ABSTRACT

Like Dekker, Shakespeare, and Jonson in their carnivalesque plays, Milton in his courtly entertainment Comus (1637) and Herrick in his collection of poems Hesperides (1648) appropriate numerous elite and popular festive customs. Milton incorporates holiday pastimes in keeping with his republican spirit of liberty and Puritan emphasis on moderating passionate excesses, whereas Herrick marshals seasonal habits in support of the existing monarchy and political establishment. Nevertheless, both writers allude to how Charles I and his court appropriated celebratory rituals in an effort to contain and control an increasingly discontented populace verging on or embroiled in the English Civil War (16421651). Monarchical, aristocratic, and elite circles in seventeenth-century England attempted to quash the riotous and rebellious dimensions of festivities that can lead to social and economic transformations for the lower ranks. In this way the era of Charles I exhibited the decline of carnivalesque egalitarianism that Milton protests and Herrick supports.