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University of Chicago Press
Author(s): Leonard Nathanson
Review by: Leonard Nathanson
Source: Modern Philology, Vol. 67, No. 3 (Feb., 1970), pp. 285-288
Published by: University of Chicago Press
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/436392
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the same thing as historical influence;and
when Freeman comes to confrontthismatter
directlyat the end of chapter 4, his performance is disappointing.For he passes over
the largerquestionsof the play's relationship
to the whole revenge tradition and to the
development of dramatic structurewith a
few generalizations,and settlesinstead for a
briefsurveyof the "specific indications" of
its influencein echoes, parodies, and imitations. That sortof thingmay be more amenable to "factual" treatment,but surelyit is
in those larger questions that we would expect to findthe most compellingreason for
devotinga book to thisplay and its author.
Anothererrorof omissionin thediscussion
of The SpanishTragedycan also be attributed
to Freeman's factual bias. Althoughhe very
conscientiouslycanvasses earlier opinion in
his sections on the play's sources and date
and stage history,he apparentlyfeelsno need
to do thesame in his criticalanalysis.Articles
on this aspect of the play by Ejner Jensen,
David Laird, and Michael Levin are listed
in the bibliographybut never considered in
the textitself,and a numberof recentstudies
are not even in the bibliography,including
those of Ann Righter(Shakespeare and the
Idea of the Play, 1962), John Ratliff (in
StudiesinPhilology,1957), Ernstde Chickera
(in Modern Language Review, 1962), S. F.
Johnson (Hardin Craig Festschrift,1962),
G. K. Hunter (Renaissance Drama, 1965),
and William Empson (in Nimbus, 1956).
Since this last piece has been immortalized
in an anthology of essays on Elizabethan
drama, any book on Kyd would seem to be
under some obligation to referto it, if only
for the few sentencesnecessaryto refuteits
absurd thesis.
of genrethat interferes
withan aesthetically
rich and whole response to Comus. His
approach focusesupon therelationof Comus
to the masque as thisformwas known at the
time Milton was writingin the 1630s, not
upon long-buriedroots in mythand ritual.
Demaray cites Dr. Johnson's famous comof Comus
plaintabout thedramaticdeficiency
and remindsus that the pleasures and excellencies of drama are not to be demanded of
the masque. This consideration,thoughnow
well established as the starting point for
answeringDr. Johnson,requires,I would say,
strong emphasis, since the modern reader
can hardly suppress inappropriatedramatic
expectations. For example, anyone who
teaches Comus runs into the "natural" (i.e.,
dramatic) response of studentswho see an
obvious dramatic irony in the dialogue betweenthetwo brothers.The elder'sconfidence
in the power of chastityto guard their sister is, it would seem, sharply undercut by
the fact that she has indeed fallen into
Comus's hands. But the ironycuts the other
way: against the philosophicallyuninitiated
younger brother(and through him against
theaudiencewhichis also to be lessoned)who
equates the externalappearance of the situation withitsreality.Dramatic effectis shaped
here,then,not as in a play by purelymimetic
considerationsbut by the ideas implicitin
the underlyingPlatonismof the masque.
And there are mattersof larger application. StephenOrgel's recentdiscussionof the
Jonsonianmasque, of whichDemaray makes
full use, is important in emphasizing the
relevance of the fact that the
actors in a masque do not impersonate
charactersin whom theysubmergetheirown
identity.Instead, the amateur actor is enRICHARDLEVIN gaged in a continuousreferenceto his actual
selfand, even more,to the chiefpersonswho
State University
ofNew York
at StonyBrook
sit at the head of the audience. This special
relationamong actor, role, allegoricalmeanMilton and the Masque Tradition:The Early
ing, and audience--essentially social, diPoems, "Arcades" and "Comus." By JOHN dactic, and climacticallycomplimentaryin
G. DEMARAY. Cambridge,Mass.: Harvard the fusion of
masquers and audience in the
UniversityPress, 1968. Pp. xiv+ 188.
harmonious society they form-is altoThe importanceof John Demaray's book getherdifferent
fromwhat obtains in drama.
restsupon its attemptto engage the question
This is the primary framework within
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which any valid interpretationsmust fit.
As withthe othergenreshe took up, Milton,
we expect, will extend and deepen the
possibilities of the form while he demonstrates himself a master of its tradition.
Admittedly,invokingthe conventionsof the
masque will not in itselfprovide answers to
the most perplexingquestions that engage
readers of Comus, any more than did C. S.
Lewis's dismissal of the troublingissues in
Paradise Lost with an emphatic gesture
toward classical epic. But the generic considerationwhich Milton neitherviolated nor
ignored is indispensablefor a clear perspective of what is foregroundand what is background,whatis centraland whatis peripheral
in Comus.
Demaray sees the widely opposed appraisals of Comus as the failureof criticism
to thinkin termsfullyrelevantto themasque.
