Allegory  

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Allegory of the World (1515) from the studio of  Joachim Patinir
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Allegory of the World (1515) from the studio of Joachim Patinir
Iconologia  (1593) by Cesare Ripa was an emblem book highly influential on Baroque imagery
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Iconologia (1593) by Cesare Ripa was an emblem book highly influential on Baroque imagery
The image breakers, c.1566 –1568 by Marcus Gheeraerts the Elder  The etching is also known as Allegory of Iconoclasm. Although not particularly sympathetic to the Calvinist image breakers, it is mainly critical of the Church. Thus the etching might have been the main reason why Gheeraerts had to flee to England in 1568. (British Museum, Dept. of Print and Drawings, 1933.1.1..3)
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The image breakers, c.15661568 by Marcus Gheeraerts the Elder  The etching is also known as Allegory of Iconoclasm. Although not particularly sympathetic to the Calvinist image breakers, it is mainly critical of the Church. Thus the etching might have been the main reason why Gheeraerts had to flee to England in 1568. (British Museum, Dept. of Print and Drawings, 1933.1.1..3)

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Allegory is a device in which characters or events in a literary, visual, or musical art form represent or symbolize ideas and concepts. Allegory has been used widely throughout the histories of all forms of art; a major reason for this is its immense power to illustrate complex ideas and concepts in ways that are easily digestible and tangible to its viewers, readers, or listeners. An allegory conveys its hidden message through symbolic figures, actions, imagery, and/or events. Allegory is generally treated as a figure of rhetoric; a rhetorical allegory is a demonstrative form of representation conveying meaning other than the words that are spoken.

As a literary device, an allegory in its most general sense is an extended metaphor. One of the best known examples is Plato's "Allegory of the Cave." In this allegory, there are a group of people who have lived chained to the wall of a cave all of their lives, facing a blank wall. 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. According to the allegory, the shadows are as close as the prisoners get to viewing reality.

Contents

Etymology

First attested in English 1382, the word allegory comes from Latin allegoria, the latinisation of the Greek ἀλληγορία (allegoria), "veiled language, figurative", from ἄλλος (allos), "another, different" + ἀγορεύω (agoreuo), "to harangue, to speak in the assembly" and that from ἀγορά (agora), "assembly".

Types

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.

Many ancient religions are based on an astrologic allegories, that is, allegories of the movement of the Sun and the Moon as seen from the Earth. Examples include the cult of Horus/Isis.

The classical era

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). 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.

Other early allegories are found in the Hebrew Bible, for instance in the extended metaphor in Psalm 80 of the Vine, which is Israel and Ezekiel 16 and 17.

The medieval era

Medieval 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 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".

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 11th-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 categorization and mathematics by such figures as naturalist John Ray and the astronomer Galileo is thought to mark the beginnings of early modern science.

The modern era

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, 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." 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 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 The Chronicles of Narnia.

Examples by genre

Not every resonant work of modern fiction is an allegory. Arthur Miller's The Crucible, for instance, is character-driven historical drama with contemporary relevance, but is not an allegory in spite of its parallels with McCarthyism, linking the hunt for communists in the 1940s and 1950s to the hunt for witches in the late 17th century. L. Frank Baum's The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is plot-driven fantasy narrative in an extended fable with talking animals and broadly-sketched characters. J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings is another example of a work sometimes seen as allegorical yet, as the author explained, is not - rather it is an example of what he referred to as applicability.

Art

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Category:Allegorical_paintings

Some elaborate and successful specimens of allegory are to be found in the following works, arranged in approximate chronological order:

Literature

Classical literature
Mediaeval literature
Modern literature
No good book has ever been written that has in it symbols arrived at beforehand and stuck in. ... [In The Old Man and the Sea], I tried to make a real old man, a real boy, a real sea and a real fish and real sharks. But if I made them good and true enough they would mean many things.|Ernest Hemingway in 1954
Plays

Film

Television

Comics

  • Alan Moore and David Lloyd – V for Vendetta identity, anarchism vs. fascism
  • Various X-Men comics (mutants as an allegory for various social and racial minorities)
  • The manga Hanako and the Teller of Allegory calls a story given form from peoples' belief in it an allegory

See also




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Allegory" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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