Puritan Beliefs in John Milton’s ‘A Masque Presented at Ludlow Castle’

Discuss the ways in which Milton alters the mask signifier and expresses Puritan beliefs inA Masque presented at Ludlow Castle

John Milton found himself composingA Masque presented at Ludlow Castle,now widely referred to asComus, in a society that was ruled by a sovereign who had dismissed Parliament and re-issued James I ‘sBook of Sports, which encouraged Sunday athleticss and dance, among other things. Caroline tribunal masks idealised Charles and Henrietta Maria in pastoral and Neoplatonic footings as Heroic Love and Divine Virtue, symbolically unified in their shared duty of obtaining monarchal control of all the mutinous and boisterous advocates of a population, which was symbolised in the anti-masque.Comuswas presented for the Earl of Bridgewater on Michaelmas dark 1634, performed by his three kids and their music instructor, Henry Lawes, along with several other histrions whose names have been lost. Milton clearly wanted his audience to believe ofComusas a mask due to its rubric beingA Masque presented at Ludlow Castle.As John Creaser points out, “ it was old-fashioned by the 1630s to hold a generic and occasional rubric alternatively of one underscoring subject or fiction ” ( 122 ) . Through concentrating the attending ofComuson the mask signifier, Milton is inquiring his audience, and subsequently his reader, to conceive of the conventions of masks in order to accommodate and overthrow them. Milton creates a mask which criticises tribunal civilization, reflects Puritan spiritual and political esthesias, every bit good as assuage the household agony from recent dirt.

Masquerades were popular courtly amusements, peculiarly in Jacobean and Caroline England. Possibly the most celebrated confederates were Ben Jonson and Inigo Jones, who formulated many of the conventions associated with masks. The archetypical Jonsonian mask consisted of three parts: the antimasque, the mask and the revels. It was common in the anti-masque for an unleashing of a grotesque, burlesque crowd of characters who performed secret plans of lawlessness, treachery and mischievousness. The baleful forces of these characters were dispelled by the polish of the mask ; members of the tribunal were introduced as refinishers of order and royal authorization. The revels highlighted the minute in which the dramatic setup of the mask was dissolved, and the witnesss were invited to dance with the maskers. The overall construction of a Jonsonian mask served to neutralize possible endangering ideas and thoughts in the political unconscious of the tribunal ; the King ‘s authorization was reinstated through the imagination of absolutist patriarchate, which was represented by the virtuous organic structure of the Queen and the attendant ladies. Milton ‘sComusmerely partly follows the Jonsonian signifier.Comusis slackly ordered around a three-party construction, and there is a difference between the anti-masque revelers, presumptively played by professional histrions, and the blue kids, played by the Egerton kids. However, Milton does non portray the absolutist power of the King. Alternatively, he chooses to picture a puritan belief of self-governance or moderation. In Jonsonian masks the Queen is capable of neutralizing the menaces of the anti-masque because her virtuousness is derived from the King ; the Queen is therefore a vas for the absolute power of the King. William Shullenberger argues that it is the Lady inComuswho acts as an “ model agent and incarnation of virtuousness ” , without any reference of her male parent, the placeholder of the King, or King Charles himself ( 68 ) . Possibly this pick indicates Milton ‘s dissent from the conflation of political relations and religious instruction in the agreement of tribunal masks, taking Maryann McGuire to categorizeComusas a “ heretical mask ” , or the “ work of a Protestant group who rejected absolutist institutional authorization, emphasised the primacy of the single chase of enlightenment, and posited that stasis is impossible in the fallen universe ” ( 76 ) .

Furthermore,Comusappears to be critical of the very tribunal civilization which created and patronised masks. Unlike Inigo Jones ‘ munificent scenes,ComusBegins with a field dark scene: “ A wild wood ” ( Milton 178 ) . AsComusis presented at Ludlow, the scene of a wood is disposed due to the expansive wood that surrounds the palace. Yet there is no call for an luxuriant set, like one would anticipate in a tribunal mask of Jones. This field set suggests Milton ‘s Puritan beliefs which would hold sought for the attending of the audience on the construction and subjects of the mask instead than dramatic pictural shows. The mask besides merely makes usage of cosmetic ruse during the feast Comus nowadayss for his half-bestial invitees: “Tables spread with all delicacies ”( Milton 213 ) . The association of Comus, the maestro of misgovernment, with the extravagancies of traditional nobility subtly transfers the societal hub of anxiousness, signified by the anti-masque, from the exterior of tribunal civilization to the interior of tribunal civilization.

