An outline of aristotle's poetics chapter Imitation



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AN OUTLINE OF ARISTOTLE'S POETICS

Chapter


1. Imitation:

Epic poetry, tragedy, comedy, dithyrambic poetry, music of the flute and lyre ...are all moles of imitation. Imitation is produced by rhythm, language, or harmony, either singly or in combination,

2. Objects of Imitation:

Men in action. The poet must represent men as better than in real life, or as worse, or as they are. Comedy aims at representing men as worse', tragedy as better than in actual life.

3. Manner of Imitation:

The same story may be presented

1) In narrative and dialogue.

2) In narrative alone.

3) In action

4. Origin and Development;

Poetry sprang from two causes:

1) Instinct of imitation.

2) Delight in results;

Men enjoy seeing a likeness; in contemplating it they find themselves learning or inferring. Pleasure is sometimes due to the execution, coloring, etc.

The graver spirits imitated noble actions, good men. The more trivial imitated actions o' meaner persons (composed satires).

Tragedy and comedy were at first improvisation, Tragedy originated with dithyramb. Comedy originated with phallic song.



Aeschylus:

Raised number of actors from one 1o two; reduced the ;

Choral element in tragedy; started the spoken (non-choral) part on its way to become the most important.

Sophocles: Increased actors to three; introduced painted scenery.

Also, tragedy evolved by discarding short plots for those of greater compass, by improving diction, by in­creasing number of episodes $. Rise of Comedy:



Comedy is an imitation of cheaper, more ordinary persons, not entirely base, but embodiments of that part of the ugly which excites laughter, that which has some flaw or ugliness which causes neither pain -nor harm.

Comparison of Epic Poetry and Tragedy:

They agree in that both imitate in verse characters of a higher type. They differ in that epic poetry admits but one kind of meter, is narrative in form, and has no limits of time. Tragedy endeavors, as far as possible, to confine itself to a single revolution of the sun, or but slightly to exceed this limit.

6. Definition of Tragedy:

Tragedy, then, is an imitation of an action that is serious, complete and of a certain magnitude; in language embellished with each kind of artistic ornament, the sever­al kinds being found in separate parts of the play; in the form of action, not of narrative; with incidents arousing pity and fear, wherewith to accomplish its catharsis of such emotions (S. H. Butcher translation)

Tragedy, then, is an imitation, through action rather than narration, of a serious, complete, and ample action, by means of language rendered pleasant at different places in the constituent parts by each of the aids used to make language more delightful, in which imitation there is also effected through pity and fear its catharsis of these and similar emotions, (P. H. Epps translation). Every tragedy must have six parts:

Plot, Character, Diction, Thought, Spectacle, Melody.



Plot:

The arrangement of the incidents. Character:

That by which we determine what kinds of men are

being presented. Thought:

That which manifests itself in all the characters say

when they present an argument or even make evident an

opinion.

Most important of all is the structure of the incidents (plot). For tragedy is an imitation, not of men, but of action and of life, and life consists in action. Charac­ter determines men's qualities, but it is by their actions that they are happy or the reverse.. Without action there cannot be a tragedy; there may be without character. The most powerful elements of emotional interest in. tragedy — peripeteia or "reversal of the situation," and "recognition" scenes (anagnoresis) — are parts of the plot.



Definition of Tragedy:

Order of importance:

Plot is the first principle and, as it were, the soul of a tragedy.

Character holds second place.

Thought is third in order —that -is, the faculty of say­ing what is possible and pertinent in given circum­stances.

(Character is that which reveals moral purpose, show­ing what kind of things a man chooses or avoids, Thought, on the other hand, is found where something is proved to be or not to be, or a general maxim is enunciated.)

Diction comes fourth —the expression of. the meaning in words. Its essence is the same both in verse and prose.

Melody ...holds the chief place along the embellish­ments.

Spectacle . . .has, indeed, an emotional attraction of its own, but, of all the parts, it is the least artistic and connected least with the art of poetry.

7. Proper Structure of Plot (the first and .most important thing in tragedy):

Tragedy is an imitation of an action that is complete and whole and of a certain magnitud'3; for there may be a whole that is wanting in magnitude.

