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“Perplex't Paths”: Youth and Authority in Milton's Mask *

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  20 November 2018

Blaine Greteman
University of Iowa


This essay argues that John Milton's A Mask Presented at Ludlow Castle (1634) is influenced by early modern concepts of childhood in a way that critics have not recognized. Childhood was a problematic concept in contemporary religious, pedagogical, and legal discourses. Children were depicted as models of submission, but prone to impetuous indiscretion, and their path to adult agency was strewn with pitfalls, especially in the liminal period of youth. A Mask engages with and transforms these discourses. It rejects the political quietism routinely associated with childhood and shows that the child's unique sensitivity may offer a route to a particularly powerful kind of voice.

Research Article
Copyright © 2009 Renaissance Society of America

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I would like to thank James G. Turner, Victoria Kahn, Ann Coiro, and this journal's anonymous reader for their insights and suggestions.


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