Allegoria Paranoia

To Balk Logic and Practice Rhetoric: Allegories of Rhetoric and Dialectic in Shakespeare’s Plays



Appendix 1:  Allegorical Reading

We have already remarked on Plutarch's didactic recommendation to interpret poetry in ways that make it acceptable to young readers, a pedagogical justification that teachers of themes in literature may recognize today. We have also noted the Stoic method of allegorizing the gods, a method continued by Isidore of Seville in his Etymologies (seventh century A.D.) and still useful despite Cotta's skepticism of Balbus's etymologizing in Cicero's De Natura Deorum. Further, we have mentioned the allegorical re-reading of Homer in Homeric Allegories (first century A.D.), which were arranged and published in the third or fourth century A.D. by the Neoplatonist Porphyry.

These Greek and Latin habits of allegorical reading gradually merged with interpretation of the Old and New Testament to become Christian typology and allegory.  I call this practice "allegory as truth." Although the subject of this book is Shakespeare, and my contention is that he creates allegories of rhetoric and dialectic, it is important to understand allegory in its other sense, as symbolic truth, a practice which is chiefly one of reading and interpretation rather than of speaking or writing.

However, I must make clear that these habits of symbolic reading found their way into written practice by the late Middle Ages and the Renaissance. Furthermore, the habits of allegorical or symbolic reading--of finding political, moral, or spiritual application--in poetic texts was so engrained as interpretive practice by Shakespeare's time that he could not afford to ignore it. Consequently, or at least partly in consequence, Shakespeare makes various modes of interpretation one of the key dramatic features of his plays.

Christian allegorical readings of Scripture go back to St. Paul, who begins the work of Christian exegesis by assuming the literal (that is, historical) truth of the Old Testament.  In Galatians 4:24, we find the only instance in the New Testament of the verb allegoreo, "to speak allegorically." As Philip Rollinson points out, "Paul uses it in the context of an extended nonliteral interpretation of an Old Testament event (Galatians 4:21-31) and unquestionably sets a formative example for subsequent Christian exegesis" (30), one which constitutes "the archetypal Christian reading of the spiritual sense of an Old Testament text" (31).1

Paul retains the historical validity of Abraham, Sarah, Hagar, Ishmael, and Isaac but explains that Ishmael and Isaac,spiritually interpreted, represent the Old and the New Covenants, respectively. As Paul works out his sustained metaphor or analogy, his "interpretation is Hellenic and allegorical, and yet is potentially Hebraic and typological," justified by a transcendental perception derived from the Holy Spirit (31).

We do not know if Paul read Philo Judaeus (first centuries B.C.-A.D.Alexandrian Jew), but later Christian apologists such as Clement and Origen (second and third century A.D. Alexandrian Greek) were influenced by Philo's rabbinical version of Greek allegorical interpretation.2  Philo's theorizing on the Pentateuch "uses the verb to speak darkly and the nouns allegory and hyponoia, along with the adverb symbolically":  we "resort to allegorical interpretation guided in our renderings by what lies beneath the surface" because biblical accounts are "modes of making ideas visible" (9).3  The concept of visualizing abstractions by embodying them in images is central to the Greek Neoplatonists' theory of symbolic representation (10).4

Philo Judaeus was rediscovered in the Renaissance and became a significant stimulus in the revival of Neoplatonism in the fifteenth century. Philo's project was to claim philosophical status for the Pentateuch. His audience was a predominantly Hellenistic Alexandria, and he used the method of Greek allegorical reading to illuminate his text.  He calls the allegorical meaning the "soul" of the text and the literal statement its "body."5

In Philo's system of allegorical reading, the mystical (or universal and spiritual) sense of the Pentateuch involves symbolic interpretation, but the finding of the moral in the text Philo calls the literal reading. Origen followed the method of Philo in developing his own system of allegorizing, to defend scripture and to attack allegorizations of Greek myths.

Echoing Philo, Origen in De Principiis describes three levels of allegorical reading of scripture: the somatic, in which the simple man apprehends the "flesh" of scripture, the literal/historical; the psychic, in which the soul perceives the moral dimension, the figure of the Christian soul in its journey toward God; and finally, the pneumatic or spiritual/mystical insight that discloses the typological or allegorical connection to Christ. The three-fold dimension of Scripture corresponds to the three levels of human understanding of God's plan for salvation.6

The most influential of early biblical interpreters was St. Augustine (fourth-fifth centuries A.D. Latin).  Trained in classical rhetoric, Augustine developed his hermeneutics from pagan philosophy, grammar, and rhetoric as well as from earlier biblical interpretation.7  His influence on later European ideas about interpretation extended to secular texts as well as to the Bible.

