Introduction. A Mask Presented at Ludlow Castle was written on commission to celebrate the first visit of John Egerton, the first Earl of Bridgewater to his (relatively) new administrative seat, Ludlow Castle in Shropshire; it was performed for the first time on the night of Michaelmas (September 29) in 1634. Egerton had been appointed Lord President of Wales and Lord Lieutenant of Wales and the Marches of Herefordshire, Monmouthshire, Shropshire and Worcestershire in 1631, but he first visited Ludlow in 1634. A Mask is the only masque Milton wrote and it was the second of his poetic works to be published (anonymously in 1637). Had Milton never achieved fame as author of Paradise Lost, A Mask might have been forgotten in history as a minor performance in an age that saw much grander courtly spectacles of this now disused sort. Milton's subversions of the genre's conventions, however, as well as his puritan formulation of a classical ideal of self-governance, distinguish A Mask as a complex and fascinating piece of dramatic literature.

Masques were popular courtly entertainments in Caroline England. They consisted of elaborate performances in which a mixed cast of professional actors and royal individuals acted, sang, and danced in lavish stage sets, until the performance culminated in a revel or ball. Playwright and poet Ben Jonson and architect Inigo Jones enjoyed a fruitful partnership as the creators of masques for the courts of Queen Anne and Queen Maria Henrietta, and the pair was responsible for the consolidation of many of the genre's conventions. The typical Jonsonian masque was divided in three parts: the anti-masque, the masque, and the revels. The anti-masque often consisted of the unleashing of a grotesque, burlesque crowd of demimonde characters that enacted plots of anarchy, mischief, and betrayal. Their threatening forces were dispelled by the refinement of the masque, which introduced the members of the court as restorers of order and royal authority. The revels marked the point in which the dramatic apparatus of the masque was dissolved, and presenters and spectators together celebrated the occasion or state affair. The overall structure of the masque served to neutralize potential threatening energies in the political unconscious of the court, and the authority of the king was reasserted through the imagery of absolutist patriarchy represented by the virtuous body of the Queens and their attendant ladies.

A Mask only partially subscribes to the Jonsonian format. Milton's masque is also organized according to a tripartite structure, and there is a distinction between the grotesque anti-masque revelers, played by professional male actors, and the virtuous aristocratic protagonists, played by the Egerton children—Alice age 15, John age 11 and Thomas age 8. Henry Lawes, Gentleman of the Royal Chapel, was commissioned to compose the music for A Mask, and he played the role of the Attendant Spirit. A Mask deviates from the conventional Jonsonian mold in ways that ignore the absolutist authority of the king in favor of a puritan-leaning but classically-rooted sense of self-governance or temperance. In traditional masques, the Queen is able to neutralize the negative forces of the anti-masque revelers because her virtue emanates from the King; therefore, the woman is simply a vessel for the absolute power of the monarch. In his book, Lady in the Labyrinth: Milton's Comus as Initiation (2008), William Shullenberger argues that in A Mask it is the Lady alone who acts as an "exemplary agent and embodiment of virtue," without ever a mention of her father, the king's proxy, or King Charles himself (Shullenberger 68). This choice may indicate Milton's dissent from the conflation of spiritual education and politics in the structure of court masques, which leads Maryann Cale McGuire to classify A Mask as a "dissident masque," or the "work of a Protestant radical who rejected absolutist institutional authority, emphasized the primacy of the individual pursuit of enlightenment, and posited that stasis is impossible in the fallen world" (McGuire 76). Moreover, A Mask seems to be critical of the very court culture that generated and patronized masques. Unlike the lavish settings of Inigo Jones, A Mask opens on a plain dark setting, and the masque only makes use of ornamental artifice during the bacchanal Comus throws for his half-bestial guests. Shullenberger writes, "Milton's association of the Mask's Lord of Misrule, Comus, with the extravagances and libertinism of traditional aristocracy ... subtly relocates the social center of anxiety represented by the antimasque from outside the court culture to inside the court culture" (Shullenberger 69).

A Mask has a complicated publishing history. It was first printed in 1637—A Maske Presented at Ludlow Castle—without any authorial attribution. Milton included a somewhat different version in his first collection, Poems of Mr. John Milton in 1645; it appears there as the last of his English poems with its own title page—A Mask of the Same Author Presented at Ludlow-Castle, 1634. It appeared again in the last edition of Milton's collected Poems in 1673. Besides the printed versions, two manuscripts also survive, one copy in the Trinity manuscript (1632) of early poems in Milton's own hand, and another in the Bridgewater manuscript, made in 1634 by another hand and kept by the Bridgewater family. This edition follows the 1645 printed edition and notes some variations from the two manuscripts.

