As a literary device, an allegory is a metaphor in which a character, place or event is used to deliver a broader message about real-world issues and occurrences. Allegory (in the sense of the practice and use of allegorical devices and works) has occurred widely throughout history in all forms of art, largely because it can readily illustrate or convey complex ideas and concepts in ways that are comprehensible or striking to its viewers, readers, or listeners.
A metaphor is a figure of speech that, for rhetorical effect, directly refers to one thing by mentioning another. It may provide clarity or identify hidden similarities between two ideas. Metaphors are often compared to other types of figurative language, such as antithesis, hyperbole, metonymy and simile. One of the most commonly cited examples of a metaphor in English literature comes from the "All the world's a stage" monologue from As You Like It:
Art is a diverse range of human activities in creating visual, auditory or performing artifacts (artworks), expressing the author's imaginative, conceptual ideas, or technical skill, intended to be appreciated for their beauty or emotional power. In their most general form these activities include the production of works of art, the criticism of art, the study of the history of art, and the aesthetic dissemination of art.
Writers or speakers typically use allegories as literary devices or as rhetorical devices that convey (semi-)hidden or complex meanings through symbolic figures, actions, imagery, or events, which together create the moral, spiritual, or political meaning the author wishes to convey.Many allegories use personifications of abstract concepts.
Rhetoric is the art of persuasion. Along with grammar and logic, it is one of the three ancient arts of discourse. Rhetoric aims to study the capacities of writers or speakers needed to inform, persuade, or motivate particular audiences in specific situations. Aristotle defines rhetoric as "the faculty of observing in any given case the available means of persuasion" and since mastery of the art was necessary for victory in a case at law or for passage of proposals in the assembly or for fame as a speaker in civic ceremonies, calls it "a combination of the science of logic and of the ethical branch of politics". Rhetoric typically provides heuristics for understanding, discovering, and developing arguments for particular situations, such as Aristotle's three persuasive audience appeals: logos, pathos, and ethos. The five canons of rhetoric or phases of developing a persuasive speech were first codified in classical Rome: invention, arrangement, style, memory, and delivery.
A symbol is a mark, sign or word that indicates, signifies, or is understood as representing an idea, object, or relationship. Symbols allow people to go beyond what is known or seen by creating linkages between otherwise very different concepts and experiences. All communication is achieved through the use of symbols. Symbols take the form of words, sounds, gestures, ideas or visual images and are used to convey other ideas and beliefs. For example, a red octagon may be a symbol for "STOP". On a map, a blue line might represent a river. Numerals are symbols for numbers. Alphabetic letters may be symbols for sounds. Personal names are symbols representing individuals. A red rose may symbolize love and compassion. The variable 'x', in a mathematical equation, may symbolize the position of a particle in space.
Personification is an anthropomorphic metaphor in which a thing or abstraction is represented as a person. The type of personification discussed here excludes passing literary effects such as "Shadows hold their breath", and covers cases where a personification appears as a character in literature, or a human figure in art. The technical term for this, since ancient Greece, is prosopopoeia. In the arts many things are commonly personified. These include numerous types of places, especially cities, countries and the four continents, elements of the natural world such as the months or Four Seasons, Four Elements, Four Winds, Five Senses, and abstractions such as virtues, especially the four cardinal virtues and sins, the nine Muses, or death.
First attested in English in 1382, the word allegory comes from Latin allegoria, the latinisation of the Greek ἀλληγορία (allegoría), "veiled language, figurative", which in turn comes from both ἄλλος (allos), "another, different" and ἀγορεύω (agoreuo), "to harangue, to speak in the assembly" , which originates from ἀγορά (agora), "assembly".
Latin is a classical language belonging to the Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. The Latin alphabet is derived from the Etruscan and Greek alphabets and ultimately from the Phoenician alphabet.
Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages, native to Greece, Cyprus and other parts of the Eastern Mediterranean and the Black Sea. It has the longest documented history of any living Indo-European language, spanning more than 3000 years of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the major part of its history; other systems, such as Linear B and the Cypriot syllabary, were used previously. The alphabet arose from the Phoenician script and was in turn the basis of the Latin, Cyrillic, Armenian, Coptic, Gothic, and many other writing systems.
Northrop Frye discussed what he termed a "continuum of allegory", a spectrum that ranges 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.
Herman Northrop Frye was a Canadian literary critic and literary theorist, considered one of the most influential of the 20th century.