For Augustine, words (verba) have to be stabilized in relation to things (res) in order to connect the words to the signs toward which they point. Philip Rollinson's example of this process of reference is the word "ox" connected to the animal "ox," which then refers to St. Luke the Evangelist as the true inner meaning (Christian Doctrine II.x.15) (43). The process of discovery of hidden meanings is both enlightening and pleasurable (Christ.

Augustine's hermeneutics consist of three basic ideas. Like Philo, Augustine says that almost everything in the Old Testament can and should be read figuratively or allegorically (Lying XV.26). This rule of similitude or likeness is borrowed from the pagans whose allegorizing of the gods Augustine rejected. It is the first tenet of Augustine's theory of biblical interpretation. Any problems in a text--indecency, inconsistency, enigma (as in some parables)--are hints to look for allegory. He calls them traces, tracks, or vestiges in "Proemium" 9 of Christian Doctrine (44).

Second, any interpretation is valid as long as it conforms to Christian doctrine (Christ. Doc. II.vii.10), according to the rule of faith (Christ. Doc. III.ii.2 and x.14) or the rule of charity (Christ. Doc. III.xv.23).  According to medievalist D. W. Robertson, Jr. and others, this rule of caritas is the touchstone for literary interpretation after Augustine and throughout the Middle Ages and early Renaissance.8

For Augustine, conformity of allegorical interpretation to Christian truth is the only criterion for its validity (Christ Doc. III.xxvii). This also holds true for interpreting non-scriptural texts, as shown when he endorses the suitability of interpreting Virgil's Fourth Eclogue as announcing the coming of the Messiah (Christ. Doc. X.xxvii), even though Virgil could not have intended such a meaning (45). To Augustine, no matter what the text, Stoic and other classical methods of allegorical interpretation yield truth when aided by the insight of the Holy Spirit (as revealed in Christian doctrine).

In On the Profit of Believing (De utilitate credendi), Augustine explains his theory of interpretation as a quadrifaria or fourfold meaning.  Grounding interpretation in the true historical sense of things (over mere words) as the first level of interpretive understanding, he then adds a second level of God-ordained historical causes.  The third level is the analogical/typological prefiguring of the New Testament in the Old, and the fourth is the allegorical level that sees the spiritual implications of the literal/historical.9 

The prevalence of this sort of biblical interpretation after Augustine can be seen in a medieval distich:

Littera gesta docet, quid credas allegoria,
Moralis quid agas, quo tendas anagogia. (xi)

The letter teaches deeds, allegory what you are to believe, the moral what you are to do, anagogy where you should be headed.

Augustinian biblical interpretation flourished throughout the Middle Ages, as can be seen in Isidore of Seville (sixth-seventh centuries A.D.), Bede (seventh-eighth centuries A.D.), Hugh of St. Victor (twelfth century A.D.), and Nicholas of Lyre (thirteenth-fourteenth centuries A.D.).10  This sort of interpretation, which Rosemond Tuve calls the "slicing machine" of levels, survived for both biblical and secular literature at least until the end of the sixteenth century.11  For instance, Sir John Harington, following the practice of Italian interpreters, uses the fourfold method in his essay on allegory, as well as marginal and end notes, to elucidate (if dimly) his 1591 translation of Ariosto's Orlando Furioso.12

Appearing along with the Augustinian tradition of allegory as truth is the related tradition of Neoplatonic symbolism.  Like Augustine, most biblical apologists felt that pre-Christian poets and philosophers contained a grain of truth.  Plato, Hermes Trismegistus, Plotinus, Cicero, and Seneca had more truth than others.  In his letter to Evodius, Augustine praised virtuous pagans who anticipated Christian truth.13

Augustine approved the use of visible things as symbols of the eternal:

Moreover, if for the administration of the sacraments, certain symbols are drawn, not only from the heavens and stars, but also from all the lower creation, the intention is to provide the doctrine of Salvation with a sort of eloquence, adapted to raise the affections of those to whom it is presented, from the visible to the invisible, from the corporeal to the spiritual, from the spiritual to the eternal.14

If we turn this around, from intentional practice to a habit of reading, we have Neoplatonic symbolic interpretation, finding a correspondence between the tangible/visible and the spiritual/invisible of which it is a part.

