Milton and usury

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

4 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Like his father before him, John Milton was a lifelong professional usurer. At a time when that profession was held in general contempt, this fact must have impinged upon his life in many and various ways. It seems clear, for example, that Milton's fraught first marriage was the fruit of usury. This essay traces the profound influence of the usury debate throughout Milton's work. While he sometimes echoes the popular denunciation of usurers as living from "the sweat of other men," Milton also defends usury in certain circumstances. He does not view usury as a narrowly economic phenomenon, but explores its impact on politics, aesthetics, theology and sexuality. Despite his complex and nuanced treatment of the subject, Milton ultimately portrays usury as Satanic. It involves the attribution of autonomous reproductive power to financial signs, and thus stands convicted of the same epistemological error as liturgical idolatry. Through close readings of several of Milton's poems, this essay demontrates that once the verb "to use" is understood in its proper historical context, a whole new vista of interpretative possibilities opens for the attentive reader.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)503-528
Number of pages26
JournalEnglish Literary Renaissance
Volume41
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 2011

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Usury
Idolatry
Epistemological
Marriage
Historical Context
Attribution
Sexuality
Close Reading
Poem
Denunciation
Verbs
John Milton
Aesthetics
Theology
Fruit
Contempt
Reader
Economics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Literature and Literary Theory

Cite this

Milton and usury. / Hawkes, David.

In: English Literary Renaissance, Vol. 41, No. 3, 09.2011, p. 503-528.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Hawkes, David. / Milton and usury. In: English Literary Renaissance. 2011 ; Vol. 41, No. 3. pp. 503-528.
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