2 a visible symbol representing an abstract idea [syn: emblem]
3 an expressive style that uses fictional characters and events to describe some subject by suggestive resemblances; an extended metaphor
EtymologyMiddle English allegorie, from Latin allegoria, from Ancient Greek ἀλληγορία (allēgoria), from ἄλλος "other" + ἀγορεύω "speak".
An allegory (from , allos, "other", and , agoreuein, "to speak in public") is a figurative mode of representation conveying a meaning other than the literal.
Allegory is generally treated as a figure of rhetoric, but an allegory does not have to be expressed in language: it may be addressed to the eye, and is often found in realistic painting, sculpture or some other form of mimetic, or representative art.
The etymological meaning of the word is broader than the common use of the word. Though it is similar to other rhetorical comparisons, an allegory is sustained longer and more fully in its details than a metaphor, and appeals to imagination, while an analogy appeals to reason or logic. The fable or parable is a short allegory with one definite moral.
Since meaningful stories are nearly always applicable to larger issues, allegories may be read into many stories, sometimes distorting their author's overt meaning. For instance, many people have suggested that The Lord of the Rings is an allegory for the World Wars, though it was written well before the outbreak of World War II and in spite of J. R. R. Tolkien's emphatic statement in the introduction to the second edition "It is neither allegorical nor topical....I cordially dislike allegory in all its manifestations, and always have done so since I grew old and wary enough to detect its presence."
Northrop Frye discussed what he termed a "continuum of allegory", ranging from what he termed the "naive allegory" of The Faerie Queene, to the more private allegories of modern paradox literature. In this perspective, the characters in a "naive" allegory are not fully three-dimensional, for each aspect of their individual personalities and the events that befall them embodies some moral quality or other abstraction; the allegory has been selected first, and the details merely flesh it out.
ExamplesAllegory has been a favourite form in the literature of nearly every nation. It represents many tales. In classical literature two of the best-known allegories are the cave in Plato's Republic (Book VII) and the story of the stomach and its members in the speech of Menenius Agrippa (Livy ii. 32); and several occur in Ovid's Metamorphoses. In Late Antiquity Martianus Capella organized all the information a fifth-century upper-class male needed to know into an allegory of the wedding of Mercury and Philologia, with the seven liberal arts as guests; Capella's allegory was widely read through the Middle Ages.
Medieval thinking accepted allegory as having a reality underlying any rhetorical or fictional uses. The allegory was as true as superficial facts of surface appearances. Thus, the bull Unam Sanctam (1302) presents themes of the unity of Christendom with the pope as its head in which the allegorical details of the metaphors are adduced as actual facts which take the place of a logical demonstration, yet employing the vocabulary of logic: "Therefore of this one and only Church there is one body and one head—not two heads as if it were a monster... If, then, the Greeks or others say that they were not committed to the care of Peter and his successors, they necessarily confess that they are not of the sheep of Christ" (complete text).
In the late fifteenth century, the enigmatic Hypnerotomachia, with its elaborate woodcut illustrations, shows the influence of themed pageants and masques on contemporary allegorical representation, as humanist dialectic conveyed them. Some elaborate and successful specimens of allegory are to be found in the following works, arranged in the approximate chronological order:
- Aesop – Fables
- Plato – The Republic (Plato's allegory of the cave)
- Plato – Phaedrus (Chariot Allegory)
- Euripides – The Trojan Women
- Book of Revelation (for allegory in Christian theology, see typology (theology))
- Martianus Capella – De nuptiis philologiæ et Mercurii
- The Romance of the Rose
- William Langland – Piers Plowman
- Dante Alighieri – The Divine Comedy
- Edmund Spenser – The Faerie Queene
- John Bunyan – Pilgrim's Progress
- Jonathan Swift – A Tale of a Tub
- Joseph Addison – Vision of Mirza
- E. T. A. Hoffmann – Princess Brambilla
- Nathaniel Hawthorne – "The Great Carbuncle"
- Herman Melville – The Confidence-Man
- Edgar Allan Poe – "The Masque of the Red Death" (though Poe did not believe in allegory, this story is generally assumed to be one)
- Frank Baum – "The Wizard of Oz"
- Jorge Luis Borges – The Library of Babel
- Peter S. Beagle – The Last Unicorn
- Albert Camus – The Plague
- William Golding – Lord of the Flies
- John Irving – A Prayer for Owen Meany
- David Lindsay – A Voyage to Arcturus
- Naguib Mahfouz – Children of Gebelawi
- Arthur Miller – The Crucible
- Hualing Nieh – Mulberry and Peach
- George Orwell – Animal Farm
- Philip Pullman – His Dark Materials
- Rex Warner – The Aerodrome * J.M. Coetzee – Waiting for the Barbarians
- C.S. Lewis – The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe
Where some requirements of "realism", in its flexible meanings, are set aside, allegory can come more strongly to the surface, as in the work of Bertold Brecht or Franz Kafka on one hand, or on the other in science fiction and fantasy, where an element of universal application and allegorical overtones are common, as with Dune.
Allegorical films include:
Some artwoks of allegory include:
- Sandro Botticelli – La Primavera (Allegory of Spring)
- Albrecht Dürer – Melencolia I
- Artemisia Gentileschi – Self-Portrait as the Allegory of Painting; Allegory of Inclination
- Jan Vermeer – The Allegory of Painting
- Ambrogio Lorenzetti; "Good Government in the City" and "Bad Government in the City"
- The English School's "Allegory of Queen Elizabeth" painted circa 1610.
- Brief definition of Allegory
- Dictionary of the History of Ideas: Allegory in Literary history
- Electronic Antiquity, Richard Levis, "Allegory and the Eclogues" Roman definitions of allegoria and interpreting Vergil's Eclogues.
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allegory in Simple English: Allegory
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