Along with the Stoic allegorization of the gods and Plutarch's moral method of interpretation, Neoplatonic symbolism was one of the chief interpretive strategies revived during the Renaissance. In terms of seeing allegory as truth, Neoplatonist writers evince a sure sense of authority through divine intuition. In the ancient world, Neoplatonism flourished from the time of its founder, Plotinus, in the third century A.D., particularly at Alexandria, until it was officially abolished for its paganism by the emperor Justinian in the sixth century. Neoplatonism survived in its influence on Christian thought through Augustine and other early fathers of the Church. 

Even before Plotinus, we have seen a similar outlook in Philo.  Slightly later in the first century A.D., in the Homeric Allegories of the pagan Pseudo-Heraclitus (attributed mistakenly in the Renaissance to Heraclitus of Pontus), we hear a Platonic note as he attacks ignorant readers of Homer as opposed to "truly purified" readers who can follow "the lead of the epics towards holy truth" (Allen 86).

Most sixteenth-century editions of Homer endorsed the allegorical readings of the Pseudo-Heraclitus, as in an oft-included essay falsely attributed to Plutarch called De vita et poesi Homeri, which speaks of the undermeanings in Homer, whose "dark sentences" and "mythical expressions" yield truth to those "who desire to know" (86).15

Only a few lines of Homer were known in the Middle Ages, from quotations in Horace and Cicero.  In the early Renaissance, Petrarch had a manuscript of Homer, which Boccaccio commissioned to have translated (83).  It was not until Poliziano's Latin translation of 1488 that Homer became widely read in the West (84).

The pagan Neoplatonist Porphyry (third-fourth century Greek), a student of Plotinus, edited his master's great work, the Enneads, which became widely available to the Renaissance in the Latin and Italian translations of Marsilio Ficino, a member of Lorenzo de' Medici's Neoplatonic Florentine Academy in the late fifteenth century.  It is Plotinus who provides the idea of the Chain of Being and the notion of divine, symbolic correspondences.

Porphyry arranged and edited the work of his teacher Heraclitus of Pontus' Homeric Questions and wrote Cave of the Nymphs, both Neoplatonic, symbolic readings of the Greek gods. These were rediscovered and published in 1521; however, Porphyry's allegories had long been known through Augustine's attacks on them (as in De Civitate II.4). Porphyry was a  staunch foe of Christianity; Augustine appropriated Porphyry's philosophy but rejected his gods.  Renaissance humanists enjoyed Porphyry for both his philosophy and for his symbolic readings of Homer.

Another major follower of Plotinus is Proclus (fifth century A.D. Greek). Neoplatonists like Proclus tended to emphasize philosophy over rhetoric. He would have learned from Plotinus' Enneads that "the entire life of the practical man is a bewitchment" (4.4.43), and this would have included bewitchment by mere words.16  Likewise, our eye is cheated by the "labyrinthine mesh of the manifold" (2.8.1).17  The only solution is to be purified of our enchantment with the material world (Trimpi 199). 

Thus, for the Neoplatonist the purpose of divine knowledge or intuition (gnosis) is catharsis not cognition. There is nothing to learn and everything to unlearn in the process of returning to the One or Divine Mind. Proclus, in his Commentary on Plato's Republic, provides an important Neoplatonic theory of poetry, as applied to Homer. Along with it is a theory of reading in which the reader's ability to interpret poetry through the life of the soul depends on the soul's closeness to or distance from the One.

Taking Plato's idea (Republic 509D-511E) of a Divided Line between true ideas and material appearances--of intellection (comprehension) versus sensation (apprehension), Proclus creates three categories and relates them to poetry.18  Proclus's theory is a psychology and an ontology, in which the soul's capacity is measured by its ability to participate at different levels of divine being.  The individual's receptivity to poetry at different levels of understanding or gnosis reveals his or her closeness to true being (or distance from it), in terms of clarity and self-knowledge versus illusion and self-enchantment.

