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Comus, a masque presented at Ludlow Castle by John Milton, is a perfect example of the type of work that was being written and performed in Milton’s era. One of the themes that Milton expresses is the direct connection between human beings and the pastoral scenes he uses, involving nature directly with the main characters. Whether people want to consume all of nature’s resources or refrain from excessive consumption depends on the individual reader’s actions. Milton also addresses the pure virtues of virginity and chastity. These were important topics of Milton’s society because monetary value (in the form of dowries) was placed on a woman’s sexual purity. Another theme that occurs in Comus, and other of Milton’s works, is the changing view of the universe and human’s role in the universe. This is the time of Gallileo’s use of the telescope to make dramatic discoveries about outer space. Another topic of discussion is the significance of Comus as an example of the English theatrical genre the Masque and how this genre is similar to and different from the Opera.
Meanwhile, welcome joy, and feast,/ Midnight shout, and revelry,/ Tipsy dance, and jollity (Comus 102-104).
Milton presents Comus’ lifestlye in a very attractive style in order for the present evil to be a suitable opponent for the good Lady. The case that Comus gives: “if all the world/Should in a pet of temperance feed on pulse,/…The all-giver would be unthanked” (Comus 719,720, 722) of the plentiful and abundant Earth meant to consume and not to enjoy the Earth’s gifts is a sin. The pervasive Puritan thought of the time is simple in nature. Milton’s involvement with Christian doctrine is complicated. By presenting the evil magician Comus in an enchanting
A masque is an elaborate single performance for the high courts of the king. addresses a society that is licentious and presents the virtues of virginity and chastity as wholesome.manner. 33. Winifred Maynard explains that the dance at the end of the masque is in celebration of the triumph of virtue over evil (Broadbent 179-180). The plays had to be performed in the kings courts for an elite audience who often participated in the acts in some way like dancing at the end of Comus (Fletcher. Comus. Yet the paradox is that women were supposed to virgins while men were not held to the same standards. Milton actually proposes to the audience that they should refrain from overconsumption and live a simple life. The kings and their elaborate courts had to be exclusively entertained. The rewards of living a moderate lifestyle are exhibited with celebration and dance that resulted in the players dancing with members of the audience (Fletcher. Milton presents an attractive scenario of living a virtuous life and how evil is overcome by good. which takes discipline. This masque. Fletcher says that masques have “fixed visionary endings” which are festive in nature similar . 51). Milton uses the Masque as a way of expressing his theological beliefs about the quality of a woman’s virginity and the overall belief that restraint and moderate living results in great rewards gained by achieving a higher level of existence. Comus is not as great an evil as Satan but he is shown in true fun. Comus is depicted as a formidable foe against good in the same manner that the character Satan is depicted as a suitable evil worthy of God’s attention. 51). Don’t forget the theaters were closed for a period of time. how could there be virgin women when men were able to be promiscuous and the women were not allowed to be? In a time of illicit sex. Virtues are dominant in the story. It is typical of the dramatic exaggeration during the time that was later labeled the Baroque era.
It takes severe discipline to have these powers that seem magical to mortals. At the end. with 1023 lines it is one of the longest masques (Fletcher. good and bad. As masques are comcerned. Rather the plot is blurred with good monarchs and evil aristocrats.) moral values succeed as chastity triumphs over evil. which adds another dimension (Fletcher. 50). fasting and mediation.) it is supposed to honor the royalty b. Fletcher says Comus “hinges upon a drama of conflicting magics” rather than morals (39). The Government is ambiguous in this masque. since the theaters were closed for a period of time in the 1640’s Milton is given the opportunity to express his political and spiritual views in this masque.to “pageants” which depict the Renaissance at its peak (49). the unequal distribution of the earth’s wealth and dancing around the maypole is in direct negative correlation to the Royalists.…) (Broadbent 173) During the change of the century between 1590’s to the 1600’s the first operas were being debuted for the world to gaze at the extravagant costumes and listen with astonished ears . Comus is too long. as Fletcher says. evil survives to see another night since Comus escapes. Caccini became the best-known spokesman of this group (who were called the Cammerata. The escape means evil still exists.) it has women as lead roles and c. 122). Comus represents the royalty in a negative way. The masque is most ambiguous because it is supposed to celebrate aristocracy and the ostentatiousness of the Prince gaining more power and land. It is also more dramatic than other masques yet not dramatic enough to be considered a play. It brings people to a different level through the process of prayer. These acts do not come like magic. However. Comus is different from other masques because a. beauty and ugly are obscured deliberately. The magic is actuality found in morality. Masques involve magic and moral issues set in pastoral settings yet were performed outdoors in royal surroundings for aristocrats. The question is how to allow for individual freedom while maintaining governmental control over the population.