One of the most dramatic things about the construction ofComusis that there are “ about no dances ; they have none of the formal iconographic import and elaborateness normally given to tribunal mask stage dancing ” ( Fletcher 148 ) . In tribunal masks there would be several choreographed dances by cloaked performing artists and the mask would stop with the revels. The revels made concrete the glory of the tribunal through uniting the symbolic overtones of the mask ‘s congratulations with the audience ‘s presence. InComus,Milton places the accent on moral battle instead than courtly declaration. It is merely after Comus ‘ cortege flee and the Lady is released that the virtuous characters return to the Castle: “The scene alterations, showing Ludlow Town and the President ‘s Castle ”( Milton 229 ) . The dance inComusis auxiliary to the chief action alternatively of being the cardinal agent and instrument of virtuousness, like in legion tribunal masks. Through the deficiency of dance inComusMilton is changing the outlooks of the mask signifier to reflect his Puritan beliefs, dancing non being a celebration peculiarly praised by Puritans.

It is besides interesting to observe that possibly the most outstanding dance in the mask is that of Comus and his cortege: “ Come, knit hands, and beat the land, / in a light antic unit of ammunition ” ( Milton 143-4 ) . This dance gets disbanded by the “ chaste pes ” ( Milton 146 ) of the Lady. Shortly before the dance Comus says that they should “ lace [ their ] locks with rose-colored string ” ( Milton 105 ) . Puritans did non follow the tribunal tendency of love locks which Charles had started. Through picturing Comus with long hair, Milton may be pulling a comparing between Comus and these tendency followings ; the maestro of misgovernment and monarchists. What is more, Milton associates the dance that is frequently done by the courtiers, on occasion the royals, with the anti-masque figures. These dances of Comus and his cortege are expressed as happening through the dark which recalls the petitions to dance and revelry in the tribunal mask ; this is a wont which Puritans disliked. Milton depicts Comus ‘ revels as an unreal faith, luring Christians from their appropriate devotedness to God.

The peculiar juncture ofComuswas twofold: Bridgewater ‘s assignment as Lord President of Wales and the unsnarling of the Egerton household from the embarrassment of a recent dirt. The Earl ‘s brother-in-law, Lord Castlehaven, had late been executed for disgraceful sexual activities, therefore the subject of celibacy was peculiarly relevant to Bridgewater ‘s household ( Breasted 201-24 ) . The test of Castlehaven caused Bridgewater “ a hold in taking up his place in Ludlow ” ( Knafla 2004 ) , therefore when he was appointed many celebrations occurred, such asComus.The heralding of the dominance of disciplined virtuousness over irreverent passion could be seen as an effort by Milton to put the dirt of Castlehaven ‘s sexual activities to rest and pacify the agony of the household. The mask ‘s instead didactic subjects of celibacy and incontinency, order and upset, ground and passion are therefore instead disposed for a household who have endured such a dirt. As William Riley Parker suggests, the secret plan may hold come from a petition by Lawes or one of the Egertons ( 130 ) . The hazards of the kids postpone the Earl ‘s assignment ; the recent dirt had done the same thing. Comus ‘ menace to the Lady is sexual, which does non look excessively far removed thematically from Castlehaven ‘s sexual perversions. The kids of the mask have “ their religion, their forbearance and their truth ” ( Milton 970 ) tested by Comus, merely like the household had by the dirt. Ultimately, both the kids and the household triumph “ o’er animal Folly and Intemperance ” ( Milton 975 ) . Therefore, Milton alters the traditional map of the mask, lauding the sovereign, into the victory of the household over dirt.

Comusreflects Puritan spiritual and political esthesias in signifier, subject and ethos. The mask does non necessitate elaborate and expensive machinery ; the Attendant Spirit has no cloud machine and there are no luxuriant sets. The chief maskers, the Egerton kids, are non fabulous or allegorical figures in masks, as they normally are in masks ; merely the Attendant Spirit, Comus and Sabrina are ‘typical ‘ maskers. Furthermore, while the Lady is able to ‘visually ‘ see the virtuousnesss that are indispensable to her plight – celibacy, hope and faith – they are non masque personifications, which they would be in a tribunal production ; they are the dwellers of the Lady ‘s head. Possibly more significantly, the Realism inComusis worlds apart from that of the Caroline tribunal, and immorality is regarded non in Platonic but in Protestant footings. The tribunal is non the ideal mask universe, Ludlow Castle is. Unlike it normally does, the ideal mask universe is attained through pilgrim’s journey ; it does non merely look and chase away all dangers. Evil still remains at the terminal of the mask: the “ wild wood ” ( Milton 178 ) is still risky to acquire through and Comus is neither vanquished, nor contained, nor transformed, unlike other anti-masque figures. Sabrina is an instrument of godly grace from the Welsh countryside and is an incarnation of the transformative capableness of poesy and vocal ; neither the sovereigns nor their deputies are the agents of remedy and reclamation, which they would be in tribunal masks.

