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In George Frideric Handel composed three songs and a trio as part of a private arrangement of the masque which was first performed, in June , also at Ludlow Castle. Scenes from Comus for vocal soloists and orchestra is one of the best-known works of composer Hugh Wood —. Masques were a favourite court celebration dating from at least the reign of Elizabeth I , but became very popular under the Stuarts. The main parts were often played by courtiers, nobles and sometimes even the royals.
In fact, Caroline masques of which Comus is an example frequently featured the King and Queen Henrietta Maria , as they were far more interested in becoming involved than King James and his queen Anne had been. This masque was not performed at the court, however, but at the home of Lord Bridgewater, Ludlow Castle. It was commissioned to celebrate the appointment of Lord Bridgewater to the post of Lord President of Wales. References to this are clearly evident in the text, such as the Attendant Spirit's reference to the children's father's "new-entrusted sceptre" in his opening speech.
Bridgewater's own children were the principal actors in this masque. The Puritan Milton's use of the genre, however, may be seen as an attempt for him to "reclaim" masque, which was associated with the perceived debauchery of the royal court, for godly or virtuous purposes.
Rather than praising an aristocrat, the famous concluding lines of the masque, recited by the Attendant Spirit, urge. Mortals that would follow me, Love virtue, she alone is free, She can teach ye how to climb Higher than the Sphery chime; Or if Virtue feeble were, Heav'n itself would stoop to her ll. Milton's title for the masque was not Comus this was imposed later by scholars , but A Mask, Presented at Ludlow Castle.
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Creaser notes that it had become old-fashioned by the s to use an occasional title such as this consider other masque titles of the time such as Carew 's Coelum Britanicum and Tempe Restored , etc. This shows that Milton wanted to specifically draw attention to his work as a masque, asking the reader to hold in their minds all that this signified, as he consciously used and twisted the conventions of the genre to put across his particular message.
Yet in Comus the Lady's virtue is not enough to save her: she is unable to dismiss Comus on her own.
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Even the heroic virtue of her brothers is not enough. Comus escapes rather than actually being defeated. Many have read the intervention of Sabrina as divine assistance being sent, showing that earthly virtue is relatively weak, and certainly not worthy of the exaltation given it in contemporary masques. Barbara Lewalski comments that the character of Sabrina was apparently not played by a noble, but by one of the actors we can assume this because no-one is listed as playing this character in the dramatis personae , so it is actually a commoner who holds the position of most power.
An air of controversy surrounds this masque, as the Earl of Castlehaven , Bridgewater's brother-in-law, was the subject of a sordid sodomy and rape scandal for which he was executed. Some critics have conjectured that the masque, with its focus on chastity, was designed to "cleanse" the Egerton family. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
Sadie, Stanley ; Tyrrell, John eds. London: Macmillan. The Court Masque. David Lindley. Manchester: MUP, Lewalski , "Milton's Comus and the Politics of Masquing. David Bevington and Peter Holbrook eds.
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Summary If poetic offspring can be said to possess gender, then John Milton's A Masque presented at Ludlow Castle , more frequently if erroneously known as Comus, is a daughter who has traditionally been prized for her delicacy and beauty. A New Companion to Milton.
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