Since 1984, with the publication of John Creaser's Notes and Queries article, "Milton's Comus: The Irrelevance of the Castlehaven Scandal" (republished in Milton Quarterly in 1987), Milton scholars have argued about whether or not Milton's treatment of female chastity threatened by seduction and violent assault, was meant to respond in any way to the scandal of Mervin Touchet, second Earl of Castlehaven. Creaser argues that Milton scholars and readers had known about the scandal for centuries but never suggested its relevance to the composition, performance and publication of Milton's masque until Bernard Falk speculated on it in 1942 and Barbara Breasted mounted a full-scale re-interpretation in light of the scandal in 1971. Though Creaser seems to argue that the scandal is utterly irrelevant to the masque's composition and should be irrelevant to our reading of both the masque and its reception, he pretty much gives the store away when he concludes,

Milton has, it seems, dealt most adroitly with an invidious issue. While it would have been tactless of him to have incorporated the scandal unmistakeably into his text, it would have been imprudent of him not to have provided against any irresponsible cynics determined to recall it. his affirmation that virtue inheres in the will comes with the authority of tradition and deflects any criticism which such malicious observers might wish to extend to Bridgewater and his family. (Creaser 32)

That no one thought until 1942 of reading Milton's masque in light of one of the most notorious sex scandals of the 17th century is testimony, according to Creaser, to Milton's extraordinarily prudent adroitness in composing a piece that "tactfully short-circuit[ed]" any possibility of evoking the scandal and allowed the Bridgewater family to "adopt an unruffled air of being above suspicion" (31). In other words, the scandal could hardly be more relevant to how we read the piece today and how its aristocratic audience received it in 1634.

Mervin Touchet, second Earl of Castlehaven, was tried and executed in 1631 for sexual misconduct in his own private household. He was convicted of arranging the repeated rape of his wife and stepdaughter by his male servants, and of having homosexual relations with some of those servants. Given that Castlehaven's abused wife, Lady Ann Stanley, was the older sister of Francis Egerton, the Countess of Bridgewater, the scandal may well have embarrassed the Egertons. When Sir John Egerton became Lord President of Wales and chose to celebrate his appointment with a masque about the virtues of chastity, it seemed as if he was intent on distinguishing his family from his wife's "tainted relatives" (Barbara Breasted 203).

Of course Milton's own personal interest in the topic of chastity was already quite keen in 1634; we needn't assume that current events determined or even overtly shaped his theme, but this was a commissioned work, performed three years after Bridgewater's appointment and also after the notorious Castlehaven trial. What's more, Leah Marcus suggested in 1983 that yet another notorious instance of sexual assault in 1631 may have prompted Bridgewater to commission a masque precisely on the theme of chastity, not just to distinguish his reputation from the shadow of his wife's brother-in-law, but as strong champion of precisely this virtue in his roles of Lord President and exemplary father of sons and a daughter. On this issue of political contexts, Shullenberger comes to a reasonable conclusion: "The Lady also takes up the cry for justice of the serving girl Margery Evans, whose rape in Ludlow forest and subsequent legal neglect and victimization might have rendered her just one more anonymous and forgotten female victim, had not her persistent claims for legal redress provided the Earl of Bridgewater an early opportunity to exercise his judicial concern for victims of injustice in his own administrative district" (Shullenberger 224).

In her 1989 book, The Politics of Mirth: Jonson, Herrick, Milton, Marvell, and the Defense of Old Holiday Pastimes, Marcus also makes a broader case for A Mask's intervention into contemporary debates about state-approved and even state-sponsored revelry. And more recently, Shullenberger reminds us that "Michaelmas Eve, on which Comus was performed, was a traditional occasion for lawless revelry in the area" surrounding Ludlow Castle and the Welsh marches in general (Shullenberger 112).

Guilherme Ferraz and Thomas H. Luxon

A Mask. Masks (better known as masques) "were created as introductions to masked balls. After the aristocrats entered from a scenic setting on a stage and stepped down from the stage into the middle of a hall, they engaged in one or more allegorical dances in a central carpeted area. The dances were performed directly before and around the king and queen, or some members of the nobility" (Demaray 11). See also the article on masques in Wikipedia.

presented. That is, represented characters in the drama; see the BMS title. Or, as Flanagan suggests, "in the sense that they came before an aristocratic audience" (see OED2).

