Document Type


Publication Date

Spring 2019

Publication Title

Renaissance Quarterly


Milton, Jerome, Saint Jerome, Mask, masque, sexuality, virginity, celibacy, maturity


Milton’s youthful interest in virginity is usually regarded as a private eccentricity abandoned on his maturation. His “Mask” is often read, analogously, as charting the Lady’s movement from temporary virginity to wedded chastity. This essay challenges those claims, arguing that Milton’s understanding of virginity’s poetic and apocalyptic powers comes from Saint Jerome, whose ideas he struggles with throughout his career. Reading “A Mask” alongside Jerome suggests that Milton endorses the apocalyptic potential of virginity without necessarily assigning those powers to the Lady herself. In later works, Milton modifies and adapts Jerome before finally producing the perfect eremitic hero of “Paradise Regain’d.”

Original Published Citation

Conti, Brooke. "Milton, Jerome, and Apocalyptic Virginity." Renaissance Quarterly, vol. 72, no. 1, 2019, pp. 194-230, DOI:



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