John Milton, English scholar and classical poet, is one of the major figures of Western literature. He was born in 1608 into a prosperous London family. By the age of 17, he was proficient in Latin, Greek, and Hebrew. Milton attended Cambridge University, earning a B.A. and an M.A. before secluding himself for five years to read, write and study on his own. It is believed that Milton read evertything that had been published in Latin, Greek, and English. He was considered one of the most educated men of his time. Milton also had a reputation as a radical. After his own wife left him early in their marriage, Milton published an unpopular treatise supporting divorce in the case of incompatibility. Milton was also a vocal supporter of Oliver Cromwell and worked for him. Milton's first work, Lycidas, an elegy on the death of a classmate, was published in 1632, and he had numerous works published in the ensuing years, including Pastoral and Areopagitica. His Christian epic poem, Paradise Lost, which traced humanity's fall from divine grace, appeared in 1667, assuring his place as one of the finest non-dramatic poet of the Renaissance Age. Milton went blind at the age of 43 from the incredible strain he placed on his eyes. Amazingly, Paradise Lost and his other major works, Paradise Regained and Samson Agonistes, were composed after the lost of his sight. These major works were painstakingly and slowly dictated to secretaries. John Milton died in 1674.
Fay Weldon was born in Worcester, England, where her father was a physician and her mother a writer. She was educated at the University of St. Andrews, from which she received her M.A. in 1954. Six years later, she married Ronald Weldon. Weldon worked as a propaganda writer for the British Foreign Office and then as an advertising copywriter for various firms in London before making writing a full-time career. Since the mid-1960's she has written novels, short stories, and radio and television plays. The central subject of all Weldon's writing is the experience of women, especially their relationships with men. According to Weldon, "Women must ask themselves: What is it that will give me fulfillment? That's the serious question I'm attempting to answer." Despite her concern with women, Weldon has been criticized by some feminist groups for apparently presenting fictional women with very limited options. Weldon's style is marked by a careful attention to detail, vivid images, a sharp wit, and a wry sense of humor. Although most of her male characters are disagreeable, they are not the true villains of her novels. Her villains are, in fact, the traditional roles that men and women play. Weldon looks at women in many different circumstances - at work, at home, at play, in politics, and especially in love - and shows not only how they are manipulated by men, but also how they allow themselves to be manipulated. Recently, Weldon's novel The Life and Loves of a She-Devil (1983) has been made into a popular movie. It was formerly a successful television miniseries.