A survey of Milton’s English poetry as a basis for discussing problems in the art of criticism. First, is criticism an art? Is literary criticism a practical or a theoretical enterprise? Does criticism combine philosophy and history while remaining separate from each (as Aristotle thought)? In what ways can criticism draw illuminating connections between a poet’s work and a poet’s life? What kind of attention can criticism pay to language, meter, genre, and literary history? Above all, what is the relation of criticism to the political and of the political to the aesthetic? Milton criticism over three centuries provides a unique archive for considering how criticism has been practiced over time. We follow the development from classic criticism (Marvell, Johnson, Voltaire, Wordsworth, Coleridge, Hazlitt, Blake, Equiano, Wollstonecraft, Arnold, Raleigh) to modern ones (Woolf, Eliot, Lewis, Empson, Frye, Schwartz, Quint, Greenblatt, Nyquist, Jameson, Wilburn, Mohamed, Lewalski, Vendler).