Portrayal of Sin in The Faerie Queene and Paradise Lost
Milton organizes his description of Adam and Eve’s fall on helm of evil through epic styles and the use of a Spenserian technique, allegory, in order to strengthen Spenser’s explanation of evil. The allegory used in illustrating Sin and resemblance of Sin to the Dragon of Errour creates a comparison between Spenser’s The Faerie Queene and Milton’s Paradise Lost. This comparison demonstrates the reasons allegory is used as a literary device and indicates the similarities between the two allegorical characters. In Book Two of Paradise Lost, Sin, the corrupt creature, aims to stop Satan and his journey to Earth. The likeness of Sin is portrayed as a “woman to the waist and fair/But ended foul in many a scaly fold/Voluminous and vast, a serpent armed/With mortal sting” (2.650-653). The illustration of Sin has a striking resemblance to the Dragon of Errour that is described as “Halfe like a serpent horribly displaide,/But th’other halfe did womans shape retaine” (220.127.116.11-8). Not only are there similarities in appearance between Sin and the Dragon Errour, but both beings are found living in either a “darksome hole” (18.104.22.168) or the grim depths of Hell. The Faerie Queene’s explanation of evil demonstrates why Satan is not defeated by God or goodness alone, but by his own self-destructive nature through Spenser’s illustration of how the Dragon of Errour assisted in her own demise rather than being slain by the Redcrosse Knight alone.
The Redcrosse Knight’s journey begins with his quest to defeat the Dragon of Errour. Upon entering a cave to avoid the rain, the knight encounters the dragon and their battle ensues. A the beginning of their duel the Redcrosse Knight is at an advantage by blinding the dragon with his armor allowing him to slice her shoulder. As the Dragon of Errour’s rage increases she traps him with her tail, but in her effort to strangle the knight, she simultaneously binds herself:“Tho wrapping up her wrethed sterne arownd, Lept fierce upon his shield, and her huge traineAll suddenly about his body wound, That hand or foot to stir he stroue in vaine:God helpe the man so wrapt in Errours endless traine.” (1.1.18) The Redcrosse Knight’s impulsive pride only assists in being wrapped in her tail, just as the dragon’s impulsive decision to wrap her tail around herself, in order to bind the knight, leads to her decapitation. Although the allegory appears complete after the knight slays the Dragon of Errour in Canto I, Spenser uses her vile offspring to demonstrate how evil is not only able to reproduce itself but also self-destruct. Before her battle with the knight, the dragon’s depraved offspring are shown suckling poison from her, which will eventually lead to the end of the succession of Errour indefinitely. The dragon’s offspring are representative in how evil is able to reproduce itself, but also assist in the line of Errour’s endless defeat. After the slaying of their mother, the offspring hover around her carcass while they, “sucked up their dying mothers blood,/Making her death their life, and eke her hurt their good ” (cite pg 6). This illustration shows how the offspring’s suckling of the evil blood from their beheaded mother causes the end of their succession which demonstrates evil’s tendency to self-destruct. The illustration of the Dragon of Errour and her offspring as representations of a self-destructive evil that can never triumph is comparable to Satan’s own demise by way of inflated pride in himself.
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Milton organizes his description of Adam and Eve’s fall on helm of evil through epic styles and the use of a Spenserian technique, allegory, in order to strengthen Spenser’s explanation […]