By A.E. Dyson
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Extra resources for Between Two Worlds: Aspects of Literary Form
V I began by saying that though I consider Chastity to be chiefly important in Comus as an example of Virtue and Right Reason, I do not think that Milton chose it in any arbitrary spirit. In the Platonic scheme of things purification is an essential preparation for insight. The aim of mankind must be to transcend material and transient things, rising 'by due steps' to the world of pure spirit. In this pilgrimage any earthly ties and affections may prove a hindrance. Later in his life, Milton came to terms with the more specifically Christian view (which Spenser expresses in The Faerie Queene) that Marriage is an estate as honourable as Virginity, and equally rooted in chastity, temperance and Reason.
The differences between them are entirely fundamental, and the masque consists of a straight battle between the two which the Lady wins. As I have insisted, her victory is not merely personal. The whole nature of reality is at stake. VI But of course some problems remain. The obvious one is the Christian framework, which necessarily dooms Comus from the start. It is clear that though Comus is said to be 'Much like his father, but his mother more' (1. 57) and indeed to excel 'his mother at her mighty art' (1.
11. g8I-5) This looks forward to one of the important themes in Paradise Lost upon which I have already touched; that hell, although for allegorical purposes it is given a local habitation, is more essentially a state of mind - or, more accurately perhaps, a gradual disintegration of mind, body and spirit following upon an initial act of disobedience towards God. When Satan has left the physical hell far behind, he is in no whit released from the reality which its monstrous and shifting images symbolise: ...