This essay analyzes the treatment of temperance in Milton’s early entertainment, A Masque Presented at Ludlow Castle, within the context of the history of virtue ethics. It argues that Milton combines Aristotle’s version of temperance with Plato’s epistemology. In the masque, the Lady’s Platonic vision of the virtues is central to the formation of her temperate judgment. However, by foregrounding Plato’s account of motivation, Milton bypasses the central role that habituation plays in Aristotle’s understanding of education in the virtues. Milton’s suppression of the importance of habit allows him to depict the Lady’s development in the virtues as being independent of concrete social and political communities. The account of the virtues presented in A Masque anticipates some of the central aspects of Milton’s later attacks on the political reasoning of the English people.

You do not currently have access to this content.