A Whole is that which has a beginning, a middle, and an end.

A Beginning is that which of necessity does not follow anything, while something by nature follows or results from it.

An End is that which naturally, of necessity, or most generally follows something else but nothing follows it.

A Middle is that which follows and is followed by some­thing.

A well-constructed plot, therefore; must neither begin nor, 7. (Cont'd)

end at haphazard but conform t< these principles.


Proper Structure of Plot


A beautiful object. must also be of a certain magnitude. . .a magnitude which may easily be embraced in one view, so in the plot a certain length is necessary, and a length which can be easily embraced by the memory. The proper magnitude is comprised with such limits that the sequence of events, according to the law of probability or necessity, will admit of a change from bad fortune to good, or from good fortune to bad,

8. Unity of Plot:

Does not, as some persons think consist in the unity of the hero, for countless things happen to one person some of which in no way constitute a unit. In just the same way there are many actions of an individual which do not constitute a single action.

The plot being an imitation of an action, must imitate one action and that a whole; and the different parts of the actions must be so related to each other that if any part is changed or taken away the whole will be altered and disturbed.

9. The Poet and the Historian Differ

...one relates what has happened,, the other what may happen. Poetry tends to express the universal, history the particular. By the universal, I mean ho-w a person of a certain type will on occasion speak or act, accord­ing to the law of probability or necessity.

The tragic poet must not at all costs keep to the re­ceived legends, which are the usual subjects of tragedy, Indeed, it would be absurd to attempt it. The poet or "maker" should be the maker of plots rather than of ver.^-3 since he is a poet because he imitates, and what he imi­tates are actions.
10. Types of Plots: Simple or Complex,

Simple when the change of fortune takes place without reversal of the situation and without recognition.

Complex when the change is accompanied by such reversal or by recognition, or both. These last should arise from-the internal structure of the plot:., so that what follows should be the necessary or probable result of the pre­ceding action. It makes all the^: difference whether any given event is a case of proper hoc or post hoc.
11. Parts of the Plot

"Reversal of the situation" (peripeteia): A train of action produces the opposite of the effect intended, as the revelation of the messenger in Oedipus..

"Recognition" (or "discovery" —anagnarosis): A change by which those marked by the plot for good or for bad fortune pass from a state of ignorance into a state of knowledge which disposes them either to friendship or enmity towards each other. The best form of recognition is coincident with a reversal of the situation, as in Oedipus,

"The Tragic Experience" (or "scene of suffering"):

A destructive or painful action, such as death on the stage, bodily agony, wounds, and the like.

12. Parts of Tragedy (quantitative; possibly an interpolation):

1) Prologue

2) Episode

3) Exode

4) Choral odes - a. Parodus, b. Stasima.

Some tragedies have in addition:

5) Songs from the stage

6) Commoi

Prologue — That entire part of the tragedy which pre­cedes the entrance ode of the chorus.

Episode — That entire part of the tragedy which comes between choral odes.

Exode — That entire part of the tragedy after which ' there is no complete choral ode.

Parodus —The first complete ode of the chorus.

Stasimon —A song of the chorus without anapests and'. trochaics»

Commus — An antiphonal lamentation between chorus and one or more of the actors,

13. The Ideal Structure For Tragedy:

A perfect tragedy should be arranged on the complex plan;

should excite pity and fear. The change of fortune must not be the spectacle of a virtuous man brought from pros­perity to adversity (this shocks us); nor a bad man pas­sing from adversity to prosperity [alien to the spirit of tragedy); nor the downfall of the the villain (would inspire neither pity nor fear), .but.. the character bet­ween these two extremes — a man who is not eminently good.

and just, yet whose misfortune is brought about by hamartia (the so-called "tragic flaw." Translated by Butcher as "error or frailty," by Epps as "inadequacy or positive fault." Some scholars advocate "trait," or "tragic trait."). He must be one who is highly renowned and prosperous — a personage like Oedipus, Thyestes, or other illustrious men of such families.

