Ann Baynes Coiro
John Milton put A Maske presented at Ludlow Castle in the middle of his authorial identity when he announced that he was an important writer. A Maske has often been linked with Pleasure Reconciled to Virtue. John Fletcher's The Faithful Shepherdess was one of Milton's favourite plays and reading it can feel like a phantasmagoric encounter with Milton's Maske. The points of intersection between Coelum Britannicum and A Maske show the difference between the sceptical courtier and the romantic humanist. A Maske is the crucial nexus of Milton's two great English influences: Spenser's pastoral romance and Shakespeare's richly human drama. The most fascinating feature of the masque is the Lady. The masque's reversion to a conventional deus ex machina (Sabrina, or, if necessary, Heaven) only underscores retrospectively the boldness of Milton's most original creation in A Maske, a real woman acting nobly in the world.