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Bible Encyclopedias

1911 Encyclopedia Britannica


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ALLEGORY ( allos, other, and agoreuein, to speak), a figurative representation conveying a meaning other than and in addition to the literal. It is generally treated as a figure of rhetoric, but the medium of representation is not necessarily language. An allegory may be addressed to the eye, and is often embodied in painting, sculpture or some form of mimetic art.

The etymological meaning of the word is wider than that which it bears in actual use. An allegory is distinguished from a metaphor by being longer sustained and more fully carried out in its details, and from an analogy by the fact that the one appeals to the imagination and the other to the reason. The fable or parable is a short allegory with one definite moral.

The allegory has been a favourite form in the literature of nearly every nation. The Hebrew scriptures present frequent instances of it, one of the most beautiful being the comparison of the history of Israel to the growth of a vine in the Both psalm. In classical literature one of the best known allegories is the story of the stomach and its members in the speech of Menenius Agrippa (Livy ii. 32); and several occur in Ovid's Metamorphoses. Perhaps the most elaborate and the most successful specimens of allegory are to be found in the works of English authors. Spenser's Faerie Queene, Swift's Tale of a Tub, Addison's Vision of Mirza, and, above all, Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress, are examples that it would be impossible to match in elaboration, beauty and finesse, from the literature of any other nation.

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Bibliography Information
Chisholm, Hugh, General Editor. Entry for 'Allegory'. 1911 Encyclopedia Britanica. 1910.

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