Proclus divides human perception into three types of soul, two above Plato's Divided Line in the realm of intellectual comprehension and one below the line in the realm of sensible apprehension.  The highest life is a contemplative union with the gods (the noetic) (Trimpi 211).19  In contemplating poetry, this is the level of divine madness, in which the poet and his interpreter rise to the domain of the eternal.

The second type of soul, a lesser image of the first, is still in the realm of ideas, but it functions in the realm of practical reason and scientific understanding (the dianoetic).  In terms of poetry, this is the realm of reason, prudence, and intelligent moderation. In other words, it is the realm of Aristotle in the Nichomachian Ethics and Rhetoric. 

In contrast to the realm of ideas of the noetic and dianoetic, the third type of soul exists below Plato's line solely in the realm of perception and random sensation (1.178.3-6)20  It is in this realm that poetry produces its imitations of natural objects. It is the world of appearances rather than the higher reality of the mind. Here the poet plays on the emotions of the audience or reader. Proclus subdivides the level of perception and sensation into eikastic and phantastic images, derived from Plato's Sophist (235D-36A). 

Eikastic images are mimetic, faithful imitations of nature, but fantastic images are not true to nature but are illusory, designed by the poet to beguile the audience or reader.  In defending Homer (and all poetry), Proclus claims it must have been fantastic poetry to which  Plato objected when he banned poets from his republic.

Like Porphyry, Proclus re-emerged in the Renaissance Neoplatonic revival.  Proclus' allegorical commentary on the Iliad, excerpted from the Commentary on Plato's Republic, was printed in Latin in 1542. Proclus says that Homer, like Plato, veiled truth in myth.  Whereas the simple prefer the literal, the godlike among men prefer the arcane and divine (Allen 87). Proclus's distinction between eikastic and fantastic images (along with that found in Plato's Sophist) seems to have stimulated a controversy in sixteenth-century Italy over the reality or nonexistence of fantastic images, as in the disagreement between Mazzone and Tasso.21

In England, Sir Philip Sidney discusses the question of eikastic versus fantastic images in The Apology for Poetry, printed posthumously in 1595 and probably written in the early 1580s.22  Echoing Plutarch, Sidney makes a moral judgment of eikastic and fantastic images:  eikastic images are good because they figure forth good things, whereas fantastic images are bad because they "infect the fancy with unworthy objects" (125).

Shakespeare's consideration of fantastic images as shown in his plays is more complex than Sidney's moral prescription.  In his dramatic representations, Shakespeare investigates the psychological and epistemological problems of fantasy, rather than omit them on the grounds that they are false, as Sidney recommends.

In terms of his audience in the public theater, Shakespeare would probably have found useful Plato and Proclus's division of the audience into three or four categories of understanding, considering the range of taste and discrimination he had to address.  He could have found these categories in any number of works. One example is by Shakespeare's contemporary, Abraham Fraunce, who provides practical directions for pleasing the various levels of one's audience, in The Third Part of the Countesse of Pembrokes Yuychurch (1592), in which Fraunce discusses Ovid's audience:

He that is but of a meane conceit hath a pleasant and plausible narration concerning the famous exploits of renowmed Heroes, set forth in most sweete and delightsome verse to feed his rurall humor.  They, whose capacitie is such as that they can reach somewhat further then the external discourse and history, shall finde a morall sence included therein, extolling vertue, condemning vice every way profitable for the institution of a practicall and common wealth man.  The rest, that are better borne and of a more noble spirit, shall meete with hidden mysteries of naturall, astrological, or divine and metaphysicall philosophie to entertaine their heavenly speculation.23

Shakespeare would have found something similar to what Fraunce says in almost any allegorical interpretation of scripture or secular literature. It was a ubiquitous assertion that great poets could and did provide, at various points, for the various expectations of different kinds of audiences or readers.

For instance, to return to the origins of such expectations, the Neoplatonic interpretation of the gods in Macrobius (fourth-fifth century Latin), in his Saturnalia and Commentary on the Dream of Scipio, is like that of Proclus. In his defense of Cicero's Dream, Macrobius expresses a preference for true things (res) over mere entertaining words (verba) that charm the ear. Those matters in myths that have philosophical importance are worthy of consideration, in that these involve ideas, "which surpass discourse and human thought" and can only be found symbolically in "images and examples" (Allen 209).24 

Important throughout the Middle Ages, Macrobius' Commentary was widely read by Renaissance Neoplatonists.  On the outer edge of Neoplatonic thought we find another important figure, the fifth-century Latin allegorizor and encyclopedist Martianus Capella who wrote The Marriage of Philology and Mercury and the Seven Liberal Arts.25  From the perspective of Pythagorean numerology and the mystery religions, the book is a "minute symbolic evaluation of the gods and the allegorization of their myths" (209). 

