THE UNIVERSIT OF ZAMBIA
SCHOOL OF HUMANITIES
DEPARTMENT OF LITERATURE AND LANGUAGES
NAME : AARON MWILA 2016135949
: AMBWENI SILAVWE 2016136137
: ISAAC ZULU 2016137774
: MATHEWS CHIRWA 15056155
: MIYOBA MOONGA 2016143246
: NAMBULA LIWANGA 2016142910
: PATALI PHIRI 15054284
: PRECIOUS BOTHA 2016135116
: VICTORIA TEMBO 14134021
COURSE CODE : LIT 2710
LECTURER : MR M. S BWALYA
TUTORIAL HOUR : FRIDAY 11:00-12:00
QUESTION : USING THE THEORIES OF PLATO, HORACE, LEO
TOLSTOY AND LONGINUS GIVE A CRITIQUE OF LABOURS OF HERUCLES.
Each and every piece of art or literature has some objectives and goals which writers intend to
achieve on their readers and these aims can be moral, political cultural, philosophical or just
pleasure. After a reader finishes reading a work of art, they try to judge or critique its effect on
them and society in general. Thus, this paper will critique the Labours of Herucles using the
theories of distinguished critics who include, Plato, Longinus, Horace and Leo Tolstoy. Further,
the paper provides definition of key terms, a conclusion and references.
Abrams and Harpham (2009) in the Glossary of Literary Terms defines a theory as knowledge or
phenomena that is used to ascertain, categorize and interpret general knowledge or understanding
of something. However, away from a theory, Cuddon (1998; 196) explains that criticism deals
with “comparison and analysis, interpretation and evaluation of works of literature”. On the other
hand, Frye (2000) classify critics as people who judges work of literature and want writers to write
in a way they dim fit both to an individual and the general public but do not have the means and
resources to produce them. He writes, “critics are intellectuals who have a taste for art but lack
power to produce it and money to patronize it…distributing culture to society at a profit to
themselves which exploits the artist” (ibid;3).
Plato who is a classic critic denounces literature as he believed it is based on imitation of
falsehoods or copy of reality. He held that poets or writers are thrice removed from the truth as
they are not originators of the ideas thereby producing literature that young people may imitate
and in turn become slaves, prostitutes lazy people, and cowards. Additionally, he was against
writers depicting gods as bad, cruel and unjust. To him, gods are infallible (Habib, 2005).
However, Plato did not out rightly condemn literature, but embraces one that according to him,
inculcate morals and molds young men and women into responsible citizen who are brave,
courageous, persistent and loyal (Day, 2008). Relating this theory to the Labours of Herucles, the
story is more ethical as it sort to teach young Greeks to be loyal, persistent and brave. In addition,
it tries to promote servitude, patience, endurance, perseverance, discipleship, justice and
cooperation. Nevertheless, the story violates ethics when it portrays gods as causers of confusion
Horace (65-8 BC) is well known for the theory of decorum which holds that for a piece of literature
to depict life correctly, it must use characters that reflects reality. That is, people should be assigned
roles which correlates with age and abilities. Further, there should be simplicity and unit in a story.
Reading the story, it is observable that there is coherence and simplicity of language in the story.
However, the fact that the story this paper is criticizing is a myth means that decorum is violated
as can be seen in the creatures used. For instance, a snake with ten heads, Atlas holding the world,
Hercules journey to Hades among others (www.poetryfoundation.org). This is expressed when
Harding and Harding (1906) wrote “The next task of Heracles was to kill a great water-snake
called hydra. This snake had ten heads, one which was immortal”
As for Leo Tolstoy, he held the view that literature teach and beauty or pleasure is only acceptable
in morals. In short, beauty should be a by-product of teaching. Relating to the contexts of the story,
it is clear that both beauty and teaching is achieved. As stated earlier, ethics are taught and in
addition beauty is in the way language is used. For example, obtaining immortality, every person
would like to live forever which is one of the hopes of many Christians (www.stanford.edu/poets).
The last critic is Longinus and his theory of sublime which states that a piece of literatures should
be characterized of excellence, of expression and high regard to divinity. Moreover, there should
be great thoughts, images metaphors, invocation of emotions and good arrangement of words
(Day, 20078. This principle is achieved in Labours of Herucles as there is great thought as the
writer comes up with all sorts of creatures and tries to teach through images. In addition, emotions
can be felt when Herucles faces challenges such as death of his friend, when he is banished among
In conclusion, the theories in the Labours of Herucles are achieved in one way and violated in the
other. For instance, ethics, aesthetics, decorum and sublime are achieved in some of the labours
while in others, they are not. Moreover, these theories can be used to analyze and be linked to
different pieces of literature.
Abrams M, H. and Harpham G, G. (2009). A Glossary of Literary Terms (9th Edition). Boston:
Wadsworth Cengage Learning.
Bailey A, A. (1974). The Labours of Herucles. Lucis :Publishing Company.
Cuddon a. (1998). Penguin Dictionary of Literrary Terms. London: Blackwell publishers Ltd.
Day G. (2008). Literary Criticism; A New History. Edinburg: Edinburg University Press.
Frye N. (2000). Anatomy of Criticism: Four Essays. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Habib M,A R. (2007). Modern Literary Criticism and Theory. Maldan: Blackwell Publishers.
Harding C, H. and Harding S, B. (1906). Labours of Heracles; Mythical Story of Labours of
Heracles. Scott Foresman and Company.