Influence of Aristotle’s Poetics on William Wordsworth’s Poetry and William Shakespeare’s Plays

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The Influence of Aristotle on William Wordsworth’s Poetry and William Shakespeare’s Plays Aristotle’s Poetics is not one of his major works, although it has exercised a great deal of influence upon subsequent literary studies and criticism. In this work Aristotle outlines and discusses many basic elements that an author should adhere to in order to write a great tragedies and/or poetry. Two important topics that Aristotle addresses and believes to be crucial to the art work is the mimesis, or imitation of life, and that the audience has an emotional response from the work, or a catharsis. Both William Wordsworth and William Shakespeare were believers in Aristotle’s philosophy concerning tragedies and poetry, and employed these two elements within their works. The basic definition for mimesis is the act of creating an image or images in someone’s mind, through an artistic representation such as, a play, a poem, or a painting, idea or ideas that will then be associated with past experiences. Aristotle is concerned with the artist’s ability to have a significant impact on others. First though the idea or belief that the artistic representation should be occurrences that people could relate to, or experiences that they would be familiar with. William Wordsworth intentions were made clear in the Preface to Lyrical Ballads when he states that a “…poem was to [chuse (sic) incidents and situations from common life, and to relate or describe them… (650)” This mimesis can be seen throughout Wordsworth poem Tintern Abbey. Wordsworth is reflecting upon his memories of the effect that Tintern Abbey had on him while he was away, and describing them to his sister. Wordsworth grew up around Tintern Abbey and with his belief that nature taught humans moral lessons, he was very descriptive in his language describing the landscape and the basic affect that it personally had upon him. Aristotle also believed that the use of simple language in the poetry will keep the ultimate meaning from becoming blurred by complicated figures of speech. Wordsworth basically rejects the ideas of “personification of abstract ideas (652)” and “poetic diction (653)” in The Preface to Lyrical Ballads, because his main goal is to imitate the language that the common men speak everyday. Wordsworth’s Tintern Abbey is written in journal style, which is not known for loftiness in speech or complicated language, but for an easy flowing style which employs common everyday language and description. This allows the audience to understand and develop a picture of the image in their mind.

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