The Faerie Queene is an English epic poem by Edmund Spenser. Books I–III were first published in 1590, and then republished in 1596 together with books IV–VI. The Faerie Queene is notable for its form: it is one of the longest poems in the English language as well as the work in which Spenser invented the verse form known as the Spenserian stanza. On a literal level, the poem follows several knights as a means to examine different virtues, and though the text is primarily an allegorical work, it can be read on several levels of allegory, including as praise of Queen Elizabeth I. In Spenser's "Letter of the Authors", he states that the entire epic poem is "cloudily enwrapped in Allegorical devices", and the aim of publishing The Faerie Queene was to "fashion a gentleman or noble person in virtuous and gentle discipline".
In literature, the paradox is an anomalous juxtaposition of incongruous ideas for the sake of striking exposition or unexpected insight. It functions as a method of literary composition and analysis that involves examining apparently contradictory statements and drawing conclusions either to reconcile them or to explain their presence.
The origins of Allegory can be traced at least back to Homer in his "quasi-allegorical" use of personifications of, e.g., Terror (Deimos) and Fear (Phobos) at Il. 115 f.The title of "first allegorist," however, is usually awarded to whoever was the earliest to put forth allegorical interpretations of Homer. This approach leads to two possible answers: Theagenes of Rhegium (whom Porphyry calls the "first allegorist," Porph. Quaest. Hom. 1.240.14-241.12 Schrad.) or Pherecydes of Syros, both of whom are presumed to be active in the 6th century B.C.E., though Pherecydes is earlier and as he is often presumed to be the first writer of prose. The debate is complex, since it demands we observe the distinction between two often conflated uses of the Greek verb "allēgoreīn," which can mean both "to speak allegorically" and "to interpret allegorically."
In the case of "interpreting allegorically," Theagenes appears to be our earliest example. Presumably in response to proto-philosophical moral critiques of Homer (e.g. Xenophanes fr. 11 Diels-Kranz), Theagenes proposed symbolic interpretations whereby the Gods of the Iliad actually stood for physical elements. So, Hephestus represents Fire, for instance (for which see fr. A2 in Diels-Kranz ). Some scholars, however, argue that Pherecydes cosmogonic writings anticipated Theagenes allegorical work, illustrated especially by his early placement of Time (Chronos) in his genealogy of the gods, which is thought to be a reinterpretation of the titan Kronos, from more traditional genealogies.
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).
Among the best-known examples of allegory, Plato's Allegory of the Cave, forms a part of his larger work The Republic. In this allegory, Plato describes a group of people who have lived chained in a cave all of their lives, facing a blank wall (514a–b). The people watch shadows projected on the wall by things passing in front of a fire behind them and begin to ascribe forms to these shadows, using language to identify their world (514c–515a). According to the allegory, the shadows are as close as the prisoners get to viewing reality, until one of them finds his way into the outside world where he sees the actual objects that produced the shadows. He tries to tell the people in the cave of his discovery, but they do not believe him and vehemently resist his efforts to free them so they can see for themselves (516e–518a). This allegory is, on a basic level, about a philosopher who upon finding greater knowledge outside the cave of human understanding, seeks to share it as is his duty, and the foolishness of those who would ignore him because they think themselves educated enough.
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 the young man needed to know as guests.
Other early allegories are found in the Hebrew Bible, such as the extended metaphor in Psalm 80 of the Vine and its impressive spread and growth, representing Israel's conquest and peopling of the Promised Land.Also allegorical is Ezekiel 16 and 17, wherein the capture of that same vine by the mighty Eagle represents Israel's exile to Babylon.
Allegorical interpretation of the Bible was a common early Christian practice and continues. For example, the recently re-discovered IVth Commentary on the Gospels by Fortunatianus of Aquileia has a comment by its English translator: The principal characteristic of Fortunatianus’ exegesis is a figurative approach, relying on a set of concepts associated with key terms in order to create an allegorical decoding of the text. (pXIX)
Allegory has an ability to freeze the temporality of a story, while infusing it with a spiritual context. Mediaeval thinking accepted allegory as having a reality underlying any rhetorical or fictional uses. The allegory was as true as the facts of surface appearances. Thus, the Papal 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 facts on which is based a demonstration with 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." This text also demonstrates the frequent use of allegory in religious texts during the Mediaeval Period, following the tradition and example of the Bible.
In the late 15th 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.
The denial of medieval allegory as found in the 12th-century works of Hugh of St Victor and Edward Topsell's Historie of Foure-footed Beastes (London, 1607, 1653) and its replacement in the study of nature with methods of categorisation and mathematics by such figures as naturalist John Ray and the astronomer Galileo is thought to mark the beginnings of early modern science.