Lord BRACLY. The Earl of Bridgewater was also Viscount Brackley. His eldest son had, by 1645, inherited his father's title and was now Lord Brackley. He performed the part of the Elder Brother; his brother, Thomas, the Second Brother, and their sister, Alice, the Lady.

attendant Spirit. The Trinity MS (TMS) calls him a "Guardian spirit, or Dæmon" and uses the speech preface "Dæ" for most of his speeches; the Bridgewater MS (BMS) calls him "demon." Most likely, Milton's sense of a dæmon follows Socrates' (or Diotima's) from Plato's Symposium 202d-203a, where Socrates teaches that Love is not a god but a "great spirit" or dæmon.

discovers. Reveals, uncovers.

Opening lines. The BMS has twenty-three additional opening lines before "Before." "Descends" implies some of the stage machinery familiar to masques of the period; "enters" does not, and may suggest a simpler or an outdoor performance.

Jove. As was common in masques of the period, the period setting was assumed to be vaguely classical and therefore pre-Christian, where "Jove" is a thinly-veiled stand-in for the Christian God. The good characters are understood to be such upright pagans that they are virtually Christians, since the presumption is that all true virtue, especially chastity, is, at the end of the day, Christian. Shakespeare's Cymbeline presents Jupiter in a similar manner.

mansion. Dwelling or home; see the same usage in the Authorised Version (1611) of John 14:2.

Line 4. The TMS shows about 15 lines inserted after this line and crossed out with a large X.

Line 7. See TMS.

pinfold. Literally a cattle pen; an enclosure for livestock.

mortal change. The Attendant Spirit speaks of earthly (mortal) life as nearly bestial, at least compared to his life in "Jove's Court." The imagery also suggests that to be a mortal is to already have undergone something like the metamorphosis effected by Circe, because the body acts as the bestial prison of the soul (Kerrigan 31).

tributary gods. That is, the lesser bodies of water, and rivers (tributaries) that are spoken of as lesser rulers or "tributary" lords.

main. Ocean.

blu-hair'd deities. Refers to the Tritons, Neptune's children whom Ovid describes as blue-roofed ("tectum/ caeruleum"); see Metamorphoses 1.332-333.

this tract. Wales and the bordering English counties which were part of the jurisdiction of the Earl of Bridgewater as Lord President of Wales.

mickle. Great or much. Spenser uses the term frequently and it survives in Scots to this day, sometimes as "muckle".

proud in Arms. Popular (if caricatured) examples of the legendary Welsh pride in arms are Shakespeare's Owen Glendower in 1 Henry IV and Fluellan in Henry V.

drear Wood. Recalls the selva oscura of Dante's Inferno l.2, and the opening of Spenser's Faerie Queene in which the wood ("Errours den") is symbolic of error.

never yet was heard. An echo of Ariosto's "unattempted" in Orlando Furioso; see also Paradise Lost 1.16.

Bacchus. The Roman god of wine, same as the Greek god Dionysus. Milton imagines Comus as the son of Bacchus and Circe. For more on Bacchus, see the Homeric Hymn to Dionysius 7 and Ovid, Metamorphoses 3.517-691. See also Caravaggio's Bacchus (1597) and Rubens' Bacchus (1638-40).

Mariners transform'd. After Bacchus was captured by Tuscan pirates, he turned his turned captors into dolphins. See Metamorphoses 3.650-91.

Tyrrhene shore. The Italian coast north of Sicily, opposite Sardinia and Corsica.

Circes Iland. Known as Aeaea, the island is somewhere in the Tyrrhenian Sea off the Circean Promontory on the southwest coast of Italy. (See Odyssey 10.208 and following.)

The daughter of the Sun. Circe, whose father was Helios the sun god.

groveling Swine. Refers to Circe's transformation of Odysseus' men into swine (See Odyssey 10.238). This is also the subject of William Browne's Inner Temple Masque (1615), and Aurelian Townshend's and Inigo Jones's masque Tempe Restored (1632) with which Milton was familiar. (Orgel & Goldberg 760).

orient. Bright or shining like pearls from the orient.

drouth of Phoebus. A thirst caused by the sun.

Ounce. Lynx.

perfect. Complete.

