Allegoria Paranoia

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



"To what end are all these words?"  (The Taming of the Shrew 1.2.248). Petruchio puts this question to Hortensio in Act One of The Taming of the Shrew. In the same act, Tranio urges his master Lucentio to have fun with words, to chop or “balk logic . . . and practice rhetoric” just for the fun of it, if he feels like it (1.1.34-40).  Shakespeare seems to have had fun with his knowledge of the art of rhetoric, and he certainly knew the lawyer's and politician’s skills of making a case by drawing from commonplaces of shared understanding, connecting particular circumstances with appropriate general ideas to show the qualities that yield informed judgment.

It is not difficult to recall courtroom scenes in Shakespeare's plays in which the facts of a case are interpreted in opposite ways, argued on both sides—or cases in which logic is “balked” and “rhetoric” is used to deceive. Abraham Fraunce called his 1588 book about forensic skills and the art of disputation Lawyers Logike. A number of Shakespeare's plays are constructed around disputed claims, using all the tricks of chop logic and rhetoric to make us believe one way or the other—just like in the real world. 

The difference is that in Shakespeare’s time, although most of his audience might have been easily swayed,  some people, those trained in the art of rhetoric, would have seen clearly how some characters manipulated others--and the audience. Today, all too few of us understand the way we are being spun by “spin.”  The greatest of spin doctors, Shakespeare presents the disease and the cure, if we read him carefully.

In The Taming of the Shrew, when Petruchio asks, "To what end are all these words?" (1.2.248),1  one might imagine that, in some larger sense, Shakespeare is  directing the audience to ask this question of the play as a whole. I take Petruchio’s question as an invitation to re-examine certain plays, such as The Taming of the Shrew, Romeo and Juliet, The Merchant of Venice, Hamlet, Troilus and Cressida, and Antony and Cleopatra.  In these plays, the facts of the case (the events of the plot) seem to be pulled in opposite, sometimes multiple, directions by conflicting interpretations of the action by the characters.

Some playgoers or readers may not notice the complexity, those who hear and see the conflicting arguments must decide which interpretation is more or most probable.  In the plays I am examining, judges, juries, and audiences of various sorts are often featured in the plays themselves.  Thus, the audience is placed in the role of jury; and, judging among competing interpretations, we ourselves are implicated in the action.

In my view, some of Shakespeare’s plays invite these contradictory interpretations because Shakespeare is writing a certain kind of allegory—allegory as rhetoric and dialectic. These are complex allegories in which various, contested opinions are offered for judgment.  Whereas simple allegory is based on the idea of fixed and knowable truth, allegory as rhetoric "treads on the ground," as Shakespeare says of his mistress in Sonnet 130.  It makes not one meaning but many, to be weighed by characters and audience.

Allegory as rhetoric is unstable because, as dialectic, it poses questions, juxtaposes conflicting ideas, and counters received opinion, particularly metaphysical assertions about cosmic order and the nature of man.  In this way Shakespeare sets up certain ideas as truisms and commonplaces (what we might call “conventional wisdom”) and then examines these assumptions or assertions through the action of the play.2

Thus, certain plays are written so that the dominant rhetorical commonplaces advocated by the most articulate characters are contested by the unfolding action of the plot. Sometimes these contrasts are pointed out (or at) by characters within the play, but at other times these contradictions occur without comment.  In these plays, there are moments that stand as emblems, allegories in miniature, that seem to have no purpose unless they represent an invitation to interpret allegorically. These emblems provide in microcosm an alternative principle for argument in opposition to the dominant rhetorical direction of the play. These little allegorical moments offer a different ground upon which to stand and judge the action. In no way does one meaning necessarily replace another as the supposed real meaning.  Rather, the case becomes difficult, complex, and hard to judge.

Readers of Shakespeare generally understand that he writes for multiple audiences in the public theater.  He more or less tells us so in Hamlet:  at one end of the spectrum of understanding there are the "absolute" who will extract a didactic truth or moral allegory; then there are the "absolute" at the other end of the spectrum, the general public who just enjoy the action and spectacle; and then there are the "wiser sort" who can see more broadly and deeply.3

According to medieval theories of allegory that survived in Shakespeare’s time, the story is a mirror (a speculum), reflecting the character of the reader; the story judges the reader just as the reader judges the story.  A moment of self-judgment may occur if the reader or audience finally notices the personal implications of his or her own interpretation. 

Along with the medieval tradition of allegory, the other strain of allegory that might have influenced Shakespeare, there is the Classical tradition. Wesley Trimpi in Muses of One Mind says that any consideration of writers influenced by Aristotle, Cicero, Quintilian, and other Classical theorists of rhetoric must include three facets of literary theory:  form (structure or plot), character, and language.  According to a theory of rhetorical allegory implicit in Trimpi's work, I find in Shakespeare's plays an involucrum (an "enfolding") of various, often conflicting general ideas, each of which explains the unfolding action of the plot.

One or more ideas will be foregrounded.  These are not necessarily the most complete explanations of the action; indeed, there are likely to be many facts the dominant explanation fails to consider.  Nonetheless, these ideas are the most familiar and, thus, the most easily comprehended.  The obvious answers are also given the greatest rhetorical weight, through repetition and emphasis.  Other explanations may be less obvious but more likely because they better account for all of the action of the play.  The role of both characters and audience is to judge what they apprehend with their senses against the ideas they comprehend with their reason, to decide the best qualitative criteria for judgment.

The game of complex allegory is serious play in which the relative value of each explanation of the action may be judged against every other interpretation to decide the most probable, as Aristotle defines the probable/possible in the Rhetoric.  Although the game is about what is probable, there are plenty of characters who assert the eternal verities of metaphysical (transcendental) truth, as E.M.W. Tillyard in The Elizabethan World Picture is happy to tell us.  However, these supposed truths are open to question in allegories of rhetoric and dialectic.  As examples of the serious game of rhetoric, several of Shakespeare's plays may belong with Erasmus's Praise of Folly and Sir Thomas More's Utopia.

Among those interpreters of Shakespeare who have observed the workings of dialectical oppositions in various plays, I have found useful the work of A. P. Rossiter (Angel with Horns), Norman Rabkin (Shakespeare and the Problem of Meaning), and Joel Altman (The Tudor Play of Mind). Derrida's Of Grammatology and de Man's Blindness and Insight provide ways of talking about the self-deconstruction in Shakespeare's complex allegory.  However, the philosophical skepticism (the idea that we can know nothing) that I find in Derrida and de Man is not what I see in Shakespeare's plays, except in cynical characters like Thersites and Timon, whose views deny what they clearly ought to know.  Here, I think Stanley Cavell's essays on the recuperation of humanness from a rejected, essentialist (that is, transcendentalist) humanism capture Shakespeare's representation of the human and of what we as human beings can know rather than what we claim to know—probably but not absolutely.

Cavell's philosophical essays on Shakespeare's plays in Disowning Knowledge have influenced my thinking about Shakespeare and allegory, particularly his argument that we as an audience are implicated in the action, by our own response and interpretation, and by what we acknowledge or deny to be happening.  Along these same lines, in Stanley Fish's reader-response theory of Milton's Paradise Lost (Surprised by Sin) I see Milton as a writer of rhetorical allegory, arising more perhaps from Milton’s reading of Shakespeare than of his reading of Spenser.

We have lost sight of the notion of complex allegory.

When we think of allegory, we may recall John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress or Uncle Remus’ Tales of Br’er Rabbit.  This sort of allegory is not what I have in mind.  In such simple allegories, once we know the key, the rest is easy. But if Spenser's Faerie Queene is allegory and Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress is allegory, why use such a term for Shakespeare's obviously very different approach to writing plays?  The simple answer is that we have lost sight of the notion of complex allegory.  How this happened will take a while to unfold. 

To illustrate the current confusion about allegory, I would like to start by looking briefly at modern American works on the subject.  The first is by Edwin Honig, whose Dark Conceit (1959) is subtitled The Making of Allegory.4  As such, we might expect Honig's study to deal with how writers make allegory, but this turns out not exactly to be the case.  His models for allegory (his "center of gravity") are "a group of Romantic and contemporary writers--among them Melville, Hawthorne, and Kafka--who continue the allegorical tradition in literature" (vii).  He also includes Spenser and Bunyon.  Shakespeare gets a nod for Menenius' allegory of the belly in Coriolanus.

Honig calls allegory "metaphysical" thinking, "a fundamental way of thinking about man and the universe."  Allegory appears "on the borders between religion or philosophy and art, serving to frame significant questions about the nature of illusion and reality" (7).

Honig says that allegory is found in "twice-told tales" in which "some venerated or proverbially antecedent (old) story has become a pattern for another (the new) story" (12).  His example here is the one from Coriolanus.  Menenius' allegory is told in "rhetorical language" because "such a language produces self-reflective images" presumably between the old and new tale.  The "vital belief" of the allegory is expressed in the tale but also in "the parabolic way of telling and the reason for the retelling; the belief binds the one with the other, as a resolution and its hypothesis are bound together" (12).

To Honig, Menenius' allegory of the belly in Coriolanus "relates directly to the main action of the play to which it is a thematic foreshadowing" (13).  The authority of the old tale is appropriated, remade, and renewed by the writer:  "To remake the subject the author creates a new structure and, inevitably, a new meaning" (13).  This is the extent of Honig's description of writing allegory.  Whether the new meaning of the "new" play, Coriolanus, corresponds to the new meaning of the fable of the belly, Honig never tells us.
Honig offers a useful discussion of Kant's aesthetic theory (and its Romantic offspring, Coleridge's symbolism). He offers a clear look at the Romantic Movement, which stands like a great wall between modernist assumptions on one side and ancient, medieval, and Renaissance views on the other, concerning poetics and rhetoric.

