Poetics: Chapter 1 - Summary

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Chapter 1

Features Common to All Forms of Art: 'Imitation'

      According to Aristotle the common principle of all arts, poetry, comedy, tragedy, dancing, flute-playing, music, painting or sculpture is "Imitation". The inclusion of music among the modes of imitation shows that Aristotle's concept of 'imitation' is broader than that of Plato, his master. Aristotle does not hold imitation' to be servile copying or mimicry, thrice removed from reality as Plato considers it. It implies creativity also. In the case of the musician, the imitation is not the superficial, or the outward appearance, or of mere externals; it is the imitation of the inner reality, the very essence, the passions and moods of the inner being of man. It is seen that Aristotle's concepts of imitation is wider: it has place for the theory of Catharsis, if it is extended to include the inner life of man also.

Differences Between the Arts

      Though the common principle between the fine arts is imitation, there are differences between them, too. There are three differences. They may differ in the means of imitation, i.e. the medium through which they imitate, in their objects of imitation, or in their manner of imitation.

The Means of Imitation, or the Medium

      Some of the means of imitation are form and color and sound. In the arts mentioned by Aristotle, different kinds of music, namely music of the flute and lyre taken as a whole, produce or imitates by rhythm, language, or harmony or melody. These can be used singly or in combination. Literature is the art which imitates by language alone. Aristotle does not give the art a name; he merely calls it art.

      In the times of Aristotle, there was no name which stood for literature as a whole. This art imitates in words, either in prose, or in verse, and if in verse, in one or many kinds of meters. One notes the comprehensive treatment given by Aristotle. This form differs from music which uses only harmony and rhythm. Aristotle shows the awareness that poetry does not necessarily require to be written in some meter to be poetry; in other words, verse is not a necessary principle of poetry.

      Aristotle's use of the term imitation' is significant. It does not mean exact reproduction as the accomplished by photographic plate. It does not mean exact copying of nature or external objects, Aristotle implies something which is the imitation of essence of an object. It is the imitation of the emotion, the inner reality, or the soul of things. Art seeks to imitate mainly an inward process, or the outward manifestations of an inward will, which show some activity of thought of feeling.

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