Civility vs Barbarity in Milton's Comus, and Shakespeare's Titus Andronicus

Civility vs Barbarity in Milton's Comus, and Shakespeare's Titus Andronicus

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The relationship between civilisation and barbarity is an eminent theme in the works of antiquity, whose civilisations concerned themselves with eschewing the improper mores of the barbarous. Whether it was the savant Greeks, cosmopolitan Romans, or ascetic early Christians, barbarous behaviour was considered odious, and their supposed superiority to brutes was a source of pride. But these themes, whilst contrastive, aren't categorical; rather, they're amorphous ideas, shaped by an author's use of them in the text. This essay will examine the variance in the relationships between civility and barbarity in Milton's "Comus", and Shakespeare's Titus Andronicus (abbreviated to Titus), thus establishing how these themes are malleable ones that the author can manipulate in the text. To begin, I'll establish the versions of civility and barbarity found in these texts, then I'll examine the texts apropos to several other topics, which shall further define and contrast their relationships between civility and barbarity.
In "Comus", Milton's encomium of John Egerton, barbarity is the manifestation of moral decay rather than a state of being conferred by instinct, or low birth. As one's fall into depravity is a volitional lapse, Comus must inveigle Lady into supping his potion, as he cannot foist the eldritch philtre upon her: "Be wise and taste."1 (p.65). St. Augustine propounds similar ideas regarding the voluntary aspect of corruption in City of God, which shall be addressed in relation to both texts at a later point. In a statement concatenating "Comus" and sacrilege, Achsah Guibbory writes: "Milton presents Comus' courtly revels as a false religion"2. Milton limns Comus akin to Satan in "Comus", as neither can impel the soul, and must...


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...phosis of Ovid; Oxford University Press, New York (2012). P.79.
9: Achsah Guibbory, "Milton and English Poetry", in A Companion to Milton, ed. Thomas N. Corns; Blackwell Publishers (2001) p.76.
10: Maggie Kilgour,"'Comus' and the Translatio Ovidii" in Milton and the Metamorphosis of Ovid; Oxford University Press, New York (2012). P.83.
11: Virgil, The Aeneid, trans. and ed. David West, Revised Edition; Penguin Books, published by the Penguin Publishing Group (2003). Book 2, line 390-400.
12: Ovid, Metamorphoses, ed. Charles Martin; A Norton Critical Edition, published by W.W. Norton & Company in USA (2010). P.8.
13: Robert S. Miola, "Titus Andronicus: Rome and the Family" in Shakespeare's Rome; Cambridge University Press (1983). P.60.
14: Robert Martin Adams,"Reading 'Comus' " in Modern Philology, Vol.51, No.1 (Aug., 1953); University of Chicago Press. P.22.

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