Comus (John Milton)

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Girl and brothers get lost in the woods.  Comus, a debauched man, stumbles upon the girl and tries to seduce her.  She resists him by means of “right reason.”

Notable lines:

“Stoop thy pale visage through an amber cloud,
And disinherit chaos” (334).

A brother makes the suggestion that his sister’s virtue is not in danger while she maintains “the constant mood of her calm thoughts” (371).

Milton rejects the hermeneutics of suspicion:

“Yet where an equall poise of hope and fear
Does arbitrate th’event, my nature is
That I incline to hope, rather then fear,
And gladly banish squint suspicion” (410ff).

Conclusion: The original problem is quite interesting: can virtue and right reason withstand sexual temptation?  That’s not the solution, though.  The solution is appealing to a fairy spirit who can come up with some herb and free the Lady.  Milton’s conclusion doesn’t follow from his problem.

I think there is more to the poem than from what I’ve gleaned.  I probably need to reread the secondary literature.


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