Aristotle’s theory of imitation

Examine critically the salient features of Aristotle’s theory of imitation

Aristotle’s theory of imitation : The term imitation was not used for the first time by Aristotle. The term had already been used by Plato. But Aristotle’s use of the term added new dimensions to it. He gave to it a greater precision of meaning and a greater comprehension of scope.

Aristotle’s theory of imitation

Plato in The Republic had distinguished between the useful arts and the 74 imitative arts. The useful arts such as medicine and agriculture servemen’s Ok requirements. The imitative arts did not have such a utility. Poetry belonged to 75 the category of the useful arts. And poetry, like all other imitative arts, attempted 77 only an imitation of appearances. To Plato, the idea was the truth or reality A carpenter who makes a bed is working on the basis of his idea of a bed. The idea is real. What he makes is a copy of that reality. Plato, therefore, gave no place to poets and painters in the republic as they created a world of lies by 78 their imitation.

Aristotle not only openly rebelled against this idea; he began his arguments from a new point. A poetic imitation is not a mechanical work- it is a creative reproduction of the external world in accordance with his own idea poetry achieves idealisation by dealing with the essential while discarding the 31 accidental and transient. Poetry deals with the universal and the ideal. The significance of poctric truth is that it is universal, essential and permanent. A 33 poet’s imitation is not slowish copying. It is not a mere representation of the outward appearances. This imitation is of the deeper reality of the very basic elements of human nature.

All art is a mode of imitation

All art is a mode of imitation. Yet there are differences between the various modes of imitation. The medium of the poet and the painter are different. The painter’s medium of imitation is colour and form. The poet’s is rhythm and harmony. In this sense poetry is nearer to music than to any other artistic activity.

The objects of imitation

The next aspect concerns the objects of imitation. The objects of poetic imitation are men in action. These men may be either better than or lowered than the average men in real life Tragedy and epic deal with superior kind of men, in comedy and satire the poet imitates the actions of the inferior variety of men and women.

There are mental dispositions in human nature which have a permanent quality about them. Then there are the emotions, moods and feelings. These are transitory aspects of the human psyche. Now men in action includes their thoughts, feelings, will, motives and emotions. Action involves the inward life of men as well, not merely the outward events which, in any case, are the result of inward motives. The manner of imitation also leads to a variety of poetry. There is the purely narrative poet, who many continue speaking in the same person without change. Another kind of poetry is that in which the poet may be in the role of a narrator and then in a new assumed role. Aristotle gives the example of Homer.

Manner of imitation

The third manner of imitation is that in which the story is represented in the form of action carried out by several persons, as in real life. This is dramatic poetry Imitation is further such a reproduction in which there is artistic selection. and arrangement of material. Aristotle insists upon the law of probability and necessarity. There has to be an inevitability about the action and there should also be a principle of rationality. The chaos of life has brought under a design, a pattern and an order. It has therefore been pained out by commentator after commentator that Aristotle infused into imitation a creative vision that transformed the very nature of it.

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