It is necessary for the well-arranged plot

1) to be single rather than double in outcome;

2) for the change of fortune to be from good to bad but not from bad to good;

3) for this change to be brought about not by rascal­ity but by hamartia, either in a person of the type just mentioned, or in a better, rather than an inferior person.

The best tragedies are founded within the story of a few houses ... and those others who have done or suffered something terrible,

In the second rank comes the kind of tragedy which has a double thread of plot and an opposite catastrophe for the good and for the bad. The pleasure derived is not

The true tragic pleasure — it is proper is proper rather to comedy.

14. Pity and Terror arise best from the incidents of the plot, not from spectacular means,

The most impressive tragic plots involve those who are near and dear to each other, as members of a family, in deeds of violence and horror,

In action, the doer

1) may know what he is doing, to one who knows who he is;

2) May be ignorant and discover the tie of kinship later.

3) may discover the relations! Relationship and withdraw from the deed.

4) may be aware of what he is about to do and then

refrain. Order of preference: 3, 2, 1, 4,



Poets are compelled to have recourse to those houses whose histories contain moving incidents like these.

Character must be good (as revealed in purpose of speech and actions, and choices made),

Character must be fitting (True to type. It is not fit­ting for a woman to be .manly or clever").

And just, yet whose misfortune is brought about by hamartia (the so-called "tragic flaw." Translated by Butcher as "error or frailty," by Epps as "inadequacy or positive fault." Some scholars advocate "trait," or "tragic trait."). He must be one who is highly renowned and prosperous •— a personage like Oedipus, Thyestes, or other illustrious men of such families.

It is necessary for the well-arranged plot

1) to be single rather than double in outcome;

2) for the change of fortune to be from good to bad but not from bad to good;

3) For this change to be brought about not by rascal­ity but by hamartia, either in a person of the type just mentioned, or in a better, rather than an inferior person.

The best tragedies are founded w the story not a few houses .., and those others who have done or suffered something terrible,

In the second rank comes the kind of tragedy which has a double thread of plot and an opposite catastrophe for the good and for the bad. The pleasure derived is not

The true tragic pleasure — it is proper rather to comedy.

14. Pity and Terror arise best from the incidents of the plot, not from spectacular means.

The most impressive tragic plots involve those who are near and dear to each other, as members of a family, in deeds of violence and horror.

In action, the doer

1) may know what he is doing, to one who knows who he is;

2) may be ignorant and discover the tie of kinship later.

3) May discover the relations] relationship and withdraw from the deed.

4) may be aware of what he is about to do and then

refrain. Order of preference: 3, 2, 1, 4.

Poets are compelled to have recourse to those houses whose histories contain moving incidents like these.

15 Character: Four qualities are desired.

Character must be good (as revealed in purpose of speech and actions, and choices made).

Character must be fitting (True t) type. It is not fit­ting for a woman to be manly or clever).

Character must be true to life.

Character must be consistent (if an inconsistent type, he must be consistently inconsistent).

In the structure of the plot, the poet should always aim at either the necessary or the probable.

The unraveling of the plot (denouement), no less than compli­cation, must arise out of the plot itself; it must not be brought about by the Deus ex Machina.

Within the action there must be nothing irrational. If the irrational cannot be excluded, it should be outside the scope of tragedy (Oedipus).

Tragedy is an imitation of persons who are above the common level ... so the poet, in representing men who are irascible or indolent, or have other defects of character, must raise them, in spite of such traits, to a fitting nobility.
16. Kinds of "Recognition":

1. By signs (scars, etc., the least artistic form).

2. Through inventions of the poet '(hence, wanting in art).

3. Through memory, when the sight of some object awakens a feeling.

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4. Through a process of reasoning.



$, From false inference (Odysseus and the bow).

The best form of recognition is that which arises from the incidents themselves, where '^he startling discovery results from what is probable, -^Next, come recognitions by process of reasoning,

17. In Constructing the Plot, the Poet Should:

1. Keep the whole situation visualized before him.

2. Work out his play with appropriate gestures.

3. First sketch its general outline, then fill in the episodes and amplify in detail, making sure that they are inherently related to the plo-fc,

Chapter

18. Tragedy Falls Into Two Parts:



1) Complication; and 2) Unraveling, or denouement.