Since meaningful stories are nearly always applicable to larger issues, allegories may be read into many stories which the author may not have recognised. This is allegoresis, or the act of reading a story as an allegory. Examples of allegory in popular culture that may or may not have been intended include the works of Bertolt Brecht, and even some works of science fiction and fantasy, such as The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis and A Kingdom Far and Clear: The Complete Swan Lake Trilogy by Mark Helprin.
The story of the apple falling onto Isaac Newton's head is another famous allegory. It simplified the idea of gravity by depicting a simple way it was supposedly discovered. It also made the scientific revelation well known by condensing the theory into a short tale.
It is important to note that while allegoresis may make discovery of allegory in any work, not every resonant work of modern fiction is allegorical, and some are clearly not intended to be viewed this way. According to Henry Littlefield's 1964 article, L. Frank Baum's The Wonderful Wizard of Oz , may be readily understood as a plot-driven fantasy narrative in an extended fable with talking animals and broadly sketched characters, intended to discuss the politics of the time.Yet, George MacDonald emphasised in 1893 that "A fairy tale is not an allegory."
J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings is another example of a well-known work mistakenly perceived as allegorical, as the author himself once stated, "...I cordially dislike allegory in all its manifestations, and always have done so since I grew old and wary enough to detect its presence. I much prefer history – true or feigned– with its varied applicability to the thought and experience of readers. I think that many confuse applicability with allegory, but the one resides in the freedom of the reader, and the other in the purposed domination of the author."
Tolkien specifically resented the suggestion that the book's One Ring, which gives overwhelming power to those possessing it, was intended as an allegory of nuclear weapons. He noted that, had that been his intention, the book would not have ended with the Ring being destroyed but rather with an arms race in which various powers would try to obtain such a Ring for themselves. Then Tolkien went on to outline an alternative plot for "Lord of The Rings", as it would have been written had such an allegory been intended, and which would have made the book into a dystopia. While all this does not mean Tolkien's works may not be treated as having allegorical themes, especially when reinterpreted through postmodern sensibilities, it at least suggests that none were conscious in his writings. This further reinforces the idea of forced allegoresis, as allegory is often a matter of interpretation and only sometimes of original artistic intention.
Like allegorical stories, allegorical poetry has two meanings – a literal meaning and a symbolic meaning.
Some unique specimens of allegory can be found in the following works:
Some elaborate and successful specimens of allegory are to be found in the following works, arranged in approximate chronological order:
"Leaf by Niggle" is a short story written by J. R. R. Tolkien in 1938–39 and first published in the Dublin Review in January 1945. It can be found, most notably, in Tolkien's book titled Tree and Leaf, and in other places. This is notable because the book, consisting of a seminal essay called "On Fairy-Stories" and "Leaf by Niggle", offers the underlying philosophy of much of Tolkien's fantastical writings.
The concept of an archetype appears in areas relating to behavior, historical psychological theory, and literary analysis. An archetype can be:
Rhea or Rheia, in Greek mythology, is a member of the first generation of the Titans, daughter of Gaia and Ouranos. She is the sister and wife of Kronos and mother to the first generation of the Olympian gods, hence her being often referred as "the mother of the gods".
Chronos is the personification of time in pre-Socratic philosophy and later literature.
The Allegory of the Cave, or Plato's Cave, was presented by the Greek philosopher Plato in his work Republic (514a–520a) to compare "the effect of education (παιδεία) and the lack of it on our nature". It is written as a dialogue between Plato's brother Glaucon and his mentor Socrates, narrated by the latter. The allegory is presented after the analogy of the sun (508b–509c) and the analogy of the divided line (509d–511e). All three are characterized in relation to dialectic at the end of Books VII and VIII (531d–534e).
Plato, in his dialogue Phaedrus, uses the Chariot Allegory to explain his view of the human soul. He does this in the dialogue through the character of Socrates, who uses it in a discussion of the merit of Love as "divine madness".
Logos is a term in Western philosophy, psychology, rhetoric, and religion derived from a Greek word variously meaning "ground", "plea", "opinion", "expectation", "word", "speech", "account", "reason", "proportion", and "discourse". It became a technical term in Western philosophy beginning with Heraclitus, who used the term for a principle of order and knowledge.
The Ring of Gyges is a mythical magical artifact mentioned by the philosopher Plato in Book 2 of his Republic (2:359a–2:360d). It grants its owner the power to become invisible at will. Through the story of the ring, Republic considers whether an intelligent person would be just if they did not have to fear any bad reputation if they committed injustices.
