The Poetics

Aristotle
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XVII Practical rules for the Tragic Poet. and Tragic or disastrous Incident defined and explained. In this transcription. however.) Recognition: its various kinds.. XIV (Plot continued.) Dramatic Unity. Those who understand Greek.) The tragic emotions of pity and fear should spring out of the Plot itself. VII The Plot must be a Whole. and a brief sketch of the rise of Comedy. may gain a deeper insight to the original meaning and distinctions expressed by Aristotle. XV The element of Character in Tragedy. V Definition of the Ludicrous. they are separated by the "/" symbol for clarity. XXIII Epic Poetry. The reader can distinguish these words by the enclosing braces {}. XIII (Plot continued. XVIII Further rules for the Tragic Poet. II The Objects of Imitation.) Reversal of the Situation. VIII The Plot must be a Unity. BUTCHER [Transcriber's Annotations and Conventions: the translator left intact some Greek words to illustrate a specific point of the original discourse. or the Intellectual element.}.THE POETICS OF ARISTOTLE A TRANSLATION BY S. XXI Poetic Diction. X (Plot continued. those words are rendered by spelling out each Greek letter individually. Readers who do not speak or read the Greek language will usually neither gain nor lose understanding by skipping over these passages. Recognition. . XXII (Poetic Diction continued.] Analysis of Contents I 'Imitation' the common principle of the Arts of Poetry. XVI (Plot continued.) How Poetry combines elevation of language with perspicuity. and Diction in Tragedy. XIX Thought. III The Manner of Imitation. Where multiple words occur together. VI Definition of Tragedy.) Further points of agreement with Tragedy. XII The 'quantitative parts' of Tragedy defined. in order to retain the accuracy of this text. IX (Plot continued. XX Diction. XI (Plot continued.) What constitutes Tragic Action. such as {alpha beta gamma delta .) Definitions of Simple and Complex Plots. with examples. or Language in general. XXIV (Epic Poetry continued. H.. IV The Origin and Development of Poetry.

even if a writer in his poetic imitation were to combine all metres. so in the arts above mentioned. again. such as that of the shepherd's pipe. however. as if it were not the imitation that makes the poet. They differ. noting the essential quality of each. and the principles on which they are to be answered. emotion. . Thus in the music of the flute and of the lyre. by conscious art or mere habit. There is another art which imitates by means of language alone. also in other arts. the name of poet is by custom given to the author. rhythm alone is used without 'harmony'. verse. for even dancing imitates character. or again by the voice. by rhythmical movement. which are essentially similar to these. Following. and speak of elegiac poets. imitate and represent various objects through the medium of colour and form. taken as a whole. So much then for these distinctions. are all in their general conception modes of imitation. Epic poetry and Tragedy. and similarly into whatever else falls within the same inquiry. to inquire into the structure of the plot as requisite to a good poem. from one: another in three respects. and. as Chaeremon did in his Centaur. so that it would be right to call the one poet. which is a medley composed of metres of all kinds. Even when a treatise on medicine or natural science is brought out in verse. we should bring him too under the general term poet. For as there are persons who. and that either in prose or verse--which. may either combine different metres or consist of but one kind--but this has hitherto been without a name. On the same principle. but the verse that entitles them all indiscriminately to the name. on the other. There are. the objects.XXV Critical Objections brought against Poetry. elegiac. People do. In dancing.' either singly or combined. For there is no common term we could apply to the mimes of Sophron and Xenarchus and the Socratic dialogues on the one hand. into the number and nature of the parts of which a poem is composed. then. some arts which employ all the means above mentioned. language. the imitation is produced by rhythm. XXVI A general estimate of the comparative worth of Epic Poetry and Tragedy. indeed. add the word 'maker' or 'poet' to the name of the metre.--the medium. 'harmony' and rhythm alone are employed. the manner or mode of imitation. ARISTOTLE'S POETICS I I propose to treat of Poetry in itself and of its various kinds. the other physicist rather than poet. hexameter) poets. let us begin with the principles which come first. being in each case distinct. or 'harmony. Comedy also and Dithyrambic: poetry. to poetic imitations in iambic. or any similar metre. the order of nature. and action. again. and yet Homer and Empedocles have nothing in common but the metre. and the music of the flute and of the lyre in most of their forms. or epic (that is.

It is the same in painting. and the objects the same. whether prose or verse unaccompanied by music. who is much earlier than Chionides and Magnes.--not only by those of Greece proper. then. but between them the difference is. So that from one point of view. the objects. and become a distinct kind in imitating objects that are thus distinct. for example. makes men better than they are.--the medium. rhythm. who allege that it originated under their democracy.namely. and these men must be either of a higher or a lower type (for moral character mainly answers to these divisions. here too one may portray different types. Tragedy too is claimed by certain Dorians of the Peloponnese. the poet may imitate by narration--in which case he can either take another personality as Homer does. unchanged--or he may present all his characters as living and moving before us. and the manner. Such diversities may be found even in dancing. but also by the Megarians of Sicily. Hegemon the Thasian. . The same distinction marks off Tragedy from Comedy. the author of the Deiliad. and metre. belonged to that country. So again in language. Such. The claim to Comedy is put forward by the Megarians. or as worse. as representing action. Pauson as less noble. now another. Such are Dithyrambic and Nomic poetry. now one means is employed. and lyre-playing. it follows that we must represent men either as better than in real life. or as they are. for the poet Epicharmus. the name of 'drama' is given to such poems. For the medium being the same. Now it is evident that each of the modes of imitation above mentioned will exhibit these differences. goodness and badness being the distinguishing marks of moral differences). as Timotheus and Philoxenus differed in representing their Cyclopes. of the same kind as Aristophanes--for both imitate persons acting and doing. II Since the objects of imitation are men in action. then. and Nicochares. Hence. The same thing holds good of Dithyrambs and Nomes. in the latter. Dionysius drew them true to life. In each case they appeal to the evidence of language. worse than they are. from another point of view. or speak in his own person. the inventor of parodies. These. are the three differences which distinguish artistic imitation. III There is still a third difference--the manner in which each of these objects may be imitated. that in the first two cases these means are all employed in combination. Cleophon as they are. for Comedy aims at representing men as worse. some say. For the same reason the Dorians claim the invention both of Tragedy and Comedy. and also Tragedy and Comedy. as we said at the beginning. tune. are the differences of the arts with respect to the medium of imitation. Homer. Tragedy as better than in actual life. Sophocles is an imitator of the same kind as Homer--for both imitate higher types of character. Polygnotus depicted men as nobler than they are.: flute-playing.