Honig says of Kant that "after dismantling the transcendental character of the unknowable in dogmatic philosophy," he replaces it with man, who--through reason, will, and imagination--is able in art to "raise the particular to the universal" (41).  In Coleridge's interpretation of Kant's aesthetic theory, this sort of art is not artificial but natural.  Symbols arise unconsciously, organically, from the senses and imagination and connect naturally to ideas, but allegory is premeditated and mechanical, impressing a predetermined form that artificially deforms experience.  Coleridge made this distinction in his Shakespeare Lectures (1818).

For Coleridge, Shakespeare is good because his images are organic and symbolic; Spenser is not so good because his images are artificial and allegorical.  "And so," Honig says,"if we take Coleridge's strictures on allegory literally, as most modern critics do, we find a case against the concept of a devalued sort of metaphor-making in poetry and fiction" (47).  Unlike the other "modern critics" to whom he refers (1959), Honig is not buying Coleridge's preference for symbolism over allegory:  "The main vehicles used for conveying material between speculative thought and imaginative literature are the figurative elements of metaphor, irony, symbol, and allegory.  Allegory,” he says,  “. . . serves more comprehensively than the other tropes in structuring the design of fiction" (54).  Perhaps allegory is not so stupid and artificial as Coleridge claimed.  Maybe it is more than Pilgrim’s Progress after all.

I would like to point out something that Honig never quite says.  Coleridge's preference for symbolism over allegory is not just an aesthetic and ethical judgment.  It is an epistemological claim that, through the artistic creation called symbolism, one can arrive, if only temporarily, at a visionary glimpse of true being.  Thus, symbolism is an ontologically true revelation, whereas allegory is a false, fictional, artificial construct.  Coleridge says this in The Statesman's Manual:

Now allegory is but a translation of abstract notions into a picture-language, which is itself nothing but an abstraction from objects of the senses; the principal being even more worthless than its phantom proxy, both alike unsubstantial, and the former shapeless to boot.  On the other hand a symbol . . . is characterized by a translucence of the special in the individual, or of the general in the special, or of the universal in the general; above all by the translucence of the eternal through and in the temporal.  It always partakes of the reality which it renders intelligible; and while it enunciates the whole, abides itself as a living part in that unity of which it is the representative.5

Here, we leave the world of literary theory and enter the realm of metaphysics.  The claim that organic unity yields truth in art through symbolism is a matter of faith. From the point of view of logic and rhetoric, Coleridge's symbolism is epistemological sleight of hand.

It is worth noting that Coleridge has structured his praise of symbolic transcendence in terms derived from classical rhetoric, which, as Aristotle tells us in the Rhetoric, does not concern itself with divine truth but with temporal, earthly judgment.

Perhaps rhetoric and Coleridge's attitude toward allegory have something in common, in which case the feigning of allegorical fiction would not be falsehood but would be (like rhetoric) the realm of the probable and possible.  If this should prove to be so, Coleridge's distinction between allegory and symbolism would be instructive.  As I pointed out earlier, Honig asserts that allegory is "metaphysical thinking . . . serving to frame significant questions about the nature of illusion and reality,” but he is uncomfortable with the metaphysical answers Coleridge insists that symbolism provides.

Angus Fletcher, in Allegory:  The Theory of a Symbolic Mode (1964), picks up with Coleridge where Honig left off five years earlier.6  At first, it seems that Fletcher utterly rejects Coleridge's (and Goethe’s) Kantian distinction between allegory and symbolism.7  Fletcher says,The word "symbol" in particular has become a banner for confusion, since it lends itself to a falsely evaluative function whenever it is used to mean "good" ("symbolic") poetry as opposed to "bad" ("allegorical") poetry, and in this way it clouds distinctions that are already difficult to make. (14)

In fact, Fletcher's purpose is not to reject the distinction between allegory and symbolism that Goethe and Coleridge drew.  Instead, Fletcher's goal is to recuperate allegory from prejudicial aesthetic judgments he regards as unfair--that is, "falsely evaluative."

To Fletcher, the contrast that Coleridge sees between the personal (and cosmic) Oneness of symbolism and the disjuncture of allegory is crucial, but Fletcher does not view this "duplicity of meaning in all allegory" (18) as a point against it; rather, Fletcher sees it as an advantage. 

Basing his conception of allegory on that of Coleridge, Fletcher praises the idea that Coleridge deplores, that allegory requires in the reader "a double approach, a double attention to the surface of works and to their psychic effects and significance, by rigid adherence to both psychological and rhetorical theories" (19).  But Fletcher never clearly defines what these psychological and rhetorical theories are, despite his repeated references to Aristotle, Cicero, and Quintilian.

One way of clarifying the nature of allegory is to mark the difference between writing allegory (allegory as rhetorical practice) and reading allegorically.

In an essay called "Ethical Criticism," the second chapter of The Anatomy of Criticism, Northrop Frye says, "It is not often realized that all commentary is allegorical interpretation, an attaching of ideas to the structure of poetic imagery."  His example is from Shakespeare: "The instant that any critic permits himself to make a genuine comment about a poem (e.g., 'In Hamlet Shakespeare appears to be portraying the tragedy of irresolution') he has begun to allegorize."8  His comment has to do with how we read and what claims we make (or do not make) for our interpretations.

Along these lines we might remind ourselves that in ancient Rome the Stoics, harkening back to Greece and the Homeric poems, reinterpreted the Gods in terms of natural forces, and Plutarch in the Moralia ("How to Study Poetry" 19 E-F) advocated reinterpreting parts of myths that would be injurious to young readers' moral growth by giving these parts a positive didactic spin.9 Macrobius in the Commentary on the Dream of Scipio asserts that ancient fables are vehicles for philosophic truth.  In this sort of allegorization the interpreter says either that the story does not mean what it says or that it means something in addition to what it says.10 

From the Middle Ages through the Renaissance, this method of reading flourished as a way of providing a Christian moral interpretation of various texts.  This imposed allegory or allegoresis is no longer considered legitimate interpretive practice, but Frye's comment should make us pause because it indicates a genuine problem for any interpreter.

Nonetheless, in terms of Shakespeare's audience, habits of allegorical reading (of finding political, moral, and spiritual meanings in texts) have a long history. (Please see Appendix 1.)  Perhaps as a consequence, Shakespeare makes the conflict among various modes of interpretation a key dramatic feature of his plays.  If Shakespeare knew only part of the mass of allegorical interpretation available in print in the Renaissance, he would have been awake to the sorts of allegorical applications his audience might impose on his plays.

To understand theories of writing allegory with which Shakespeare would have been familiar, I turn to a 1981 study of allegory by Philip Rollinson called Classical Theories of Allegory and Christian Culture.  It is, as he calls it, an "empirical survey of allegorical theories," the purpose of which is "to provide a common basis or starting point for future critics and criticism of allegorical poetry" (xiii).11  By coming to terms with terms used by ancient theorists, to learn what they "may have thought they were doing or were taught they were doing in . . . writing allegorically" (vii), we discover what Shakespeare might have known about allegory as rhetoric and dialectic.

Rollinson begins by pointing out that the word allegory in Greek means "other-speaking" (3)--that is, meaning something other than what you say.12  Originally, allegory functioned only as a "grammatical/rhetorical" term "designating a trope or figure of speech with seven species, a designation which Diomedes still reflects in the fourth century A.D." (3).  Eventually, however, the word allegoria was put to use as a term in interpreting poetry.  For this process of finding hidden meanings in stories, the ancient Greeks used the word hyponoia, which means "undermind" or underlying meaning.  Rollinson says that

finding hyponoiai was a pre-Socratic practice of rhapsodes, who not only recited but also interpreted Homer.  This sort of interpretation of Homer and ancient myths was rejected by Plato, by Aristotle, and by the Alexandrian scholars (3rd-2nd cents. B.C.) but was adopted, legitimized, and perpetuated by the Stoic school of philosophy.  In later antiquity Greek Neoplatonic philosophers (3rd-6th cents. A.D.) also adopted this method of interpreting, and so appropriated Homer and ancient mythology. (3)13

The association of allegoria, a figure of speech in rhetoric, with hyponoia, a term for a certain kind of reading or interpretation, seems to have occurred in Greece sometime before the second century A.D.  Rollinson points out that the interpretative work on undermeanings in Homer, probably from the first century A.D., is entitled Homeric Allegories, and that Plutarch, in the early second century A.D., says in the Moralia (in "How to Study Poetry") that hyponoiai are now called allegoriai (3).14

What we find is that two distinct processes are conflated in the term "allegory."

Whereas one theory considers allegory from the point of view of the potential orator or writer, the other deals with allegory from the perspective of the reader/interpreter of written texts.  Although the word "allegory" after Plutarch potentially carries both of these meanings, Rollinson's study makes it clear that writers who concern themselves with allegory are usually concerned with one or the other.  From a theoretical perspective, it would be useful to preserve the distinction between allegory as rhetoric (from the speaker/writer's viewpoint) and allegory as interpretation (from the reader/exegete's viewpoint).

In ancient treatises, schoolbooks (progymnasmata), and handbooks on rhetoric, allegory as "other-speaking" destabilizes meaning by saying less than or other than one intends, to delight the listener/reader by the variety of expression and enjoyment in the difficult acquisition of understanding, and to protect the speaker/writer by hiding politically dangerous matter.  Rollinson lists elements of ancient rhetorical theory that possibly relate to allegory:

(1) other-speaking (by similarity or contrast)

(2) a succession of metaphors

(3) seven species [of tropes]--irony, antiphrasis, riddle [aenigma], charientismos, astismos, sarcasm, and proverb or proverb and application

(4) visualizing and concretizing the invisible and abstract

(5) symbolic gods and events

(6) personification

(7) allusion

(8) literal, external concealment of a hidden, inner meaning

(9) fable as impossible story

(10) concealed biographical reference

(11) analogy as comparison, parable, example [paradigm], or fable. Clearly, these elements are all interrelated and in some cases are subordinated to each other. (Rollinson 18)

(See Appendix 2 for a discussion of these terms as used in ancient theories of allegory.)