Indispensable in the Middle Ages, Martianus Capella was used by Renaissance Neoplatonists who were interested in esoteric symbolism, including Richard Mulcaster, who borrowed Martianus' method of allegorizing of philology in The First Part of the Elementarie (1582) dedicated to Queen Elizabeth.  As headmaster of Merchant Taylors' School in London, Mulcaster taught Spenser, Kyd, and Lodge.

Martianus' successor was the fifth-century Latin grammarian Fulgentius. Renowned in the Middle Ages, Fulgentius' Exposition of the Content of Virgil and Mythology influenced John of Salisbury, Bernard of Silvester, and Remigius of Auxerre (who wrote commentaries on Martianus Capella and others).  Petrarch read the Aeneid through Fulgentius' allegorical eye, and Boccaccio used Fulgentius in writing the Genealogia deorum gentilium ("On the Genealogy of the Gentile Gods") (Allen 217).  As Don Cameron Allen tells us, Spenser and Milton have Fulgentius to thank that "the myth of Cupid and Psyche is a Platonized version of a pious soul's union with Christ" (292).

Fulgentius says he was prompted to write the Mythology by his friend Calliope, who appeared to him in a dream.  When he informs her that he would like to write a poem that would reveal the underlying truth or mystical meaning of the myths, Calliope recommends that he consult with Philosophy and Urania, to whom she introduces him (Allen 211).

Fulgentius excels at etymology, and his allegorization of myths shows an ingenius mastery of symbolic technique.  His interpretation of the romance of Hero and Leander is worth quoting as an example of this method:

Love and danger are frequently companions, and while Leander, driven by Eros, the Greek for "love," swam toward his desired one, he did not know this.  Some think he was called Leander from "lusin androgunon," that is "weakness of men."  He swam at night, attempting risks in the dark.  Hero is the symbol of Love.  She bears a lamp, and what should Love carry but a flame to show the dangerous way to the yearning one. It is a flame quickly extinguished because young love does not endure. Finally, Leander swam in the nude because Love knows how to strip her disciples and throw them in a sea of danger.  With the lamp out both found death in the sea.  The significance of this is that the libido in both sexes dies when it is put out by the vapors of advancing years.  They were, therefore, said to die in the sea just as if it were in the cold humors of old age.  The little fires of heated youth chill in old age to a torpid lethargy. (Allen 211-12)26

Unlike Augustine, who emphasizes that the true literal/historical meaning in biblical interpretation must be grasped by faith before moving to a spiritual interpretation, Fulgentius looks at the literal image only as a way to get immediately to a higher understanding (the idea to which the symbol corresponds).

If Fulgentius' allegorizations seem absurd to us today, we need only remind ourselves that Fulgentius was perfectly serious, as far as we know, and he was taken seriously for over a thousand years by readers who found truth in his allegoresis.  Equally fantastic, and often for the same reasons, are many of the allegorizations of Ariosto that Sir John Harington derived from Italian interpreters (1591). However, the point is not what we think of such readings today but what Shakespeare might have thought of them as he wrote his plays.27

In the Italian Renaissance, the leading practioner of allegorical symbolism may have been Christoforo Landino, a member with Ficino and Pico of Lorenzo's circle of Florentine Neoplatonists.28  His Camaldulensian Disputations, set in the year 1468, discuss the allegorization of the Aeneid.  Landino presents his theory of allegory in the preface to his 1481 edition of Dante's Divina Commedia. It is worth noting his thoughts on Neoplatonic philosophy and allegory.

Landino paraphrases Plotinus' notion that before our souls descend into the prison of our bodies, they contemplated God.  To regain this knowledge is the task of mankind on earth, with the help of philosophers and poets. Landino invokes divine aid to reveal the truth hidden in Dante's poem, not only the natural sense of things but in the allegorical, tropological, and anagogical senses, all three of which may be called allegorical because of the consonance among them (145-6).