according to the individual character of the writers. Next. therefore. and the Athenian. Persons. The graver spirits imitated noble actions. But from Homer onward.--his own Margites. as the former did hymns to the gods and the praises of famous men. being excluded contemptuously from the city. till their rude improvisations gave birth to Poetry. are by them called {kappa omega mu alpha iota}. hence the measure is still called the iambic or lampooning measure. we delight to contemplate when reproduced with minute fidelity: such as the forms of the most ignoble animals and of dead bodies. by dramatising the ludicrous instead of writing personal satire. instances can be cited.The outlying villages. for example. or some such other cause. and other similar compositions. As. each of them lying deep in our nature. They add also that the Dorian word for 'doing' is {delta rho alpha nu}. 'to revel. starting with this natural gift developed by degrees their special aptitudes. in the serious style. one difference between him and other animals being that he is the most imitative of living creatures. and through imitation learns his earliest lessons. Objects which in themselves we view with pain. Thus the reason why men enjoy seeing a likeness is. is one instinct of our nature. Imitation. {pi rho alpha tau tau epsilon iota nu}. however. that in contemplating it they find themselves learning or inferring. that is he. that to learn gives the liveliest pleasure. IV Poetry in general seems to have sprung from two causes. they say. and no less universal is the pleasure felt in things imitated. for he alone combined dramatic form with excellence of imitation. Thus the older poets were distinguished as writers of heroic or of lampooning verse. and the actions of good men. not only to philosophers but to men in general. Homer is pre-eminent among poets. metres being manifestly sections of rhythm. 'Ah. the colouring. whose capacity. The appropriate metre was also here introduced. being that in which people lampooned one another. The cause of this again is. We have evidence of this in the facts of experience. the instinct of imitation is implanted in man from childhood.' but because they wandered from village to village (kappa alpha tau alpha / kappa omega mu alpha sigma). but to the execution. so he too first laid down the main lines of Comedy. and saying perhaps. But when Tragedy and Comedy . at first composing satires. of learning is more limited. the pleasure will be due not to the imitation as such. The more trivial sort imitated the actions of meaner persons. then. though many such writers probably there were. there is the instinct for 'harmony' and rhythm. First.' For if you happen not to have seen the original. His Margites bears the same relation to Comedy that the Iliad and Odyssey do to Tragedy. A poem of the satirical kind cannot indeed be put down to any author earlier than Homer. by the Athenians {delta eta mu iota}: and they assume that Comedians were so named not from {kappa omega mu 'alpha zeta epsilon iota nu}. This may suffice as to the number and nature of the various modes of imitation. Poetry now diverged in two directions.

it came originally from Sicily. which was originally employed when the poetry was of the Satyric order. the other with those of the phallic songs. each new element that showed itself was in turn developed. Tragedy advanced by slow degrees. Who furnished it with masks. of all measures. the performers were till then voluntary. They differ. because it was not at first treated seriously.--this raises another question. doubtless. in that Epic poetry admits but one kind of metre. abandoning the 'iambic' or lampooning form. not. and the Epic poets were succeeded by Tragedians. and assigned the leading part to the dialogue. for to discuss them in detail would. and had greater affinities with dancing. and is narrative in form. Tragedy--as also Comedy --was at first mere improvisation. which are still in use in many of our cities. rarely into hexameters. They differ. Aeschylus first introduced a second actor. The one originated with the authors of the Dithyramb. again. tells.--these and other similar details remain unknown. to confine itself to a single revolution of the sun. and the authors of these changes. The successive changes through which Tragedy passed. Moreover. Whether Tragedy has as yet perfected its proper types or not. or in relation also to the audience. since the drama was a larger and higher form of art. in the full sense of the word bad. The additions to the number of 'episodes' or acts. and only when we drop the colloquial intonation. the most colloquial: we see it in the fact that conversational speech runs into iambic lines more frequently than into any other kind of verse. and the other accessories of which tradition. The iambic measure then replaced the trochaic tetrameter. are well known. and there it stopped. Sophocles raised the number of actors to three. and whether it is to be judged in itself. Nature herself discovered the appropriate measure. generalised his themes and plots. or prologues. in their length: for Tragedy endeavours. the comic mask is ugly and distorted. Having passed through many changes. however. and added scene-painting. As for the plot. he diminished the importance of the Chorus. Be that as it may. or but slightly to exceed this . It was late before the Archon granted a comic chorus to a poet. and the grotesque diction of the earlier satyric form for the stately manner of Tragedy. For the iambic is. but does not imply pain. whereas Comedy has had no history. To take an obvious example. It consists in some defect or ugliness which is not painful or destructive. as we have said. the two classes of poets still followed their natural bent: the lampooners became writers of Comedy. Comedy had already taken definite shape when comic poets. but of Athenian writers Crates was the first who.came to light. the Ludicrous being merely a subdivision of the ugly. be a large undertaking. it found its natural form. Once dialogue had come in. distinctively so called. an imitation of characters of a lower type. it was not till late that the short plot was discarded for one of greater compass. are heard of. V Comedy is. must be taken as already described. as far as possible. or increased the number of actors. Epic poetry agrees with Tragedy in so far as it is an imitation in verse of characters of a higher type.

knows also about Epic poetry. by the poets to a man. the Plot is the imitation of the action: for by plot I here mean the arrangement of the incidents. therefore. that some parts are rendered through the medium of verse alone. All the elements of an Epic poem are found in Tragedy. Song and Diction. Plot. through pity and fear effecting the proper purgation of these emotions. for it is by these that we qualify actions themselves. And these complete the list.limit. not a quality. which parts determine its quality--namely. it necessarily follows. some peculiar to Tragedy. not of narrative. but it is by their actions that they are happy or the reverse. Tragedy is the imitation of an action. therefore. Now character determines men's qualities. in language embellished with each kind of artistic ornament. that Spectacular equipment will be a part of Tragedy. Thought is required wherever a statement is proved. in the form of action. 'harmony. therefore. or. but the elements of a Tragedy are not all found in the Epic poem.' and song enter. then.' I mean language into which rhythm. By Character I mean that in virtue of which we ascribe certain qualities to the agents. This. must have six parts. Spectacle. But most important of all is the structure of the incidents. and on actions again all success or failure depends. resuming its formal definition. By 'language embellished. Again. not of men. Hence. is an imitation of an action that is serious. whoever. and of Comedy. it may be. in the first place. Next. we may say. Song. every play contains Spectacular elements as well as Character. though at first the same freedom was admitted in Tragedy as in Epic poetry.' it is a term whose sense every one understands. Song. we will speak hereafter. Tragedy. For Tragedy is an imitation. Let us now discuss Tragedy. others again with the aid of song. and an action implies personal agents. VI Of the poetry which imitates in hexameter verse. By 'the several kinds in separate parts.' I mean. whereas the Epic action has no limits of time. and three the objects of imitation. complete. for these are the medium of imitation. Dramatic action. but of an action and of life. These elements have been employed. Plot. and its end is a mode of action. one the manner. as resulting from what has been already said. Now as tragic imitation implies persons acting. By 'Diction' I mean the mere metrical arrangement of the words: as for 'Song. Two of the parts constitute the medium of imitation. Diction. in fact. and of a certain magnitude. is a second point of difference. a general truth enunciated. then. Of their constituent parts some are common to both. is not with a view to the representation of character: character comes in as subsidiary . and life consists in action. knows what is good or bad Tragedy. Thought. Character. Diction. and Thought. and these--thought and character--are the two natural causes from which actions spring. Every Tragedy. who necessarily possess certain distinctive qualities both of character and thought. the several kinds being found in separate parts of the play.