Iris Wooff. Rainbow.

weeds. Garments.

the service. That is, like the shepherd who serves the Earl of Bridgewater. But the Attendant Spirit also suggests that the swain has powers like those of Orpheus to tame nature with his music. See Ovid's Metamorphoses 10.

mould. Earth or primal clay.

sway. Rule.

neather Jove. According to ancient legends, when the Olympian gods defeated the Titans, the three sons of Chronos and Rhea -- Jove (Zeus) and his brothers, Neptune (Poseidon) and Pluto (Hades) -- divided the universe amongst themselves by lots. Jove won the heavens, Neptune the waters and islands, and Pluto ("nether" or lower Jove) the underworld. See Homer's Iliad 15.187-193.

Line 90. TMS shows some interesting differences.

hatefull. TMS has: "virgin" and "hatefull" supplied here.

Comus. See TMS lines at this point.

Line 93. Hesperus or Venus (in Ovid's Latin, Vesper), the evening star signalled (on a clear day) that it was time to pen the sheep into a fold; see Virgil's Eclogues 6.85-86.

dusky. TMS started with "northren," then tried "dusky" in the margin, but underscored "northren"; BMS has "Northerne." Somehow "duskie" made it into 1637 and "dusky" into 1645.

Jollity. Compare these lines to L'Allegro 25-56.

Saws. Maxims or serious sayings; sententious wisdom.

finny drove. Verbatim from Spenser's Faerie Queene 3.8.29.

Morrice. Morris-dance; a lively group dance typical of May festivals.

merry wakes. "The local annual festival of an English (now chiefly rural) parish, observed (originally on the feast of the patron saint of the church, but now usually on some particular Sunday and the two or three days following) as an occasion for making holiday, entertainment of friends, and often for village sports, dancing, and other amusements" (OED2). On the political implications of "merry wakes and pastimes" in Caroline England, see Leah S. Marcus, The Politics of Mirth.

rights. Rites.

Cotytto. Cotys, a Thracian fertility goddess worshipped in orgiastic rites.

Line 132. TMS is heavy with revisions here.

Stay. Hold, stop.

Ebon chair. Black chariot.

The Measure. Denotes a rhythmical performance; in this masque it would include both dance and music. Both TMS and BMS further specify the Measure "in a wild, rude, & wanton Antick."

feel. TMS has "heare", crossed out and replaced by "feele." Unlike most commentators, I think this indicates that Comus relies more on the sense of touch, a sense he has highly developed, than those of hearing and sight.

trains. The bait used for luring wild animals into a trap.

quaint habits. Strange garments. Comus is being sarcastic here. He and his crew are dressed to the nines in courtly costumes.

glozing. Flattering or insinuating. Comus plans to make sin appear rational and delightful; see Areopagitica on the "seeming pleasures" of vice.

here. Poems 1673 prints this line exactly as it appears here and in 1645 (our copytext), but the Errata in 1673, opposite page 1, instructs readers to remove the comma after "may" and change "here" to "hear." The resulting line would read: "And hearken, if I may her busines hear." This would still makes sense, although a somewhat different sense from the line as it appears in 1645.

unleter'd Hinds. Uneducated farm laborers.

Pan. Pan, in Greek mythology, is a "fertility deity, more or less bestial in form" (Britannica Online). He was associated by the Romans with Faunus and often appeared as a patron god of shepherds. See also the Nativity Ode 89.

Wassailers. Revellers and drinkers of wassail, usually an alcoholic drink.

sad Votarist. Solemn pilgrim.

Palmer's weed. A Palmer was a pilgrim who carried a palm leaf as a souvenir of his or her visit to the Holy Land.

Phoebus wain. The chariot of the sun spoken of as a farm wagon.

perfet. Full, complete.

single. Singular, that is, unusally dark.

Chastity. Faith, Hope, and Charity are the familiar triad of Christian virtues (I Corinthians 13:13); the Lady invokes Faith and Hope (213), but then closes with Chastity (215) instead of Charity as most readers would expect. This may imply an identification between Charity (love) and Chastity.

visibly. TMS is interesting here.

Echo. For the story of Echo, the nymph changed into a disembodied voice, see Metamorphoses 3.351-401.

Meander's. A river in Phrygia along which Echo wandered in despair for love of Narcissus. (See note on Echo)

Nightingale. For the story of the rape of Philomela and her transformation into a nightingale, see Metamorphoses 6.440.

translated. See TMS on the following lines.

ravishment. Compare to Satan's temporary ravishment at his first sight of Eve alone in Paradise Lost 9.459-462.

doune. Down, feathers.