The connection to Augustine and the medieval quadrifaria is clear.  Moreover, in his own allegorical interpretations, Landino really only talks about two aspects of Dante's poem at a time, the literal and allegorical double meaning, in which, as he tells us, the "allegorical" includes any nonliteral meaning.

In 1487-88 he published his text of the Aeneid along with two of his own allegorical essays on the first six books of Virgil's poem. Landino proposes to reveal only what is darkened by "the style and figure of allegory" and says he will leave "vain double meanings and empty fable to sophisters" (Allen 146).29  He fears in advance the censure of those who through "their own imbecility" will say that he has imagined all the meanings he finds in Virgil's poem. In answer, he says that the Aeneid contains a hidden excellence.

Through the example of Aeneas, Virgil is talking about the summum bonum in "a free and continual discourse condemning vice, extolling the beauty of virtue, and commending the search for truth" (146).30  In contrast to Xenophon's life of Cyrus, which applies to rulers, Virgil's Aeneas is an example to all mankind regardless of rank, sex, or condition (148-9).  To Landino, Aeneas, in his epic career, moves ethically and spiritually toward the Highest Good.  Landino's allegorization of Virgil, informed by Christian Neoplatonism, is both moral and metaphysical.31

We can say further that to Landino Virgil's poem is a continuous epideixis, praising virtue and condemning vice with Aeneas the model or exemplum of virtuous conduct.  We can get a sense of Landino's allegorical interpretation in the following paraphrase by Don Cameron Allen from the Camaldulensian Disputations on the Aeneid:

"Transferring" (Landino's favorite word for "allegorizing) Troy into the emblem of man's first age, "when reason sleeps and the senses reign," he discriminates between the careers of Paris and Aeneas in the city of the sensations.  Aeneas, guided by his mother, the celestial Venus, escapes the conflagration, but Paris, abusing the right goddess and following the earthly Venus, perishes.  Aeneas gathers his family (strength of soul and the virtues) and makes ready to fly, but Anchises, or "bodily sensuality," refuses to leave pleasure and must be carried out on the strong part of the soul.  Aeneas' weeping as he leaves Troy simply suggests that though he is continent, he is not yet temperate. (150)32
Landino eventually gets to the end of Aeneas' voyage and concludes with advice to the reader:
You have seen, unless I err, a long journey filled with difficulties and wanderings, but one in which a man, amorous of virtue, finally attains his desired end.  Through many mishaps and trials Aeneas has finally arrived in Italy, his quiet home.  If we will imitate him, freeing our soul from bodily banes and refreshing it at virtue's clear fountain, we shall lead happily the same life while we are still in the flesh; and when, flying from thence, they return to their origin, we shall enjoy it forever. (153-4)33

Landino claims to represent the allegorical truth of the Aeneid.  There is no reason to assume that he does not mean what he says.

In Renaissance England the allegorical method of reading Virgil and Homer looks similar to that found in Italy. When Roger Ascham, author of The Scholemaster and tutor of Queen Elizabeth, wanted to warn young Englishmen against travelling to Italy, his example was Odysseus. The English traveller "will fall either into the hands of some cruel Cyclopes or into the lap of some wanton and dallying Dame Calypso. . . [or] some Circes shall make him of a plain Englishman a right Italian" (Allen 96).34  Although this may be the same as Landino's habit of allegoresis, Ascham may just be using an allegorical figure of speech.

We may also consider the case of George Chapman, a Neoplatonist who read his Homer symbolically, seeking in allegory the "Soule" of a poem.  He saw in Odysseus "over-ruling Wisdome" and "the Mind's inward, constant, and unconquered Empire, unbroken, unaltered with any most insolent and tyrannous inflictions" (Allen, fn 21, 91).35  We may assume that Chapman's allegorical reading of Homer is seriously intended, but this is also the George Chapman who wrote the bloody tragedies Bussy D'Ambois (1607) and The Revenge of Bussy D'Ambois (1613).  Chapman appears to be a serious Neoplatonist in one work and a serious Senecan in the others.

I mention the cases of Ascham and Chapman in order to suggest that whatever was going on in the fifteenth-century Florence of Landino, something a bit different may have been happening in sixteenth-century England.  If Shakespeare knew only part of the mass of allegorical interpretations available in print in the Renaissance, he would have been awake to the sorts of allegorical applications his audience might impose on his plays.


1Philip Rollinson, Classical Theories of Allegory and Christian Culture (Pittsburgh:  Duquesne UP, 1981).