The most beautiful colours. is felt even apart from representation and actors. the soul of a tragedy: Character holds the second place. the expression of the meaning in words. the language of the rhetoricians. Besides. The Spectacle has. as has been already said. and connected least with the art of poetry. or a general maxim is enunciated. is the first principle. Again. The Plot. is found where something is proved to be. laid on confusedly. then. and here lies the difference between Zeuxis and Polygnotus. we may be sure. In the case of oratory. and of the agents mainly with a view to the action. of all the parts.to the actions. or in which the speaker does not choose or avoid anything whatever. Speeches. on the other hand. if you string together a set of speeches expressive of character. Polygnotus delineates character well: the style of Zeuxis is devoid of ethical quality. Thus Tragedy is the imitation of an action. Of the remaining elements Song holds the chief place among the embellishments. and of poets in general this is often true. let us now discuss the proper structure of the Plot. the production of spectacular effects depends more on the art of the stage machinist than on that of the poet. Character is that which reveals moral purpose. without action there cannot be a tragedy. and its essence is the same both in verse and prose. therefore. the most powerful elements of emotional: interest in Tragedy Peripeteia or Reversal of the Situation. the poets of our time. which do not make this manifest. Hence the incidents and the plot are the end of a tragedy. by which I mean. Again. or not to be. however deficient in these respects. and. Thought. yet has a plot and artistically constructed incidents. as it were.--that is. Besides which. Third in order is Thought. you will not produce the essential tragic effect nearly so well as with a play which. will not give as much pleasure as the chalk outline of a portrait. the faculty of saying what is possible and pertinent in given circumstances. but. Fourth among the elements enumerated comes Diction. For the power of Tragedy. it is the least artistic. that novices in the art attain to finish: of diction and precision of portraiture before they can construct the plot. are not expressive of character. an emotional attraction of its own. showing what kind of things a man chooses or avoids. A further proof is. this is the function of the Political art and of the art of rhetoric: and so indeed the older poets make their characters speak the language of civic life. there may be without character. A similar fact is seen in painting. and well finished in point of diction and thought. VII These principles being established. It is the same in painting. and the end is the chief thing of all. The tragedies of most of our modern poets fail in the rendering of character. since this is the first and most important thing . and Recognition scenes--are parts of the plot. indeed. It is the same with almost all the early poets.

and an end. or his feigned madness at the mustering of the host--incidents between which there was no necessary or probable connection: but he made the Odyssey.in Tragedy. will admit of a change from bad fortune to good. a Theseid. or as a rule. but must also be of a certain magnitude. whether it be a living organism or any whole composed of parts. They imagine that as Heracles was one man. the error. An end. a middle. must neither begin nor end at haphazard. and so. as for instance if there were one a thousand miles long. for beauty depends on magnitude and order. for as the eye cannot take it all in at once. to centre round an action that in our sense of the word is one. the object being seen in an almost imperceptible moment of time. in the case of animate bodies and organisms a certain magnitude is necessary. As therefore. but after which something naturally is or comes to be. consist in the Unity of the hero. the performance would have been regulated by the water-clock. Again. as it appears. can one of vast size be beautiful. the unity and sense of the whole is lost for the spectator. But the limit as fixed by the nature of the drama itself is this: the greater the length. Tragedy is an imitation of an action that is complete. or other poems of the kind.--as indeed we are told was formerly done. In composing the Odyssey he did not include all the adventures of Odysseus--such as his wound on Parnassus. and a magnitude which may be easily embraced in one view. in the other imitative arts. therefore. Hence a very small animal organism cannot be beautiful. Nor. again. a beautiful object. and likewise the Iliad. is no part of artistic theory. the imitation is one when the object imitated is one. But Homer. therefore. A whole is that which has a beginning. Hence. there are many actions of one man out of which we cannot make one action. of all poets who have composed a Heracleid. so the plot. For had it been the rule for a hundred tragedies to compete together. the story of Heracles must also be a unity. the more beautiful will the piece be by reason of its size. as in all else he is of surpassing merit. so in the plot. is that which itself naturally follows some other thing. according to our definition. either by necessity. as some persons think. but has nothing following it. Now. For infinitely various are the incidents in one man's life which cannot be reduced to unity. that the sequence of events. too. must not only have an orderly arrangement of parts. provided that the whole be perspicuous. and a length which can be easily embraced by the memory. and whole. but conform to these principles. The limit of length in relation to dramatic competition and sensuous presentment. and of a certain magnitude. A beginning is that which does not itself follow anything by causal necessity. according to the law of probability or necessity. As. here too--whether from art or natural genius--seems to have happily discerned the truth. a certain length is necessary. for the view of it is confused. A middle is that which follows something as some other thing follows it. for there may be a whole that is wanting in magnitude. being an . VIII Unity of plot does not. A well constructed plot. we may say that the proper magnitude is comprised within such limits. or from good fortune to bad. on the contrary. And to define the matter roughly.

By the universal. the structural union of the parts being such that. to please the players. none are well known. moreover. for there is no reason why some events that have actually happened should not conform to the law of the probable and possible. Poetry. for even . with metre no less than without it. as in Agathon's Antheus. they stretch the plot beyond its capacity. where incidents and names alike are fictitious. and then inserts characteristic names. Tragedy is an imitation not only of a complete action. is not an organic part of the whole. Bad poets compose such pieces by their own fault. and it would still be a species of history. at the same time. For a thing whose presence or absence makes no visible difference. It clearly follows that the poet or 'maker' should be the maker of plots rather than of verses. at all costs keep to the received legends. Indeed.--unlike the lampooners who write about particular individuals. history the particular. since he is a poet because he imitates. must imitate one action and that a whole. and in virtue of that quality in them he is their poet or maker. The particular is--for example--what Alcibiades did or suffered. the other what may happen. The poet and the historian differ not by writing in verse or in prose. Such an effect is best produced when the events come on us by sunrise.imitation of an action. for even subjects that are known are known only to a few. as they write show pieces for competition. and the effect is heightened when. that it is not the function of the poet to relate what has happened. good poets. But again. and yet give pleasure to all. for. And even if he chances to take an historical subject. they follow as cause and effect. The work of Herodotus might be put into verse. But tragedians still keep to real names. it would be absurd to attempt it. In Comedy this is already apparent: for here the poet first constructs the plot on the lines of probability. IX It is. but of events inspiring fear or pity. and yet they give none the less pleasure. therefore. and it is this universality at which poetry aims in the names she attaches to the personages. I call a plot 'epeisodic' in which the episodes or acts succeed one another without probable or necessary sequence. The tragic wonder will thee be greater than if they happened of themselves or by accident. and are often forced to break the natural continuity. and what he imitates are actions. the whole will be disjointed and disturbed. evident from what has been said. but what may happen.-what is possible according to the law of probability or necessity. the rest being fictitious. therefore. the reason being that what is possible is credible: what has not happened we do not at once feel sure to be possible: but what has happened is manifestly possible: otherwise it would not have happened. Still there are even some tragedies in which there are only one or two well known names. is a more philosophical and a higher thing than history: for poetry tends to express the universal. if any one of them is displaced or removed. which are the usual subjects of Tragedy. We must not. he is none the less a poet. In others. I mean how a person of a certain type will on occasion speak or act. The true difference is that one relates what has happened. according to the law of probability or necessity. Of all plots and actions the epeisodic are the worst.

