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Euphuistic Symmetry and the Image

Shimon Sandbank
Studies in English Literature, 1500-1900
Vol. 11, No. 1, The English Renaissance (Winter, 1971), pp. 1-13
Published by: Rice University
DOI: 10.2307/449814
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/449814
Page Count: 13
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Euphuistic Symmetry and the Image
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Abstract

The radically balanced structure of Lyly's sentences is the product of a compulsion to write rhythmically, rather than of an analytic habit of thinking. This is shown by the use he makes of isocolon even when the logic of his thought does not require it. Rhythm as an end in itself explains much of the nature of his imagery: his preference for similes over metaphors (because similes are naturally more symmetrical) and, particularly, for multiple similes—or strings of similes—over single similes (because the former provide for greater rhythmic balance). The multiplication of similes partly determines the structure of Euphuistic imagery. It means that no single image is given the opportunity to realize itself fully. Instead, the attributes of the single image are radically eliminated to conform to the large common denominator of the entire string of images. Images are thus largely neutralized and they serve as replaceable instances of a comprehensive logical formula. This seems to be one main difference between Euphuistic imagery and other sixteenth-century prose-imagery, in which at least some essential attributes of the image are not eliminated.

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