Sirens. Beautiful sea nymphs who drew sailors to destruction on rocky islands by the power of their songs. See Odyssey 12.39-72.

Naiades. Nymphs of streams and springs. In Ovid, Circe's attendants are Nereids, or sea nymphs (Metamorphoses 14.261-267).

Scylla. A nymph who was changed by her rival in love, Circe, into a monster with ferocious dogs sprouting from her lower body. Ultimately, she changed into a dangerous, rocky island off the coast of Sicily. See Metamorphoses 14.8-74.

Charybdis. A violent whirlpool opposite the island of Scylla.

Hail forren wonder. Compare to Satan's opening address to Eve in Paradise Lost 9.532-537.

Unless the Goddess. That is, "unless you are the Goddess"; the suggestion recalls Aeneas's reaction to seeing Venus after the Trojan shipwreck, "O dea certe"; see Aenied 1.328). Also, Ferdinand's response to his first sight of Miranda: "Most sure the goddess/On whom these airs attend" in Shakespeare's Tempest 1.2.489-90.

Silvan. Sylvanus, god of the woods; another name for Pan.

Lines 277-90. Classical stichomythia, a type of dialogue in alternating lines of verse, is used here in imitation of ancient Greek and neo-classic Italian drama. (Orgel & Goldberg 764)

hit. Discover.

lips. Hebe, daughter of Zeus and Hera, personified youthful beauty, in this case the youthful beauty of a young man who had yet to require a razor for his beard.

traces. Harnesses.

swink't. Swinked, wearied from toil.

port. Deportment.

the element. The air; the home of the spirits. See Paradise Regain'd 2.122 and Il Penseroso 93-99.

plighted. Pleated, folded.

Dingle. Woodland hollow.

bosky bourn. A stream bordered by shrubs or woods.

low roosted lark. Larks, traditionally associated with dawn, roost in low nests — thatched pallets — on the ground. Comus works fairly hard at sounding like a rustic swain, peppering his speech with what he takes to be the lexicon of such country folk, but he may also sound rather foolish to the Lady.

square. Adjust, adapt.

benizon. Blessing. (See Faerie Queene

wont'st. Are accustomed to.

your influence. The precious influence of the stars that is referred to in Paradise Lost 9.107.

star of Arcady. The North Star. Arcas, the prince of Arcadia, was transformed by Zeus into a star to prevent him from killing his mother Callisto. Callisto was transformed from the form of a bear into the constellation Ursa Major, and Arcas became the constellation Ursa Minor. See Metamorphoses 2.401-507.

Tyrian Cynosure. This refers to the Tyrian (Phoenician) sailors' use of the North Star as a navigational guide. The North Star, known as the Cynosure, was found in the tail of the constellation Ursa Minor.

wattled cotes. Sheds constructed of woven twigs.

Line 354. TMS has some interesting bits here.

Line 373. This echoes Redcross's encouragement of Una in the wood of error in Faerie Queene stating "Vertue giues her selfe light, through darkenesse for to wade."

the various bussle of resort. "In the hustle and bustle of society."

center. The center of the earth. See Paradise Lost 1.686

his own dungeon. Compare to Samson 155-156.

Beads. Rosary beads.

Hesperian Tree. This refers to the goddess Hera's tree that bore golden apples and was guarded by a dragon. Hera planted this tree in the garden of the Hesperides, who were the daughters of the evening star Hesperus. Milton may be indirectly using the Hesperian garden as a symbol of paradise, with its forbidden tree guarded by a serpent (Hughes 99). Stealing the golden apples from this tree was one of the tasks assigned to Hercules.

uninchanted eye. In stealing golden apples from Hera's Hesperian Tree, Hercules charmed the guardian dragon to sleep.

Incontinence. Uncontrolled sexual passion. But for a more precise Aristotelian definition of continence or self-restraint, see Nicomachean Ethics 1145a-1145b.

unowned. Unmarried, and apart from her father.

Line 408. See TMS for cancelled lines here.

quiver'd Nymph. Appearing like Diana, the chaste goddess of the moon and the hunt.

unblench't. Not dismayed or bothered.

Lines 432-437. These lines almost echo Marcellus' speech in Hamlet 1.1.158-64, detailing popular beliefs about the limitations of supernatural evil.

swart Faëry. Black, underground fairy or demon. See Il Penseroso 93-4.

the arms of Chastity. That is, its lineage traced from ancient Greece. Just what ancient teaching Milton has in mind is hard to say, but Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics teaches how a man should deal with pleasures of the body: 1152a-1154b.

brinded. Tawny and streaked or spotted.

pard. Panther or leopard.