Such events seem not to be due to mere chance. and actions producing these effects are those which. It makes all the difference whether any given event is a case of propter hoc or post hoc. Recognition. X Plots are either Simple or Complex. will produce either pity or fear. but the outcome of the preceding incidents is that Danaus is killed and Lynceus saved. Thus in the Oedipus. as the name indicates. obviously show a similar distinction. Lynceus is being led away to his death. Again in the Lynceus. subject always to our rule of probability or necessity. An action which is one and continuous in the sense above defined. but another act of recognition is required to make Orestes known to Iphigenia. with Reversal. Again. or by both. or by Recognition. But the recognition which is most intimately connected with the plot and action is. such as death on the stage. meaning. but by revealing who he is. for the actions in real life. combined. the messenger comes to cheer Oedipus and free him from his alarms about his mother. and killed him. the recognition of persons. of the Plot--Reversal of the Situation and Recognition-turn upon surprises. wounds and the like. producing love or hate between the persons destined by the poet for good or bad fortune. . as we have said. The Scene of Suffering is a destructive or painful action. Tragedy represents. we may recognise or discover whether a person has done a thing or not. which fell upon his murderer while he was a spectator at a festival. I call Simple. A third part is the Scene of Suffering. The best form of recognition is coincident with a Reversal of the Situation. bodily agony. We may instance the statue of Mitys at Argos. of which the plots are an imitation. Moreover.coincidences are most striking when they have an air of design. These last should arise from the internal structure of the plot. it is upon such situations that the issues of good or bad fortune will depend. so that what follows should be the necessary or probable result of the preceding action. when the change of fortune takes place without Reversal of the Situation and without Recognition. by our definition. to slay him. Even inanimate things of the most trivial kind may in a sense be objects of recognition. and Danaus goes with him. Recognition. Thus Iphigenia is revealed to Orestes by the sending of the letter. Two parts. Plots. This recognition. then. being between persons. therefore. There are indeed other forms. then. he produces the opposite effect. XI Reversal of the Situation is a change by which the action veers round to its opposite. as in the Oedipus. constructed on these principles are necessarily the best. A Complex action is one in which the change is accompanied by such Reversal. it may happen that one person only is recognised by the other-when the latter is already known--or it may be necessary that the recognition should be on both sides. is a change from ignorance to knowledge.

The parts of Tragedy which must be treated as elements of the whole have been already mentioned. Thyestes. There remains.-that of a man who is not eminently good and just. The Prologue is that entire part of a tragedy which precedes the Parode of the Chorus. or other illustrious men of such families. A plot of this kind would. it merely shocks us. Of the Choric part the Parode is the first undivided utterance of the Chorus: the Stasimon is a Choric ode without anapaests or trochaic tetrameters: the Commos is a joint lamentation of Chorus and actors. Nor. but. namely. These are common to all plays: peculiar to some are the songs of actors from the stage and the Commoi. It should come about as the result not of vice. and by what means the specific effect of Tragedy will be produced. that of a bad man passing from adversity to prosperity: for nothing can be more alien to the spirit of Tragedy. again. moreover. Such an event. for pity is aroused by unmerited misfortune. The Episode is that entire part of a tragedy which is between complete choric songs. but of some great error or frailty. this last being divided into Parode and Stasimon. The quantitative parts the separate parts into which it is divided--are here enumerated. from good to bad. it possesses no single tragic quality. and what he should avoid. therefore. reversely. it neither satisfies the moral sense nor calls forth pity or fear. the character between these two extremes. imitate actions which excite pity and fear.-yet whose misfortune is brought about not by vice or depravity. The change of fortune should be not from bad to good. It should. that the change. rather than double as some maintain. doubtless. be arranged not on the simple but on the complex plan. Exode. satisfy the moral sense. in the first place. of fortune presented must not be the spectacle of a virtuous man brought from prosperity to adversity: for this moves neither pity nor fear. but by some error or frailty. and the separate parts into which Tragedy is divided. we must proceed to consider what the poet should aim at. this being the distinctive mark of tragic imitation. A perfect tragedy should. in constructing his plots. Episode. Prologue.--a personage like Oedipus. in a character either such as we have described. At first the poets . It follows plainly. fear by the misfortune of a man like ourselves. should the downfall of the utter villain be exhibited. Nor. will be neither pitiful nor terrible. Choric song. but it would inspire neither pity nor fear. again. be single in its issue. as we have seen. or better rather than worse. The practice of the stage bears out our view. A well constructed plot should. then.] XIII As the sequel to what has already been said. therefore. He must be one who is highly renowned and prosperous.XII [The parts of Tragedy which must be treated as elements of the whole have been already mentioned. We now come to the quantitative parts. The Exode is that entire part of a tragedy which has no choric song after it.

XIV Fear and pity may be aroused by spectacular means. Let us then determine what are the circumstances which strike us as terrible or pitiful. Orestes. If an enemy kills an enemy. --except so far as the suffering in itself is pitiful. it is evident that this quality must be impressed upon the incidents. and Euripides. Thyestes. Now. however. the best tragedies are founded on the story of a few houses. are the deadliest enemies---like Orestes and Aegisthus--quit the stage as friends at the close. many of which end unhappily. It is. then. and dependent on extraneous aids. He may not indeed destroy the framework of the received legends--the fact. The pleasure. It is accounted the best because of the weakness of the spectators. that Clytemnestra was slain by Orestes and Eriphyle by Alcmaeon but he ought to show invention of his own. and also an opposite catastrophe for the good and for the bad. a brother kills. thence derived is not the true tragic pleasure. Oedipus. to be perfect according to the rules of art should be of this construction. And since the pleasure which the poet should afford is that which comes from pity and fear through imitation. are the most tragic in effect. a mother her son. But when the tragic incident occurs between those who are near or dear to one another--if. a son his father. as we have said. are strangers to the purpose of Tragedy. In the second rank comes the kind of tragedy which some place first. or intends to kill. A tragedy. faulty though he may be in the general management of his subject. So again with indifferent persons. and indicates a superior poet. Actions capable of this effect must happen between persons who are either friends or enemies or indifferent to one another. a son his mother. on the fortunes of Alcmaeon. Let us explain more clearly what is meant by skilful handling. for we must not demand of Tragedy any and every kind of pleasure. even without the aid of the eye. But to produce this effect by the mere spectacle is a less artistic method. there is nothing to excite pity either in the act or the intention. the right ending. Meleager. he who hears the tale told will thrill with horror and melt to pity at what takes place. if well worked out. For the plot ought to be so constructed that.recounted any legend that came in their way. or any other deed of the kind is done---these are the situations to be looked for by the poet. but they may also result from the inner structure of the piece. . in the piece. for instance. yet is felt to be the most tragic of the poets. which is the better way. for the poet is guided in what he writes by the wishes of his audience. but only that which is proper to it. It is proper rather to Comedy. such plays. Hence they are in error who censure Euripides just because he follows this principle in his plays. Those who employ spectacular means to create a sense not of the terrible but only of the monstrous. for example. and skilfully handle the traditional material. and those others who have done or suffered something terrible. The best proof is that on the stage and in dramatic competition. a brother. and no one slays or is slain. Telephus. it has a double thread of plot. Like the Odyssey. This is the impression we should receive from hearing the story of the Oedipus. where those who.

