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The Relevance of Aristotle’s Poetics to the World Today

The Relevance of Aristotle’s Poetics to the World Today

The Canadian novelist Michael Ondaatje, in his last novel titled In the Skin of a Lion, wrote that “the first sentence of every novel should be: Trust me, this will take time but there is order here, very faint, very human” (Ondaatje 223). Ondaatje noted that what makes a novel a novel is order or, as that order is sometimes referred to today, plot and structure. It is that structure that we, as both the audience and the artist, rely on to understand and appreciate a work of art. But, even though Ondaatje noticed the order necessary, he did not do what has been done before–offer an explanation, or rather, a definition of that order. Over two-thousand years before Ondaatje wrote that line, Aristotle, in his Poetics, did attempt to define the order necessary for a work of art, whether it be literary, visual, or performance-based, to be successful. But we, as modern critics and artists, must ask, can a theory proposed so many years ago still be worthy or interpretation and study today? Even a quick look at the literature and the theater produced in the last couple of centuries would reveal the public’s answer: Much of the great art of the world is great because of its reliance on and adherence to Aristotle’s theories and definitions as well as a confidence in the new suppositions that have arisen out of Aristotle’s words.

Before one can apply the theories of Aristotle to the world today, a brief presentation of a few of the most notable of those theories must be examined. The first of these theories is now referred to as Aristotle’s Unities; although, only one of the three unities can be directly attributed to the words of Aristotle. In book …

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…wise, the longest running Broadway play of all time, Cats, certainly cannot be classified as the universal and clearly neglects the three unities. Finally, most literature scholars would agree that James Joyce’s Ulysses is a classic in literature, but, as it created its own style of literature, does not conform to any of Aristotle’s principals. It is clear though, with an influence in so many works of art, both past and contemporary, that, while maybe not a necessity, Aristotle’s theories certainly are worthy of a careful study.

Works Cited

Aristotle. “Poetics.” Dramatic Theory and Criticism. Ed. Bernard F. Dukore. Fort Worth: Harcourt, 1974. 31-55.

Harmon, William, and C. Hugh Holman. A Handbook to Literature. 8th ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1999.

Ondaatje, Michael. In the Skin of a Lion. Chicago: Penguin Publishers, 1987

Much Ado About Nothing Essay: Effective Use of the Foil

Effective Use of the Foil in Much Ado About Nothing

In The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, the famous British poet William Blake wrote that “without contraries there is no progression – Attraction and repulsion, reason and imagination, and love and hate are all necessary for human existence” (Blake 122). As Blake noted, the world is full of opposites. But, more importantly, these opposites allow the people of the world to see themselves and their thoughts more clearly. For, as Blake asserts, without attraction, one cannot understand repulsion, and without imagination, one cannot understand reason. In Much Ado About Nothing (MAAN), William Shakespeare uses this idea of the power of opposites to show the differences in two types of love. Using the relationship, language, and actions of Hero and Claudio as a foil against those of Beatrice and Benedick, Shakespeare has painted a world in which the ideas of courtly love only serve to illuminate those of true love.

In an essay on Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, William Kittredge defined the idea of courtly love that is illustrated in MAAN. Kittredge said that courtly love must involve a love that is extremely idealized and superficial, with the vassal or servant-like suitor, who is often a valiant knight, devoting himself completely to an ideal woman who is often the daughter of a powerful man (Kittredge 528-529). When this definition is applied to the relationship between Hero and Claudio in MAAN, one is able to recognize a perfect match. For example, Claudio, a young lord of Florence, is a valiant soldier as is shown in the first scene of the play with the comments made by the Messenger: “[Claudio] hath borne himself beyond the promise of his age, doing …

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…hat is truly Much Ado About Nothing, becomes a commentary on the idea of love. True love becomes illuminated through its reflection in its own foil – the ideals of courtly love. The true relationship of Beatrice and Benedick compared to the relationship of Claudio and Hero, gives the reader not only a better understanding of the power of the literary foil, but also a foil into which that reader can reflect and better understand himself.

Works Cited

“Blake, William.” The Columbia Dictionary of Quotations. CD-ROM. New York: Columbia UP, 1998.

Kittredge, George. “The Marriage Group.” The Canterbury Tales: A Norton Critical Edition. Ed. V.A. Kolve.

New York: W.W. Norton

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