John Milton: Chastity Overpowering Sexuality

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Gennesis Carrion
Professor Fulton
350:324
Chastity Overpowering Sexuality
Even until present day, virginity is held in high esteem and considered a virtue, something sacred and worthy of praise. Being a virgin is a symbol of innocence, highly valued by religions and encouraged by them to remain so; it is something that only the bond of marriage is a worthy reason for its loss. Virginity is a symbol of purity, the intactness and immaculacy of the body and soul. It represents the body has remained untouched by sexual acts and the soul has remained untainted by sexual urges; both remain unmarked by acts of foreign mind and touch. Virginity is the prominent theme of Milton’s short playA Masque Presented at Ludlow Castle [Comus]. In mentioned play, Milton confines sexuality to exist only with accordance to the sanctity of a woman’s chastity. He uses mythological allusions to support the sacredness of chastity and utilizes the character of Comus as a symbol of the malevolent factors at work tempting virginity to be abandoned for a more liberal sexuality whereas the character of the Lady is the personification of chastity.

Before beginning the play, the textbook’s publisher provides some short background information in the preface. In such background, one learns Milton’s use of allegory between the characters in Masque with the Earl of Bridgewater and his family (the Egerton’s). The preface also states Masque’s “elevated conception of chastity was meant to disassociate the Egerton family from scandal”, such scandal being the Second Earl of Castlehaven’s (the brother-in-law of Bridgewater’s wife) indiscretions against his wife and female servants. This information provides readers a possible reason for Milton’s strong concern with chastity in Masque. Another possible reason could have been a commissioned purpose to aid the Earl of Bridgewater, and newly appointed Lord President of the Council of Wales, to establish a credible and respectable impression and...
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