Since allegory is other-speaking, the speaker/writer's intended meaning is always potentially unstable.  (We can also turn this idea around and argue that any unstable text is likely to be allegorical.)  Figures of speech (tropes) tend to be more stable than figures of thought; for instance, antiphrasis, turning a word’s meaning against itself, is theoretically an easier figure than a more generalized irony of tone.

In terms of the actual concealment of a hidden, inner meaning, the speaker or writer must drop a hint or leave a clue as to what is going on:  "For successful communication to take place," Rollinson says, "the allegorical expression must be assisted by some means other than, and beyond, its own verbal expression" (21).

As Northrop Frye tells us in Anatomy of Criticism, "We have actual allegory when a poet explicitly indicates the relationship of his images to examples and precepts, and so tries to indicate how a commentary on him should proceed" (90).  This need not be as explicit as Spenser's letter to Raleigh about The Faerie Queene.  (Such external sources have their problems, as well.)  To ancient theorists of rhetoric, the use of clues seems to have constituted sufficient hint to the listener or reader, since the incompleteness or disjuncture between statement and situation ought to invite an allegorical reading.15

One way to stabilize a text that shows the allegorical tricks of rhetoric is to deny that the text contains any such thing.  Another response is to foreclose the instability of meaning by imposing a predetermined, specific context of application that the interpreter assumes is generic to all allegory.16  Both of these moves resolve complexity into simplicity—or over-simplification.  By contrast, complex allegory offers no easy solution.

As Sister Miriam Joseph amply proved years ago in Shakespeare’s Use of the Arts of Language, Shakespeare was skilled in the devices of classical rhetoric. She has shown that Shakespeare as rhetorician used tropes  such as irony, antiphrasis, riddle, charientismos, astismos, sarcasm, proverb, and fable.  One may also add his use of allusions to a prior text, and anything that qualifies as a truism.

Whether or not Shakespeare wrote allegory (This remains to be seen.), he used the devices of rhetorical allegory in all of his plays. In allegory as rhetoric and dialectic, conventional wisdom is presented as epideixis (the praise of the familiar and conventional), a kind of "overshowing," as the word  tells us, by pointing out what is generally believed to be true, as Joel Fineman says in his book on the sonnets called Shakespeare's Perjured Eye.

However, like the other devices of rhetorical allegory, epideictic rhetoric does not provide stable ground from which to judge, since it is likely to be undercut by one or more competing arguments—or facts.  As an audience, we are expected to weigh everything against everything else, including commonly accepted maxims, to interpret what is happening.

In allegory as rhetorical practice, allegorical tropes and figures are combined within an overall structure of what Aristotle refers to as ethos, logos, and pathos.  I refer not to the way these three are arranged as the ethical, logical, and emotional parts of an oration.  Rather,  I am thinking of their function as rhetorical proof.  Here logos works as a logical principle of order--from particular episode to general idea (Poetics 1451b9)--to achieve a sense of probability or necessity (Rhetoric 1.2.15-16, 1357a35-57b2).  Logos is aided throughout by ethos and pathos as affective "coloring" of character and emotion.17

In complex allegory, the practitioner uses the tools of rhetoric to lead characters and audience into a labyrinth of words--to create slippery tropes, false logic, false character, false impressions, and multiple interpretations.

It is the task of the characters and the audience to find their own way out. For the characters and for the reader as audience, allegory as rhetoric and dialectic is about reading; it features the act of interpretation.  Rhetorical allegory is radical:  it goes to the roots of words and plays with multiple, sometimes opposite meanings.  This kind of allegory is ambiguous or ambivalent (as in "ambi-valent").  Allegorical rhetoric is often ironic.  Allegorically important words like "love," "kind," and "natural"—as with Mark Antony’s “honorable”--often fall into antiphrasis.

Allegorical texts contain allegories in miniature, hints that comment obliquely on the larger narrative, such as moments in which well-known fables and parables are recounted or alluded to as proverbs or memorable sayings (sententiae) in a context that is at odds with their conventional meaning; or the part of the fable or parable highlighted by the text is undercut by the part of the fable or parable that is left out.

Allegorical texts rely on prior texts as intertexts, usually the Bible or a classical authority such as Homer, Aristotle, Virgil, or Ovid; however, the allegorical author may treat the intertext in such a way that the relationship between text and prior text is destabilized.  In all of these cases, it is the reader's job to figure out where the various structures of the text are pointing.  Allegory as rhetoric plays with meaning, but it is not just a game. It is one of the rules of the game called "allegory" that the text has to have some end in mind.18

Allegory as rhetoric and dialectic may feature characters who adhere to a self-deceiving, destructive hermeneutic code of interpretation, a kind of madness or fantasy as if in a dream (or nightmare).  They meet  other characters who also may be self-deluded (self-mystified by their own vices or voices) or purposely false (liars, sophists, or ironists of various sorts).  Other characters may try to guide them away from misinterpretation toward a better hermeneutic strategy.  The reader of the allegory may be as guilty of bad reading as the characters--unless the reader manages to guess the probable hermeneutic key.

In some allegories, the writer tells us how to read, stabilizing his own text by revealing the "true" hermeneutic.  This can be done in advance in a preface, or as the story goes along in a gloss within the text or in a footnote.  Some readers of allegory regard this as cheating.  It indicates that the writer distrusts the reader's ability to figure out the significance unaided by anything but hints and clues.

If we are impaled on one horn of the dilemma, the unstable allegorical text may not be read as allegory at all, in which case the reader is "redeless," a medieval term for a person who does not know what is going on.  Today we sometimes call such people "clueless."  The opposite horn of this dilemma is the imposed reading or overreading.  Because of the instability of allegorical rhetoric, a text that is written in allegorical form is not as easy for an interpreter to turn into allegoresis as a text that does not indulge in allegorical tropes and allegorical figures of thought.

This sort of over-reading in the place of understanding is Rosemond Tuve's objection to the allegoresis imposed upon the "already formally allegorical Romance of the Rose" by interpreter Jean Molinet and, slightly later, by Clement Marot in the early sixteenth century (233).19  It would be useful at this point to distinguish, as Tuve does, between a text that is truly allegorical and an imposed allegorical reading of such a text.

In Marot's version of the allegorical truth of the Romance of the Rose, the inspiration of the Holy Spirit provides the moral sense of the allegory. Tuve does not dispute the validity of Marot's pious statement, but she says that "what is missing is any attempt to face the problem of what we are meant to do with the contradictory portions into which the Holy Spirit has clearly not tried to breathe anything more than their original thoroughly immoral meanings--the cynical tricks of La Vieille, the gold-digging tactics of the advising 'Friend'" (235).

Further, Tuve says that Marot's interpretation violates the general idea of the whole narrative, which asks the question "What is love?" and answers it by numerous definitions, represented in the action and the speeches, of what love is not (262).

Tuve points out that, like Marot, Jean Molinet runs into difficulty from a blindness to the decorum of the poem and the end toward which the structure of the poem's hints and "arrows" inevitably point (243).  As a result, Molinet misses the myriad, minor violations of decorum by the characters in their self-interested, self-deceived conceptions of love, as they reveal their own inadequacy and the speciousness of their interpretive practice.20

 Of Amant, the Lover in Jean de Meun's continuation of Guillaume de Lorris's Romance of the Rose, Tuve says:

Jean de Meun was firmly interested in the relation of eternal beatitude to heavenly and earthly love, but the riotous gallop of his ironies shows that, while the blasphemously "loyal" Lover can be deceived into thinking his plucked Rose will teach him something about paradise other than an earthly paradise with a serpent in it, Jean de Meun is not so deceived; and he is using every device of writing to make us notice the Lover's deception with amusement. (237)

The “devices” to which Tuve refers are the devices of allegorical rhetoric.  Jean de Meun uses them to point beyond the fallen language of the text toward what Tuve calls "saving knowledge" (51), which is the perfect use of the rational soul to arrive at a right understanding of human ends and the "ultimate destinies of souls" (245).

This “saving knowledge” lies just beyond the scope of the text, in the horizon of the reader.  Tuve tells us that, as readers of Jean de Meun’s Romance of the Rose,“we have the advantage of being the sole spectators who detect through the author's ironies the mirthful cracks he points out in each succeeding definition of the Rose" (239)--unless, of course, we are as lost in the labyrinth of words and our own self-deceit as the Lover and his counselors.  Jean's use of the tricks of rhetoric and faulty logic to point toward an absent, saving hermeneutic is a serious game, but Jean risks our missing the point, if we fail to recognize the game or if we misinterpret the rules by imposing our own.

Tuve says Jean's allegorical technique "is not rhetorical persuasion, but the mere action of language, based on innumerable common evaluations of experience," but then she tells us that "words, images, details, cannot but 'diminish' or 'magnify'" and that "earlier poetics named this phenomenon" (243).  This magnification through adornment or diminution has a name in the art of rhetoric; it is called epideixis.  The poet or orator uses it to show the worth or worthlessness of a person or object.21 

If his epideixis purposely adorns an unworthy object or denigrates a worthy one, the speaker is a sophist or ironist—or his character is base, lacking a proper sense of decorum.  In her version of allegorical writing, Tuve says that proper adornment points toward spirit; diminution produces a downward movement away from the spirit, which Angus Fletcher calls "katagogy" (Fletcher 142).  Epideixis is a tool of rhetoric, Tuve's objection notwithstanding.

Tuve asserts that "it is because its particulars may at any moment be seen for their metaphorical meaning that allegory could keep them so transparently tied to universals" (253).  However, it is by no means the case that allegorical rhetoric is as "transparent" as she says; otherwise, all readers would see it.  She is right, though, when she says that allegory probes "the roots of error" such as "self-aggrandisement and self-indulgence" (266) or want of empathy and genuine love that lead to willful blindness:  this is the radicalness of allegory.

