Imagine you are standing at the edge of a rift. On this side of the rift lie life, reality, and the simplicity of the literary tale. On the other side of the rift is a world of mystery and ideals where morals and greater meanings are waiting to be discovered. Strung across the rift are a series of rope bridges. Some of these bridges seem sturdier than others, but any of them would provide you with an adequate means of crossing the rift. However, each of them will lead you to a slightly different point on the other side of the schism. Of course, the bridges that lie before you are determined by the path you have taken to reach the rift. If you had taken the left at the fork in the trail instead of the right you would be encountering a different set of bridges at a different point of the rift. Regardless of how you arrived at this point, you must now make a decision. Which bridge will you choose to use to cross the rift? Or will you decide to stay on this side of the rift and leave the greater meanings to those who are more adventurous and willing to test one of those rope bridges.
Although each of the bridges that cross the rift have a different point of origin and a different destination, they all have one feature in common. Each of these bridges was created in response to the rift. Each bridge becomes the means by which a relationship is created between the different entities located on either side of the rift. If we place a literary tale on one side of the rift and the greater meaning that the author wants to convey on the opposite side, then the bridges between a literary tale and its meaning can be equated with the literary device of allegory. For an allegorical work is one in which the agents and actions are contrived by the author to make coherent sense on the literal, or primary level, of signification, and at the same time to signify a second, correlated order of signification.
[...] Although many critics have searched for and found allegorical meanings in the characters and situations of The Faerie Queene, in doing so they have missed Spenser's larger lesson and purpose. Spenser wanted to “fashion a gentleman” but rather than just tell his readers that which they would need to know, he sought to teach his readers how to recognize that which they would need to know. As an allegorical text, The Faerie Queene requires the active participation and involvement of the reader. [...]
[...] If Busirane is a textual recreation of an allegorist, then Proteus is the textual recreation of the chaos that is within the allegorical rift. Like chaos, Proteus is everything and nothing. He is a shape shifter, capable of becoming anything that he desires. Other characters, such as Archimago, are capable of disguising their forms through magic and deceit but Spenser goes one step beyond appearance and emphasizes Proteus' ability to change not just his exterior, but to change his entire form. [...]
[...] The Allegorical Temper: Vision and Reality in Book II of Spenser's Faerie Queene . New Haven: Yale UP Dunsheath, T. K. Spenser's Allegory of Justice in Book Five of The Faerie Queene. Princeton: Princeton UP Ferry, Anne. The Art of Naming. Chicago: U of Chicago P Fletcher, Angus. Allegory: The Theory of a Symbolic Mode. Ithaca: Cornell UP Fletcher, Angus. The Prophetic Moment: An Essay On Spenser. Chicago: U of Chicago P Gless, Darryl J. Interpretation And Theology in Spenser. [...]
[...] If Amoret is the chaos of matter within the rift and Busirane is the author of an allegorical text developed from that rift, then Britomart is the reader of Busirane's text. It is through her that we learn about Busirane's house. The warlike Mayd beholding earnestly The goodly ordinance of this rich Place, Did greatly wonder, ne could satisfy Her greedy eyes with gazing a long space, (III.xi.53) It is also through Britomart's eyes that we, Spenser's reader view Busirane's text; his masque. [...]
[...] Although on the narrative level, Archimago was not very effective as an evil enchanter, on the allegorical level he acquits himself very well as a figure of personification. Although Archimago is not successful as a character he is successful as a symbol of the hypocrisy for which he was created. Through Archimago's constant deceit and trickery the reader comes to understand exactly what hypocrisy is and how it functions to beguile the unwary and undiscerning. The difference between a figure of personification and a figure of capture lies in how they are created and what they reveal in a text. [...]
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