--<to be about to act with knowledge of the persons and then not to act. This rule is relative to each class. for no disaster follows. It is thus too that Euripides makes Medea slay her children. is in the Antigone.The action may be done consciously and with knowledge of the persons. indeed. XV In respect of Character there are four things to be aimed at. the poet should always aim either at the necessary or the probable. but happy chance. and the slave quite worthless. and also a slave. and then not to act. the incident is outside the drama proper. For the deed must either be done or not done. Still better. where Haemon threatens to kill Creon. but cases occur where it falls within the action of the play: one may cite the Alcmaeon of Astydamas.--and that wittingly or unwittingly. and the discovery made afterwards. These are the only possible ways. Even a woman may be good. Now any speech or action that manifests moral purpose of any kind will be expressive of character: the character will be good if the purpose is good. The last case is the best. character must be true to life: for this is a distinct thing from goodness and propriety. Thus . therefore.--for Iphigenia the suppliant in no way resembles her later self. But of all these ways. but done in ignorance. Here. in the manner of the older poets. found in poetry. Enough has now been said concerning the structure of the incidents. as here described. Or. never. again. or very rarely. They are compelled. but. but valour in a woman. The Oedipus of Sophocles is an example. Thirdly. it must be good. It is. The next and better way is that the deed should be perpetrated. recognising who he is. and the right kind of plot. as when in the Cresphontes Merope is about to slay her son. The fourth case is> when some one is about to do an irreparable deed through ignorance. As an example of motiveless degradation of character. The second thing to aim at is propriety. As in the structure of the plot. still he must be consistently inconsistent. the sister recognises the brother just in time. while the discovery produces a startling effect. is inappropriate. Again in the Helle. and the speech of Melanippe: of inconsistency. Again. So in the Iphigenia. It is shocking without being tragic. It was not art. be inconsistent. then. and the tie of kinship or friendship be discovered afterwards. is why a few families only. First. the lament of Odysseus in the Scylla. the son recognises the mother when on the point of giving her up. There is a type of manly valour. however. therefore. furnish the subjects of tragedy. or unscrupulous cleverness. to be about to act knowing the persons. This. who suggested the type. and makes the discovery before it is done. that led the poets in search of subjects to impress the tragic quality upon their plots. spares his life. we have Menelaus in the Orestes: of character indecorous and inappropriate. The fourth point is consistency: for though the subject of the imitation. One instance. the Iphigenia at Aulis. and most important. as has been already observed. is the worst. or Telegonus in the Wounded Odysseus. though the woman may be said to be an inferior being. There is then nothing to shock us. to have recourse to those houses whose history contains moving incidents like these. that it should be perpetrated in ignorance. the deed of horror may be done. so too in the portraiture of character. there is a third case.

it should be outside the scope of the tragedy. no less than the complication. Within the action there must be nothing irrational. Others are acquired after birth. should preserve the type and yet ennoble it.--for antecedent or subsequent events. Orestes in the Iphigenia reveals the fact that he is Orestes. and of these some are bodily marks. They. or have other defects of character. It is therefore evident that the unravelling of the plot. any formal proof with or without tokens --is a less artistic mode of recognition. it must not be brought about by the 'Deus ex Machina'--as in the Medea. some external tokens. in another by the swineherds. Again. Even these admit of more or less skilful treatment. therefore. as in the Bath Scene in the Odyssey.-such as 'the spear which the earth-born race bear on their bodies. by the rule either of necessity or of probability. is nearly allied to the fault above mentioned:--for Orestes might as well have brought tokens with him. Another similar instance is the 'voice of the shuttle' in the Tereus of Sophocles. The use of tokens for the express purpose of proof --and. is most commonly employed recognition by signs. First. which. and which require to be reported or foretold. for to the gods we ascribe the power of seeing all things. Thus in the recognition of Odysseus by his scar. not what the plot requires. indeed. the discovery is made in one way by the nurse. though not among the essentials. make a likeness which is true to life and yet more beautiful. Next come the recognitions invented at will by the poet. which. For example. This. Of these some are congenital. These then are rules the poet should observe. in representing men who are irascible or indolent. just as this event should follow that by necessary or probable sequence. must arise out of the plot itself. . In this way Achilles is portrayed by Agathon and Homer. or in the Return of the Greeks in the Iliad. while reproducing the distinctive form of the original. and on that account wanting in art. as necklaces. are the concomitants of poetry. indeed. XVI What Recognition is has been already explained. the example of good portrait-painters should be followed. which lie beyond the range of human knowledge.' or the stars introduced by Carcinus in his Thyestes.a person of a given character should speak or act in a given way. She. as scars. or the little ark in the Tyro by which the discovery is effected. makes herself known by the letter. If the irrational cannot be excluded. Nor should he neglect those appeals to the senses. and saying what the poet. So too the poet. but he. Such is the irrational element in the Oedipus of Sophocles. We will now enumerate its kinds. But of this enough has been said in our published treatises. for here too there is much room for error. The 'Deus ex Machina' should be employed only for events external to the drama. from poverty of wit. by speaking himself. A better kind is that which comes about by a turn of incident. since Tragedy is an imitation of persons who are above the common level. the least artistic form.

