Aristotle’s theory of “Imitation”

Introduction: Aristotle’s concept of Imitation is explained from Poetics point of view.

Plato’s idea of imitation

Plato gives the example of carpenter who is making a bed. The idea of bed in the mind of a carpenter is real and bed is copy of that idea. So the idea of nature by God is real and nature is copy and poet copy the nature, so poetry twice removed from reality. It is a “shadow of shadows“, “copy of copy“.

Aristotle’s concept of imitation

Aristotle’s concept of Imitation or Theory of Imitation is not mere copy but presentation of the ideal reality. Poet does not represent the outward appearance but represents deeper reality. A tragic poet represents the hero better than average which is representation of the idea of human nature, it is not mere representation of outward appearance. He says that poetry deals with ideal reality and the significance of poetic truth that is Universal, essential and permanent.
Aristotle says that poet is creator not mere copier.

Medium of poetry

In the kinds of fine arts like poetry, music and painting the medium of poetry and music is harmony and rhythm but the medium of painting is color and form. So, poetry linked with music not with painting. Language is also common element of poetry and music.

Objects of poetry

According to Aristotle the object of poetry is “men in action“. In tragedy the man is represented better than average and in comedy worse than average. Aristotle does not give importance to the imitation of men as they are in real life.

Imitation is outward as well as inner activity

Men in action, include their thoughts, feelings, will, motive and emotions show the inner activity of men and the outer activities also are the results of inner motives like prayer, murder and physical love.

The manner of poetic imitation

The manner of poetic imitation are narrative and dramatic. In pure narrative manner epic poems were written and in dramatic manner the tragedy and comedy were written.

Imitation is creative art, process of imagination and recreation

The poetic process is not mere copying but a creative vision through which poet take material. Poet takes things:- As they were, As they are, As they thought to be and As they ought to be.

Universal truth of poetry

imitation of ideals.
Poetry is not photographic representation but it is the imitation of the ideals. Poet represents what is possible according to the law of probability and necessity?

imitation: a process of ordering and arranging

According to Aristotle the imitation is a process of ordering and arranging. In dramatic art implied artistic selection and arrangement of materials as in tragedy and comedy.

Possible limitations in Aristotle’s imitation

Aristotle’s concept of tragic character that it is better than average is not valid for all tragedies. In Shakespearean tragedy Macbeth the tragic characters not better than average in moral sense.

Term imitation was taken from Plato and Aristotle gave it wider and deeper significance. Aristotle gave significance to creative imagination instead of mere copying and that it is different from painting.

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