John Milton's Divorce Tracts and Gender Equality in Family Law

Open Access
Sopic, Madison Victoria
Area of Honors:
Bachelor of Arts
Document Type:
Thesis Supervisors:
  • Marcy Lynne North, Thesis Supervisor
  • Lisa Ruth Sternlieb, Honors Advisor
  • John Milton
  • Family Law
  • Seventeenth Century England
In recent years, John Milton’s divorce tracts have been deemed predictive of modern divorce laws. Moreover, with a new wave of feminist criticism appearing in the 1970s, such critics as Catherine Gimelli Martin, Gina Hausknecht, Maria Magro, and Harvey Couch have asserted that Milton’s divorce tracts are not only predictive, but that they promote the rights of women in divorce law in a way that has made Milton nearly prophetic. However, this thesis disputes the idea that Milton is supportive of modern gender equality within his divorce tracts, and asks such questions as: Does Milton attempt to gain an equal opportunity to divorce for both genders in his work? Does he desire divorce for the betterment of both spouses? And, finally, does Milton offer women any protection following a divorce? These questions are answered by means of closely examining Milton’s primary text, as well as multiple historical variables, such as religion, language, societal norms, and common outcomes of divorce for women. Through an examination of these factors, it is ultimately deciphered that Milton is not supportive of gender equality in divorce law, and thus, his divorce tracts are not predictive of modern divorce legislation.