Gorgon sheild. Minerva/Diana carried on her shield the snake-haired head of Medusa, which turned those who looked at it to stone.

lacky. Attend, as an aristocrat would be attendended by lackeys.

temple of the mind. See John 2:21.

all be made immortal. Lines 459-63 anticipate Raphael's assurance to Adam that if he is obedient, he may ultimately be refined into pure spirit; see Paradise Lost 5.497-503.

she. Milton refers to the soul here as feminine. This may be largely a grammatical matter, as the Latin word for soul, anima, is feminine. Oddly, the human body was also often considered feminine in relation to a masculine soul, and Milton here is talking about the imbruting and hyper-embodying of the soul that results from the sin of lust.

Charnell vaults. Burial houses or vaults for paupers' bodies.

sitting by a new made grave. See a similar image in Plato's Phaedo 81d.

Line 476. It is difficult to avoid hearing sarcasm here.

Line 493. 1645 has simply "father," but both TMS and BMS have "fathers."

Thyrsis. A singer and shepherd in Theocritus' Idyll 1 and Virgil's Eclogues 7.

Lines 495-512. The shift to couplets in Thyrsis' speech "recalls the language of the pastoral eclogue, and its poetic debates" (Orgel & Goldberg 768).

madrigal. Technically a part of a song for three or more voices. Milton may be alluding to the simple, pastoral music of shepherds.

weather. Castrated sheep.

me unhappy. Milton may be imitating the familiar Latin refrain me miserum. See Paradise Lost 4.73.

Chimeras. A monster having three heads; one lion, one goat, and one dragon. See Hesiod, Theogeny 319-325; and Homer's Iliad 6.179-182; and Aeneid 6.288. Also see Paradise Lost 2.628.

inchanted Iles. Like Circe's or Calypso's in Odyssey 10 and 5, or Alcina's in Ariosto's Orlando 6.34-38.

murmurs. Ritual incantations.

crofts. Enclosed fields.

Hecate. Queen of the underworld, patroness of sorcerers. She was invoked by Medea in Ovid's Metamorphoses (See Metamorphoses 7.194). She was also the "Mistress of the witches" in Macbeth (See Macbeth 3.5.10). On popular witch cults, see Carlo Ginzburg, The Night Battles.

frighted. TMS has "drousie flighted," but BMS, 1637 and 1645 all have "frighted." How steeds can be drowsy and frighted at the same time is a problem. Since "drousie flighted steeds" makes only marginally better sense, I have left it alone.

the deadly snare! Milton alludes to the story of Philomela, her rape by her brother-in-law, and her transformation to a nightingale; see Ovid's Metamorphoses 6.

period. Sentence or sentence-like phrase.

Eastern scout. Aurora, the dawn.

th'Indian steep. The Himalayas.

unweeting. Not knowing or unwittingly.

Lines 591-593. See Romans 8:28. See also Paradise Lost 4.17-18.

if this fail. If my claim is incorrect.

Acheron. One of the four rivers of the underworld; a path to Hell.

Harpies. Harpies attacked Aeneas and his men and destroyed their food. See Aeneid 3.225-8.

Hydras. A many-headed poisonous serpent killed by Hercules.

purchase. Prey or plunder; literally, the pursuit of game in hunting.

by the curls. Most editors suppose this indicates Milton imagined Comus with curly hair on his head. See also the TMS lines here.

Emprise. Chivalric enterprise.

clouted shoon. Shoes patched or studded with iron nails.

Moly. Hermes gave Odysseus the magic herb moly to protect him against the charms of Circe. Moly was often allegorized in the Renaissance as temperance or prudence (Orgel & Goldberg, 769). See Odyssey 10.287-303.

Hæmony. A word derived from any of the following roots; the traditional home of witchcraft Haemonia, from the Greek haimon meaning sinful, or from haimonios meaning blood-red (Orgel & Goldberg 770).

mildew blast. When sheep eat mildewed hay, they are poisoned; in the seventeenth-century they were said to be blasted by mildew. Simple country folk often claimed such livestock deaths were the work of witches or fairies.

lime-twigs. Snares made of twigs coated with bird-lime, a sticky goo made from the bark of the holm oak; small birds would adhere to the coated sticks and could not fly away.

brandish't blade. This echoes to Hermes' warning to Odysseus that he should approach Circe with his sword drawn. See Odyssey 10.294-5.

