John Milton’s sonnet “On His Blindness” is a statement on the individual’s worthiness independent of one’s measurable achievements

Term Paper 2011 9 Pages

English Language and Literature Studies - Literature


Table of Contents

1. Introduction

2. Milton’s sonnet “On His Blindness”
2.1 Content and the author’s background
2.2 Poetic and rhetorical form

3. Conclusion

4. Works cited

1. Introduction

John Milton criticizes our modern achievement-oriented society in his sonnet “On his blindness” because nowadays performance is a precondition for high regard and appreciation of somebody. However, his poem can serve as a statement in favor of a person’s worthiness independent of one’s performance and workload.

The expression achievement-oriented society means that the distributions of goods like economic resources but also “prestige” and “power” are dependent on the attributed individual’s performance. This functionality is the so called “achievement principle” (Arzberger 24). In other words: Reputation is due to measurable accomplishments. Who does not achieve enough, does not gain any esteem. In order to examine my thesis I am going to analyze both the sonnet’s poetic and rhetorical form. First of all I am going to point out the gist of the poem briefly.

2. Milton’s sonnet “On his blindness”

2.1 Content and the author’s background

The sonnet’s speaker laments his blindness and worries because he cannot work anymore. Therefore he fears to be worthless in God’s eyes. In this specific poem it is very likely that the speaker is identical with the author because Milton became entirely blind shortly before he wrote this sonnet in 1652 (Bradford 88). Consequently, this sonnet deals with his personal way of coping with his destiny regarding “himself as physically disqualified” (Bradford 88).

Milton’s perspective on life is deeply religious and shaped by his powerful belief in God. This is demonstrated by his intertextual reference to the Bible’s parable of the talent in Matthew 25 (qtd. in Miller 22). In the 17th century religious poetry was very common and Christian belief played a crucial role in human lives. Milton clearly emphasizes his conception of serving God in line 5: “To serve therewith my Maker” and expects God’s critical judgment on that in line 7: “Doth God exact day-labour”. Thereupon the voice of “Patience” is interacting with the first speaker. These two voices are having a dialogue which makes the poem dramatic (Besley 25).

My thesis is aiming to interpret the sonnet from today’s society point of view which is less influenced by Christianity as in 17th century. To my mind people today are not judged by how well they are serving God but by their achievements and performance in society.

Analyzing its poetic and rhetorical form I am going to examine how Milton’s sonnet argues that an individual’s worthiness is not qualified by one’s workload or measurable accomplishments.



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University of Duisburg-Essen – Anglistik
john milton’s blindness”



Title: John Milton’s sonnet “On His Blindness” is a statement on the individual’s worthiness independent of one’s measurable achievements