Aristotle and the Artist

Aristotle’s ideas on what is imitation and whether it is useful or not differs from that of his teacher Plato. Aristotle seems to believe that an imitation is an item that is made or shaped into a imitation of the forms. Where this fundamental difference put Plato and Aristotle at odds is that in Plato’s Republic, the artist is seen as someone who is not contributing to society and is not useful in a perfected state. Aristotle, with his idea that things must be shaped to look like the forms, sees the artist not as someone who captures the imitation of an imitation, but as someone who is a craftsman of words and colors. This difference puts the artist on a higher level than Plato would have ever conceded.

            Aristotle then spends in his book Poetics breaking down poetry, art, and plays into categories and the rigidly defines what would make a poem or a play a good one or a bad one. You can see his background in biology showing in this work. In the introduction, the reader sees that Aristotle has created two theories of criticism for poetry and plays. He seems to enjoy the art work and the poems, but he also wants to make sure that there are boundaries or guidelines out there so that people can know the difference between a good and bad piece of artwork or poetry.

            I like that Aristotle appreciates the arts enough to create a series of guidelines for poetry and what not. Lord knows Plato’s vision of a utopia was far too utilitarian for those with a creative nature. However, while I was reading Poetics, I got the feeling that Aristotle’s guidelines were a bit stifling when it comes to the creative soul. I see the necessity for some of the guidelines, but it seems to me that some of these guidelines could be broken and they play or poem would still be considered a good work or art. Take for instance number 15 of his guidelines: we see now that it is appropriate for female characters to have masculine characteristics and to be clever. Some of the issues might be due to there ideals involving hierarchy, but even so we can see that some of the guidelines could be done away with to not stifle the creative spirit in the artist.