom Plato's Socrates says he learned all about what Love truly is, was probably a legendary character and Socrates uses her as a "screen" for his own teaching. See David Halperin's One Hundred Years of Homosexuality; search the Dartmouth Library catalogue.

Jupiter. According to the Symposium (Milton's term, "festival discours" is a literal translation of "Symposium"), the gods of Olympus held a feast to celebrate the birthday of Aphrodite. The god Plenty was a guest at the feast, and, after the celebration, he fell into a heavy sleep in the garden of Zeus (Jupiter). Plotting to take him for a husband, Poverty laid down beside him and conceived Love. See the whole story in Plato's Symposium 203b-204a.

that which in effect Moses tells us. Milton apparently refers to the story of the creation of Eve in Genesis 2:18-24, though it is hard at first to see how this passage "divinely sorts" with Diotima's story in the Symposium.

that burning. See 1 Corinthians 7:9; also see Milton's discussion of "rational burning" above. Interesting also is Milton's imagination of the first heterosexual encounter described in Paradise Lost 4.736-749.

naturall. In uncorrected copies, this read "mutuall."

fleam. Phlegm was thought to be the humor causing sluggishness and apathy.

mutin. To think or say mutinously.

anteros. The name Anteros signifies a reciprocated love. It is difficult to trace the source of Milton's notion of Anteros. The word appears without mythical elaboration in Plato's Phaedrus 255a-e. The fourth-century rhetorician Themistius writes of Anteros in his Protreptikos (search the Dartmouth Library catalogue); there Anteros is the younger brother of Eros, born to Aphrodite after she had been warned that Eros would waste away unless he could behold his own likeness in the person of another.

him. By the end of the fourteenth century, the concept of love being blind had been established.

obvious. Frequently met.

suborned. Counterfeit.

apogæum. An astronomical term meaning the farthest point from the earth in the orbit of a heavenly body.

breades. The braids of his bowstring.

homogeneal. Homogeneous.

mine author. The Yale Prose editors think Milton refers here to his muse, but I suspect he has a particular author in mind, one who tells this story about Eros and his search for his long-lost brother Anteros.

glassy Sea. The copy in Rauner Library used in preparing this edition has "globy sea." An apparent seventeenth-century hand has crossed out "glob" and supplied in the margin "glas". The errata list at the bottom of page 82 also says, ""Page 15, line 8, read it the glassy Sea."

mutual. Milton believed that mutual love is necessary for a proper marriage, but we should not confuse his notion of mutuality here with any sense of equality. According to Milton, mutuality is "the mutual enjoyment of that which the wanting soul needfully seeks" that is, the "mutual" enjoyment of the fulfilling of a man's desire, not the enjoyment of the fulfilling of mutual desires. For Milton, the desiring one is the man; the desired one is the woman, made specifically to satisfy his desire.

portion. See Ecclesiastes 9:9.

Malachy. See Malachi 2:16, a text much in dispute. Calvin discusses the vulgate, the translation, and his sense of the passage in his Commentary on Malachi.

mill. See Judges 16:21.

mourns. Has a painful longing.

union. In Paradise Lost 4.750: "Hail wedded Love, mysterious Law."

function. Jewish ceremonial law imposed strict limits upon a priest's participation in the acts of mourning. See Leviticus 21:1-6.

cheerfulnes. See Romans 12:8.

Christianly. Uncorrected copies of 1644 read "Christianity."

Malachi. See Malachi 2:13.

wrath. This phrase refers to all men in their unregenerate state.

disbanded. Dismissed, sent away.

Timothy See I Timothy 4:1-3.

7. 3, 6. The original has "7. 3. 6."; considering the text referred to leads me to believe Milton refers to chapter 7, verses 3 and 6.

circumcision. That is, by Christians of Jewish origin.

unbeleeving. See 1 Corinthians 7:14.

infidels. See 2 Corinthians 6:14: "Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers."

ye. See 2 Corinthians 6:17.

gospelized. Imparted according to the spirit of the gospel.

Deut. See Deuteronomy 7:3.

promise. See Matthew 19:29.

Job. See Job 2:9-10.

Zippora. See Exodus 18:2.

zealous. With religious zeal or devotion.

Remora. A small fish that had the reputation of being capable of holding a ship stationary against oars, winds, and tides.

intimate communion of body. While Milton spends a great deal of energy early in the pamplet distinguishing the true end of marriage from sex, he here quite casually acknowldges the important (though not principal or definitive) role of sex in marriage.

tittle. See Matthew 5:18.

7. 2, 3. Again, the original has 7. 2. 3.

2 Chron. 19. 2. The copy text has "Chron. 2. 19." See 2 Chronicles 19: 2.

doubtlesse. The copy text has "doublesse."

13. 6, 9. Again, the original has 13. 6. 9. See Deuteronomy 13:6.

antagony. Antagonism.

law. Milton's hostility to legalism here is characteristic.

judgement. See 1 Corinthians 7:6, 25.

save. See 1 Corinthians 7:16.

Ethiope. See Jeremiah 13:23.

feet. See Matthew 7:6 and 10:14.

abide. The original has "abdie" here, but the catchword on the previos page has "abide."

masters. In Matthew 6:24.

code. The term Code normally refers to the Codex of Justininan, which constitutes Part III of the Corpus Juris Civilis. In this case, there seems to be a reference to the entire body of civil and canon law (Yale Complete Prose Vol. 2 269).

idol. The argument about whether or not an idolatrous heretic ought to be divorced regains attention at this point.

sublunary. Material, gross.

respectles. Regardless, inconsiderate.

reluctance. Opposition, resistance.

sakes. See 1 Corinthians 9:8-10.

benevolence. See 1 Corinthians 7:3.

best substance of his body. If, as seems the case, Milton refers here to semen or sperm, his characterization is interestingly at odds with his earlier reference to it as "quintessence of an excrement" (see above, chapter 3).

crasis. Combining the elements.

himself. In the Odyssey 17. 218: "God brings like unto like."

chaos. Genesis 1:4 depicts Creation as initially an act of separation: "and God divided the light from the darkness." Lana Cable cites the 'divorcing' of the elements in Paradise Lost 7.233-245 (Cable 158).

danger. Some 144 copies misprint "dnager" here.

preservation. The original (1644) has "peservation" here.

numbers. See Numbers 30:6-15.

Fevor. See Matthew 12:8-13.

to immure and shut up together. 1644 reads "to shut up and immure and shut up together."

cannot. The original (1644) has "connot" here.

first table. See Exodus 20:8.

Malachy. See Malachi 2:16.

covnant of God. See Ezekial 17:19.

astriction. Moral or legal obligation; bond (OED2).

ordained. A generalization from Christ's words concerning the Sabbath.

chains. The phrase "Adamantine chains" is repeated in Paradise Lost 1.48 : "...there to dwell/In Adamantine Chains and penal Fire."

Acts. See Acts 15:6-11.

dreams. The Anabaptists were the oldest of the radical Protestant sects. The Familists were a much smaller sect, while Antinomianism was a major tenet of groups like the Familists and others.

in those places. The copytext reduplicates words here in error, reading "in those in those places"

rare word. Irreconcilable.

alphabetical. Servile obedience to the letter of the law. Alphabetical in the sense of "literal" (Yale Complete Prose 2.280).