Theory and criticism: Aristotle on Imitation - Principle of Imitation which Unites Poetry with the other Fine Arts



"Plato is dear to me, but dearer still is truth."
Attributed to Aristotle (384 BC - 322 BC)
Greek philosopher, 330? BC.

Plato first used the word ‘imitation’ in connection with poetry. But Aristotle breaded into it a new and definite meaning, so that poetic imitation is no longer considered as an act of mere servile coping, but is regarded as an act of imagination creation by which the poet, drawing his materials from the phenomenal world makes something new out of it. 
  
According to Aristotle, it is the principle of imitation which unites poetry with the other fine arts. (Fine arts are those arts in which mind and imagination are chiefly concerned.) Plato equates poetry with painting while Aristotle equates it with music. Read More Criticism  It no longer remains a mere servile coping of the surface or the representation of things, but in his theory, it deals with passion, emotions of men which are also imitated by music. Thus Aristotle has enlarged the scope the imitation. As the emotions are the objects of the imitations of music, so poetry has close affinities with music. It is a mistake to compare poetry with painting; it is more akin to the music. 



 
The manner and the medium imitation: In the very first chapter of the republic
Aristotle
Aristotle says, "epic poetry, tragedy and comedy also, and dithyrambic poetry, as the music of the flute and lyre in most of their forms, are in their general conception the modes of imitation. Read More Criticism  They, however differ from each other in three respects their medium, the object and the manner, being in each case distinct, the medium of the painter and poet are different. When one imitates through forms and colour, the other imitates through language, rhythm and harmony the musician imitates through rhythm and harmony. Thus poetry is nearer to music than painting. Further, the manner of the poet may be narrative as in an epic or representation through action as in drama. Thus the different kinds of poetry are different from each other in the manner of imitation.
        
The object of imitation: According to Aristotle, the objects of the imitation are ‘men of action’ or the actions of men. The poet may imitate men as they were or are, or as they ought to be in other words, the man represent men either as better than in the real life or worse, or as they are, this means, according to Aristotle, imitation is not merely a photographic representation of the surface of things, it is a creative process. Read More Criticism The poet may represent men as better than in the real life. Thus he gives us a truth of an ideal or universal kind; he tells us not what men are but they can be as what they ought to be. His mind is not tied to reality: “it is not function of the poet to real what has happened but what may happen according to the lows of probability and necessity”.    


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