Introductory remarks on poetry
and its classification.
Narrative poetry and Tragedy .
Epic is compared with Tragedy.
Objections are answered.
6 Parts of “Poetics”
a kind of covert
reply to his great
exposition of the
Differences between Aristotle and
as mimicry or a
servile copy of
interpreted it as a
compared it to
Differences between Aristotle and Plato
Poetry presents a copy of
nature as it is. Poetry is
twice removed from reality
and it’s a ‘shadow of
Plato takes up the cudgel
on behalf of philosophy
and shows that philosophy
is superior to poetry.
Poetry may imitate men as
they are, or better and
worse. Poetry gives us
idealized version of reality.
He takes up the cudgels
on behalf of poetry and
effectively brings out its
Hamartia - the word translates almost
directly as "error," though it is often
rendered more elaborately as "tragic flaw."
Tragedy involves the downfall of a hero,
effected by some error. This error could be a
simple matter of not knowing something or
Anagnorisis - "recognition" or
That moment when the hero, or some other
character, passes from ignorance to
knowledge. This could be a recognition of a
long lost friend or family member, or it could
be a sudden recognition of some fact about
usually translated as "plot," but unlike
"plot," mythos can be applied to all works of
Not so much a matter of what happens and
in what order, mythos deals with how the
elements of a tragedy (or a painting,
sculpture, etc.) come together to form a
coherent and unified whole.
The overall message or impression that we
come away with is what is conveyed to us by
the mythosof a piece.
Katharsis - This word was normally
used in ancient Greece by doctors to mean
"purgation" or by priests to mean
In tragedy, Aristotle uses it to talk about a
purgation or purification of emotions.
Presumably, this means that katharsis is a
release of built up emotional energy, much
like a good cry.
Peripeteia - A reversal, either from
good to bad or bad to good. Peripeteia often
occurs at the climax of a story, often
prompted by anagnorisis.
- the climax of a story: the turning point in
the action, where things begin to move
toward a conclusion.
Lusis - Literally "untying," the
lusis is all the action in a tragedy
from the climax onward. All the
plot threads that have been woven
together in the desis are slowly
unraveled until the conclusion.
Desis - Literally "tying," the desis
is all the action in a tragedy leading
up to the climax.
- threads craftily woven together to
form a more and more complex
“scientific study of the
constituent parts of poetry and
drawing conclusions from those
He lists the different
kinds of poetry: epic
poetry, tragedy, comedy,
dithyrambic poetry, and
most flute-playing and
Next, he classifies all of
these kinds of poetry
as mimetic, or
imitative, but that there
the act of creating in
someone's mind, through
artistic representation, an idea
or ideas that the person will
associate with past experience.
Roughly translatable as
How can we differentiate the tragedy
from other poetic forms?
first kind of distinction is the
means or medium they
employ. Just as a painter
employs paint and a sculptor
employs stone, the poet
employs language, rhythm, and
harmony, either singly or in
The second distinction is the
objects that are imitated. All
poetry represents actions with
agents who are either better
than us, worse than us, or quite
tragedy and epic poetry:
characters are better than us
comedy and parody:
characters are worse than us.
The third distinction is with the
manner of representation: the
poet either speaks directly in
narrative or assumes the
characters of people in the
narrative and speaks through
Objects, Manner, and Medium of
Imitation in Tragedy
We are by nature imitative
creatures that learn and excel by
imitating others, and we naturally
take delight in works of imitation.
Evidence: fascinated by
representations of dead bodies or
disgusting animals even though
the things themselves would
* we learn by examining
representations and imitations of things
* learning is one of the greatest
pleasures there is
* Rhythm and harmony also come
naturally to us, so that poetry gradually
evolved out of our improvisations with
Tragedy and comedy are later
developments that are the
grandest representation of their
** tragedy of the lofty tradition
** comedy of the mean tradition
Four innovations in the
development from improvised
dithyrambs toward the tragedies
of his day.
Dithyrambs were sung in honor of
Dionysus, god of wine, by a chorus
of around fifty men and boys,
often accompanied by a narrator.
Aeschylus reduced the number of
the chorus and introduced a
second actor on stage, which made
dialogue the central focus of the
Sophocles added a third actor
and also introduced
Tragedy developed an air of
seriousness, and the meter
changed from a trochaic rhythm,
which is more suitable for dancing,
to an iambic rhythm, which is
closer to the natural rhythms of
Tragedy developed a plurality of
episodes, or acts.
tragedy and epic poetry:
characters are better than us
comedy and parody:
characters are worse than us.
comedy deals with the ridiculous
which he defines as a kind of
ugliness that does no harm to
very sketchy account of the origins of
comedy, because it was not generally
treated with the same respect as
tragedy and so there are fewer
records of the innovations that led to
its present form.
Tragedy and epic poetry deal with
lofty subjects in a grand style of
Three significant differences:
First, tragedy is told in a
dramatic, rather than narrative, form,
and employs several different kinds
of verse while epic poetry employs
Second, the action of a
tragedy is usually confined to a
single day, and so the tragedy
itself is usually much shorter
than an epic poem.
