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Describe the influence of Renaissance ideas in John Milton's Areopagitica.

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qayyum-48 | College Teacher | eNotes Newbie

Posted May 2, 2012 at 3:07 AM via web

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Describe the influence of Renaissance ideas in John Milton's Areopagitica.

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rrteacher | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted May 2, 2012 at 3:30 AM (Answer #1)

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John Milton argues in Areopagitica for a free press, specifically against a licensing law that required all printed matter to receive a royal license that subjected it to government censorship. This line of argument is, of course, in keeping with the new spirit of intellectual inquiry and academic integrity that characterized the Renaissance. Milton also, in keeping with Renaissance convention, wrote his appeal in the format of a classical oration.

Moreover, Milton argues not along the lines of modern free speech, but rather from the assumption that cultivating virtue, an obsession of Italian Renaissance political theorists, should be the aim of governments. Milton argued that virtue would always emerge from a contest with error, and that exposure to evil would convince people of right. "The liberty to know," Milton argued, "to utter, and to argue freely according to conscience" was essential to the cultivation and the maintenance of virtue.

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