1, Complication:

All that extends from the beginning to the part which marks the turning point to good or bad fortune.

2» Unraveling (denouement);

That which extends from the° beginning of the change to the end.

Four Kinds of Tragedy:

1. Complex - depending entirely on reversal and recognition.

2. Pathetic - tragedies of suffering (Ajax).

3. Ethical - character tragedies (Peleus). 4* Simple - depending upon spectacle.

The poet should endeavor to combine all poetic elements, or, failing that, the greatest number and the most important.

To compare tragedies, look at the plots, decide if they have similar complications and denouements.

Tragedy should not employ the epic type of plot - one •with many legends (and thus plots within plots),

The Chorus should be regarded as one of the actors. It should be an integral part of the whole and share in the action, in the canner not of Euripides but of Sophocles.

19. Thought (or the Intellectual Element) may be defined as:

All those things which must be produced by speech, such as presentation of a case, disproving a charge or amelio­rating a situation,- arousing the tragic elements of fear, pity, anger, and the like, and also curtailing and en­larging upon matters.

Diction falls largely within the domain of the art of delivery rather than poetry.

20. An Analysis of Parts of Speech (Probably; Interpolated)

21. An Analysis of Poetic Diction:

Words, modes of speech, metaphor, gender of nouns (proba­bly interpolated)*



22. The Function of Diction Is:

1. To make clear what is said. 2« To lift it above the level,, of the ordinary.

That diction is lofty and raided above the commonplace which employs unusual words —- a rare word, metaphorical words, lengthened words, anything that differs from the normal idiom, a certain infusion of these elements is necessary to style. Yet a style composed wholly of such words is either a riddle or a jargon.

The unusual words will raise the diction above the com­monplace and mean, while the use of familiar words will make for clarity. In any mod-? of poetic diction there must be moderation.

The greatest thing by far is to have a command of meta­phor ... it is the mark of genius, for to make good metaphors implies an eye for resemblances.

23. A Discussion of Narrative Poetry

24. The Element of the Wonderful is Required in Tragedy

The irrational, on which the x-wonderful depends for its chief effects, has wider scope in epic poetry. The wonderful is pleasing ... everyone tells a story with some additions of his own, knowing that his hearers wil.1 like it. Homer has chiefly taught other poets the art of telling lies skillfully. The poet should prefer probable impossibilities to in-probable possibilities. Everything irrational should, if possible, be excluded; or it should lie outside the action of the play, not within the drama.

Diction should be elaborated ii the pauses of the action where there is no expression of character or thought, for conversely, character and thought are merely ob­scured by a diction that is over brilliant.

25. The Poet Must of Necessity Imitate One of Three Objects:

1. Things as they were or are,

2. Things as they are said or thought to be or

3. Things as they ought to be.

•If he describes the impossible, he is guilty of an 'error^ but the error may be justified if the end of the \art.b6 'thereby attained— that is, if the effect of this on any ot.h'6r ^part of .the poem .s thus rendered more • striking-!. Further, if the description is not true to fact, the poet may perhaps reply, "Put -tire objects are as they ought to be"; just as Sophocles said that he drew men 'as they ought to be; Euripides, as they are-.

In examining whether what has been said or done by some­one is poetically right or not, we must not look merely to the particular act or saying, and ask whether it is poetically good or bad. We must also consider by whom it is said or done, to whom, when, by what means, or for what ends; whether, for instance, it be to secure a greater good, or avert a greater evil.

In general, the impossible must be justified by refer­ence to artistic requirements, or to the higher reality, or to received opinion. With respect to the requirements of art, a probable impossibility is to be preferred to a thing improbable and yet possible.

There are five sources from which critical objections are drawn. Things are censured either as impossible, or irrational, or morally hurtful, or contradictory, or contrary to artistic correctness.

26. On Whether the Epic or the Tragic Mode of ' Imitation Is the Higher:

The alleged defects of tragedy .'re not essential to it. Tragedy has all of the elements of epic, accomplishes its aim with greater economy of length, and is more uni­fied — it plainly follows that tragedy is the higher art, as attaining its end more perfectly.




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