Allegorical rhetoric is a trap.

The key to reading allegory is to pay attention to decorum (the fitness of things) and to lapses from what seems appropriate--"the contexts and speakers, audiences and startling conclusions to arguments" (274).  We also need to reflect on our own preconceptions and biases, because allegorical rhetoric is a trap for us as much as it is for the characters in the story, so that we do not find ourselves in the situation of the allegorizer, the reader who imposes his own allegorical interpretation, such as Jean Molinet who failed to notice, at the conclusion of the Romance of the Rose, that the supposed lover of the Rose ends up raping her.

Complex allegory is a speculum, a mirror of the reader’s own character. To interpret rightly or wrongly would be an indication of one's moral and spiritual condition.  (In Surprised by Sin, this is Stanley Fish’s point concerning the complex allegory of Milton’s Paradise Lost.)  We are as we read.

However, since complex allegory consists of a bunch of rhetorical tricks, a good reader could be a good interpreter without being a good person—if that reader were trained in the art of rhetoric.  Shakespeare creates such a skillful, amoral interpreter more than once in his plays.

Chaucer's Complex Allegory

An English example of allegory as rhetoric and dialectic, Geoffrey Chaucer's The Book of the Duchess, is worth considering here.22 It exemplifies the features and difficulties I associate with unstable allegory. The structures of the plot provide the hints and clues that mark the work as allegory:  a dreamer/narrator who is an actor in the story; allusion to earlier allegory as intertext (Macrobius); the use of ambiguous or polysemous terms such as "love," "heart," and "physician"; the insertion of a fabulous tale within the poem that may or may not have allegorical significance as an emblem (the story of Alcyone and Seys); and a conflict between hermeneutic codes.

Deborah Madsen in Rereading Allegory describes this conflict between interpretive codes:  she says that Chaucer contrasts the Black Knight's false metaphoric hermeneutic of courtly love with the dreamer/narrator's true Christian metonymic hermeneutic.  In the terms I have set forth in this study, Madsen is saying that, whereas Chaucer presents the Black Knight's courtly code as false allegorical rhetoric, he establishes the dreamer/narrator's Christian code as symbolic, allegorical truth.23  In Chaucer’s poem, this distinction is reinforced by contrasting images of the true versus the false "physician."

Madsen points out that the true physician is Christ, the only one who can cure the dreamer/narrator's eight-year malady of sleeplessness and melancholy:  "There is phisicien but oon / That may me hele" (Chaucer, The Book of the Duchess ll. 39-40).24  In contrast, Madsen tells us, the Black Knight's "physician" is his lady:  "Certainly in the case of the Black Knight his lady is the cause and cure of his malady" (79).

Madsen says that, because of the dominance of courtly love rhetoric over the true symbolism of the narrator's Christian hermeneutic, "the narrative is unable to make explicit a figural identification of sense and sentence.  So the relationship between narrative signifieds and the transcendental signifieds is discontinuous" (80).  I take this to mean that the appprehended "reality" of the story does not resolve itself neatly into comprehensible symbolism or allegorical truth.

Here I think Madsen goes wrong.  Because of the rigidity of the dichotomies (or binary oppositions) inherent in her structuralist theory of allegory, she misses the resolution between the Christian and courtly hermeneutics.  Actually, she does notice the resolution, but her theory leads her to misinterpret it.  She says,

Courtly and Christian discourses converge in the image of the physician, the spiritual guide who is able to bridge the separation wrought by death by pointing to the immortal that resides in the mortal. Neither the story of Alcyone and Seys, nor his witness to the symbolic hunt for the elusive "hert" could bring the poet to knowledge.  It is his perception of the Christian dimension of courtly values that brings the hunt to an end.  The encounter with a reified projection of his worldly attitude, in the Black Knight, wakens the poet from his spiritual torpor. (79-80)

Madsen is right that the dreamer/narrator awakens from his spiritual torpor, but his awakening is not caused by his seeing his own worldliness reflected in that of the knight.

Chaucer sets up the allegory so that this ought to be the right answer, but it is not.   Because the dreamer/narrator espouses a Christian point of view, Madsen assumes that Chaucer awakens the dreamer to the disjunction between his professed values and his worldliness.  Equally plausible is Madsen's assumption that the knight is worldly because he worships his wife, a form of idolatry that Chaucer in fact stipulates when the knight says he is in love's "thral" (l. 767).  His lady has his "herte" (l. 1153), and he gives "worship" to his "lady dere" (l. 774).  Madsen ought to be right.

However, if we look closely at the way the plot of the story actually goes, we must examine what the dreamer/narrator says about the way he read the fable of Alcyone and Seys, "whan [he] had red thys tale wel / And overloked hyt everydel" (ll. 231-2).  He is unmoved by the story and falls asleep.  Later, in the narrator’s dream, the Black Knight concludes his first long description of his lady, saying,

                        "And yet she syt so in myn herte
                        That, by my trouthe y nolde noght
                        For al thys world out of my thoght
                        Leve my lady; noo, trewely!" (ll. 1108-11)

The dreamer/narrator responds with a standard Christian admonition:

                        "Now, by my trouthe, sir," quod I,
                        "Me thynketh ye have such a chaunce
                        As shryfte without repentaunce." (ll. 1112-14)

The knight is outraged:

                        "Repentaunce?  Nay, fy!" quod he
                        "Shulde y now repente me
                        To love?" (ll. 1115-17)

He then says he would be a traitor to his beloved if he did so. When the dreamer/narrator is finally led by the knight to understand that the knight's lady is dead, his attitude changes from legalistic judgment to genuine compassion, as shown in the following exchange between them:

                                    "She ys ded!"  "Nay!"  "Yis, be my trouthe!"
                                    "Is that youre los?  Be God, hyt is routhe!" (ll.1309-10)

The dreamer/narrator's heart is moved by the knight in contrast to the way he reacted to the story of Alcyone and Seys. At that earlier point, he was literally ruthless. When his heart goes out to the knight, the dreamer finally feels the message of Christian love that was missing from his sterile pieties earlier.  It is caritas that bridges the opposing Christian and courtly hermeneutics, not any sort of symbolic intellectualizing.

The end has been accomplished:  "Al was doon, / For that tyme, the hert-hunting" (ll. 1312-13) because the knight's hunt was successful; he found the dreamer's heart, and the dreamer "awoke" to his own heart.  The Black Knight is not "a reified projection" of the dreamer's worldliness, as Madsen would have it, but a loving heart whose love is real despite (or even because of) the courtly code to which he adheres.

Thus, the difference between the Christian hermeneutic that is given privilege and the courtly hermeneutic that is inferior is crossed in a kind of allegorical chiasmus.  Chaucer arranges the fixed signs of Christian and courtly values and then deconstructs the signs and rearranges them so that the dreamer can awaken with Christian beliefs informed by charity, and the knight can head homeward.

The poem ends with a typical allegorical double vision, in which the passage allows us to focus one eye on the Black Knight as the widower John of Gaunt going home to Richmond and the other eye on the knight as a Christian going toward St. John and a celestial castle:

                        With that me thoghte that this king
                        Gan homwarde for to ryde
                        Unto a place, was there besyde
                        Which was from us but lyte--
                        A long castel with walles white,
                        Be Seynt Johan, on a ryche hill[.] (ll. 1314-19)

Unless we understand that the dreamer/narrator and the knight have gained something from one another, we may find this resolution to be a startling conclusion to the argument of The Book of the Duchess.

Because of the rigid binary structure of her theory of allegory, Madsen finds the ending unsatisfactory.  However, if we comprehend that Chaucer's allegorical rhetoric plays with these binary oppositions in order to resolve them into what Quintilian called a tertium quid (Institutio Oratorio 3.5.8-9), we may find, in this third way of seeing, a resolution that is quite satisfying.

In contrast to the reciprocal or chiastic resolution of The Book of the Duchess, we see in Chaucer's The Parlement of Foules a text that refuses to reconcile conflicting spiritual and earthbound hermeneutics.  Deborah Madsen observes that "the narrative is unable to create a relationship of figural identity between profane and sacred images.  Interpretation reveals only the blindness of the parliament to “'commune profit' and to God's 'lawe' alike" (81-2).

I would go further and suggest that Chaucer structures the tale so that the spiritual message and the fable of competing secular viewpoints of the fowls are shown to be irreconcilable.  As fowles, "fowls," the fabulous bird characters can only respond according to nature.  As allegorical "fools," these characters represent human beings whose various codes fail to include the Christian message of loving God and loving your neighbor as yourself.  A spiritual hermeneutic is beyond their ken.

In The Parlement, Chaucer provides the elements of allegory.  The main intertext is Tully's Dream of Scipio (Somnium Scipionis) (l. 31) of which Macrobius cared not a little ("Of which Macrobye roughte nat a lyte") (l. 111).  Chaucer appropriates Cicero's pre-Christian treatise on the Dream of Scipio (the fable with which Cicero ends his De Republica), along with Macrobius' fourth-century Neoplatonist Commentary on it.  Our poet learns from reading Cicero's Dream that the ghost of Scipio Africanus has told Cicero's dreamer about heaven, hell, and the "hard grace" of the world (l. 65).  Scipio describes "the wey to come into that hevene bliss" (l. 72):

                                                Know thyself first immortal,
                        And loke ay besyly thow werche and wysse
                        To commune profit, and thow shalt not mysse
                        To comen swiftly to that place so deere
                        That ful of blysse is and of soules cleere. (ll. 73-7)

Scipio tells how, when they die, "brekers of the lawe" will "whirle aboute th' erthe alwey in peyne" until the end of the world when these lecherous folk will "come into that blysful place, / To which to comen God the sende his grace" (ll. 78-84).

