WHAT IS SYNONYMIA?
As Peacham puts it, in the passage prefaced to this chapter, synonymia occurs ‘when … we iterate one thing divers tymes’ in different words. At its simplest (sometimes called synonymia simplex), it takes the form of synonymous words arranged in doublets, such as Peacham's own variation and change, or in longer sequences, such as woes, cares, sorrows, troubles, calamities, vexations, and miseries. At its most complex, it aligns lexical synonyms with the syntactic parallelisms of the figure of parison (described in Russ McDonald's chapter below) to produce the densely echoic patterns typical of Hebrew poetry, as in the ‘very pretty’ example from Ecclesiasticus: the highest doth not allow the gifts of the wicked and God hath no pleasure in the offerings of the ungodly. But Peacham's first illustration (from Virgil) reveals a different, more attenuated, form of the figure, in which synonymia occurs without any synonyms as such. The semantic repetition takes place at the level of the thought rather than the word:
How doth the child, Ascanius, and is he yet alive: doth he eate etherial foode? and lyeth he not yet below among the cruell shades: here he demaundeth nothing else but whether Ascanius be alive or not.
This example makes clear what has been only implicit in previous cases: that synonymia is ultimately a figure of reading as much as a figure of speech or thought.