Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
The Attendant Spirit comes into a wild wood, far from his usual abode outside Jove’s court, far above the dirt and hubbub of the world. He is on earth only to show the rare mortals before him some of the ways to godly virtue. He speaks of the plight of three children who are traveling to visit their father Neptune, ruler of many island kingdoms. Their path lies through a dark and treacherous wood where their lives would have been in danger if Jove had not sent the Spirit to protect them. The chief danger is Comus, son of Bacchus and Circe. He lives in the wood and possesses a magic wine that, when drunk by thirsty travelers, gives them the heads and inclinations of wild animals. The Spirit disguises himself as a shepherd to guide the children of Neptune. He leaves when he hears Comus and his band of bewitched travelers approaching.
Comus, invoking joy and feasting, drinking and dancing, declares that the night is made for love and should be so used before the sun reveals the revels of his band and turns them to sinfulness. His followers dance until he stops them, sensing the approach of a young woman whom he immediately wishes to enchant.
The Lady enters, drawn to the scene by the noise of the revelers. Unwilling as she is to meet such people, she nevertheless believes that they are the only hope she has of finding her way out of the wood. Because she is tired by her walking, her brothers leave her to find wild fruit for refreshment, but night falls before they can return and they are unable to find her again. Meanwhile, a dark cloud covers the stars. The Lady calls and sings to the nymph, Echo, to guide her to her brothers.
Comus, delighted with the song she sings, decides that the Lady should be his queen, and, in the disguise of a village boy, he greets her as a goddess. The Lady reproves him and says that she wants help to find her companions. After questioning her about them, he says that he saw two such young men gathering fruit and that it will be a delight to help her find them. Comus adds that he knows the woods perfectly and that he will therefore lead the Lady to her brothers. She replies that she will trust him. They leave the clearing together.
The two brothers arrive and the elder calls to heaven for the moon and stars, so that they might see their way. Failing this, he wishes to see the lights of someone’s cottage. The Second Brother, adding that even the sound of penned-up flocks will help them, expresses great fear for his sister’s fate. The Elder Brother insists that the Lady’s perfect virtue will protect her. The Second Brother says that beauty such as hers needs to be guarded and that she can easily be in danger in such a place. The Elder Brother...
(The entire section is 1114 words.)
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