John Milton wrote A Maske presented at Ludlow Castle (also known as Comus, a masque), in 1634.
What is a masque?
Masques were courtly entertainments popular in the 16th and early 17th centuries. A masque is a text for performance, in verse, involving music and dance. Masques often involved elaborate scenery and costumes, with the performing roles sometimes taken by the nobility in whose houses they were staged. This edition of Comus shows that the masque was acted in the presence of nobility and that some of the performers were nobles themselves.
What is the connection between Comus and H G Wells’s The Island of Dr. Moreau?
In H G Well's The Island of Dr. Moreau Prendick is afraid that he has been rescued in order to be experimented on ‘to send me off a lost soul, a beast, to the rest of their Comus rout.’ Comus is the son of Circe, who appears in Homer’s Odyssey, as the ruler of an island where she gives travellers a drink which turns them into beasts. Comus in Milton’s masque:
Excells his Mother at her mightie Art
Offring to every wearie Travailer
His Orient liquor in a Chrystall glasse …
which changes his victims’ heads,
into some brutish forme of Wolfe, or Beare
Or Ounce, or Tiger, Hog, or bearded Goat,
All other parts remaining as they were …
Comus uses ‘dazling Spells’, a ‘Charming rod’ and a ‘Glasse’; his victims are described as ‘a rabble’ and ‘a rout’, indicating their threatening status within social and legal frameworks.
- Full title:
- A Maske presented at Ludlow Castle, 1634: On Michaelmasse night, before the Right Honorable John Earle of Bridgewater, etc. [By John Milton. Edited, with a dedication to John, Viscount Brackly, son of the Earl of Bridgewater, by H. Lawes.]
- 1637, London
- John Milton
- Usage terms
- Public Domain
- Held by
- British Library
- Article by:
- Roger Luckhurst
- Fin de siècle, Visions of the future
Roger Luckhurst looks at H G Wells’s The Island of Dr. Moreau as a text that both provoked and explored feelings of disgust, reflecting late-Victorian questions and fears about vivisection, cannibalism and evolutionary degeneration.