In order to understand Plato's attack on poetry we have to take in consideration the political and social context of Athens at that time. It was the context where Plato devoted all his efforts to uplift the moral condition of the individuals and the well being of the state. The aim of his literary criticism was to educate the youth and form them into good citizens of his ideal state. It was the age of political decline and the moral and educational standard of the citizens were in a poor state. The epics of Homer were very much rooted in every sphere of the society, and the influence of the poets on the society was too deep. Plato being a philosopher, to prove the superiority of the philosophy, he severely attacked poetry. Apart from poetry he criticized every other form of arts. Plato’s concepts on art were base son his Theory of Ideas. He believed that ideas are the ultimate reality. The ideas of everything are the original pattern and the things are the copies. So he viewed all forms of art as merely copies of copy, twice moved from reality. Things itself being imperfect and copies of the ideas, their reproduction in art must be more imperfect. He believed that the works of art takes man away from reality rather than leading to it. It neither helped to mould the character nor to promote the well being of the state. These were the basic principles underlined behind Plato’s critics on arts in general.
Plato criticizes poetry in several of his dialogues, beginning with Apology, his first work, and ending with Laws, his last. Plato’s critics on poetry are basically concerned of two standards. The first concern was for the good of the individual and the state. Based on this standard he finds in poetry more to condemn it than approve. Same like his concepts about the other types of arts, his concepts about poetry also was under severe critic due to its unrealistic nature and its incapacity to be worthy to the society and individual. He severely...
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