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The Republic, Poetics, Ars Poetica and On the Sublime

Compare and Contrast Plato’s The Republic: Book III and X, Aristotle’s Poetics: Perspective of Tragedy,  Horace’s Ars Poetica, and Longinus On the Sublime

Plato’s the republic was one of the earliest criticisms in Literature. For Plato, literature should show the morality of the world. However, he mentioned that what the poets of his time composed was a third away from the truth. He used a painter, craftsman and the divine as an example where the painter only imitated the craftsman’s work that was imitated from the divine. Therefore the painter was only imitating the imitation which according to Plato made whatever the painter was making away from truth. With this logic, he called poets deceivers, that poets compose lies and false occurrences. He also mentioned that Poets should be banished out of a community for the very reason that they may corrupt the minds of the people with their blasphemy. This was called mimesis, the act of imitating and opposite term would be anmimesis.

In terms of contents of literature, Plato pointed out that it should only be in simple narration. He criticized Homer’s work when the point of view of his works changed from character to character. Book III of the republic discussed about bravery and how men should be fearless about death if they are indeed brave. Nor should they lament about the death of their loved ones. They should be brave and act as how Kings are, according to Plato. In Homer’s work, King Priam lamented on his son Prince Hector’s death. Plato stated that this should not be. The same critic was mentioned in Achilles’s situation where he expressed his hatred among the gods. Plato also stated the interference of the divine and their actions. In Book III, it is stated that gods and goddesses should only interfere when asked or needed. He mentioned that they should act appropriately. In Homer’s work where it was stated that the gods were laughing hysterically, Plato pointed out that gods should act as divine therefore they should not laugh as freely or in Zeus’s case, should not sleep with whoever goddess he pleases as stated in some of Homer’s works.


Aristotle’s Poetics, unlike Plato’s theory, stated that literature is the highest form of philosophy for it does not only imitate events but they write what may happen according to the law of probability and necessity. Aristotle discussed more on the structure of literature instead of its morality. For him, literature’s purpose was to instruct the readers and purge them of their emotions. Tragedy should elicit pity and fear for the readers. Aristotle’s idea of poets is the same. According to Aristotle poets are imitators. He mentioned that all humans are imitators and that skill is innate in all of us therefore it is only natural for poets to be imitators.

Aristotelian perspective of tragedy focused on the structure of tragedy. There are 6 parts: Plot, characters, diction, thought, song and spectacle. Plot is the most important part of a tragedy because in plot there is action and when there is no action the rest would be void. For Aristotle an episodic plot is the worst form of plot. From the word “episodic” itself that means “broken up”, this kind of plot has events that follow another event with no connection. Unlike a complex plot that has the three key parts: reversal, recognition, and medias res.

Aristotle’s theory on character is by some means familiar with Plato’s theory. The hero should be of noble birth. He should be righteous. He also mentioned that the hero should have a round character or he should be life-like. Aristotle mentioned “hamartia” which means tragic flaw and tragedian heroes have their own tragic flaw. In most cases the hero’s hamartia is their ignorance.

Diction is the voice of the characters in the story. It displays the emotion that each character feels. Thought is the theme of the story. By thought, the speeches reveal the characters true form. And spectacle can be observed in plays of the tragedy.

Song is the musical element of the play. It is mostly founding the chorus. The decoration on stage is a spectacle. Also, the messengers that dictate a death of the character are a spectacle. It avoids showing violence on the stage.

Another term that Aristotle dappled upon is Katharsis/Catharsis. It is the purging of emotions of the readers or the watchers. It is the reaction of the audience towards the tragedy. Catharsis is also responsible of the justice given to all of the events that happened in the tragedy. That is why the audience is purged of their emotions because they are given poetic justice.


Horace’s Ars Poetica involves the Horatian Platitude where literature is said to be brief/straight to the point. There should only be 5 acts in a composition. Literature, in Ars Poetica, is supposed to instruct and delight. It should teach and also give pleasure to the readers. This is also called, “dulce et utile”. The character’s characteristics should be consistent and conform to the general expectation. Anything other than that is called a “purple patch” or “porpurpurreus panus” where the character is displaying a different act from what the general is expecting the character to be. For Horace, a purple patch makes a composition ineffective. Therefore poets should practice propriety in poetry and Horace calls this “decorum” which means the omission of purple patch.


Longinus On the Sublime focused on the five most important foundations of sublimity in literature. From the word “sublime” which means, “uplifting” or “magnificient”, everything that elevates style on literature above the norm, and gives it characteristics in its truest sense. With the five sources of sublimity, according to Longinus, composition would be excellent. These five sources are: great thoughts, strong emotion or passion, thoughts and speech, noble diction, and dignified word arrangement. Great thoughts, meaning, the author’s thoughts should be sublime to be able to create a sublime work. For Longinus those from the lower status, whose lives are full of impure ideas and habits, are impossible to create a work that is worthy. Only those who are noble have sublime thoughts. Longinus praised Plato and Homer that he mentioned that poets should carry some of their greatness.

The second source, strong emotion or passion, is the genuine emotion of the poet towards his work. He asserts that emotions have to be in its truest sense and in the right place. With passion, the poet will reflect a work that comes from the true emotions and is sublime.

Thoughts and speech, the third source, is what Longinus leans most of his attention into. Poets should use figures of speech, but carefully. Poets should use it not only for the sake of form but it should be basis should be, the second source, strong emotion. Every thought and speech should be in the right place and the right manner.

Noble diction, the fourth source centered on what words are used and how the words are expressed and arranged. Figure of speech is also connected to this source. Longinus believed that with the right words that are sublime, it will lure the readers and have a tempting effect on them that makes the style sublime. The fifth and last source is the dignified word arrangement. It is basically all the four preceding sources combined.

Ekstasis is when the audience achieved a state of elevation. This is similar to Aristotle’s Catharsis, however, unlike Catharsis, who purges the emotion of the audience with their reasoning, Ekstasis relies on pure emotion. It is where a reader feels every emotion that is laid out in the sublime composition.


I will soon post my Professor's notes [scan]

I got a low [but deserving] grade of 88. TuT minus 10 cause it was late. GAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

Все отлично сделано!


2012-02-15 06:32 am (UTC)

Обилие интересных статей на вашем блоге меня поражает! Автору – удачи и новых интересных постов!

Re: Все отлично сделано!


2012-02-20 05:18 am (UTC)

Thank you? I can't read Russian that well but it's clear that it's a positive comment. :3

LOL spam, thank you.

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