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Powerful Women Of The Faerie Queene And Paradise Lost

1229 words - 5 pages

      Two very powerful female figures are presented in Error of The Faerie Queene, and Sin of Paradise Lost. These two characters are quite similar in description, Milton making a clear tribute to Spencer's work. Both characters have the same monster qualities, and both posses allegorical names and qualities.

Error is by far the most disgustingly described of the two monsters. In Book 1, Canto 1, she is the first obstacle to meet the knight and his party. She represents the consequences of the night's foolhardiness and over-confidence. Seeking shelter from a storm while lost in the woods, the knight and his party come across a cave. He is warned by Una not to enter the dark and foreboding cave, "Oft fire is without smoke, / and perill without show: therefore your stroke / Sir knight with-hold, till further triall made.(103)" Even the dwarfe warns that "this is no place for living men.(117)" But the knight, "full of fire and greedy hardiment (118)", enters "the darksome hole.(120)"


After entering, his "glistring" armor reflects some light into the dark cave, allowing him to plainly view the woman-beast. Reacting to the light, her "thousand" disfigured off-spring crawl into the sanctity of her wretched mouth. These young ones are mimicked by Milton in his descriptions of Satan's daughter in Paradise Lost. The first connection to true evil is the monster's shape, "halfe like a serpent horribly displaide, / But th'other halfe did woman's shape retaine.(124)" The idea of a serpent reminds us of Satan disguised as a serpent in Eden, causing the fall of Adam (the knight) and eve (Una). Unlike the serpent in Eden, however, Error is unsuccessful.


Wishing to remain in darkness, "where plaine none might her see, nor she see any plaine,(144) she is alarmed by the knight's intrusion and uncoils her tail in an attempt to escape. The knight, quick on his feet, leaps "as lyon fierce upon the flying pray,(146)" and keeps here there to fight. This further shows that the knight is just looking for a fight to impress the fair Una. After he strikes the beast with his blade, she wraps the knight in her "huge traine." The tail is a literal foreshadowing of the tangled mess the knight gets himself into with the other evil female character, Duessa, who, figuratively, holds him in her tail of evil and deception.


As the knight seems defeated, held immovable by Error's tail, Una yells out her first inspirational advice to "strangle her, else she sure will strangle thee(166)", which miraculously gives him the extra strength to free a hand with which to grip the beast's throat. At this, the monster


...spewd out of her filthy maw

A floud of poyson horrible and blacke,

Full of great lumpes of flesh and gobbets raw,

Which stunck so vildly, that it forst him slack

His grasping hold, and from her turne him back:

Her vomit full of bookes and papers was,

With loathly frogs and toades, which eyes did lacke,


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