Introduction Criticism is as old as creation. The writings of a great classical writers like Homer, Sophocles and Pindar contain hints of critical ideas. These ideas were later on developed by Plato and Aristotle into systematic principles of literary criticism. Thus, the true beginning of criticism is found in Greece in the writing of Plato and Aristotle. Later on Greco-Roman critics like Horace and Longinus added their ideas. The man aspect of Greek criticism was their mimetic or imitation theory. The views of these classical critics may be summarized as follows:- I. Critical view of Classical Critical
Plato:- is a famous critic of the classical age. His view on art and literature are scattered all over his works which include Republic, Lon and various references made by him. His views on poetic inspiration, imitation and condemnation of poetry are of great historical significance. These views can be discussed as follows:-
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Plato was the first philosopher who systematically expressed his views on art and poetry. According to Plato, the poet writes because he is inspired frenzy. The poet is inferior the philosopher. He is dangerous for society. Poetry feeds passions, so Plato does not give place to poets in his ideal state. Being a product of inspiration.
Poetry affect the emotion rather than reason. Plato condemns poetry for its lack of morality. It treats virtue and vice alike considering the function of poetry, Plato think that mere pleasure cannot be its only object. Plato further says that poetry is based on falsehood and so is harmful in its effect on people. Thus, Plato condemns poetry and praises reason or philosophy. Plato’s theory of art and poetry is based on his concept of imitation or mimesis. Plato says that the earthly things like beauty of goodness are only the copies of the idea beauty and goodness existing in heaven. So the imitation of the worldly objects which are imitation of ideal objects is nothing but “ imitation of imitation” art and poetry are thus twice removed from reality.
Plato explains this fact with an example of a carpenter. A carpenter makes a bed which is an imitation (bed in painting) of an imitation (bed created by the carpenter). It is a copy of a copy. This view of Plato is late on criticized by Aristotle. Aristotle:- is the first scientific literary critic. His literary criticism is largely embodied in his treatise the poetics. The treatise contains Aristotle’s views on poetry, tragedy, comedy and epic. Aristotle has given his view on imitation also on poetry, comedy and epic. Also these views may be summarized as follows:- Aristotle’s views on property and imitation are remarkable. Aristotle did not invent the term imitation but the breathed into it a new and definite meaning. Aristotle remarks that poetic imitation is no longer considered mimicry. It is not servile copying. On the contrary, it is an act of imaginative creation.
According to Aristotle, poetry and other fine arts are modes of imitation. They differ from one another in three aspects:- Medium of imitation, object of imitation and manner of imitation. Different forms of poetry has different means which include rhythm, melody and verse. Comedy and tragedy too can be called the means of poetry. As regards the objects of poetic imitation, Aristotle says that the objects of poetic imitation are “ men in action” the poet may imitate “ men as they are, as they were and as they ought to be”. Aristotle also speaks about the manner in which the objects may be used.
For examples narration is one of such means which used by Homer. Aristotle refutes Plato’s view that poetry is the imitation of imitation or thrice removed from reality. He says that the poet does not copy the external world. On the contrary, creates a new world. The poetic truth is the ideal truth. Poetry is creative process. Aristotle further says that imitation is the artistic and representation of life. Thus, Aristotle theory of imitation of noteworthy and valuable. Aristotle has given his views on tragedy in detail. He define, tragedy as “an imitation that is serious, complete and of certain magnitude”. According to him tragedy has parts like plot, character, diction, song, and spectacle.
As regards the function of tragedy, Aristotle says, the function of tragedy is to arouse the emotions of pity and fear and to affect the Catharsis of these emotions. Aristotle has given the qualities of a tragic hero also. Similarly he has spoken much about the unity of action and little of the unities of place and time. Horace and Quintillion
Horace and Quintillion are the Greco-Roman critics. Horace was a poet and he formulated his own poetic theories. These are embodied in his work poetica. Horace also has spoken about poetry, imitation and the role of imagination. Horace has laid down rules for poets for writing poetry. According to him mere imitation of life is not the whole nature of poetry. The looks upon activity as a process of invention. As regards the function of poetry. Horace says that poetry should both teach and delight. However, he gives more emphasis on reaching then on delight finally according to Horace, genius and inspiration are essential for the poet but they need Quintillion’s views on poetry are in line with those of Horace. He given importance to poetic style and choice of words. Quintillion has been considered the pioneer of comparative criticism. He compares Greek literature with Roman and Greek language with Latin. In short, Quintillion is a minor critic of the Greco-Roman period.