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Plato vs. Sydney

             The purpose of art and the place of the artist has long been debated, and by many a critic. Two of these critics are Plato and Sir Philip Sydney. Their similarities and differences will be compared and contrasted using two of their works: Plato's The Republic and Sydney's The Defense of Poesy. .
             It is odd that Plato banished poets, and had so many negative words towards poetry, considering his philosophy was clothed in poetry. But, it is more of a negative view upon "the abuse, not the thing" (Sydney 174). There are disagreements between Plato and Sydney. A major one involves imitation. Is art's sole function to be imitative? Plato believes that " poetry and mythology are, in some cases, wholly imitative" (Plato 14). According to Sydney though, the poet is a maker, yet all art is based in nature. Plato and Sydney also differ on the subject of imitation in the regard that Plato believes that imitation is wrong, and Sydney believes it is good giving the example that man is made in the image of God. Man is an imitation, therefore art as imitation is pure. Sydney believes that poetry is an art of imitation, and Plato believes that imitative poetry " ought not to be received" (Plato 19). Another view on imitation by Plato is that " there are three arts which are concerned with all things: one which uses, another which makes, a third which imitates them" (Plato 25). Also, according to Plato " no one man can imitate many things" (Plato 14). This can relate to actors, implying that they can only be masterful at one or a few things, not very many, or the skill level is low. Plato gives no credit to imitators citing "Imitation is only a kind of play or sport, and tragic poets, whether they write in Iambic or Heroic verse, are imitators in the highest degree" (Plato 26). Sydney believes though, that art as imitation is a speaking picture that teaches and delights.
             "The real artist, who knew what he was imitating, would be interested in realities and not in imitations: and would desire to leave as memorials of himself works many and fair; and, instead of being the author of encomiums, he would prefer to be the theme of them" (Plato 23).

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