A said <that no one else was able to bend the bow. the poet should work out his play. as if he were a spectator of the action. whether the poet takes it ready made or constructs it for himself. the piece failed. as in the Odysseus Disguised as a Messenger. for here we were cast forth.' So too in the Phineidae: the women. . A young girl is sacrificed. the poet should place the scene. Hence poetry implies either a happy gift of nature or a strain of madness. To . with the most life-like reality. for those who feel emotion are most convincing through natural sympathy with the characters they represent. as far as possible. he had not seen.' So. recalls the past and weeps. In this way. the best is that which arises from the incidents themselves. Thus in the Choephori: 'Some one resembling me has come: no one resembles me but Orestes: therefore Orestes has come. where the custom is to offer up all strangers to the goddess. and then fill in the episodes and amplify in detail.' Such too is the discovery made by Iphigenia in the play of Polyidus the Sophist. . where the hero breaks into tears on seeing the picture. and one who is agitated storms. she disappears mysteriously from the eyes of those who sacrificed her. in the other. and hence the recognition. or again in the 'Lay of Alcinous. In the one case a man can take the mould of any character. seeing everything with the utmost vividness. 'I came to find my son. again. Next come the recognitions by process of reasoning. where the startling discovery is made by natural means. . Such is that in the Oedipus of Sophocles. inferred their fate:--'Here we are doomed to die. the father says. This fact escaped the observation of one who did not see the situation. of all recognitions. for it was natural that Iphigenia should wish to dispatch a letter. It was a natural reflection for Orestes to make. The need of such a rule is shown by the fault found in Carcinus. with appropriate gestures. 'So I too must die at the altar like my sister. The fourth kind is by process of reasoning. Amphiaraus was on his way from the temple. on seeing the place. and I lose my own life. On the stage. hearing the minstrel play the lyre. to the best of his power. he should first sketch its general outline. in fact. one who is angry rages. But. and to bring about a recognition by this means that the expectation A would recognise the bow is false inference. however. These recognitions alone dispense with the artificial aid of tokens or amulets. and be most unlikely to overlook inconsistencies. hence B (the disguised Odysseus) imagined that A would> recognise the bow which. there is a composite kind of recognition involving false inference on the part of one of the characters. Again. She is transported to another country. As for the story. the audience being offended at the oversight.' where Odysseus. The general plan may be illustrated by the Iphigenia. he is lifted out of his proper self. in the Tydeus of Theodectes. before his eyes.The third kind depends on memory when the sight of some object awakens a feeling: as in the Cyprians of Dicaeogenes.' Again. he will discover what is in keeping with it. XVII In constructing the plot and working it out with the proper diction. and in the Iphigenia.

but it is these that give extension to Epic poetry. again. the best test to take is the plot. Meanwhile his home is in a wretched plight---suitors are wasting his substance and plotting against his son. After this. tempesttost. reveals who he is. In speaking of a tragedy as the same or different. the critics now expect one man to surpass all others in their several lines of excellence. or failing that. the rest is episode. of his coming is outside the action proper. Thus. the more so. depending entirely on Reversal of the Situation and Recognition. he is jealously watched by Poseidon. and scenes laid in Hades.--such as the tragedies on Ajax and Ixion. This is the essence of the plot. By the Complication I mean all that extends from the beginning of the action to the part which marks the turning-point to good or bad fortune. the greatest number and those the most important. in face of the cavilling criticism of the day. In the drama. the Pathetic (where the motive is passion). to form the Complication. The purpose. The fourth kind is the Simple <We here exclude the purely spectacular element>. he makes certain persons acquainted with him. should always be mastered.--Complication and Unravelling or Denouement. and left desolate. Both arts. the names being once given. the Ethical (where the motives are ethical). in whose play he exclaims very naturally:--'So it was not my sister only. Some time later her own brother chances to arrive. and. The poet should endeavour. Many poets tie the knot well. XVIII Every tragedy falls into two parts. to combine all poetic elements. in the Lynceus of Theodectes. each in his own branch. Again. There are four kinds of Tragedy. and by that remark he is saved. the Complication consists of the incidents presupposed in the drama. However. he is seized. and not make an Epic structure into a Tragedy--by an Epic structure I mean one with a . and then again * * <The Unravelling> extends from the accusation of murder to the end. who was doomed to be sacrificed'. the Prometheus. and his deliverance by means of the purificatory rite. the rest is the Unravelling. if possible. The mode of recognition may be either that of Euripides or of Polyidus. for example. the episodes are short.this ministry she is appointed. there is the madness which led to his capture. Incidents extraneous to the action are frequently combined with a portion of the action proper. exemplified by the Phorcides. For whereas there have hitherto been good poets. it remains to fill in the episodes. The Unravelling is that which extends from the beginning of the change to the end. We must see that they are relevant to the action. A certain man is absent from home for many years.--such as the Phthiotides and the Peleus. is outside the general plan of the play. At length. In the case of Orestes. the seizure of the child. The fact that the oracle for some reason ordered him to go there. the Complex. the poet should remember what has been often said. he attacks the suitors with his own hand. Identity exists where the Complication and Unravelling are the same. he comes. but I too. and is himself preserved while he destroys them. however. he himself arrives. when on the point of being sacrificed. but unravel it ill. Thus the story of the Odyssey can be stated briefly.

fear. importance. and so forth. One branch of the inquiry treats of the Modes of Utterance. a prayer. Such an event is probable in Agathon's sense of the word: 'it is probable. This effect is produced when the clever rogue. therefore. or even a whole act. or the brave villain defeated. the subdivisions being. is outwitted. he says. in the manner not of Euripides but of Sophocles. the suggestion of importance or its opposite. of the wrath. or who have taken the whole tale of Niobe. therefore. each part assumes its proper magnitude. a question. The only difference is. We may. 'that many things should happen contrary to probability. pass this over as an inquiry that belongs to another art. a statement. The proof is that the poets who have dramatised the whole story of the Fall of Troy. But this province of knowledge belongs to the art of Delivery and to the masters of that science. For what were the business of a speaker. goddess. It includes. 'Sing. Yet what difference is there between introducing such choral interludes.proof and refutation. Under Thought is included every effect which has to be produced by speech. In his Reversals of the Situation. we may assume what is said in the Rhetoric. an answer. it is evident that the dramatic incidents must be treated from the same points of view as the dramatic speeches. sung as mere interludes. it should be an integral part of the whole. For who can admit the fault imputed to Homer by Protagoras. or probability. while the effects aimed at in speech should be produced by the speaker. Concerning Thought. to which inquiry the subject more strictly belongs. the excitation of the feelings.multiplicity of plots--as if.--that in the words. not to poetry. and share in the action. as regards Diction. either fail utterly or meet with poor success on the stage. that the incidents should speak for themselves without verbal exposition. like Euripides. if the Thought were revealed quite apart from what he says? Next. In the Epic poem. Now.--to produce a tragic effect that satisfies the moral sense.' he says. and not a part of her story. and transferring a speech. for instance. and the like. a practice first begun by Agathon.' The Chorus too should be regarded as one of the actors. instead of selecting portions.-. They are. Even Agathon has been known to fail from this one defect. and as a result of the speech. you were to make a tragedy out of the entire story of the Iliad. a command. To know or not to know these things involves no serious censure upon the poet's art. however. like Sisyphus. when the object is to evoke the sense of pity. such as pity. As for the later poets.' he gives a command under the idea that he utters a prayer? For to tell some one to do a thing or not to do it is. for instance. . he shows a marvellous skill in the effort to hit the popular taste. from one play to another? XIX It remains to speak of Diction and Thought. owing to its length. their choral songs pertain as little to the subject of the piece as to that of any other tragedy. a threat. like Aeschylus. fear. anger. In the drama the result is far from answering to the poet's expectation. the other parts of Tragedy having been already discussed.-what is a command.