Although "fulfyld of thought" (l. 89), our poet does not find what he is looking for in Cicero's Dream of Scipio:  "For bothe I hadde thyng which that I nolde, / And ek ne hadde thyng that I wolde" (ll. 90-1).  Rather than spiritual philosophy, the poet, in the clutches of appetite, wants to learn a "certeyn thing" (l. 20) about Cupid, the god of love (ll. 1-21).  As he falls asleep, the poet imagines the worldly desires of other earthbound dreamers in a stanza that sounds like Mercutio's enigmatic Queen Mab, visiting dreamers in Romeo and Juliet.  Chaucer describes,

                        The wery huntere, slepynge in his bed,
                        To wode ayeyn his mynde goth anon;
                        The juge dremeth how his plees been sped;
                        The cartere dremeth how his cart is gon;
                        The riche, of gold; the knyght fyght with his fon;
                        The syke met he drynketh of the tonne;
                        The lovere met he hath his lady wonne. (ll. 99-105)

Scipio appears to our poet in a dream that promises to tell of love, as he leads the poet/dreamer through a gate into a park.  Over the gate appear two messages.  One side urges the visitor to come in, describing the place as "blysful" and the way to good adventure where hearts will be healed and deadly wounds wil be cured (ll. 127-33); whereas the "other side" describes "mortal strokes of the spere"--of love, I presume-- and of fruitlessness and dessication, of which "th' eschewing is the only remedye!" (ll. 134-40).

The poet/dreamer hesitates, but his guide Scipio shoves him through the gate.  Although the dreamer says nothing, Scipio sees error written in the dreamer's face.  I infer that the error to which Scipio refers has to do with the dreamer's preference for stories of carnel love over the love of God and the spirit contained in Cicero's Dream.  Scipio tells him not to worry about the signs at the gate.  He says the dreamer has lost his taste for love (l. 160), but he may be able to learn something, despite his dullness, by observing what he is incapable of doing (ll. 162-3).

The dreamer is led by the hand through a garden.  They see "Cupide, oure lord" and his daughter "Wille" (ll. 212 and 214) and various personified qualities such as Plesaunce, Curteysie, naked Beute, Youth, Foolhardynesse, and Meede (reward/bribery).  They enter a brass temple where they find six maidens hot with desire (l. 246) and Priapus standing in his usual position (ll. 253-7).  In passages translated from Boccaccio's Teseida, guide and dreamer see Venus half-naked and an ekphrasis "peynted overal" with "ful many a story" of lovers and in what plight they died (ll. 284-294).25

Considering the context of the dream thus far, we might expect the ensuing story to be a galeotto, a book pandering to lovers with love stories, or satisfying, vicariously, those who cannot do for themselves, such as our poet/dreamer.  However, what we get is a debate about which of three tersel eagles should be allowed to marry a young  formel or female eagle.  The St. Valentine's Day debate is judged by the goddess Nature, presented as if she were straight out of "Aleyn, in the Pleynt of Kynde" (l. 316), Alanus de Insulis, De Planctu Natura.

After much disputation by the foolish fowls, Mother Nature says that if she were Reason rather than Nature, she would counsel the formel to choose the noblest eagle, the royal tercel (ll. 632-3), but she allows the formel to choose for herself (l. 620-1), and the female eagle asks for a year's respite to think it over before making a choice (l. 648-9), saying, "I wol nat serve Venus ne Cupide, / Forsothe as yit, by no menere weye" (l. 652-3).  Then the birds all sing a roundel.

The poet/dreamer did not get whatever it was he wanted from Scipio in his dream.  The dreamer is apparently not part of the natural world of sexuality (natura naturans) that the fowls and Mother Nature seem to stand for; he can observe but cannot do, as Scipio tells him (l.163).  He will keep reading books until he finds "som thyng for to fare / The bet" (ll. 698-9).  Scipio describes the dreamer's desire as an error.26

The poem is clearly allegorical,  but the relationship is unclear among the parts--the spiritual Dream of Scipio, the carnal world of Venus and Cupid, and the natural world of the debate in the parliament of fowls.  The three codes define "love" in irreconcilable ways.  Chaucer uses the rhetoric of allegory to create an enigma on the verge of allegorical meaning.  The decorum of the poem does not allow for a resolution of the enigma.  To make sense of the enigma, readers must reach beyond the poem to their own personal, spiritual experience.27

My discussion of Chaucer's allegories and The Romance of the Rose is not based on an assertion that Shakespeare read these works, although he probably read some of them.  My point has been to show that there is such a thing as complex allegory--as distinguished from symbolic or transcendental allegory, and as further distinguished from imposed allegorical reading--and that allegory as rhetoric and dialectic observes certain conventions, including a range of destabilizing moves that we find outlined in ancient theories of rhetoric under the heading of allegory.

Perhaps it is clear by now that I regard allegory as a genre and that allegory as rhetoric and dialectic carries a number of characteristic, generic marks.  Based on theories of allegory found in classical rhetoric and discovered in actual allegorical texts available to Shakespeare, these marks suggest a decorum for reading allegory as rhetoric and dialectic, as opposed to the conventions of imposed allegorical interpretation (allegoresis) discussed earlier.

Allegory, Aristotle, and Plato

In England in the sixteenth century, the increased emphasis on training in rhetoric and logic seems to have created a new attitude toward language (or a renewed emphasis on classical attitudes), expressed in ancient texts about rhetoric and in an outpouring of handbooks on rhetoric printed in English.  The renewed, classical attitude toward language is Aristotelian, not in the medieval scholastic sense but as transmitted through Cicero and Quintilian.  The attitude of humanist rhetoricians and logicians can be distinguished also from that of humanist Neoplatonists and their faith in the transcendental capacity of language to yield symbols of truth.

The upward, noetic stability of language that we find in Neoplatonic currents of the medieval period--words connected to the divine through the Holy Spirit in the Augustinian view or the magic of words found in Isidore's Etymologies—yields to the view of words we saw in Jean de Meun’s version of The Romance of the Rose and in Chaucer’s The Book of the Duchess, and to the new "serious play" of rhetoric found in Erasmus' Praise of Folly and Sir Thomas More's Utopia. By the late sixteenth century, with the university wits and Shakespeare, the stage became the place of serious play with words.

Rhetoric makes no claim to truth but only to probability.  As a theory of literature, rhetoric tells us that poetry cannot lie because, as Sir Philip Sidney says in An Apology for Poetry, "paradoxically, but truly, I think truly, that of all writers under the sun the poet is the least liar" because "he nothing affirms, and therefore never lieth" (123).

Shakespeare’s humorous version of Sidney's paradoxical principle is Touchstone’s "the truest poetry is the most feigning" (AYLI 3.3.17-18).  Sidney is responding seriously to an opinion that Shakespeare seems to be poking fun at--the notion that poetry "is the mother of lies" (123).  Both Shakespeare and Sidney point out that the place of fiction is the place of rhetoric.  It is the space of serious play with words, existing between the divine breath invoked by the Neoplatonists and the idle breath (flatus vocis) described by the Puritan preacher William Perkins.28

Shakespeare's attitude seems to arise from two aspects of the Aristotelian theory of rhetoric.  First, despite rhetoric's power to move and persuade, the honest practioner of rhetoric makes no claim to absolute truth but deals instead with questions of the more and less likely--a wary, skeptical view of language as it relates to the roots of human experience.  Second, an audience well-trained in rhetoric and logic would understand how they were being played upon by the speaker who claims to know the absolute truth.

In listening to a debate or trial, auditors trained in rhetoric and logic may be expected to examine skeptically the various rhetorical maneuvers to decide among the disputants and judge which of the "stories" or versions of events is the most persuasive and closest to being right.

If, as I contend, Shakespeare is writing allegory in many of his plays, every epideictic speech or convincing explanation is likely to be contradicted by the ongoing words and actions of the characters in the plot.  Since allegorical rhetoric generally hinges on the abuse of language, each character and every member of the audience is responsible for his or her own interpretation, as an allegory of reading.  The "absolute" among the audience are likely to arrive at a different conclusion from those with better training in the arts of rhetoric and logic—but maybe not.  The well-educated might have their own reasons, of which they might choose not to be aware, for missing the point of the allegory.

For Shakespeare, the allegorical concept for a play would have begun with a plot or a pair of plots borrowed from history, narrative prose and poetry, or previous plays.  According to classical literary theory, the poet does not invent his stories.  He reworks old stories in new ways.29  We can imagine the dramatic hypothesis emerging as an act of creative imagination, in a vision of an ultimate scene or a few lines heard in the mind's ear, connecting image or phrase to idea.  In the allegorical image or lines, the concept would include the full range of conflicting general ideas of the play as a complex dramatic hypothesis.  This act of creative imagination is like the Italian concetto in its original meaning as an imaginative-intuitive figure that connects images and events to ideas through a kind of direct apprehension.30

The concetto is Sidney's "Idea or foreconceit of the work," which is "not in the work itself" (101) but rather functions as a dramatic hypothesis.  Sidney's mimesis or "to speak metaphorically, a speaking picture," is not just a representation of nature but a representation "imagined" but "not wholly imaginative," both airy and substantial (101).31  Thus, Sidney's mimesis is closer to Aristotle's in the Poetics than to the strict imitation of some sixteenth-century Aristotelians.  In allegory as rhetoric and dialectic, the unity of Sidney's Aristotelian foreconceit would become a multifaceted contest of competing concepts opening a space for allegorical complexity.

On a darker note, if we further imagine Sidney's Apology as an intertext, we might observe that frequently characters in Shakespeare act not on "erected wit" but rather on "infected will," the dark undernature of human nature.  In a grotesque parody of Neoplatonic vision, they leap to conclusions that are mad fantasy rather than divine insight (101).  Sidney tells us nature's "world is brazen, the poets only deliver a golden" (100).

Shakespeare's plays often show that it is just as easy for a poet (or a character in his story) to turn the brazen world into lead as into gold.  In Shakespeare's dramatic world, as in life, dark fantasies that “infect the fancy with unworthy objects" are not so easily disspelled as Sidney would hope (125).32  The danger of leaping into the epistemological nightmare of infected fantasy is the subject of Othello as well as the comedy Much Ado about Nothing and the romance A Winter's Tale.