Initially, Comus is disguised as a shepherd, but he finally exposes himself as a debauchee courtier and an advocator of theBook of Sports. He invites all to apparently guiltless games: “ Merry aftermaths and interests ” ( Milton 121 ) and a “ vacillant Morris ” ( Milton 116 ) . These games transform about imperceptibly into sexual seduction and religious decease. Comus is in favor of Epicurean indulgence. He argues that natural copiousness was granted for the enjoyment of worlds, failure to utilize and ‘spend ‘ what was freely offered would mean an impolite rejection of godly congratulations:

If all the universe

Should in a pet of moderation provender on pulsation,

Drink the clear watercourse, and nil wear but freezing

The all-giver would be unthanked, would be unpraised. ( Milton 719-22 )

The Lady responds with a defense of Comus ‘ decisions that luxury and conspicuous ingestion are natural: Nature does non desire her kids to be “ exuberant / with her copiousness ” ( Milton 762-3 ) . The Lady ‘s address comes near to shattering one of the chief concepts of masquing: conspicuous ingestion. Court masks were excessive occasions which cost immense amounts of money ; many masks in the Caroline period cost more than they had before. Such behavior is inordinate and unfair harmonizing to Puritan beliefs. Therefore, the Lady attacks conspicuous ingestion to review the extravagancy of the tribunal.

Comus falsely claims the domain of pastoral through his camouflage of a shepherd and his invitation to direct the Lady to a “ low / but loyal bungalow ” ( Milton 318-9 ) , an allusion to the tribunal ‘s delusory pastoralism. Alternatively, he leads the Lady to a decadent and corrupt tribunal with an luxuriant feast and half-bestial followings ; non a really elusive allusion to the licentious Cavaliers. Conventionally, this would be an unusual scene for the audience of a mask, as they would anticipate the tribunal scene to be the chief mask, one time the anti-masque was dispelled. Milton, alternatively, portrays the tribunal as another anti-masque, of kinds: the tribunal is no longer the venue of grace and virtuousness but is the abode of Comus. The typical political relations of masquing could non be more altered.

Furthermore, Comus frequently uses amply sensuous linguistic communication, which is capturing in its sounds and beat. His usage of trochaic meter and riming pairs signify him as being different from the other characters in the mask, every bit good as making a lullaby consequence: “ Braid your locks with rose-colored string / dropping smells, dropping vino ” ( Milton 105-6 ) . As the lone 1 who speaks in this mode, Comus is clearly separated from the virtuous characters. Comus besides echoes legion Cavalier seduction verse forms on the subject ofcarpe diem:

List Lady be non demure, and be non cozened

With that same vaunted name virginity,

Beauty is Nature ‘s coin, must non be hoarded. ( Milton 736-8 )

Comus urges the Lady to utilize her beauty and young person while she still has them. Due to its focal point on animal pleasance and the organic structure,carpe diempoesy appeared to assorted English Christians as a struggle to Christian values. Comus ‘ invitation to the Lady to imbibe “ this affable julep here / that fires, and dances in his crystal bounds ” ( Milton 671-2 ) evokes the royalist civilization of ceremonial imbibing, which is celebrated in such Cavalier poesy as Herrick ‘s “ His Farewell to Sack ” . Through doing Comus utilize a subject of poesy closely associated with the Cavaliers, Milton seems to judge such poesy as a representation of the luxury and corrupt sensualness which is identified with Charles I ‘s tribunal. The Lady describes Comus ‘ discourse as “ cheery rhetoric ” ( Milton 789 ) : his linguistic communication is pumped up and facile, but it is hollow. Milton seems to be assailing rhetoric as a screen which prevents one from being close to God.

Comusis a mask that is reinvented for Milton ‘s beliefs. No longer are luxuriant sets, ocular eyeglassess and dancing the focal point of attending ; alternatively, the poesy is. Milton strips back many of the characteristics that are associated with the mask signifier to foreground the corrupt sensualness of the tribunal and reflect Puritan spiritual and political esthesias. The Lady is non freed from her imprisonment by a dramatic show of courtiers in Godhead camouflage, but by the harmonious coaction of poesy and music in the supplication of Sabrina. As Cedric Brown notes, “ the Sabrina subdivision of the mask besides gives full and expressed look of Milton ‘s pastorly ideal of the function of poesy to teach the state ” ( 5 ) . Comus ‘ association with thecarpe diempoesy of the Cavaliers draws a comparing between him and the extravagancy of Charles I ‘s tribunal. Comus ‘ bid of rhetoric is criticised by Milton as being empty and dragging people off from God. The Lady rebuttals Comus ‘ word picture of conspicuous ingestion as being natural ; in an about proto-communist response, she urges for a more classless distribution of wealth: “ If every merely adult male that now pines with want / had but a moderate and befiting portion ” ( Milton 767-8 ) . The Lady touches on issues that were sensitive at the clip: during the late 1620s and early 1630s there were widespread agricultural perturbations in the south-west of England in protest against illegal enclosures ( Norbrook 245 ) . The Lady ‘s insisting upon authorities by rational rules alternatively of fear for traditional blue values goes against the current literature of Charles I ‘s tribunal. Milton, finally, manners a mask which sets itself up as being different from the luxury and magnificence of tribunal masks. It draws attending to its signifier through the rubricA Masque a Ludlow Castle, inquiring the audience, and subsequently the reader, to gestate what this signifier means and its conventions in order to be able to see how he alters and subverts these to make a Reformed mask ; a Puritan mask.


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