Aristotle took the term ‘Imitation’ from Plato, yet Aristotle gave new dimensions and significance to the term. Aristotle’s imitation is not mere copying but a creative imitation or re-creation. It is the imitation of the ideals. Aristotle describes the medium, objects and manner of poetic imitation.
Plato’s Idea of Imitation
Plato divides arts into useful arts like medicine and agriculture and imitative arts like poetry. To Plato ‘idea’ was the truth or reality and the world is mere representation of reality. The objects before us are the imitation of the reality. Poetry, according to Plato, is an imitator of the appearances, which are already the imitation of the reality. Thus, poetry is twice removed from reality or truth. It is the shadow of shadows. Plato called it the mother of lies.
Aristotle’s Concept of Imitation
Aristotle gave new dimension and significance to the term imitation, which removed the sense of inferiority attached to it by Plato. According to Aristotle, poetry is the one of the fine arts. Art imitates not merely the appearances or the externals of this world. Art deals with the very essence of things. There is a creative reproduction of the external world in accordance with the artist’s idea. Poetry is therefore not an imitation of shadow but it is the imitation of the ideal reality. Moreover, poetry deals with universal and the ideal. The significance of the truth is that it is universal, essential and permanent. Imitation is not mere slavish copying. It is not mere representation of the outward appearance. This imitation is of the deeper reality.
Imitation of Outward as well as Inner Activity
Aristotle says that poetry imitates men in action. ‘Men in action’ includes their thoughts, feelings, will, motives and emotions. Poetry is an imitation of human life. Action involves both the inward life and the outward events. So poetic imitation involves outward as well s inward activity, rather it is the inner world of man, which is the main object of imitation in poetry.
Aristotle’s concept of imitation is not of mere coping but an act of creative vision. Through imitation, the poet can make something new out of the real and actual. Atkins says that for all practical purposes Aristotle considered imitation to be nothing else but recreation. So imitation in its true spirit is a process of imagination. Poetic truth is permanent and universal in nature. Out of the confused and chaotic everyday life, the poet tricks to create a work of art, which has a permanent relevance. It is not a function of the poet to relate what has happened but what is possible according to law of probability or necessity. Poetry is concerned with universal not with particular. Artistic imitation: A process of ordering and arranging. In order to gain universality and truth poetry has to discard the irrelevant. The chaos of life has to b brought under a design, a pattern and un order. The production of life should conform to the law of probability or necessity.
Medium of poetic Imitation
All art is thus a mode of imitation, but there are differences between various modes of imitation. One such difference lies in their medium of imitation. Poetry and painting are mediums of imitations, but the mediums of poet and a painter are different. The medium of painter is colour and form and medium of poet is rhythm and harmony.
The objects of Poetic Imitation
The objects of poetic imitation are ‘men in action’. These men may be either better than or lower than the average man in real life. Thus, imitation in poetry is clearly distinct from photographic representation. It involves creative imagination and the intellectual faulty of the poet. Tragedy and epic deal with men better than men in real life. Comedy and satire deal with men worse or lower than men in real life.
The manner of Poetic Imitation