Plato explores his ideas regarding poetry in The Republic, particularly within Book X. As can be seen in his discussion regarding the nature of imitation, Plato considers poetry to be a representation of nature, or the divine, in his analogy of the carpenter. As he describes the making of a bed, Plato enumerates the three different types of beds that could be made: “Beds, then, are of three kinds, and there are three artists who superintend them: God, the maker of the bed, and the painter” (Ch. 10). The first of these, that made by God, is the original and the perfect form. The second is a copy of that form, brought into the material world by the activity of the carpenter and usable as such by those whom the carpenter might choose to provide access. The third, however, that created by the artist or poet, is described by Plato as being a mere shade of the object, perhaps only able to capture a very small aspect of the bed’s true elements. Thus, in imitation, the poet is able to convey some truth about the nature of the bed and is therefore able to represent nature in some form, but he is never able to convey the whole truth about it.
However, Plato also seems to recognize the potential danger of poetry to convey ‘wrong’ ideas as he introduces the concept of censorship by dictating “Whether in epics, lyrics or tragedies, whether in meter or not, god must be described accurately, and that turns out to be as unchanging; as good and the cause of only good; as incapable of violence; and as ‘altogether simple and true in deed and speech,’ for god ‘doesnt himself change or deceive others by illusions, speeches, or the sending of signs either in waking or dreaming’” (Griswold, 2003). He also recognizes the psychology of literature and its ability to affect all men, often attributing greatest honor to the poet who is most capable of