Ancient Greek philosophy differentiates at least four main conceptual forms and distinct words for the Modern English word love: agápe,éros,philía, and storgē. Though there are more greek words for love, variants and possibly subcategories, a general summary considering these four Ancient Greek concepts are as follows:
Pherecydes of Syros was a Greek thinker from the island of Syros. Pherecydes authored a cosmogony, derived from three divine principles, Zas (Zeus), Cthonie (Earth) and Chronos (Time), known as the "Pentemychos". It formed a bridge between the mythological thought of Hesiod and pre-Socratic philosophy. His work is lost, but it survived into the Hellenistic period and we are informed on part of its content indirectly. Pherecydes was said to have been the first writer to communicate philosophical musings in prose. According to William, Aristotle regarded him partly a mythological writer and Plutarch, as well as many other writers gave him the title of Theologus.
A Greek–English Lexicon, often referred to as Liddell & Scott, Liddell–Scott–Jones, or LSJ, is a standard lexicographical work of the Ancient Greek language.
Allegorical interpretation of the Bible is an interpretive method (exegesis) that assumes that the Bible has various levels of meaning and tends to focus on the spiritual sense, which includes the allegorical sense, the moral sense, and the anagogical sense, as opposed to the literal sense. It is sometimes referred to as the quadriga, a reference to the Roman chariot that was drawn by four horses.
Sophia is a central idea in Hellenistic philosophy and religion, Platonism, Gnosticism, and Christian theology. Originally carrying a meaning of "cleverness, skill", the later meaning of the term, close to the meaning of Phronesis, was significantly shaped by the term philosophy as used by Plato.
Allegory in the Middle Ages was a vital element in the synthesis of biblical and classical traditions into what would become recognizable as medieval culture. People of the Middle Ages consciously drew from the cultural legacies of the ancient world in shaping their institutions and ideas, and so allegory in medieval literature and medieval art was a prime mover for the synthesis and transformational continuity between the ancient world and the "new" Christian world.
Anagoge (ἀναγωγή), sometimes spelled anagogy, is a Greek word suggesting a "climb" or "ascent" upwards. The anagogical is a method of mystical or spiritual interpretation of statements or events, especially scriptural exegesis, that detects allusions to the afterlife.
Hermann Alexander Diels was a German classical scholar.
In Greek mythology, Cronus, Cronos, or Kronos, was the leader and youngest of the first generation of Titans, the divine descendants of Uranus, the sky, and Gaia, the earth. He overthrew his father and ruled during the mythological Golden Age, until he was overthrown by his own son Zeus and imprisoned in Tartarus. According to Plato, however, the deities Phorcys, Cronus, and Rhea were the eldest children of Oceanus and Tethys.
Monogenes has two primary definitions, "pertaining to being the only one of its kind within a specific relationship" and "pertaining to being the only one of its kind or class, unique in kind". Thus monogenēs (μονογενής) may be used both as an adjective monogenēs pais, meaning unique and special. Its Greek meaning is often applied to mean "one of a kind, one and only". Monogenēs may be used as an adjective. For example, monogenēs pais means only child, only legitimate child or special child. Monogenēs may also be used on its own as a noun. For example, o monogenēs means "the only one", or "the only legitimate child".
Diels–Kranz (DK) numbering is the standard system for referencing the works of the ancient Greek pre-Socratic philosophers, based on the collection of quotations from and reports of their work, Die Fragmente der Vorsokratiker, by Hermann Alexander Diels. The Fragmente was first published in 1903, was later revised and expanded three times by Diels, and was finally revised in a fifth edition (1934–7) by Walther Kranz and again in a sixth edition (1952). In Diels-Kranz, each passage, or item, is assigned a number which is used to uniquely identify the ancient personality with which it is concerned, and the type of item given. Diels-Kranz is used in academia to cite pre-Socratic philosophers, and the system also encompasses Sophists and pre-Homeric poets such as Orpheus.
Many Plato interpreters held that his writings contain passages with double meanings, called 'allegories' or 'symbols', that give the dialogues layers of figurative meaning in addition to their usual literal meaning. These allegorical interpretations of Plato were dominant for more than fifteen hundred years, from about the first century CE through the Renaissance and into the Eighteenth Century, and were advocated by major figures such as Plotinus, Proclus, and Ficino. Beginning with Philo of Alexandria, these views influenced Jewish, Christian and Islamic interpretation of their holy scriptures. They spread widely in the Renaissance and contributed to the fashion for allegory among poets such as Dante, Spenser, and Shakespeare.
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