Allegory as rhetoric and dialectic negotiates the space between the One and the Many, the mysterious labyrinth of intermediate causation in which truth and falsehood are intertwined.  Aristotelian demonstration creates the steps between what can be seen immediately by perception and what can be more slowly grasped as general issues or ideas that would explain what we apprehend (Trimpi 231).33

For Aristotle (and, I believe, for Shakespeare), the in-between or mixed space between the One and the Many is the domain of human knowledge.  In epideixis or dialogue, reciprocal relationships are most often expressed in proportional metaphors (Aristotle, Rhet 3.4.1-4, 3.11.1; Poet. 21.6) (fn 12, 175).  These similitudes are familiar perceptions used to elucidate less familiar, general ideas.  The quality of the metaphorical insight (as epideixis) depends on the worthiness of the general idea and the aptness of the analogy (decorum).

The "absolute" among the audience, at both ends of the scale of intelligibility, would not respond to the complexity. Those in between might have a complex response, enabling them to relate general principles to mimetic action, choosing from among the various explanations the one that combines the highest values with the clearest explanation of the action (132).

In Aristotle's rhetoric, character (ethos) is successful if it is believable, not because it is genuine or sincere (Rhetoric 2.1.1377b21).  The emphasis is on seeming not being, which in drama asks the audience to measure feigned integrity against perceived actions.  When the audience hears epideictic speeches, which interpret the action, radical skeptics in the audience, aware of the persuasive techniques of rhetoric, will judge what is "overshown" against what is shown by the action.34  Specific hints and clues to allegorical meaning would be couched as rhetorical indicators (deixis),   pointing to questions of interpretation. Of course, such potential hints and clues to an allegorical reading of the rhetoric and action must be approached with rhetoric's own skepticism.

The key to validating these hints and clues lies in the plot or plots.  If we follow the formal structure of the plot, we will be able to see the logical structure of the argument.  As we see in the plays, for Shakespeare, “argument” could mean plot or theme—or both.  Interlaced double plots complicate the argument, potentially creating an allegorical doubleness, in which events in one plot are compounded, confuted, or refuted in another.  Likewise, double plots involving "twinned characters," whether they are actually twins or not, transform perceptions of value as each plot reinforces or deconstructs the other.

These are the rhetorical tricks inherited from romance, the natural home of allegory and "double vision" of various sorts, including the philosophical/spiritual double vision that may imply a teleology—or question such an implication.

Shakespeare uses the Roman rhetorician Quintilian's division of literary narratives into fables, fictional argument, and history (2.4.2) in various combinations.  The argumentum is the realm of dramatic action.  In his historical plays, Shakespeare combines in his plot the facts and individual cases of history with general ideas, but these ideas are not always the high philosophical principles that Sidney's Apology recommends (106-8).  There are few "Cyruses" in the history plays to provide examples of virtue.

In the first tetralogy (1 Henry VI through Richard III) the pride, envy, and ambition on all sides lead to violence and revenge.  Worthy characters who represent high ideals die off, like Talbot in 1 Henry VI.  Others who comprehend the value of reason that leads to moderation, like Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester (2 Henry VI), die at the hands of Jack Cade and his rebels who will not listen to Duke Humphrey's conciliatory words. The space for constructive dialectic, which would lead to an understanding of events in light of the highest general ideas, is foreclosed in these plays.  The operative general idea is retributive justice.

However, a higher perspective is presented in 2 Henry VI and Richard III.  When intriguers like Warwick (3 Henry VI 5.2.5-28) and Buckingham (Richard III 5.1.12-29) die on the molehill of their own ambitions, they confess before God to the vanity of their earthly strivings.  They sound like the repentent souls of ambitious men speaking from the grave in the allegorical A Mirror for Magistrates.  The allegorical meaning is thus separated from the historical actions of foolish men, just as it was by Chaucer in The Parlement of Foules.

In the first tetrology, the violence caused by a discourse obsessed with self-interest inevitably would have disgorged a Richard of Gloucester--the ultimate actor, false seemer, and rhetorician--whose protean, Machiavellian games destroy his lesser enemies and himself.  As allegory Richard III has more in common with tragedies like Hamlet and Othello than it has with the history plays of either the first or second tetralogy.

In contrast to his historical plots, Shakespeare uses fabulous plots of the benign sort to create a dilated, atemporal space for play that is more or less immune to the immediacy of historical time.  The mythical world and green world offer a place where empty disputation can give way to the dialectical process of reconfiguring apprehended reality in light of higher general ideas and values than those available formerly.

This process of seeing with new eyes begins with wonder.35  It encourages the characters and audience caught up in amazement to begin to rethink and redefine terms like "love" and "humanity."  The end is to remember what it is to be human by placing characters in a situation where they are estranged from the familiar.  This is the case in comedies such as A Midsummer Night's Dream and As You Like It, and in rather more complicated ways in romances like Pericles, Cymbeline, The Winter's Tale, and The Tempest.

In Shakepeare's allegory as rhetoric and dialectic, the plot is always convoluted and "doubled" in some way.  If there is only one plot, there will be multiple, disputed interpretations, as in a legal case—as we find in Abraham Fraunce’s Lawiers Logike.  In the various versions of the story, disputants might consciously (as sophistry) or unconsciously (as self-blindness) resort to logical fallacy.  Their propositions might be based on a false assumption or on a slippery equivocation of words.  The most common, according to Sister Miriam Joseph, the compiler of Elizabethan use of rhetorical devices, is the secundum quid, which confuses an absolute with a qualifying statement, as when Hamlet recognizes that the clown digging Ophelia's grave insists on taking Hamlet's questions in an absolute rather than a qualified sense (195).36

If such false reasoning goes unremarked in the play, those in the audience who are trained in the logic of rhetoric will interpret the mistake and judge accordingly.  An audience trained in the art of rhetoric would understand the use of elenchus (a technique used to refute a logical error such as the secundum quid).

A character may make an illogical statement or may draw a conclusion contrary to the proposition set forth by another, or may draw a false conclusion from his own argument.37  If no one onstage notices the fallacy, a wise audience still might react with shock or amusement, depending on the gravity of the circumstance, and apply the elenchus to refute it, as when in Troilus and Cressida, Hector argues for the return of Helen and then concludes that the Trojans must continue to fight to keep her.

Another important logical fallacy Shakespeare uses is the imaginative conceit called suppositio, in which a fictional hypothesis or supposition is misconstrued as a matter of fact.  This is the fictional basis of Plautus' Menaechmi and Terence's Eunuchus and Captivi.  Ludovico Ariosto revived the suppositio in the early sixteenth century in his play I Suppositi.  It was translated by George Gascoigne as Supposes (1566).  Shakespeare used the device in the Comedy of Errors and Twelfth Night.  I would contend that in The Taming of the Shrew Shakespeare used the idea of false supposition not only in the Tranio-Bianca plot but, more darkly, in the Petruchio-Kate plot as well.

In Shakespeare, the dramatic plot may begin with a logically flawed or inadequate hypothesis or general idea put forth as truth.  As the plot develops, a dialectic between the individual case and various other general ideas unfolds as well.  The play presents refutations, contradictions, and redefinitions of the original hypothesis toward the highest general question or idea.  This process of unfolding is never entirely obvious, and the audience must follow the action and the rhetoric to see the allegorical process in the structures of the plot.

In rhetorical theory, individual cases will make sense only when they can be related to generic questions of quality.  Only then will one be in a position to judge.38  For the Romans, general questions of honor, utility, and equity yielded qualitative status,or grounds, for judging.39  Christianity adds three more--humanity, mercy, and love (caritas)--which are only ensured by divine grace.  For example, we find general questions of humanity, equity, mercy, and grace represented in The Merchant of Venice, along with ambiguous evidence as to whether or not the characters embody such virtues.

Shakespeare frequently shows that virtuous action occurs only in cases where humanity and grace yield equity and mercy.  We may hear from characters that such qualities are operating when in fact the plot, if we use our eyes and ears to see and hear for ourselves, shows us that what we are told is actually false.  When this happens, we have negative examples--of the breach rather than the observance.  Issues of quality inform action with value.

Shakespeare as allegorist also presents lesser values, which may be presented as persuasively as (or more persuasively than) worthier ones.  Each of us in the audience must find a place from which to judge, but not all judgments are equal.  In dialectical inquiry, one judgment would be better than another on a scale of right and wrong, just as one explanation of action is more probable than another, depending on the ideas that inform the judgment.

In contrast to the way in which positive issues of quality illuminate the actions of plot and character, we find the use of color to conceal and obscure them.  The word "color" derives from the Latin celare, which means "to conceal."  For example, a lawyer colors the facts of a case to provide motive.  In terms of dramatic theory, color is rhetoric that falsely "paints" the characters and events of the plot to give them a certain slant or spin.  Color affects the audience through the senses.  It works opposite to general ideas of quality.

When genuine qualities are present, they need no rhetorical coloration to embellish them:  thus Berowne’s exclamation in Love’s Labor Lost,“Fie, painted rhetoric!”(4.3.235).  In a theory of allegory as rhetoric, color provides verisimilitude to the plot, but it also creates a disjunction between perceived reality and cognitive comprehension, so that the affective understanding (of the heart) and the cognitive understanding of general issues of quality (of the head) will be at odds. Our feelings color our judgment.

When this happens, and it always happens in Shakespeare's plays, we may end up seeing two entirely different plays.  In one, the plot is colored by our emotional reaction.  In the other, the plot is illuminated by our qualitative insight.  Some members of the audience will see one and miss the other.  As participants in the action, those members of the audience who experience both aspects of the play may themselves experience an allegorical self-division.

In Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, the affective and aesthetic effect of the poetry obscures or colors the general question revealed by the plot; that is, why do Romeo and Juliet die?  In Othello, the ideas and images spouted by Iago color, and infect, the entire play.40

Shakespeare's plays inhabit a paradoxical world in which, on the one hand, words are magic shaping fantasies with the power to infect and to cure.  This is the view of romance—and of Plato.  On the other hand, words are only words.  This is the Aristotelian view of words as rhetoric.  In allegories of rhetoric and dialectic—as in the real world--these two ways of experiencing the effects of words are at play.  In all such cases, it is up to the audience to weigh and judge.




1 All quotations from Shakespeare's plays are from William Shakespeare, The Complete Works of Shakespeare, updated 4th edition, ed. David Bevington (New York:  Longman, 1997).

2 Graham Bradshaw argues that Shakespeare approached his plays not with answers but with questions about nature and value, interrogating through his plays the inherited ideas and commonplaces of his culture.  Bradshaw calls this habit of questioning "radical scepticism."  According to Bradshaw, the contest or debate between conventional beliefs and skeptical questioning of such beliefs accounts for the complexity of Shakespeare's vision, Shakespeare's Scepticism (Ithaca:  Cornell UP, 1990) x.

3Skeptical readers such as Richard Levin object to contemporary interpretations of Shakespeare's plays that divide possible audience responses into those of the "groundlings" and the wiser sort," "The Relation of External Evidence to Allegorical and Thematic Interpretion of Shakespeare," Shakespeare Studies 13 (1980):  22.  Levin notes that Sir John Harington's oft-cited theory in A Brief Apology for Poetry, preface to Harington's 1591 translation of Orlando Furioso,which says that an allegorical work is a banquet fit for stomachs of varying capacities, is poor evidence of allegory intended for multiple audiences in Shakespeare. Levin objects on the grounds that Harington was not talking about drama and that Harington himself admits that in his own time such multivalent allegorical writing was no longer in vogue. Nonetheless, there is a fair amount of evidence that Shakespeare's contemporaries expected poetry to yield different interpretations to different kinds of readers.  In The Third Part of the Countesse of Pembrokes Yuchurch  (London, 1592), Abraham Fraunce, like Harington, speaks of readers who interpret poets (in Fraunce's case Ovid) according to their capacity--for pure delight, for the moral sense, or for the philosophy--according to an ascending scale, 3-4.  Although Shakespeare wrote no prefaces to his plays, Hamlet contrasts the fool multitude with the discerning few (Hamlet 2.2.434-9).  In a handwritten note in his copy of Speght's 1598 edition of Chaucer, Gabriel Harvey wrote that Shakespeare's "Lucrece, & his tragedie of Hamlet, Prince of Denmarke, have it in them, to please the wiser sort."  Harvey's note is reproduced in The Norton Shakespeare, ed. Stephen Greenblatt (New York:  W. W. Norton & Company, 1997) 3329.  Clearly, some of Shakespeare's contemporaries expected poetry and plays to appeal to a wide variety of interpretive capacities, an approach to writing and interpreting plays with which, I contend, Shakespeare would have concurred.

4Edwin Honig, Dark Conceit:  The Making of Allegory (Evanston:  Northwestern UP, 1959).

5Samuel Taylor Coleridge,  The Statesman's Manual, ed. W. G. T. Shedd (New York, 1875), 437-8.

6Concerning modern conceptions of allegory, Fletcher says of Honig, "Given this rather broad conception of the term, theory would have been left in an impressionistic stage, had not Edwin Honig's general treatise, Dark Conceit, laid down some of the major lines of inquiry.  This book is to my knowledge the pioneer work on the subject in modern times" (Allegory:  The Theory of a Symbolic Mode [Ithaca:  Cornell UP, 1964], 12).  Although Fletcher calls his ideas about allegory a "theory," they are actually as "impressionistic" as those of Northrop Frye to which Fletcher contrasts Honig's more genuinely theoretic grapplings with allegory.

7Fletcher cites Goethe's Maximen, as translated by Rene Wellek in A History Of Modern Criticism (New Haven:  Yale UP, 1955), I, 211:  Goethe says, "There is a great difference, whether the poet seeks the particular for the general or sees the general in the particular.  From the first procedure arises allegory, where the particular serves only as an example of the general; the second procedure, however, is really the nature of poetry:  it expresses something particular, without thinking of the general or pointing to it. . . . True symbolism is where the particular represents the more general, not as a dream or a shadow, but as a living momentary revelation of the Inscrutable" (Fletcher, fn 24, 13).

8Northrop Frye, The Anatomy of Criticism (Princeton:  Princeton UP, 1957) 89.

9Plutarch, Moralia, trans. Frank Cole Babbitt, Loeb Classical Library, vol. 1, 1927 (Cambridge, Mass.:  Harvard UP, 1960).

10Philip Rollinson makes a distinction between two-meaning allegory, which has a satisfactory literal level plus a deeper level versus one-meaning allegory, which on the surface is enigmatic or literally impossible, Classical Theories of Allegory and Christian Culture (Pittsburgh:  Duquesne UP, 1981) xx.

11 Rollinson xiii.

12Of the term "allegory," Angus Fletcher says that the word comes from the Greek "allos + agoreuin (other + speak openly, speak in the assembly or market).  Agoreuein connotes public, open, declarative speech.  This sense is inverted by the prefix allos.  Thus allegory is often called 'inversion.'  Eg., ed. Thomas Cooper, in Thomas Elyot, Bibliotheca Eliotae:  Eliotes Dictionarie (London, 1559):  'Allegoria--a figure called inversion, where it is one in woordes, and an other in sentence or meaning'" (Fletcher, fn 1, 2).

13For the history of the interpretive practice of finding hyponoiai, Rollinson notes Rudolph Pfeiffer, History of Classical Scholarship from the Beginnings to the End of the Hellenistic Age (Oxford:  Clarendon Press, 1968), 10-11, 35, 237-42, and 259.  See also Anne Bates Hersman, Studies in Greek Allegorical Interpretation (Chicago:  Blue Sky Press, 1906), "Allegorical Interpretation before Plutarch" 7-23.

14The Homeric Allegories (first century A.D.) was associated in the Renaissance with the philosopher and pupil of Plato, Heraclides Ponticus (fourth century B.C.), whose Homeric Questions had been arranged by the Neoplatonist Porphyry (third-fourth centuries A.D. (Rollinson, xvii).  The connection between allegory and hyponoia appears in Plutarch, Moralia, 19 E-F.  Angus Fletcher points out that "Jules Pepin, in Mythe et allegorie (Paris, 1958), 87-88, finds Plutarch the first critic to use the word 'allegory' instead of its older Greek equivalent hyponoia, also the first to use the verb 'to allegorize'" (Fletcher, fn 1, 2).

15James A. Coulter speaks of the "suggestive incompleteness" of allegorical statement as a hint for the reader to interpret hidden meaning, The Literary Microcosm:  Theories of Interpretation of the Later Neoplatonists (Leiden:  Brill, 1976), 39-60, 66, and 72.  Michael Murrin points out that the Neoplatonic emperor Julian took this view of allegorical interpretation in the Orations V. 170A-B and VII. 222C, The Veil of Allegory (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1969) 147.

16 Citing Coulter, Philip Rollinson comments upon the prescriptive, doctrinaire nature of allegorical interpretation and points out the contemporary example of Marxist criticism:
In an important recent study of Neoplatonic theories of allegory James A. Coulter points out that all the allegorical interpreters of antiquity (Jews, Christians, Stoics, and Neoplatonists) were 'sectarian' or, it might be said, doctrinaire. As Coulter perceptively observes, to ideological interpreters, literature must first of all represent their own preconceived notions of what constitutes "certain and irrefutable truth about the nature of reality,  whether physical, psychological, divine, or metaphysical" (19).
Twentieth-century Marxist criticism suggests itself as an obvious modern
counterpart to this kind of earlier allegoresis.  However, it is not the particular
content or kind of meaning expected by this kind of interpreter that creates problems of communication among critics but the fact that such an overriding expectation exists. (x) That a certain kind of allegorical writing foregrounds the problem of interpretation--for the characters and for the reader/audience--is the subject of this study.

17See Wesley Trimpi's discussion of ethos, logos, and pathos in Muses of One Mind (Princeton:  Princeton UP, 1983) 57-8 and 314-20.

18Quintilian says that Socrates' irony disguises his entire meaning:  "Thus, as continued metaphor develops into allegory, so a sustained series of tropes (e.g., ironic tropes) develops into this figure (Institutio Oratoria 9.2.44-47).  Of this passage, Angus Fletcher remarks that "the whole may determine the sense of the parts, and the parts be governed by the intention of the whole.  This would yield a concept of teleologically ordered speech" (85).

19Tuve discusses allegoresis as a violation of an actual allegorical text in Chapter IV:  "Imposed Allegory" in Allegorical Imagery (Princeton:  Princeton UP, 1966) 233-284.  Tuve cites Clement Marot's "Exposition moralle" in Meon's old edition of Roman de la rose and F.W. Bourdillon's 1906 monograph of Marot's 1537 edition.  Tuve refers to Jean Molinet's Romant de la rose moralisie cler et net of 1482, printed by Verard in 1500, reappearing in Lyons (1503) and Paris (1521).

20Faux Semblant (False Seeming) is the only character who is not self-deceived.  He is the sophist and vice figure who takes advantage of the other characters' gullibility and venality.

21Angus Fletcher asserts that allegory is always epideictic:  "Allegory belongs ultimately in the area of epideictic rhetoric, the rhetoric of praise and ceremony, since it is most often used to praise and condemn certain lines of conduct or certain philosophical positions. . . . We are, I think, unable to rank items without admitting implicit preferences" (121).