Third, while tragedy has all
the elements that are
characteristic of epic poetry, it
also has some additional
elements that are unique to it
Aristotle now narrows his
focus to examine tragedy
exclusively. In order to do so,
he provides a definition of
tragedy that we can break up
into seven parts
(1) it involves mimesis;
(2) it is serious;
(3) the action is complete and
(4) it is made up of language
with the "pleasurable
accessories" of rhythm and
(5) these "pleasurable
accessories" are not used
uniformly throughout, but are
introduced in separate parts of
the work, so that, for instance,
some bits are spoken in verse
and other bits are sung;
(6) it is performed rather than
(7) it arouses the emotions of
pity and fear and accomplishes
a katharsis (purification or
purgation) of these emotions.
Unity of Action:(Probability and
There must be a
various events and
They must follow
No incident or
character should be
introduced must be
such as are probable
Aristotle emphasizes Unity of Action ; he is against plurality of action
as it weakens the final effect of Tragedy.
Imitation of an action, serious, complete
and of a certain magnitude…….
It must be long enough to permit
an orderly development of action
to a catastrophe. Too short an
action cannot be regarded as
proper and beautiful, for its
different parts will not be clearly
visible, as in the case of a very
small living creature.
It must be an ‘organic’
And another important word is
Verse and song beautify
and decorate and give
pleasure, but Aristotle does
not regard them as
essential or indispensable
for the success of a tragedy.
Diction and Style
Diction is the choice and arrangement of words and
images in a literary composition.
Six types of words
• Current or ordinary words
• Foreign terms borrowed or dialects
• Ornamental periphrasis
• Invented words
• Not invented, but made new lengthening
Songs is the pleasurable addition to a
play. In a tragedy, song is provided by
the Chorus. The quantitative sections of
tragedy are ;
SONGS OR MELODY
#In the Poetics, while defining tragedy,
Aristotle writes that the function of
tragedy is to arouse the emotions of pity
and fear, and in this way to affect the
Katharsis of these emotion.
#Further the Greek word Katharsis
has three meanings:-
Purgation purification clarification
All agree that Tragedy arouses fear and pity, but there are sharp differences
as to the process, the way, by which the rousing of these emotions gives
Having examined the definition, nature and function
of ‘Tragedy, Aristotle comes to its formative parts.
elements of a
Two kinds of Plots: simple and complex
Plot is simple when the
change in the fortunes of
the hero takes place
without peripety and
The plot is complex
when it involves one or
the other or both. The
Peripety is the change in
the fortunes of the hero
and the Discovery is a
change from ignorance
Aristotle prefers complex plot, for it startles and
Complex plots are those which have Peripety
and Anagnorisis or Discovery or Recognition
Peripeteia means that
human actions produce
results exactly opposite
to what was intended: it
is working in blindness
to one’s own defeat.
It is a false step taken in
the dark.(e.g., Macbeth)
recognition is the
realization of truth, the
opening of the eyes, the
in the darkness.
Showing a perfectly
good man passing
from happiness to
Such kind of plot
will not inspire pity
and fear it will be
simply odious or
Showing a bad
from misery to
It is not
tragic at all
man falling from
It will move us
neither to pity nor
“A man who is not eminently good and just yet whose misfortune is not
brought by vice or depravity but by some error of frailty”.
Further Traits of Characters:-
must be good
They must be
Aristotle means that they must be true to type, slave
should behave as slaves are generally known to behave.
There must be no sudden and unaccountable change in
The Ideal Tragic Hero:-
He should neither be
perfectly good not
utterly bad .
He should be a man
neither of a blameless
character nor a
He is a man of ordinary
weaknesses and virtues,
like our selves, leaning
more to the side of
good than of evil.
Suffering, not because of some deliberate villainy but
because of some error of judgment.
Ignorance Hasty or careless
Oedipus Othello Hamlet
It may be accompanied by normal imperfection, but it is not itself a moral
imperfection, and in the purest tragic situation the suffering hero is not morally to
The Dramatic Unities
Unity of Time
#Comparing the Epic and the
“Tragedy tries as far as
possible, to live within a
single revolution of the
sun, or only slightly to
exceed it, whereas the epic
observes no limits in its
time of action”.
About the Unity of Time he merely says in the Poetics that tragedy
should confine itself, “as far as possible”, to a single revolution of the
Unity of Place
Aristotle only mentions
when comparing the epic
and the tragedy, that the
epic can narrate a number
of actions going on
simultaneously in different
parts, while in drama such
cannot be represented, for
the stage is one part and not
several parts, or places.
Unity of Action
Tight plot – not episodic; events
have the logical connectedness
Unity of plot in epic.
Contrast between epic and tragedy.
Superiority of tragedy over epic.
Tragedy is possible without character but not
Epic is of four types : simple and complex, epic
of character, epic of suffering.
Tragedy is of four types : The complex tragedy,
the tragedy of suffering, the tragedy of
character, the tragedy of spectacle.
EPIC AND TRAGEDY
Types of Tragedy
• Complex tragedy
It consists of reversal and recognition of truth.
• Tragedy of suffering
Tragedy depicts suffering.
• Tragedy of character
Character more involved than plot.
• Tragedy of spectacle
It depends upon the sensational effects
produced by the actors, the costume designers and
other mechanical and artificial devices.
Types of Recognition
Anagnorisis (discovery or recognition of truth)
• Signs or objects, symbols
• Author tells himself
• Discovery from memory
• Process of reasoning
• Discovery arising from the false reasoning
Superiority of Tragedy over Epic
• It has all the elements of an epic and has also
spectacle and song which the epic lacks.
• Unity of action only in a tragedy not in an epic.
• Simply reading the play without performing it is
already very potent.
• Tragedy is shorter that is more compact concentrated