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Allegory (from Greek: αλλος, allos, “other”, and αγορευειν, agoreuein, “to speak in public”) is a figurative mode of representation conveying a meaning other than the literal. Fictions with several possible interpretations are not allegories in the true sense. Not every fiction with general application is an allegory.
Allegory communicates its message by means of symbolic figures, actions or symbolic representation. 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, 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.
 Denial of allegory
The denial of medieval allegory as found in the eleventh-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. 
Allegory has been a favorite form in the literature of nearly every nation.
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.
Medieval thinking accepted allegory as having a reality underlying any rhetorical or fictional uses. The allegory was as true as su 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.
Titian‘s Allegory of Age Governed by Prudence, with three human heads symbolising age and the triple-headed beast (dog, lion, wolf) standing for prudence.
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
- Christine de Pizan – The Book of the City of Ladies
- William Langland – Piers Plowman
- William Golding – Lord of the Flies
- Dante Alighieri – The Divine Comedy
- George MacDonald – Phantastes
- 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)
- C.S. Lewis – The Chronicles of Narnia: generic allegorical elements of good and evil, as well as many Christian themes, expressed in a narrative with strong fantasy fiction elements and credible characters: not fully an allegory.
Modern allegories in fiction tend to operate under constraints of modern requirements for verisimilitude within conventional expectations of realism. Works of fiction with strong allegorical overtones include:
- Jorge Luis Borges – The Library of Babel and The Babylon Lottery
- Peter S. Beagle – The Last Unicorn
- Albert Camus – The Plague, The Stranger
- John Irving – A Prayer for Owen Meany
- David Lindsay – A Voyage to Arcturus
- Naguib Mahfouz – Children of Gebelawi
- 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
- Cormac McCarthy – The Road
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.
Fictions that are not allegories may help define the genre by contrast:
Allegorical films include:
- Fritz Lang‘s Metropolis
- Ingmar Bergman‘s The Seventh Seal
- Stanley Kubrick‘s 2001: A Space Odyssey
- El Topo
- Star Trek: The Undiscovered Country, The Cold War
- The Matrix, Plato’s Allegory of the Cave
- The Virgin Suicides
- Casablanca, America’s relationship with France in WWII
In some films, allegorical interpretations may be applied after the fact:
The English School’s Allegory of Queen Elizabeth with Father Time at her right and Death looking over her left shoulder. Two cherubs are removing the weighty crown from her tired head.
Some allegorical works of art 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.
 See also
- Allegory in the Middle Ages
- Allegory in Renaissance literature
- Allegorical sculpture
- Cultural depictions of Philip II of Spain
- Roman à clef
- ^ Peter Harrison, The Bible, Protestantism, and the rise of natural science, Cambridge University Press, ISBN 0-521-59196-1, pages 1 to 10 (“Introduction”)
- ^ Roppolo, Joseph Patrick. “Meaning and ‘The Masque of the Red Death'”, collected in Poe: A Collection of Critical Essays, edited by Robert Regan. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1967. p. 134
 Further reading
 External links
- 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.