[Milton-L] The Doctrine and Discipline of Gay Divorce

Shoulson, Jeffrey jshoulson at mail.as.miami.edu
Thu Jul 21 11:54:41 EDT 2011

I have no intention of diverting our attention from the very interesting recent discussion on nudity/nakedness, eroticism/pornography.  As usual, I have found many of the comments to be most interesting and provocative.

I want to raise here a somewhat tangential matter.  Some list members may have heard recent NPR reports or read in the NY Times that the latest developments in the legalization of gay marriage have also led to some important questions about gay divorce--without going into too much detail, the upshot of these reports is that while it has become easier for lesbians and gay men to marry each other, divorcing one another is another matter entirely.  Indeed, in those instances when couples travel from their home states, where gay marriages are not legal, to states where gay marriage is legal and then seek divorces back home, these divorces are nearly impossible to obtain, resulting in all kinds of legal complications, not to mention, when there are children involved, very painful matters of custody.

Without wishing to enter into the merits of the whole gay marriage question, it has occurred to me that some of these reports are producing discussions of marriage and divorce that have a very Miltonic strain to them.  Milton would not, of course, have taken up the question of gay marriage.  But his arguments about divorce clearly ground themselves in the basic premise that the availability of divorce as a remedy for an unsatisfying marriage is elemental to the very institution of marriage, not after the fact, but ab initio.  Take for example the following, from Doctrine and Discipline of Divorce, Bk. 1, chap. 4:

"He therefore who, lacking of his due in the most native and human end of marriage, thinks it better to part than to live sadlty and injuriously to that cheerful covenant (for not to be beloved and yet retained, is the greatest injury to a gentle spirit [BY THE WAY, THAT'S ONE OF MY FAVORITE PARENTHETICAL REMARKS IN ALL OF MILTON]), he, I say, who therefore seeks to part, is one who highly honors the married life and would not stain it, and the reasons which now move him to divorce are equal to the best of those that could first warrant him to marry."

I wonder what others on this list think.



Jeffrey S. Shoulson, Ph. D.
Director of Undergraduate Studies
Associate Professor of English and Judaic Studies
University of Miami
PO Box 248145
Coral Gables, FL 33124-4632

(o) 305-284-5596
(f) 305-284-5635

jshoulson at miami.edu<mailto:jshoulson at miami.edu>

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