In "The Masque as Dance," the author sets
forththe essence of the formas the joining
of the arts of song, music, poetry,spectacle,
and allegoricaldance to theend of celebrating
the order and virtue of a great society as
embodied in the noble persons who preside
over it. Though by the time of Jonson the
poetic dimension has grown, the didactic
purpose has deepened, and the spectacle has
been elaborated, masques remain "symbolic
presentationsof superficialinventionreaching a climax in the choreographiccomplimentgivenby amateurperformersto nobles
seated in state" (p. 11). Demaray traces the
"compliment to nobles expressed through
dance" fromthe ballettoor figuresdance of
fifteenth-and sixteenth-century
Italy. The
most original materialin this chapter is the
discussion of the performanceof Circe or
the Balet comiquede la Royne(1581), ordered
by Catherine de' Medici to celebrate the
glory of France. The unificationof the arts
"in a production charming to the sight,
hearing, and intelligenceof the spectators"
(p. 16) was intended to "reflect a world
harmony postulated by classical and Neoplatonic philosophy" (p. 14). Jonson knew
this French ballet and possessed a printed
copy (now in the New York City Public
Library) "upon which he made notationsin
his own hand." The author stresses as a
particular contributionof Jonson the allegorical relating of the grotesque dance of
the antimasque, previouslyan unintegrated
comic interlude,to the figureddance of the
main masque.
Chapter 2 deals with Milton's interestin
the masque in the poems written before
Comus.Demaray suggeststhattheallegorical
figuresin the "Nativity Ode"-Nature, the
Sun, Peace, Truth-which all can be found
in masques of the period are conceived and
described as actors in a masque and that
theirmovementsreferto actual stage machinery,as in Peace "came softlysliding/Down
through the sphere." This kind of heavyhanded literalizationis carriedveryfar,and
the entireenterpriseis quite dubious. Such
allegoricalfigures,whetherin masques,books
of allegoricalprints,poems, or whatever,are
parallel manifestationsof common habits of
discursive and iconographical presentation
for the allegorized mythsand mythologized
ethics of Renaissance Platonism. Parallels
can be readilymultipliedto confirmcommon
inspirationsfor the various arts and also to
preclude any significant attributions of
sources. Demaray carries this literalization
as far as ingenuityunrestrainedby tact will
allow. When Milton speaks of the Son
choosing "with us a darksome House of
mortal Clay," he may mean not only man's
body and the house of earthbut may also be
expectinghis reader to visualize "a dimlylit
masquing house in which an 'Angel Quire'
(1. 27) of musicianssang frompositionsabove
the stage" (p. 34). The attempt to read
Milton's early poetic career as a sustained
effortto think and write in terms of the
masque reaches its crowningdeformationin
the reason offeredfor Milton's failure with
the sequel to the "NativityOde": "the view
that Milton failedto visualize a masque [i.e.,
in "The Passion"], though not previously
advanced, is surelyworthyof consideration"
(p. 42). This sectionconcludes,happily,with
a more useful and more relevantprelude to
Comus: the recreationof the occasion of the
performanceof Arcades.
Demaray goes on to examine the masques
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performedat court in the years 1631-34 and
arguesconvincinglyforan essentialsimilarity
of structurein four of the masques in which
Henry Lawes entertained. Jonson's Loves
TriumphthroughCallipolis and Chlorindaand
Aurelian Townshend's Albions Triumphand
Tempe Restoredall "contain a prologue, an
antimasque dance, a main spectacleand deus
ex machinaresolution,a periodof figuredand
ballroom dancing, and an epilogue" (p. 61).
Of these,the masque most closelyresembling
Comus is TempeRestored,despiteits episodic
structurereflectingInigo Jones's emphasis
upon lavish spectacle at the expense of the
allegoricalhingeand compactnessofstructure
which Jonson desired. Placing Comus in its
genericcontext,especiallyamong works with
like-namedfiguresand similarethicallessons,
should help to exorcise the notion that
Comus is a sportamong masques or a masque
The heartofthisbook are thethreechapters
dealing with Comus. Demaray re-createsthe
social and theatrical circumstancesof the
performance,discussesthe relationof Comus
to othermasques involvingthe use of magic
and of the ethical ideas associated with
Circe, and approaches the literarysubstance
of the printedversion of 1637 throughthe
masque elementsintrinsicin the text rather
than throughcompleted patternsof thought
importedfromwithout.The visualizationof
the costumes,sets, musicians,lighting,stage
machinery,action, and dancing are largely
hypothesizedfromhintspieced togetherfrom
contemporary accounts and illustrations.
Accordingly,this account cannot be proved
conclusively.Nevertheless,this detailed recreationon the basis of what mighttypically
have been expected provides an awareness
of many dimensionsof Comus that are lost
in reading. "Staging Comus at Ludlow"
(chap. 5) will, I ventureto predict, be the
most widelyused section of the book.
