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Pages of laws (books 7 - 12)

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laws (books 7 - 12)   

and generous souls. But it is necessary also to consider and know
uncomely persons and thoughts, and those which are intended to produce
laughter in comedy, and have a comic character in respect of style,
song, and dance, and of the imitations which these afford. For serious
things cannot be understood without laughable things, nor opposites at
all without opposites, if a man is really to have intelligence of
either; but he can not carry out both in action, if he is to have
any degree of virtue. And for this very reason he should learn them
both, in order that he may not in ignorance do or say anything which
is ridiculous and out of place-he should command slaves and hired
strangers to imitate such things, but he should never take any serious
interest in them himself, nor should any freeman or freewoman be
discovered taking pains to learn them; and there should always be some
element of novelty in the imitation. Let these then be laid down, both
in law and in our discourse, as the regulations of laughable
amusements which are generally called comedy. And, if any of the
serious poets, as they are termed, who write tragedy, come to us and
say-"O strangers, may we go to your city and country or may we not,
and shall we bring with us our poetry-what is your will about these
matters?"-how shall we answer the divine men? I think that our
answer should be as follows:-Best of strangers, we will say to them,
we also according to our ability are tragic poets, and our tragedy
is the best and noblest; for our whole state is an imitation of the
best and noblest life, which we affirm to be indeed the very truth
of tragedy. You are poets and we are poets, both makers of the same
strains, rivals and antagonists in the noblest of dramas, which true
law can alone perfect, as our hope is. Do not then suppose that we
shall all in a moment allow you to erect your stage in the agora, or
introduce the fair voices of your actors, speaking above our own,
and permit you to harangue our women and children, and the common
people, about our institutions, in language other than our own, and
very often the opposite of our own. For a state would be mad which
gave you this licence, until the magistrates had determined whether
your poetry might be recited, and was fit for publication or not.
Wherefore, O ye sons and scions of the softer Muses, first of all show
your songs to the magistrates, and let them compare them with our own,
and if they are the same or better we will give you a chorus; but if
not, then, my friends, we cannot. Let these, then, be the customs
ordained by law about all dances and the teaching of them, and let
matters relating to slaves be separated from those relating to
masters, if you do not object.
Cle. We can have no hesitation in assenting when you put the
matter thus.
Ath. There still remain three studies suitable for freemen.
Arithmetic is one of them; the measurement of length, surface, and
depth is the second; and the third has to do with the revolutions of
the stars in relation to one another. Not every one has need to toil
through all these things in a strictly scientific manner, but only a
few, and who they are to be we will hereafter indicate at the end,
which will be the proper place; not to know what is necessary for
mankind in general, and what is the truth, is disgraceful to every
one: and yet to enter into these matters minutely is neither easy, nor
at all possible for every one; but there is something in them which is
necessary and cannot be set aside, and probably he who made the
proverb about God originally had this in view when he said, that
"not even God himself can fight against necessity";-he meant, if I
am not mistaken, divine necessity; for as to the human necessities
of which the many speak, when they talk in this manner, nothing can be
more ridiculous than such an application of the words.
Cle. And what necessities of knowledge are there, Stranger, which
are divine and not human?
Ath. I conceive them to be those of which he who has no use nor
any knowledge at all cannot be a God, or demi-god, or hero to mankind,
or able to take any serious thought or charge of them. And very unlike

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