Allegoresis is interpreting a text written with straightforward literal intent as if it were an allegory. In typology, a literal person or object is treated as an anticipatory example of someone or something to come. The Bible was the most important text subject to this kind of reading, including by New Testament writers. A sampling of commentaries on the parable of the sower (Matthew 13) and the rivalry between Mary and Martha (Luke 10) demonstrates the stability of allegorical readings from the patristic to the early modern era. Although the extent to which the Bible was properly read allegorically was hotly debated in the sixteenth century, even William Tyndale’s practice had much in common with traditional four-fold interpretation. Marginal glosses from the Geneva Bible indicate the general acceptance (and by extension, the transparency) of allegorical reading. Spenser’s use of words like "type," "shadow," "image," and "figure" refer to traditional biblical exegesis, adapting a method familiar to Elizabethans from religious sources.
This chapter examines sermon uses of the image of the sea and the ship to demonstrate that the ocean, for Elizabethans, represented not only a realm of magic and fertility but also the spiritual dangers of the world, the flesh, and the devil. Sermons by Stephen Gosson, Richard Madox, Robert Wilkinson (among others) as well as Geneva Bible illustrations and glosses, provide parallels for Britomart’s lament at III.iv and a key to the moral meaning of the various settings of Florimell’s adventures: her near-rape by the fisherman, imprisonment by Proteus at III.viii-ix, and rescue by Cymoent in IV.xii. The sea setting sharpens the point of narrative references to divine intervention, and the sermons show how these episodes’ sea settings make sense for Spenser’s dramatizing the incompleteness of the single life that propels men and women toward their destiny of married love.