While much of this material may strike
some Miltonists as only instrumentaland
ancillaryto literaryanalysis,the largestcontributionof thisbook is, I believe,its implicit
correctionof the tendencyto read Comus as
a philosophic or theologicwork ornamented
with masquelike trappings. As Demaray
complains: "Modern criticism,reflecting
culturefromwhichitis nourished,
tends to isolate didactic,poetic, or symbolic
materials and to examine them with little
regard for the spectacle" (p. 130). Specific
considerations of the masque are a better
guide and a surer instrumentfor measuring
meaningand effectthan intellectualcurrents
to whichcharactersand situationsmay bear
ultimatereference.A healthyskepticismhas
developed towardthe habit of reconstructing
at full historicallength the background of
thoughtof a literaryworkand thenimporting
meanings traced out in the sphere of intellectual historyback into the individualwork
as determinersof specific poetic meanings
and effects.It need hardlybe said that Comus
has been heavily treated to this brand of
scholarship. The intellectual history that
comes out of thisprocedureis oftendubious,
and the literarycriticismusually irrelevant,
as is increasinglyevident from those forays
into esoteric Platonism where all data are
readilyabsorbed into a scheme whereeveryelse and
thingrefersto and means everything
nothingmeans anythingin particular.
Demaray pursues a sound historicism
whichworksfromthe limitsand possibilities
of literarymaterials,immediatecontextsof
thought,and generic considerations. Thus,
"the didactic wantonnessof Comus is mirrored in the wantonnessof his action in the
masque spectacle" (p. 140). Comus's philosophy which "posits a libertinenature both
in human beings and the physical world"
(p. 133) is revealed most clearlyas erroneous
and destructive,not throughextendedreference to intellectualhistory,but throughthe
surroundingdetails withinthe masque itself.
So, too, the allegorical hinge of the masque
is complimentary-a compliment to the
Egertons,to Wales, to the Severn,and to the
virtuethatflourishesin thisworld.Of course,
if we ask ourselves,"What does a Christian
like Milton mean ultimatelyby the power of
Sabrina to effectwhat the herb haemony
cannot?" we may answer properly,indeed
inevitably,"Christian Grace." But is this a
valid or profitablequestionto ask ? It is what
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Milton does with his particularmaterialsin
a given work that we respond to; the meanings that all objects and figuresfinallyconverge upon in FlorentinePlatonism do not
lend power or shape to individual works of
art. Many readers will welcome Demaray's
implicitsupportof theirskepticismabout the
"theological core" embodied in Sabrina.
"The power of Sabrina, exercisedin a magic
ritualinvolvingthe numberthree,is nowhere
referredto in the text as anything except
the power of a chaste, pagan goddess of the
Severn River" (pp. 90-91). By clearing the
atmospheresurroundingComus of some of
its denser vapors, this book will perhaps
encourage criticismto move along central
paths long ignored.
The Poeins of John Cleveland. Edited by
Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1967. Pp. lxxvii
John Cleveland has sufferedfrom the
stricturesof later critics as many another
poet has sufferedat the hands of those who
knew him only superficiallyand judged him
in termsof theirtimes,not his. For too long,
greater seventeenth-century
poets, Donne
and Herbert in particular, were similarly
misread (when read at all) because of facile
misjudgmentsbased on one phase of their
witand imagery.All threeof thesepoets were
widely read duringthe seventeenthcentury,
but their styles were neithercomprehended
nor fashionablein the Augustan age.
In his own time,JohnCleveland had been
unbelievablypopular, in a way difficultfor
readers of our day to understand. Before
1700 therewere twenty-five
separate editions
of the poems-though apparentlyCleveland
neithersaw any of them throughthe press
nor consented to their publication. Other
verses attributed to him appear in both
printedbooks and manuscripts,althoughno
holograph manuscriptis now known.
The resultanttextualproblemsare formidable indeed, but the editors have managed
to workthroughthe mass and to bringorder
to thisproliferationthroughtheirexemplary
handling.The 1647 edition of The Character
of a London-Diurnall(D 1) is the basis for
the textsof the poems it includesand thereafter the firstprinted edition or a literal
transcribingof each poem thathas remained
in manuscript.In contrast,J. M. Berdan,who
edited The Poems of JohnClevelandin 1911,
used the ClievelandiVindiciaeof 1677 as the
basis of his text,and of course did not have
access, or ready access, to nearly so many
copies of the editionsand to otherprintedor
manuscript sources. Miss Withingtonand
Mr. Morris question the authenticity
of only
one poem Berdan included in the canon and
add three he did not include at all; but of
course they take us much closer to Cleveland's original text-indeed, as close as it
is possible to go with the materials now
One importantcontributionof this work
is to simplify
theconfusionof earliereditions.
The editorsexamine the twenty-five
editions already mentioned,as well as the
other attributions.Some appreciationof the
scope of their work may be gained from
the fact that approximatelythree poems in
fourare judged to be spurious.
To establishthe text,theyexamine all 147
poems ascribed to Cleveland in the printed
editions and the twenty-seven
others attributed to him elsewhere.Of the printedpoems,
they reject 113 and accept twenty-nineas
authenticand fiveas "probably or possibly
genuine." Nine poems from manuscript
sourcesare also placed in thislattercategory.
Accounting for the seventeenth-century
editions is complicated not only by their
numberbut by the rapiditywithwhich they
were issued (and reissued) and the omission
of factsof publicationnormallygivenon the
title page. (It was not until the thirteenth
edition,in 1659,thatthename ofthepublisher
was printed in full on the title page.) By
dividingthe editions into threestages, however, and providinga stemmato show their
relationships,the editors guide the reader
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