Or. not marking time. Verb. none of which I call a letter. as S and R. as G and D. but joined to a vowel sound becomes audible.Letter.' the {delta omega rho omicron nu} or 'gift' is not in itself significant. which out of several sounds.XX [Language in general includes the following parts:.' A sentence or phrase may form a unity in two ways. as they are acute. 'Did he go?' and 'go' are verbal inflexions of this kind. A Noun is a composite significant sound.' or 'he has walked' does connote time. present or past. which inquiry belongs in detail to the writers on metre. in which. Still it will always have some significant part. that which with such impact has by itself no sound. {pi epsilon rho iota}. Or.--GRA. grave. A Connecting word is a non-significant sound. Sentence or Phrase. Connecting word. Noun. a non-significant sound. as in the noun. or division of a sentence. as {mu epsilon nu}. A vowel is that which without impact of tongue or lip has an audible sound. but 'he walks. and the like. no part is in itself significant. Thus the Iliad is one by . yet not every such sound.--either as signifying one thing. whether one or many. however. These are distinguished according to the form assumed by the mouth and the place where they are produced. as also with A. For even brutes utter indivisible sounds. according as they are aspirated or smooth. a nonsignificant sound. 'god-given. or a mute. which neither causes nor hinders the union of many sounds into one significant sound. A Verb is a composite significant sound. e. Inflexion or Case. as 'man' or 'men '. such. {eta tau omicron iota}. end. A Syllable is a non-significant sound. and expresses either the relation 'of. a question or a command. as 'in walking. marking time. or of an intermediate tone. but only one which can form part of a group of sounds. which marks the beginning. long or short. or that of number. each of them significant.' or 'Cleon son of Cleon. a semi-vowel.--as {alpha mu theta iota}. or as consisting of several parts linked together. for not every such group of words consists of verbs and nouns--'the definition of man.' or 'white' does not express the idea of 'when'. Thus in Theodorus.' or the like.g. is capable of forming one significant sound. or the modes or tones in actual delivery. Syllable. composed of a mute and a vowel: for GR without A is a syllable. The sound I mean may be either a vowel. Inflexion belongs both to the noun and verb. it may be placed at either end or in the middle of a sentence. But the investigation of these differences belongs also to metrical science. A Sentence or Phrase is a composite significant sound.' 'to. {delta epsilon}. For 'man. A Letter is an indivisible sound. that which with such impact has an audible sound. some at least of whose parts are in themselves significant. that it cannot correctly stand by itself at the beginning of a sentence. A semi-vowel. A mute. of which no part is in itself significant: for in double or compound words we do not employ the separate parts as if each were in itself significant.' for example -but it may dispense even with the verb.

one which is in use in another country. quadruple. those composed either of a significant and non-significant element (though within the whole word no element is significant). Sometimes too we qualify the metaphor by adding the term to which the proper word is relative. or lengthened.' For some of the terms of the proportion there is at times no word in existence. By a current or proper word I mean one which is in general use among a people. For instance. 'lance.' is used for {tau alpha mu epsilon iota nu}. as: 'Verily ten thousand noble deeds hath Odysseus wrought'.' Every word is either current.g. so is evening to day. or strange. The cup may. but not in relation to the same people. as: 'With blade of bronze drew away the life. Evening may therefore be called 'the old age of the day. We may then use the fourth for the second. therefore. By double or compound. and then deny of that term one of its proper attributes. as old age is to life. 'life's setting sun. or from species to species. Metaphor is the application of an alien name by transference either from genus to species. by a strange word.' and {tau alpha mu epsilon iota nu} again for {alpha rho upsilon alpha iota}. or multiple in form. like so many Massilian expressions. . The word {sigma iota gamma upsilon nu omicron nu}. or metaphorical.] XXI Words are of two kinds.' and 'Cleft the water with the vessel of unyielding bronze. as: 'There lies my ship'.the linking together of parts. therefore.' or. the same word may be at once strange and current. the definition of man by the unity of the thing signified.' and the shield 'the cup of Ares. or ornamental. such as {gamma eta}. in the phrase of Empedocles.--each being a species of taking away. e. be called 'the shield of Dionysus. A word may likewise be triple. 'to draw away. to scatter seed is called sowing: but the action of the sun in scattering his rays is nameless. We may apply an alien term. 'Hermo-caico-xanthus who prayed to Father Zeus>.> .' Here {alpha rho upsilon rho alpha iota}. From species to genus.' Or. that is. and is here used for a large number generally.' <An ornamental word . not 'the cup of Ares. or from species to genus. By simple I mean those composed of non-significant elements.' There is another way in which this kind of metaphor may be employed. as if we were to call the shield. or of elements that are both significant. Hence the expression of the poet 'sowing the god-created light.' is to the Cyprians a current term but to us a strange one. or contracted. simple and double.' and old age. Analogy or proportion is when the second term is to the first as the fourth to the third. Thus from genus to species. . From species to species. 'the evening of life. Still this process bears to the sun the same relation as sowing to the seed. or altered. 'to cleave. still the metaphor may be used.' but 'the wineless cup. for lying at anchor is a species of lying. Plainly. again. Thus the cup is to Dionysus as the shield to Ares. or by analogy. or newly-coined. or the second for the fourth. for ten thousand is a species of large number. proportion.

