Last Updated on May 23, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 389
Context: A self-taught English poet decided to write a mock romance to poke fun at the hypocrisy of the Puritans, now that they had been driven out of power with the restoration to the English throne of Charles II, in 1660. In imitation of the Spanish Don Quixote, well known in England through several translations, Butler sends Sir Hudibras, a Presbyterian Justice of the Peace, roaming the land to put down abuses. The hero gets his name from a character of Spenser's Faerie Queene, II, ii, 17: "He that made love unto the eldest dame/ Was hight Sir Hudibras, an hardy man." It is probably a contraction of Hugh de Bras. He was accompanied by his squire, Ralpho, in religion an Independent, one of the more than 200 sects of the time. Through the pair, the author makes both Presbyterians and Independents odious. It is a poem in which more is said than done. The wit of the author provides a never-failing sequence of aphorisms and most unusual poetic images. In Part I, in three cantos expressed in lively rhythm suited, as Dr. Johnson commented, "to the vulgarity of the words," the author tells of the initial exploits of the pair. Equating enjoyment with sin, they attack a holiday crowd amused by bear baiting and fiddling. They put the musician into the stocks and in the confusion caused by the escape of the bear, get away. The crusading Hudibras, continuing on his journey to reform the world's sinners, meets a wealthy Widow living in a castle on the edge of the town. He begs rest for his body and medicine for his bruises. But in her company he gets another hurt, as Butler describes it, "of a deadlier sort, by Cupid made." Her land and possessions render her additionally attractive to Hudibras. However, she makes no secret of her disdain for him. He thinks that perhaps a display of his bravery and valor may make her change her mind.
But being brought so nigh by Fate,
The vict'ry he achiev'd so late
Did set his thoughts agog, and ope
A door to discontinu'd hope,
That seem'd to promise he might win
His dame too, now his hand was in;
And that his valor and the honor
H'had newly gain'd, might work upon her,
These reasons made his mouth to water
With am'rous longings to be at her.
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