Allusion | Types and Examples

Allusion is a literary device that involves making a reference to something outside the immediate context of a work of art


In this post, we are going to look briefly into allusion. At the end of this lesson, students should be able to:

  • define allusion;
  • mention the types of allusion; and
  • gives examples of allusion.


Allusion is a literary device that involves making a reference to something outside the immediate context of a work of art, such as a character, event, or idea from history, mythology, or literature. It adds depth and richness to the text, allowing readers to draw connections between different stories and ideas.


Types of Allusions

There are basically four types of allusions. They are biblical, literary, classical, and historical allusions respectively.

  1. Biblical Allusion: It is the brief mention of a story or character from the Bible in a work of art. For example, referencing the story of the prodigal son in a poem or novel.
  2. Literary Allusion: It involves making an allusion to a work of literature within another literary work. For instance, quoting lines from William Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet” in a modern poem.
  3. Classical Allusion: It is the reference to stories, characters, or events from ancient books written by the Greeks and Romans. For instance, alluding to the story of Jason and the golden fleece in a contemporary narrative.
  4. Historical Allusion: It involves drawing references from historical events or periods. For example, referencing the concept of ‘Abiku’ in African folklore, where spirit children are believed to be born only to die young and be reborn repeatedly by the same mother.

Examples of Allusions

Biblical Allusion:

“He turned the other cheek when faced with criticism, just like the prodigal son seeking forgiveness.”

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Literary Allusion:

“My love, swear you will take a cup of it
And take a long sleep for me in the yard …
That we may sleep a twain in a joyous grave.

(An allusion to Romeo and Juliet’s love in Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet.”)

Classical Allusion:

“Renowned suitors, and her sunny locks
Hang on her temples like a golden fleece,
… And many Jasons come in quest of her.”

(An allusion to Jason, a Greek hero, seeking the golden fleece in classical mythology.)

Historical Allusion:

“Coming and going these several seasons
Do stay out on the baobab tree.”

(An allusion to ‘Abiku‘, a historical belief in African tribes that spirit children are born only to die young and be reborn repeatedly.)



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