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Plato's Theory on Mimeses

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Ensuing theory of poetic frenzy, Plato advances to elaborate on his theory of mimesis in his masterpiece work The Republic (Book X). As usual, this theory stems from his bifurcation hypothesis. That is, the world is divided between what it appears to be and what it really is; likewise, man's soul, is also populated by two contrary faculties, one being  emotional and the other being rational.

Starting from this binary concept, Plato reveals how man's senses of perception beget unreliable products. The more reliable or real world, presided by God, affords only one Form or Idea for craftsmen to model after in making concrete works. To make beds, carpenters imitate the idea of bedness; to paint a bed, painters imitate the appearance of the concrete bed. In this chain of imitation efforts, only God is immune of transformation or illusory perceptions, carpenters, painters and poets, by imitating in turn what they perceive, depart farther and farther away from the higher truth, until painters are twice and poets thrice removed from reality. Upon this, Plato warns that works by painters and artists the like, by virtue of deceiving and misdirecting ordinary eyes, will do harm to ordinary people.

Nevertheless, Plato's most severe condemnation is yet reserved for poetry and theatrical performances. Thereupon he applies Greek tragidies to fortify his argument that literature exerts detrimental effect on not only ordinary people but the good. Given that poets are possessed by the inferior emotional faculty during composition of his works, his poetry is already saturated with magnetic inferior appeals to readers. The influence gets more destructive when the work is staged in a theatre. Here other elements like music, harmony, meters and rhythms, integrated in actors' emotions, will bewitch audiences to indulge the same sorrow. As Pro. Zhang Xuchun delineates with the example of The Capture of Myletus, an adapted tragedy from Herodotus' history book, its theatrical performance was immediately banned after its debuted show, simply because the Greek government dreaded its contagious effect among audiences. In such circumstance, without checking on their rational principle, the audience would involuntarily give way to wails and tears, allowing their power of reason to be deluged by inferior emotions. As a result, Plato insists on banishing poets from his ideal Republic. Yet he does not stop at just making accusations. To keep

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