What is the meaning of virtue? Milton answers this question in his speech Areopagitica. Milton will dicuss his meaning of virtue and show his anger at Parliament in the speech. He knows by their actions that Parliament does not know the true meaning of virtue. To understand Areopagitica, you must first understand the reasoning behind the writing. Milton, being a Puritan, did not agree with the beliefs upheld by the Roman Catholics. Free will and free speech was the center of his soul, and to have them governed and censored by Parliament was an outrage. He knew that they did not truly understand what virtue was and did not want to hear any explanation.
“In Areopagitica he definitely adopts the doctrine of free will and turns against the predestination of the Presbyterians” Tillyard 136. Milton’s beliefs at the time of his writing was that man is born with the seeds of good and evil and if the opportunity arises, some men will choose the evil way. He wants everyone to understand that man, no matter who the person is, has a choice in determining which road to take. Milton is realistic when he Henderson 2 writes because he knows he is fighting a battle that is weighted against him. He feels the power of the Parliament, but he knows the possibility for victory is evident. Even this possibility does not deter him from realizing that he is still dealing with man who has the choice to do good or evil. “But in Areopagitica beneath the excitement of hope there can be detected the whisper of doubt” Tillyard 135.
Milton tries to explain the meaning of virtue in his writing with the hopes that Parliament will heed what he is saying. Milton explains to them that good and evil walk hand in hand and that man has the choice of free will. This choice gives man the chance to say no to evil and choose to do good. He writes of how Adam had the choice to do good, but instead he chose to eat the fruit and evil was introduced. From this deed, man has to make the choice of his own free will.
“He that can apprehend and consider vice with all her baits and seeming pleasures, and yet abstain, and yet distinguish, and yet prefer that which is truly better, he is the true warfaring Christian” Milton 778.
The free will of man means the ability to choose what to read, speak or do, and to censor these choices of life is not the true Christian way of life. Milton wanted Parliament and the Roman Catholics to understand this no matter what it cost him.