2For the influence of Philo Judaeus on early Christian allegory, see Don Cameron Allen, Mysteriously Meant:  The Rediscovery of Pagan Symbolism and Allegorical Interpretation in the Renaissance (Baltimore:  The Johns Hopkins Press, 1970), 9, and H. A. Wolfson, The Philosophy of the Church Fathers, vol. 1 (Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1956) 46-63.

3Philo Judaeus, "On Creation," Loeb translation, Vol 1, 157, quoted in Rollinson (9).

4For Proclus's Neoplatonism see Coulter, Chapter 2, 39-60.

5J. Geffcken, "Allegory, Allegorical Interpretation," Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics, ed. James Hastings (New York:  Charles Scribner's, 1908) 328.

6Origen, Contra Celsum, Patrologiae cursus completus, Series Graeca, ed. J.P. Migne, vol 11 (Paris, 1857-1903) 1287-1503.

7On Origen's interpretive system, see Robert Alter, The Art of Biblical Narrative (New York:  Basic Books, 1981), 26 and Herbert Schneidau, Sacred Discontent:  The Bible and Western Tradition (Baton Rouge:  Louisiana State UP, 1977) 292.

8The connection between early Church fathers and Greek and Latin grammarians and rhetoricians needs to be emphasized.  The classically-trained Augustine corresponded with St. Jerome, the translator of the Bible into Latin (the Vulgate).  Jerome was educated by Donatus, the greatest Latin grammarian, who gave to Jerome a love for Cicero.

9For his theory of caritas, see D. W. Robertson, Jr, "Introduction" to St Augustine's On Christian Doctrine (Indianapolis and New York:  Bobbs-Merrill, 1958).  For the importance of this theory in the Middle Ages, see Robertson's A Preface to Chaucer (Princeton:  Princeton UP, 1963).

10Deborah L. Madsen, Rereading Allegory (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1994), 54-55.  Don Cameron Allen urges caution in characterizing Augustine's theory of allegorical reading:

When he talks of a triple allegory in De vera religione or a fourfold allegory in the later De utilitate credendi, he is clearly discoursing on distinctions in the literal or historical reading.  Probably the most open statement of his position appears in the De civitate, where, after summarizing some traditional interpretations of the Garden of Eden, he states that "a spiritual understanding" is permitted provided "it is also believed that the history of Paradise and the things done there are faithfully recorded." (16)

For Augustine, the spiritual interpretation adds to the literal/historical; it does not replace it.

11Although there are differences from Augustine and from each other in the details of interpretive practice, these medieval biblical scholars generally relied on Augustine and on the classical rhetoricians and grammarians--particularly Diomedes and Donatus--for their allegorical classifications and hermeneutic theories.  See Rollinson on Isidore's Etymologies (69-73), Bede's On Schemes and Tropes (73-77), Hugh of St. Victor's Didascalicon (80), and Glossa Ordinaria attributed to Nicholas of Lyre (77-79).

12Rosemond Tuve, Allegorical Imagery (Princeton:  Princeton UP, 1966) 55.

13Sir John Harington, Orlando Furioso, Translated into English Heroical Verse, ed. Robert McNulty (Oxford:  Oxford UP, 1972).  Most of Harington's allegoresis is lifted from Italian sources.  My overall impression of the historical, moral, and allegorical commentary is that it is more invention of the readers than intention of the poet, although occasionally the glosses do hit the mark as if by chance.  This failure to grapple with the text is the hallmark of this sort of reading.  In the hermeneutics of allegory as symbolic truth, if the interpreter's intention is pure--that is, morally and spiritually uplifting--it does not matter what the poet might have meant.

14Allen cites Augustine's letter to Evodius from Epistolae, ed. Migne (Allen 43).

15Augustine, Epistolae, cited by Allen (113).

16Allen, fn 10, 86.

17Plotinus:  The Enneads, trans. S. Mckenna, revised by B. S. Page with a foreward by E. R. Dodds and an introduction by P. Henry, S. J. (London, 1962).

18Plotinus, trans. A. H. Armstrong, LCL, 6 vols. (London, 1966- ).  Plotinus says,

 Those magnitudes that are of one form and like color throughout cheat our sight, too, because it is not very well able to measure them part by part, since it slips off them as it measures by parts because it has no firm resting-place given it in each individual part by its distinction from others. (2.8.1)

Wesley Trimpi describes this challenge to the eye as problem of "the labyrinthine mesh of the manifold" in Muses of One Mind (Princeton:  Princeton UP) 226.

