previous next

394E - 397D Our guardians must not be prone to imitation. We have agreed that one man can do but one thing well, and it is impossible for one man even to imitate two things aright, as we may see from the special instances of poetical composition and acting. The sole duty of our guardians is to make and keep the city free; if they practise imitation at all, their models must be such as are appropriate to the free—that is to say, men of brave and virtuous character, for imitation means assimilation. Dramatic poetry continually offends against this canon. In general, the good man will not make use of imitation except when he is narrating the sayings or deeds of the virtuous, or some lapse of the vicious into virtue, or sometimes in mere play. His style of speech will combine plain narrative and imitation, but he will use the latter sparingly; whereas the bad man will imitate more often than narrate, and no kind of imitation will come amiss to him. In respect of mode and time, the language of Virtue will be nearly uniform, that of Vice varied.

πότερον μιμητικοὺς κτλ. The question is not ‘Are our guardians to become dramatic poets?’ but ‘Are they to have the imitative habit of mind?’ The answer is in the negative, and the drama is banished because it fosters this habit in spectators. Cf. 395 D note

ὅτι -- πολλὰ δ̓ οὔ explains τοῖς ἔμπροσθεν, as Hartman points out, and not τοῦτο, as D. and V. translate. ἔμπροσθεν refers to II 370 B.

πολλῶν κτλ. suggests, perhaps intentionally, πόλλ᾽ ἠπίστατο ἔργα, κακῶς δ᾽ ἠπίστατο πάντα. The words ὥστ᾽ἐλλόγιμος—equivalent to a neuter accusative—are undeservedly cancelled by Herwerden and Hartman. Translate ‘he will fail in all of them to attain creditable distinction’: cf. the adverb κακῶς in κακῶς δ᾽ ἠπίστατο πάντα.

οὐκοῦν κτλ. The reasoning is a fortiori: if two or more departments of merely imitative art cannot be represented by the same person, still less can imitation be combined with any serious pursuit (σχολῇ ἄρα κτλ.).

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: