Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Shakespeare in Comus

When reading Comus, I was surprised to find how much the masque reminded me of some of Shakespeare's writing. This was the case particularly in the very beginning, when the Spirit Attendant is talking and more or less setting the stage. The lyrical quality of this spirit's speech reminded me of Shakespeare's sonnets and the monologues of his characters in his own plays, especially the play, Midsummer's Night Dream. The two plays show surprising similarities in both lyrical style and in certain characterizations. I saw Comus as a combination of Oberon and Puck, having the mischievous carefree nature of Puck and the calculated deceitfulness of Oberon.

However, there are some big differences, of course. Comus has obviously religious tones and takes great value in virtue and chastity. Midsummer's Night Dream mainly focuses on the folly and foolishness of humanity while working in an amusing love story. Both plays do comment on humanity but they both see humanity in different ways.

Shakespeare's influence on Milton does show through some of his works, though Milton takes elements of Shakespeare and makes them his own. It shows Milton's writing abilities and the fact that he was very well-learned. I'll have to keep reading Milton's works and see if I can find other elements of Shakespeare. I'm curious to see if Shakespeare has snuck into Paradise Lost as well.

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