22We know that Chaucer was familiar with Boccaccio's allegories.  We know from his borrowings that Chaucer read the Filocolo, Teseida, and Filostrato.  Although a consideration of Boccaccio's allegory is beyond the scope of this book, it is worth noting significant recent works on the subject:  Robert Hollander, Boccaccio's Two Venuses (New York:  Columbia UP, 1977);  Giovanni Boccaccio, Amorosa Visione, bilingual edition, trans. Robert Hollander, et al, introduction Vittore Branca (Hanover:  University Press of New England, 1986); Janet Levarie Smarr, Boccaccio and Fiammetta:  The Narrator as Lover (Urbana:  University of Illinois Press, 1986); Giovanni Boccaccio, Diana's Hunt (Caccia di Diana), ed. and trans. Anthony K. Cassell and Victoria Kirkham (Philadelphia:  University of Pennsylvania Press, 1991); Victoria Kirkham, The Sign of Reason in Boccaccio's Fiction (Firenze:  Leo Olschki Editore, 1993).  Boccaccio's Latin Genealogia and Italian vernacular allegorical narratives provided the Renaissance with both allusions to the whole range of ancient and medieval allegoresis and models of how to use the devices of rhetoric in allegorical practice.  Recent studies of Boccaccio as allegorist provide insights into allegorical poetics similar to those given by Rosemund Tuve about the Romance of the Rose.  Boccaccio functions as an intertext in Boiardo's Orlando Innamorato, which was taken over by Ariosto in Orlando Furioso.  Shakespeare would have found the legacy of Boccaccio, directly and indirectly, in many of his own sources for plays.

23Deborah L. Madsen, Rereading Allegory:  A Narrative Approach to Genre (New York:  St. Martin's Press, 1994), 79-80.  I have deliberately avoided the allegory-as-metaphor versus symbol-as-metonymy dichotomy preferred by Madsen.  Although she derives her fabulism/figuralism distinction from Philip Rollinson's study, her own binary opposition between metaphoric/fabulistic allegory and metonymic/figural allegory actually obscures some of the similarities between them that Rollinson's work illuminates.  For instance, as Rollinson points out, the difference between the allegorical readings of pagan fabulists such as Porphyry and Christian figuralists and typologists such as St. Augustine seems to be a question of belief in which one person's true religion is another person's fabulous (false) mythology.  Madsen admits as much when she says, "The difference between metonymic metaphor and metaphoric metonymy is a matter of belief:  if we believe the poet who claims that the soul stands for and participates in the logos then the image is a metonymy; if we do not, then the image is metaphoric" (86).  Further difficulty in the false allegory-as-metaphor versus true allegory-as-metonymy emerges when we notice that this use of the terms "metaphor" and "metonymy" are both figurative ways of defining allegorical practice and as such are not very useful.  Of Rosemond Tuve's statement that "allegoria does not use metaphor; it is one," Angus Fletcher observes that "this view, which equates allegory directly with metaphor and assumes their effects are essentially the same, holds true as long as the term 'metaphor' is understood loosely.  If metaphor is to be the name for any and all 'transfers' of meaning, it will necessarily include allegory" (71).  Allegory as metaphor is useful because it retains the notion of rhetorical similitude, an "as-ifness" that marks complex allegory as play or playful.  Madsen's figural metonymy, which is allegory as symbolic truth, captures the correspondence of part to whole of symbolism, but to call it metonymy (or synecdoche) is a figurative term for this sort of allegorical procedure.  It has the added disadvantage of removing metonymy from the vocabulary of terms available to identify a particular kind of trope that may or may not be used symbolically as a mark of allegorical truth.  Finally, Madsen's definitions obscure one of the most interesting features of allegory, the slipperiness involved in identifying truth and falsehood.  Often what is identified as truth is either not true or is misapplied in particular cases.

24Geoffrey Chaucer, The Riverside Chaucer, general ed. Larry D. Benson, based on The Works of Geoffrey Chaucer, ed. F. N. Robinson (Boston:  Houghton Mifflin, 1987).  All quotations from Chaucer are from this edition.

25 In his introduction to The Parliament of Fowls, Larry D. Benson points out that the Teseida is a translated intertext in the description of Venus's temple, The Riverside Chaucer 384.

26One may wish to see the would-be Lover in the Romance of the Rose and the recalcitrant dreamer in Boccaccio's Amorosa Visione as intertexts here for Chaucer's erring dreamer in The Parlement of Foules.

27Jonathan Culler speaks of the reader's task of "making sense" in Chapter 7, "Literary Competence," of Structuralist Poetics (Ithaca:  Cornell UP, 1975) 115-16:  "[Interpretations] are public and can be discussed and justified with respect to the conventions of poetry--or, as English allows us to say, of making sense."

28William Perkins (1600):  "All words made and uttered by men are in their own nature but sounds framed by the tongue, of the breath that cometh from the lungs" (III. 631), quoted by Keir Elam in Shakespeare's Universe of Discourse (Cambridge:  Cambridge UP, 1984) 168.

29Strabo, speaking of Homer, says the poet does not invent his stories, for "to invent a story outright is neither plausible nor like Homer; for everybody agrees that the poetry of Homer is a philosophical production."  Rather, poetic license consists of combining history, rhetorical composition, and myth.  The aim of history is truth, of rhetorical composition vividness, and of myth pleasure.  The Geography of Strabo, trans. H. L. Jones and J. R. S. Sterrett, LCL, 8 vols. (London, 1917), 1.2.17, cited in Trimpi (fn 13, 319).  The tension in Renaissance texts between the authority of inherited material as intertext and the authority of the author in remaking his borrowed stories is the subject of David Quint's Origin and Originality in Renaissance Literature (New Haven: Yale UP, 1979).

30My definition of concetto derives from that of Alma Altizer, Self and Symbolism in the Poetry of Michelangelo, John Donne, and Agrippa d'Aubigne (The Hague, 1973), quoted by Graham Bradshaw in Shakepeare's Scepticism (Ithaca:  Cornell UP, 1990) 73.

31Wesley Trimpi equates Sidney's foreconceit (in contrast to the poet's material) with the process of mathematical synthesis or formal argument (as opposed to a mathematical proposition, "the specific material of mathematics"):  the foreconceit "is Aristotelian and the fact that it underlies the four or five most celebrated passages in the defense of poetry has not been sufficiently recognized" (fn 19, 299).

32Aristotle observes in De Memoria (429a7-8) that dark imaginings imitate true impressions and cloud our minds when our judgment is impaired by emotion, disease or sleep (Trimpi 93).

33These intermediate steps in establishing the reciprocal relationship between the particular and the general are elucidated in Aristotle's Topics 105a7-9.

34The important distinction between the overselling of epideictic persuasion versus the pointing of deictic showing forth is made by Joel Fineman in the introduction to  Shakespeare's Perjured Eye (Berkeley:  University of California Press, 1986) 5-6.  In terms of Shakespeare's rhetoric as allegory, we can conclude that epideictic speeches to groups in the play are meant to fool them into acting according to the speaker's wishes.  Of epideictic speeches as soliloquies all we know for certain is that we as an audience are the only ones who hear them.  They may be the self-obsessed or self-deluded thoughts of the character whose "overshowing" response to action ought to have no definitive weight.  Of course, as pathos, the emotional effect of such speeches is potentially enormous.  The truism of E. E. Stoll about the "truth" of soliloquies is open to the same radical skepticism as any other utterance.  Stoll says, "The soliloquy is the clue given to the audience, and must be the truth itself.  There must the liar speak true, and it is to knock the props from under Shakespeare's dramatic framework to hold that Iago's soliloquies are lies--that he lies to the audience, to himself," Shakespeare Studies (New York:  Macmillan, 1927) 388.

35Aristotle says in the Metaphysics that "it is through wonder that men now begin and originally began to philosophize" (1.2.9-10).  Plutarch makes a similar point in the Moralia (680D).

36Aristotle shows how to refute logical fallacies in De sophisticis elenchis.  The logic of the elenchus was carried forward by Cicero and Quintilian in the study of arguments in utramque partem.  Grammar schools taught the refutation of logical fallacies as part of training in disputation.

37The passage in Hamlet to which Sr. Miriam Joseph refers as an example of
secundum quid is as follows:
Hamlet.  What man dost thou dig it for?
Clown.  For no man, sir.
Hamlet.  What woman then?
Clown.   For none neither.
Hamlet.  Who is to be buried in't?
Clown.   One that was a woman, sir; but, rest her soul, she's dead.
Hamlet.  How absolute the knave is!  We must speak by the card, or
equivocation will undo us. (5.1.130-8)
For a complete guide to the pitfalls of fallacious reasoning see Sr. Miriam Joseph's section on the subject in Shakespeare's Use of the Arts of Language (New York:  Hafner Publishing Company, 1966) third edition, 190-203.

38In the Topica (79-80), Cicero relates individual cases to generic questions of quality to arrive at a status qualitatus, a position from which to judge (Trimpi 247, 273).

39Trimpi points out that, to Cicero and Aristotle, law is "roughhewn . . . too inflexible, too boldly unqualified in statement"(269).  Equity reconciles law and human experience:  "the limit of an abstract principle of law and the unlimited randomness of human actions, a relation which can only be apprehended by a kind of 'equity,'" the apprehension of which can only occur "in the image of fiction" (fn 20, 264)

40In The Poetry of Experience:  The Dramatic Monologue in Modern Literary Tradition (New York:  W. W. Norton, 1957), Robert Langbaum says that modern audience sympathy for Iago (as well as for Richard III, Shylock, and even Falstaff) is a Romantic view unavailable to Shakespeare's audience (169).  Langbaum fails to note that Shakespeare would have known Cicero's rhetorical practice of coloring situations and "characters" in a legal case to his own ends to gain sympathy for his cause in order to influence a judge to decide in his favor.  Sympathy for the villains may be at odds with the plot, as Langbaum suggests, just as color may be at odds with the facts in a legal case.  It is not a modern misinterpretation to say that Shakespeare very often puts the audience's intellectual and moral faculties at odds with their feelings through the use of dramatic color.