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The Poetics of Aristotle   By: (384 BC - 322 BC)

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By Aristotle

A Translation By S. H. Butcher

[Transcriber's Annotations and Conventions: the translator left intact some Greek words to illustrate a specific point of the original discourse. In this transcription, in order to retain the accuracy of this text, those words are rendered by spelling out each Greek letter individually, such as {alpha beta gamma delta...}. The reader can distinguish these words by the enclosing braces {}. Where multiple words occur together, they are separated by the "/" symbol for clarity. Readers who do not speak or read the Greek language will usually neither gain nor lose understanding by skipping over these passages. Those who understand Greek, however, may gain a deeper insight to the original meaning and distinctions expressed by Aristotle.]

Analysis of Contents

I 'Imitation' the common principle of the Arts of Poetry. II The Objects of Imitation. III The Manner of Imitation. IV The Origin and Development of Poetry. V Definition of the Ludicrous, and a brief sketch of the rise of Comedy. VI Definition of Tragedy. VII The Plot must be a Whole. VIII The Plot must be a Unity. IX (Plot continued.) Dramatic Unity. X (Plot continued.) Definitions of Simple and Complex Plots. XI (Plot continued.) Reversal of the Situation, Recognition, and Tragic or disastrous Incident defined and explained. XII The 'quantitative parts' of Tragedy defined. XIII (Plot continued.) What constitutes Tragic Action. XIV (Plot continued.) The tragic emotions of pity and fear should spring out of the Plot itself. XV The element of Character in Tragedy. XVI (Plot continued.) Recognition: its various kinds, with examples. XVII Practical rules for the Tragic Poet. XVIII Further rules for the Tragic Poet. XIX Thought, or the Intellectual element, and Diction in Tragedy. XX Diction, or Language in general. XXI Poetic Diction. XXII (Poetic Diction continued.) How Poetry combines elevation of language with perspicuity. XXIII Epic Poetry. XXIV (Epic Poetry continued.) Further points of agreement with Tragedy. XXV Critical Objections brought against Poetry, and the principles on which they are to be answered. XXVI A general estimate of the comparative worth of Epic Poetry and Tragedy.



I propose to treat of Poetry in itself and of its various kinds, noting the essential quality of each; to inquire into the structure of the plot as requisite to a good poem; into the number and nature of the parts of which a poem is composed; and similarly into whatever else falls within the same inquiry. Following, then, the order of nature, let us begin with the principles which come first.

Epic poetry and Tragedy, Comedy also and Dithyrambic: poetry, and the music of the flute and of the lyre in most of their forms, are all in their general conception modes of imitation. They differ, however, from one: another in three respects, the medium, the objects, the manner or mode of imitation, being in each case distinct.

For as there are persons who, by conscious art or mere habit, imitate and represent various objects through the medium of colour and form, or again by the voice; so in the arts above mentioned, taken as a whole, the imitation is produced by rhythm, language, or 'harmony,' either singly or combined.

Thus in the music of the flute and of the lyre, 'harmony' and rhythm alone are employed; also in other arts, such as that of the shepherd's pipe, which are essentially similar to these. In dancing, rhythm alone is used without 'harmony'; for even dancing imitates character, emotion, and action, by rhythmical movement.

There is another art which imitates by means of language alone, and that either in prose or verse which, verse, again, may either combine different metres or consist of but one kind but this has hitherto been without a name... Continue reading book >>

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