to voices previously never heard. one of Caccini’s daughters. and. . an anonymous humorous story or chanson de geste written in Franco-Lombard and located in Venice. Luigi Pulci’s Morgante Maggiore. These songs and dances at the end place the Masque among the Italian stilo recitativo (Fletcher 175-186). Orlando Innamorato by Matteo Maria Bioardo Count of Scandiana (1432-1484). and a brief yet full production. Milton’s Comus follows the tradition of Caccini’s La Liberazione Di Ruggiero Dall’Isola D’Alcina in that her libretto was based on the epic Orlando Furioso by Ludivico Ariosto (1474-1533) published in 1516. This implies that the story is read with the knowledge that there are costumes. The inclusion of the attendant spirit shows that Milton takes the transcendental role with solemnity. Maynard mentions Caccini and the group of intellectuals known as Camerata (Broadbent 173). Franscesa Caccini’s masterpiece opera La Liberazione Di Ruggiero Dall’Isola D’Alcina is similar to Comus because the libretto centers on the morality and triumph of Chastity over promiscuousness and of Good over Evil (except the male character is seduced by the female sorceress). Puritan Doctrine is beyond the scope of these few statements but it may be safe to say that Milton did not adhere to all of the Puritan doctrines. Maynard does not mention Franscesa Caccini. 32). which include: Entrée d’Espagne. Spiritual rhetoric was the manner of speech in Milton’s times. Comus transcends other masques because Milton uses all types of art forms and goes beyond limitations of artists. This epic poem in turn draws inspiration from several sources. who mastered her father’s “new music” technique and published one of the only surviving opera’s commissioned and written by influential females. Milton has such a transcendental mind that the guests did not fully understand the implied innuendos to a sinful society. most directly. Published in 1625 (Clayhorn. Milton’s masque uses songs in celebration of the victory of good virtue over evil. actors-singers.
Milton’s text is ambiguous because it involves Greek and Roman myth and deities yet he is known to struggle with his Christian background. In all types of literature water is used in association with childbirth and a woman’s purity. Earth and Soul of Humans in the Universe. During this time. in which the Attendant Spirit speaks of returning to the corners of the moon. . Thus water is the magic that releases Lady from her evil spell. Humans began to think arrogantly of themselves in that humans could bring heaven to Earth. Sabrina is the only one who can release Lady from the chair with the water from her “fountain pure” (Broadbent. It is a time in which material advancement also meant spiritual attainment. is an exceptional verse that represents the new baroque view of the Universe. It is mystical to read about the lost traveler and to see her enchanted by the evil magician Comus. clearly expressed in the last line of the masque. Of course. In the Bible water is sacred and represented with the Spirit of God. …Heaven itself would stoop to her (Comus 1022). give evidence of the effect of a new science on Milton’s society. This view. /His orient liquor in a crystal glass…” (Comus 64) Milton performs his duty as poet and expresses universal human conditions between the weary traveler and devilish debauchery. Milton follows a long tradition of water as a metaphor in literature. 154). The last two paragraphs. The mixture of mythical figures in plays is typical of the Renaissance Period and mastered in all of Milton’s works. The reference to water is seen as an unaltered nature that can not be changed yet is always moving. Milton represents the female character Sabrina as a river near the Ludlow castle. This passage gives reference to the moon as seen through Galileo’s telescope as rough and with mountainous terrain instead of the smooth crisp moon as seen with the naked eye. water has many symbolisms in literature. When Comus is described as “Offering to every weary traveler.
In Comus. expansion of colonialism. Comus has a mythical occurrence of a woman’s journey. The mystery about the nature of women may still linger. Comus is sick and the lady sees his true evilness. . And line 198-199 when the Lady wonders why there are no stars which “…give due light/To the misled and lonely traveler?” Private and Public were not separated like they are today. He has decided upon a course of action in his life and no longer views women as an unapproachable mysterious creature. He shows his admiration of women by using two female main characters in a time when only a woman would have focused on female characters. a noble thing to write of in Milton’s era. but he has gains admiration for a woman’s respectability. During Milton’s time sexuality lacked definitions.Milton is on a personal spiritual journey and the Masque is the assertion of Milton’s beliefs. A division between homosexuality and heterosexuality did not exist. The social labeling of one sexual preference as morally correct and as the only natural way to express one’s love is a modern way of segregating people into different stereotypes and classes of people. Comus occurs at night. Comus is satan. The word homosexuality did not exist then because the labeling and distinguishing of people’s sexual preference did not occur like it does in modern times. This masque shows that he has matured form his Cambridge days of admiring the various body parts of girls from a distance. Milton must have trembled occasionally when he thought of God’s omnipotence. he was trying to express that nothing would be possible without God. Rise of middle class.
Pastorals. The Transcendental Masque: An Essay on Milton’s Comus. ed. Dulan September 27. Toronto: University of Toronto Press. Fletcher. 1980. London: Cambridge University Press. Collected Works. 1961. translated by Stewart Rose. Lanham: The Scarecrow Press. Masques. Murray.A. xxiii.. Barker. Inc. Milton and the Purtan Dilemma 1641-1660. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press.B. 1971. Ithaca: Cornell University Press. John. John Milton: Odes. xxvii).bartleby. 1968 (xxii. Gene. Dominick Inglese English 352 Dr. Brown. Milton and the Baroque. Roston..Bibliography Barlett A.. Angus. New York: Octagon Books Inc. Milton’s Lycidas: The Tradition and the Poem. Women Composers and Songwriters: A Concise Biographical Dictionary. 2002 . New York: Holt. 1964. 1996. Broadbent. Introduction and Bibliography for Orlando Furioso by Ludovivo Ariosto.. (New York: The Bobbs-Merrill Company.html Patrides. 1975. C. Gertrude. Arthur.Rinehart and Winston. ed. Milton’s Blindness. 1968. Milton. Giamatti. J. Inc. Website: http://www.com/people/Milton-J. Clayhorn.
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