John Milton's "Doctrine and Discipline of Divorce" argued that the most valid reason for divorce was that of incompatibility and his prophetic vision of this
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Heather Glazier Dr. Frances Batycki English 414 14 Apr. 2005 Milton's Prophetic Vision of Divorce John Milton's "Doctrine and Discipline of Divorce" argued that the most valid reason for divorce was that of incompatibility and his prophetic vision of this reason for divorce is the one now primarily relied on to end marriage in our modern culture. His view contrasted with the social and religious laws of the time and he was both criticized for advocating such a radical change in the marriage laws and accused of having selfish motivations for his position since his own marriage was proving to be problematic at the time he wrote "Doctrine and Discipline of Divorce". If John Milton was alive today I think he would be both elated and impressed that the lawmakers had finally seen the issue of divorce through his eyes, although he would have serious issues with the basis and sometimes flimsy reasons on which incompatibility is established and possibly have some objections to the fact that that women have as much right to pursue this path to freedom as men do. Whatever his motivations were in writing the "DDD" he backed his position up solidly with logical thinking and authoritative support from the bible and in the end it is a farsighted and amazing work for its time. The current Alberta Divorce Act allows divorce on the basis of marriage breakdown due to incompatibility.
and are infallible to inform us what is Marriage, and what is no Marriage; unless we think them set there to no purpose: It is not good, saith he, that man should be alone, I will make a help-meet for him. From which words so plain, less cannot be concluded, nor is by any learned Interpreter, than that in God's intention a meet and happy conversation is the chiefest and the noblest end of Marriage" (12). What then does Milton interpret a "meet and happy conversation" to be? Man is not to be alone; his wife is to be his comfort and companion in all things. Milton seems to be saying that a marriage will be a "meet and happy conversation" if the man and wife are joined spiritually and mentally. It then follows that if the mind and spirit are one the physical act of procreation will also be a joyful union fulfilling God's wish for peace, harmony and continence in all aspects of a marriage. A marriage lacking in peace and harmony will result in a troubled mind for one or both partners and a troubled mind makes it difficult to live a good Christian life and concentrate on an intimate relationship with God. A marriage that exists without any conflict that can distract one from their relationship with God becomes "a meet and happy conversation".
Throughout the "Discipline and Doctrine of Divorce" it is clear that Milton sees the wife as an extension of her husband in the ideal marriage. Her purpose was to alleviate his loneliness and aid him in a spiritual journey towards God. If she failed in this purpose and dissention in the marriage resulted Milton felt that a husband should divorce his wife in order to regain the peace God wished for all good Christians to have in their lives. However, If Biberman is correct in his theory it would seem that Milton would not have a problem with a wife divorcing her husband as the current divorce act says they can, providing they met his criteria for incompatibility. Despite the wide differences between Milton's definition of what entails incompatibility and what the current divorce laws allow to pass for incompatibility I think he would be pleased that mankind has recognized that it is pointless to remain in a marriage where the parties are not happy and content to be with each other. He lived in such a marriage and had first hand experience of how disheartening it can be both in the worldly and spiritual areas of one's life. Although he would be disappointed to know that today it seems to be the worldly part of life that is more important than the spiritual he would appreciate that his prophetic vision of incompatibility as the first reason for divorce was a least a reality.
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