19Plato, The Republic, trans. P. Shorey, LCL, 2 vols. (Cambridge, 1946), 509D-511E.

20For my discussion of Proclus and Plato's Republic I rely on Trimpi throughout, (209-219). References to Proclus are to Proclus Diadochus in Platonis Rem Publicam Commentarii, ed. G. Kroll, 2 vols. (Lipsiae, 1899) cited by Trimpi.

21On one side of this Renaissance debate were those who claimed fantastic images represented things that have no existence at all; on the other were those who argued for the poetic merit of using fantastic images.  See Tasso's Discorsi del Poema Eroico, Lib. 2, in Torquato Tasso:  Prose (Milano, 1959), 524-533 or Discourses on the Heroic Poem, trans. Mariella Cavalchini and Irene Samuel (Oxford:  Oxford UP, 1973).

22Sidney's essay was published by two different printers, Henry Olney called it An Apologie for Poetry and Willam Ponsonby entitled it The Defence of Poesie.  See Geoffrey Shepherd's introduction for a discussion of date of writing in Sir Philip Sidney, An Apology for Poetry, ed. Geoffrey Shepherd (Manchester: Manchester UP, 1973), 3-4.  References to Sidney's Apology are from Shepherd's edition.

23Abraham Fraunce, The Third Part of the Countesse of Pembrokes Yuychurch (London, 1592) 3-4.

24Macrobius, Saturnalia, ed. J. Willis vol. 1 (Leipzig, 1953) 17-34, quoted in Allen (209).

25Martianus Capella, De nuptiis philologiae et Mercurii et septum artibus liberalibus libri novem, ed. U. F. Kopp (Frankfort, 1836) 567.

26Fulgentius, Opera, ed. Rudolph Helm (Leipzig, 1898), trans. Allen, 211-12.

27The audience's habit of reading meanings into plays was so widespread that playwrights often warned them against attempting it.  In the prologue to Summer's Last Will and Testament (1592), Thomas Nashe says to the audience, "Deep-reaching wits, here is no deep stream for you to angle in.  Moralizers, you that wrest a never-meant meaning out of every thing, applying all things to the present time, keep your attention for the common stage; for here are no quips in characters for you to read," in Drama of the English Renaissance, ed. Russell A. Fraser and Norman Rabkin, vol. 1 (New York:  Macmillan, 1976) 441.

28Michael Murrin comments that Landino "did for literature what Ficino, by his works on Plato and Plotinus, accomplished for philosophy and what Pico began to do for the Bible with the Heptaplus," in The Allegorical Epic (Chicago:  University of Chicago Press, 1980) 27.

29Landino, in Virgil, Opera (Basil, 1577), 3051 and 3036, trans. Allen, 146.

30Landino, in Virgil, 3029, trans. Allen, 147.

31See Allen for an extensive discussion of Landino's allegorization of the Aeneid, 149-154.  Michael Murrin summarizes the metaphysical aspects of Landino's Neoplatonic allegorization of Virgil in the Camaldulensian Dialogues along with the assumptions that Landino inherited:

1. The soul, imprisoned or entombed in the body, has its true home elsewhere,
among the stars.
2. This situation is explained cosmologically by the notion that the soul
descends to this world through the constellation of Cancer and leaves again
through Capricorn.
3. A corollary is that Hades is in the space below the sphere of the fixed stars,
and narratives about Hell must therefore apply to our earthly existence.
[The human body and the material world are the true Dis (Macrobius).]
4. The rivers of hell, which ring Hades, then symbolize the soul's fall
5. And Troy symbolizes man's sensual condition, what he must leave (Proclus).
6. The horizontal journey of the epic hero consequently diagrams a vertical
movement, that of the soul out of matter and upward. (31)

32Landino, in Virgil, 3006-12, trans. Allen 150.

33Landino, in Virgil, 3051, trans. Allen, 154.

34 Roger Ascham, The Scholemaster, published posthumously in 1570, ed. Arbor (London, 1927) 72-4, cited by Allen 96.

35 Chapman's Homer, ed. A. Nicoll (New York, 1956), II.4-5, cited by Allen 91.