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Mimesis is a term that is used critically and philosophically in the theories of a number of key writers and philosphers, including ancient Greeks such as Plato and Aristotle and also more modern day thinkers such as Paul Ricoeur and Homi Bhabha. A clue to its meaning comes from the fact that it is a word that derives from the verb to imitate, and indeed mimesis is a term that refers to imitation, mimicry, similarity, and the presentation of the self.

The term found its origin in the way in which both Aristotle and Plato looked at nature and saw mimesis in the representation of nature by figures such as poets and philosophers. This led Plato to famously attack the role of the poet, as he argued that poetry is the art of "divine madness" which means the poet is unable to communicate the truth. From Plato's perspective it is only the philosopher who is able to convey the truth of nature through their words and thoughts. Theatre, likewise, was not suited for conveying truth. For true mimesis to occur, Plato argued, it had to come from a philosopher to be based on the truth rather than just rhetoric.