The Faerie Queene

The Malleability of Image in Spenser's Faerie Queene: Fruitful Seed

SpenserÃÂÂs Faerie Queene fights against reduction; there is no one-to-one correspondence of thing to meaning. Spenser recasts figures and images throughout the poem, allowing meanings to be changed and complicated through the course of reading. Language and form work to divide these moments of action and implication; the space within or between stanzas (or cantos, or books) allows shifts in narrative tone and complications of meaning. As Spenser revises the act of wandering in Book I, Canto I, giving it a moral meaning alongside its spatial one, so he takes an epic simile, and, using a sequence of comparisons, forces it to undergo changes in meaning and intent. In Canto I, this technique is seen in stanzas 20 through 23, in SpenserÃÂÂs epic similes of the Nile River and the shepherd.

Stanzas 20 through 22 sustain a single image, with variations. It is the image of glut uncontained and spilling. Stanza 20 describes ErrorÃÂÂs vomit, ÃÂÂa Floud of pyson horrible and blacke,ÃÂ? containing lumps of flesh, books and papers, and eyeless frogs and toads, who ÃÂÂcreeping sought way in the weedy grasÃÂ? (20.2-8). Spenser takes care to introduce some idea of life along with the dead and material fragments of the vomit; the frogs and...

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