Vulcan. The god of fire who tended the forges of the gods. He and his associated underground spirits were believed responsible for volcanic eruptions, especially eruprions of Mount Etna.

Daphne. Daphne was a nymph pursued by Apollo. In answer to her prayers, the gods changed her into a laurel, saving her from the clutches of Apollo. See Metamorphoses 1.547-52.

corporal rinde. Her body.

Julep. A "cordial" or reputedly medicinal distillation.

Nepenthes. A legendary drug that makes one forget painful truths. See Odyssey 4.219-32.

Jove-born Helena. Helen was the child of Jove by Leda.

lickerish. Tempting, delicious, or lecherous.

Lines 703-704. The Son makes a similar argument in Paradise Regain'd; Satan challenges it and Jesus responds; see Paradise Regain'd 2.320 and forward.

budge doctors. Stodgy or pompous teachers.

Stoick Furr. Refers to the academic costume allegedly worn by Stoics.

Cynic Tub. Diogenes made a tub his home in an effort to live the ideals of Cynic philosophy that encouraged a life of poverty and renunciation of pleasure.

to please. To please whom did Nature create the Lady's beauty?

pet. An ill-humored fit; the notion of an ill-humored fit of temperance is oxymoronic.

Pulse. Legume seeds, sometimes the prescribed diet of monks and hermits.

Frieze. Rough wool.

cumber'd. Overwhelmed or blocked up.

forhead of the Deep. The part of the earth's crust closest to the surface. Although "Deep" usually signifies the ocean, this context suggests that it may mean the depths of the earth, because diamonds are found in the earth not the sea.

cosen'd. Deceived.

currant. Circulating freely, current.

vermeil. Vermilion, bright red.

this Jugler. Since the Lady speaks of Comus in the third person, and she would hardly waste her rhetoric on Comus's beastly crew, we might imagine that she is directly addressing the audience.

bolt. To sift, in order to separate the attractive bits from the unattractive.

Line 762. Compare this to Raphael's rebuke of Adam in Paradise Lost 8.561.

Line 767. "To partake or not partake, that is not the question, but when, with whom, how much, what , and in what attitude. In this way the Lady extricates herself from the blunt either/or of the question of chastity" (Kerrigan 27). See also Aristotle on temperance in Nicomachean Ethics 1118a.

Lines 767-72. "The critical sting in this passage takes its force from the traditional ideal of aristocratic paternalism and its corollary, the reciprocal obligations of a moral community in which those of high station acknowledge responsibility for the welfare of its poorer and weaker members" (Zagorin 28).

giver. God... see "His" in the following line.

nor Eare. This echoes Jesus in Matthew 11:15.

brute Earth. See Horace's bruta tellus of Odes 1.34.9-12.

Speaks thunder. See 1 Samuel 7:10.

Erebus. Primeval darkness of the underworld. Erebus was the son of Chaos according to Hesiod's Theogony 617-721.

Saturns crew. The giants and Titans; lead by Saturn they made war on Saturn's son Jove who defeated and imprisoned them.

canon laws. Fundamental principles, foundational laws. Also usually means church laws; Milton insinuates here what he argues more openly as an anti-prelatical pamphleteer.

revers't. Like Circe's charms, the effects of Comus' wand can only be undone by reversing his wand. See Metamorphoses 14.300.

Meliboeus. An old shepherd poet in Virgil's Eclogue 1 and Eclogue 7. This may also allude to the Sabrina story in Spenser's Faerie Queen. See Faerie Queene 2.10.17-19.

soothest. Wisest.

Line 825. "With watery power controls"; a curb is the leash or reins used to control an animal.

Sabrina. The Latin name of the River Severn. The story of the death of a girl who was turned into a river nymph, was probably taken from Spenser's Faerie Queen (See Faerie Queene 2.10.17-19).

Whilom. A Spenserian archaism meaning formerly or once.

Brute. Brutus was the great-grandson of Aeneas and legendary founder of Britain. For a version of the story that follows, see Geoffrey of Monmouth's History of the Kings of Britain 2.6.

Nereus. A wise and generous sea-god, mentioned as the "old man of the sea" by Homer. (See Iliad 18.141).

lank. Drooping or languid.

daughters. The Nereids were the daughters of Nereus who treated a wounded mortal with balms and nectars as medicines in their underwater home. See Faerie Queene 3.4.40.

