The masque of Comus
was written for a great entertainment given by the Earl of Bridgewater, at Ludlow Castle, and three of his children took part in it.
Some reference to this would have been valuable in Lauren Shohet's essay on Comus
, in which she finds in the rhetorically active Lady `the near-oxymoron of a Chastity who speaks', and in Marina Leslie's discussion of Cavendish's Assaulted and Pursued Chastity, in which the heroine's very forceful vanquishing of her attempted seducer with a gun may be seen as an extension of, rather than a departure from, the alarming vigour of the medieval virgin saint.
The Lady in Comus
, for instance, "is not good because she does x; rather, x is good because she does it" while Satan in Paradise Lost is a typical liberal, enthroning his own will and choice as supreme and believing that ethical questions are open to rational debate.
New insights also abound in chapter 3, which focuses upon the masques and plays with which the composer was involved, most notably Milton's Comus
. In the lengthy discussion of Lawes's declamatory setting of Cartwright's "Ariadne's Lament" at the Start of chapter 4 ("The Civil War"), I found particularly interesting the suggestion that the piece might be earlier than Nicholas Lanier's well-known Hero and Leander generally considered to be the first English example of recitative "after the Italian manner." Lawes's contribution to the early history of concert life in London, the appearance of his authorized publications, and his role in the first English opera "all-sung" (which, alas, does not survive), form the substance of chapter 5.
Hobson discusses at some length the Comus
illustrations, especially the third illustration, "The Brothers seen by Comus
Plucking Grapes," and at first he shows a healthy scepticism towards the reading which has seen this illustration, especially in its earlier (Huntington) version as initiating a kind of "queer sequence": the brothers, according to this meaning, are up to no (perhaps homosexual) good, at least symbolically, and Comus
is fascinated, aroused as he watches.
The new tenants include Comus
USA, Inc., an Italian maker of toy musical instruments; Drainage Industries, a manufacturer of Halloween and Christmas decorative items; Eurowrap, Ltd., exclusive agent and distributor for one of the largest European gift wrap manufacturers; GEM Electric Mfg., Inc., a maker of seasonal products such as Halloween pumpkin carving kits and outdoor Christmas decorations; PJ Toys, Inc., a maker of stuffed toys; and Putnam Co., Inc., a manufacturer of decorative artificial snow products.
For the literary scholar, Milton's A Maske presented at Ludlow Castle (formerly best known as Comus
and referred to as such by Walls), described as "the greatest literary legacy of the masque tradition" (290) will doubtless be an area of particular interest.
As a contrast, John Milton's Comus
and Paradise Lost emphasize the transformative aspect of the country-house utopia by imagining a Puritan commonwealth.
And when we flashed a forefinger spread away from the other three (making the number 13) in a study hall or assembly, we could count on it being read down the line by eyes accustomed to taking seriously the hand signals of Sphinx, Comus
, Chapparal, the Westsiders, the Vice Lords, Kappas, Crips, and others whose names we never knew.
Its castle - best known for the first staging of Comus
- guildhall, marketplace, and Bull Inn yard, provided attractive theatrical space for professional play.
The fruitful collaboration between masque musician and poet, between Henry Lawes and Milton, is unequivocal in Comus
and for the most part corresponds with conventional expectations.
Like the drunkards in Milton's Comus
, they "not once perceive their foul disfigurement/But boast themselves more comely than before." For centuries, outsiders have understood Ireland as a place apart, barbarous and irrational.