Comus "Obtruding False Rules Pranked In Reason's Garb"

John Milton

"Obtruding False Rules Pranked In Reason's Garb"

Context: John Milton wrote Comus as a compliment to the Earl of Bridgewater upon his installation as President of Wales. The earl's daughter and two sons took leading roles in the masque's premiere at Ludlow Castle. The action involves the efforts of the three, known as the Lady, the Elder Brother, and the Second Brother, to make their way at night through a wood haunted by the foul enchanter Comus and his crew of revelers. When the three travelers become lost, the brothers are separated from the Lady, who is soon accosted by Comus. This wicked son of Bacchus and Circe immediately lays plans to undermine the Lady's virtue. Pretending to guide her on her way, Comus leads her to his palace, the scene of his lustful revels. He threatens to rob her of her ability to move by waving his magic wand, but the Lady, unafraid, says that he cannot touch her mind. Thereupon Comus begins to argue that a life of virtue is a waste of youth and beauty. Time lost cannot be regained; beauty, to be of any use, must be displayed in public places. The Lady had not thought to answer Comus's speeches, but she is outraged at the idea that he can charm her reason by advancing falsehoods dressed up as sound reason. She says:

I had not thought to have unlocked my lips
In this unhallowed air, but that this juggler
Would think to charm my judgment, as mine eyes,
Obtruding false rules pranked in reason's garb.
I hate when vice can bolt her arguments,
And virtue has no tongue to check her pride:
Imposter, do not charge most innocent nature,
As if she would her children should be riotous
With her abundance; she, good cateress,
Means her provision only to the good
That live according to her sober laws,
And holy dictates of spare temperance.