Asphodil. Asphodel, an immortal flower found in the Elysian Fields where Ulysses met the famous dead. See Odyssey 11.538.

urchin blasts. Wounds or illnesses caused by goblins. Goblins are referred to as urchins, because they were thought to assume the shape of a hedgehog commonly known as an urchin. (Orgel & Goldberg 773).

layes. Songs.

Oceanus. One of the Titans who was the father of the rivers and progenitor of the Olympian gods. See Iliad 14.201.

Tethys. Goddess of the rivers and oceans; wife of Oceanus.

Carpathian wizard's hook. Proteus lived in the Carpathian Sea with a seer and used his shepherd's crook to herd Neptune's flock of sea-lions. See Georgics 4.387-95.

Triton. Neptune's herald who played a conch shell.

Glaucus. Boeotian fisherman who was transformed into a sea god by eating a magic herb that endowed him with the power of prophecy. See Metamorphoses13.904-68. See also Spenser's Faerie Queene 4.11.13.

Leucothea. In an effort to save her from the wrath of Juno, Neptune turned Ino into the sea deity Leucothea. She gave Odysseus her magic scarf to save him from drowning. See Odyssey 5.333.

her son. Ino's son Melicertes was changed into the sea god Paleamon who was guardian of ports and harbors. See Metamorphoses 4.416-542.

Thetis. One of the sea-dwelling Nereids, she was the mother of Achilles. See Iliad 18.127

Parthenope. One of the Sirens, she drowned herself after Odysseus escaped the danger of the sirens' song and her body washed up on the shore of Naples where a monument was erected in her honor; see Virgil's Georgics 4.564.

Ligea. A Siren and river nymph remarkable for her lustrous hair. (See Georgics 4.336).

Turkis. Turquoise.

printless feet. See Shakespeare's Tempest 5.1.34.

Amphitrite. One of the sea-dwelling daughters of Nereus who broke a vow of celibacy to marry Neptune and bore his son, Triton. She was reputed to have power to calm raging seas. See Hesiod's Theogony 254.

Anchises. Father of Aeneas and ancestor of Locrine and Sabrina.

beryl. A group of greenish and blue-green precious stones including emeralds and aquamarines.

in state. In full state occasion and dress.

trippings. Dances.

Mercury. Mercury was the inventor of the lyre and a reknowned choreographer among the gods.

Dryades. Wood nymphs.

crisped. A poetic word meaning curled, crinkled, or puckered.

Howres. According to Hesiod, the Horae were the children of Zeus, the king of the gods, and Themis, a Titaness, and their names (Eunomia, Dike, Eirene--that is, Good Order, Justice, Peace) indicate the extension of their functions from nature to the events of human life. At Athens they were apparently two in number: Thallo and Carpo, the goddesses of the flowers of spring and of the fruits of summer. Their yearly festival was the Horaea. In later mythology the Horae became the four seasons, daughters of the sun god, Helios, and the moon goddess, Selene, each represented with the conventional attributes. (See Paradise Lost 4.267)

That. Both the 1645 and 1673 Poems print this line as it appears here, but the Errata in 1673 instructs readers to elide the word "That" from this line.

Nard and Cassia. A root and bark respectively, they were known to be aromatic plants.

Iris. Goddess of the rainbow.

purfl'd. Multi-colored.

Elysian. Heavenly; from Elysium, the fields where the spirits of the blessed live after death.

Adonis. Lover of Venus who was killed by a boar and restored to immortal life in the Garden of Adonis. See Faerie Queene 3.6.46-50 and 2.3.982-83. See also Shakespeare's Venus and Adonis. See also Paradise Lost 9.439-40.

Assyrian Queen. Venus, who was first worshipped in Assyria.

Lines 1004-8. Psyche was a mortal woman so beautiful that Venus sent Cupid to make her fall in love with someone loathsome, so as not to be outdone by this mortal woman. Cupid fell in love with her, but forbade her to see him and hid his identity by visiting her only at night. Psyche disobeyed Cupid's wishes by looking upon him one night while he was sleeping. For this transgression she was punished with trials and wanderings, but was finally saved by Jove who allowed her to marry Cupid and live among the immortals. See Apuleius' The Golden Ass 4.28-6.24.

bow'd welkin. Arch of the sky.

Spheary chime. Above the music of the spheres; to the highest heaven.