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

4 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. Incompatibility, at it applies to the divorce act, is not as simple as a couple simply declaring that they are no longer compatible and therefore should be divorced. Before incompatibility causing marriage break down can be established at least one of three criteria must be met: "(a) the spouses have lived separate and apart for at least one year immediately before the divorce judgment (b) one spouse has committed adultery or (c) one spouse has committed physical or mental cruelty". (7) The divorce applicant needs to provide proof that validates one of these criteria before the courts accept any one of them as the basis for divorce; however, the proof is relatively easy to establish and promotes certain ease in obtaining a divorce today, an ease that Milton would not condone. Either the husband or the wife has the right to apply for a divorce, something that I do not think Milton had in mind when he wrote his divorce tracts.
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The Divorce Act recognizes incompatibility based on voluntary separation as the first reason for divorce just as Milton recognizes incompatibility in the "Doctrine and Discipline of Divorce"; however, his definition of incompatibility is very much different from that of our modern day criteria. For the purposes of this paper it is the first criteria for divorce that I am going to set against Milton. According to modern day requirements a couple may establish incompatibility on the basis of a one-year separation. "The separation must have been voluntary and at least one of the spouses must have the intention ...

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