But since a tragedy is an imitation of what is better,
we must imitate good  portrait painters; for, assigning the proper form when making likenesses, they depict them more beautiful [than they are]. So, too, the poet imitating those too quick to anger and too slow, or those having other such traits of character, should make them reasonable too, yet good, asAgatho and  Homer do Achilles, who is an example of obstinacy.
ch. 15 (1454a 29-33) (tr. B.A.M.):
Now, an example of unnecessary wickedness of character, for instance, is Menelaus in the
but  of the unseemly and inappropriate, the lament of Odysseus in the
and the <inappropriately clever> speech of Melanippe;
but of inconsistency, Iphigenia at Aulis;
for in no way does the suppliant [earlier in the drama]resemble her later self.
ch. 15 (1454a 33—1454b 9) (tr. B.A.M.):
But it is necessary in the characters in exactly the same way as in the construction of thethings done [
] always to seek what is either necessary or likely , sothat it be either necessary or likely that such and such a man say or do such and such a thing,and that it be either necessary or likely that this happen after that.
Cf. ch. 25 (61b 12-14): “And things of the kind that Zeuxis painted are impossible but better; for the patternmust surpass [the true].” In addition to treating the problem of the impossible here, note also that the next point made concerns that of the
harmful, which also comes under the problem of theirrational, as I explain further below.
Since the portrait must be ‘good’, as well as ‘like’, and since tragedy is an imitation of those who are better than we are, it must have a goodness that is also better—yet (as noted above) one that does not exclude cer-tain traits of character that are failings; those, namely, that are found in the noble or elevated, such as beingtoo quick to anger, which render them inconsistent. Hence if a critic were to fault a poet for making his char-acters heroic when men typically are not, one might reply that such a portrait is ‘like’ the original, since it is proper to tragedy and epic to represent men who are better than we are. Similarly, he will portray characterswith titanic failings without being worthy of censure, as to be obstinate belongs to Achilles. Cf. Ingram By-water,
Aristotle On the Art of Poetry. A Revised Text with Critical Introduction, Translation and Com-mentary
(Oxford, 1909), p. 231, on 1454b 8:…At this point, Aristotle returns to the subject of
. ….He shows that the correspondingdifficulty has been solved in a sister art, that of the portrait-painter, who without sacrificing thelikeness makes a man look handsomer than he is (
o(moi/ouj poiou=ntej kalli/ouj gra/fousin
); sothat, if the painter can do this, there is no reason why the literary artist also should not be able torepresent a tragic personage truthfully, with any infirmities of character which form part of thereceived idea of him (
o)rgi/louj kai\ r(#qu/mouj kai\ ta=lla ta\ toiau=ta e)/xontaj e)pi\ tw=nh)qiw=n
12), and at the same time as a good man (
13).Hence, he will have a goodness that is better than that of most men.
On this example, see further below.
Cf. Malcolm Heath,
(London, 1996 [Penguin Classics]), n. 61, p. 54: “A dithyramb (alsomentioned at 61b32) by Timotheus (48a15 and n. 9) which portrayed Odysseus lamenting the loss of hiscomrades, eaten by the monster Scylla (cf.
Here, the requirement that character be good is at issue. For Melanippe, see further below.
…the portrayal of Socrates by those other than Plato: “For thus we deride most of those, except Plato, whohave written the Apology of Socrates, as not preserving the Socratic manner in their composition.” (Proclus,
Commentaries of Proclus on the Timaeus of Plato
[1829 Vol. 1]. Translated by Thomas Taylor. p. 54.) Asone may see from my treatment of the dialogue-form, the foregoing passage is clearly indebted to Aristotle.
Cf. Malcolm Heath,
, n. 63, p. 54: “In Euripides’
Iphigeneia in Aulis
Iphigeneia’s first reaction onlearning that she is to be sacrificed to Artemis to secure the Greek army’s passage to Troy is to plead for her life (1211-52); but later she patriotically embraces her fate (1368-1401).”