- Milton 's Soulmate: Charles Diodati became Milton 's closest friend during their time together at St. Paul 's School. Diodati was a prominent English-Italian Protestant, whose father was a physician. Milton wrote long letters to Diodati in the form of Latin elegies where he told his friend all of his deepest thoughts about love, life, and death. It has been debated whether the relationship between the two men was “homoerotic” or unconsciously homosexual, although since the friends discussed heterosexual attractions it is hard to say for sure. Milton may have been a “repressed homosexual,” especially since Diodati is the only man with whom he had such an intimate relationship.
When Diodati died prematurely, Milton wrote the elegy “Epitaphium Damonis.” Diodati is portrayed as Damon, and Milton takes on the persona of Pythias; these two characers were mythically known for their friendship.
- Milton 's Signature: Milton was a very meddling author, leaving notes in the margins of his works, such as the Nativity Ode, for editors. These notes consisted of the correct interpretations of his poetry or recommendations on how to control future readers' responses. This interference became Milton 's signature.
- Blindness: Milton attempted to describe his blindness using the medical terms of his time in Paradise Lost and Samson Agonistes . He called it “a drop serene,” in which light is diffused. Milton 's blindness could sense light, but not shapes, and today would probably be known as glaucoma. Glaucoma blurs sight from the periphery of the eye to the center, like the spreading drop in Milton 's description.
From today's perspective, the treatments given to Milton for his blindness were barbaric. To treat him the doctors prescribed “seatoning,” which involves piercing the skin just below the hairline, passing a hot cautery with a diamond point through the holes and then a needle with thread dipped in egg white and rose oil.
- Mental Illness: Milton also discusses his blindness in terms of its psychological effects. His blindness caused a “damp” that corresponded to the bleak weather in England . This sounds a lot like the modern affective seasonal disorders caused by lack of sunlight (or sight). Like many other authors and creative persons, Milton may have been “manic-depressive,” inspired through large bursts of creative energy. His extreme attention to detail may be termed now “obsessive-compulsive,” and he has also been called “anal-retentive” because of his self-absorbtion and detailed memory of everything he had ever written.
Flannagan, Roy. John Milton.
Great Britain: Blackwell Publishers Ltd., 2002, pg. 1-2, 15-16, 34, 75-76
call number: PR3588.F585 2002