Now this cannot be done by any arrangement of ordinary words. if it consists of strange (or rare) words. But nothing contributes more to produce a clearness of diction that is remote from commonness than the lengthening. A diction that is made up of strange (or rare) terms is a jargon. feminine. that differs from the normal idiom. Instances of lengthening are. No noun ends in a mute or a vowel short by nature.' for {kappa epsilon rho alpha tau alpha}. of these elements is necessary to style. 'supplicator. Such is the riddle:--'A man I saw who on another man had glued the bronze by aid of fire. therefore. or in some letter compounded with {sigma}. on the other hand. and part is re-cast. 'priest. By unusual. That diction. Feminine. the metaphorical. For the essence of a riddle is to express true facts under impossible combinations. A certain infusion.--anything. A word is contracted when some part of it is removed.' A word is lengthened when its own vowel is exchanged for a longer one.--these being two. 'horns. also in {nu} and {sigma}. if it consists of metaphors. Some such words there appear to be: as {epsilon rho nu upsilon gamma epsilon sigma}. as in {delta epsilon xi iota-tau epsilon rho omicron nu / kappa alpha tau alpha / mu alpha zeta omicron nu}. lengthened. An altered word is one in which part of the ordinary form is left unchanged. is lofty and raised above the commonplace which employs unusual words. {pi epsilon pi epsilon rho iota}: five end in {upsilon}. {rho}. {delta omega}. and--of vowels that admit of lengthening--those in {alpha}.] XXII The perfection of style is to be clear without being mean. while the use of proper words will make it perspicuous. Masculine are such as end in {nu}.' for {iota epsilon rho epsilon upsilon sigma}. at the same time it is mean:--witness the poetry of Cleophon and of Sthenelus. Thus the number of letters in which nouns masculine and feminine end is the same. 'sprouters. Yet a style wholly composed of such words is either a riddle or a jargon. {delta epsilon xi iota tau epsilon rho omicron nu} is for {delta epsilon xi iota omicron nu}. {sigma}. or neuter.' and others of the same kind. will raise it above the commonplace and mean. for the strange (or rare) word.' and {alpha rho eta tau eta rho}. and alteration of words. a riddle. in short. as in {mu iota alpha / gamma iota nu epsilon tau alpha iota / alpha mu phi omicron tau episilon rho omega nu / omicron psi}.--{mu eta lambda iota}. and {Pi eta lambda eta iota alpha delta epsilon omega} for {Pi eta lambda epsilon iota delta omicron upsilon}: of contraction. but by the use of metaphor it can. For by deviating in exceptional . but is adopted by the poet himself.--{kappa rho iota}. and the other kinds above mentioned. Neuter nouns end in these two latter vowels. namely {eta} and {omega}. for {psi} and {xi} are equivalent to endings in {sigma}. I mean strange (or rare) words. a jargon. and {omicron psi}. Three only end in {iota}. [Nouns in themselves are either masculine. metaphorical. {kappa omicron mu mu iota}.--{pi omicron lambda eta omicron sigma} for {pi omicron lambda epsilon omega sigma}. the ornamental. such as end in vowels that are always long. or when a syllable is inserted.A newly-coined word is one which has never been even in local use. and {xi}. The clearest style is that which uses only current or proper words. contraction.

{rho epsilon theta epsilon nu}. So. the truth of our observation will be manifest. the elder. again. Euripides substitutes {Theta omicron iota nu alpha tau alpha iota} 'feasts on' for {epsilon sigma theta iota epsilon iota} 'feeds on. declared that it would be an easy matter to be a poet if you might lengthen syllables at will. if for the line. {nu upsilon nu / delta epsilon / mu / epsilon omega nu / mu iota kappa rho omicron sigma / tau epsilon / kappa alpha iota / alpha rho theta epsilon nu iota kappa omicron sigma / kappa alpha iota / alpha epsilon iota delta gamma sigma}. Or. {delta omega mu alpha tau omega nu / alpha pi omicron} instead of {alpha pi omicron / delta omega mu alpha tau omega nu}. He caricatured the practice in the very form of his diction. or. {epsilon gamma omega / delta epsilon / nu iota nu}. For example Aeschylus and Euripides each composed the same iambic line. if we take a strange (or rare) word. How great a difference is made by the appropriate use of lengthening. the difference will be felt if we substitute the common words. or any similar forms of speech. grotesque. would produce the like effect if used without propriety and with the express purpose of being ludicrous.cases from the normal idiom. {omicron upsilon kappa / alpha nu / gamma / epsilon rho alpha mu epsilon nu omicron sigma / tau omicron nu / epsilon kappa epsilon iota nu omicron upsilon /epsilon lambda lambda epsilon beta omicron rho omicron nu}. no doubt. Or. {delta iota phi rho omicron nu / alpha epsilon iota kappa epsilon lambda iota omicron nu / kappa alpha tau alpha theta epsilon iota sigma / omicron lambda iota gamma eta nu / tau epsilon / tau rho alpha pi epsilon iota sigma / omicron lambda iota gamma eta nu / tau epsilon / tau rho alpha pi epsilon zeta alpha nu). as in the verse: '{Epsilon pi iota chi alpha rho eta nu / epsilon iota delta omicron nu / Mu alpha rho alpha theta omega nu alpha delta epsilon / Beta alpha delta iota zeta omicron nu tau alpha}. makes one verse appear beautiful and the other trivial. The critics. the partial conformity with usage will give perspicuity. and hold the author up to ridicule. {Alpha chi iota lambda lambda . while. eta iota omicron nu epsilon sigma kappa rho alpha zeta omicron upsilon rho iota nu} Again. in the line. {nu upsilon nu / delta epsilon / mu /epsilon omega nu / omicron lambda iota gamma iota gamma upsilon sigma / tau epsilon / kappa alpha iota / omicron upsilon tau iota delta alpha nu omicron sigma / kappa alpha iota / alpha epsilon iota kappa eta sigma.} We read. strange (or rare) words. a metaphor.' Again. But the alteration of a single word by Euripides. or any similar mode of expression. {delta iota phi rho omicron nu / mu omicron chi theta eta rho omicron nu / kappa alpha tau alpha theta epsilon iota sigma / mu iota kappa rho alpha nu / tau epsilon / tau rho alpha pi epsilon zeta alpha nu}. and replace it by the current or proper term. are in error who censure these licenses of speech. Aeschylus in his Philoctetes says: {Phi alpha gamma epsilon delta alpha iota nu alpha / <delta> / eta / mu omicron upsilon / sigma alpha rho kappa alpha sigma / epsilon rho theta iota epsilon iota / pi omicron delta omicron sigma}. therefore. for {eta iota omicron nu epsilon sigma / beta omicron omicron omega rho iota nu. Ariphrades ridiculed the tragedians for using phrases which no one would employ in ordinary speech: for example. Thus Eucleides. the language will gain distinction. may be seen in Epic poetry by the insertion of ordinary forms in the verse. To employ such license at all obtrusively is. Even metaphors. at the same time. but in any mode of poetic diction there must be moderation. who employed the rarer term instead of the ordinary one.

indeed. It will differ in structure from historical compositions. Such is the practice. little connected together as the events may be. the metaphorical. . again. but with a multiplicity of parts. the transcendent excellence of Homer is manifest.epsilon omega sigma / pi epsilon rho iota} instead of (pi epsilon rho iota / 'Alpha chi iota lambda lambda epsilon omega sigma}. But the greatest thing by far is to have a command of metaphor. the Philoctetes. Of the various kinds of words. Concerning Tragedy and imitation by means of action this may suffice. In heroic poetry. for to make good metaphors implies an eye for resemblances. while the Cypria supplies materials for many. For this reason the Iliad and the Odyssey each furnish the subject of one tragedy. as in a tragedy. and an end. though that war had a beginning and an end. so in the sequence of events. it is the mark of genius. and all that happened within that period to one person or to many. then. the Eurypylus. of most poets. It would have been too vast a theme. the Fall of Ilium. He never attempts to make the whole war of Troy the subject of his poem. or an action single indeed. strange (or rare) words. It is precisely because such phrases are not part of the current idiom that they give distinction to the style. whole and complete. but a single period. metaphors to iambic. But in iambic verse. or. Thus did the author of the Cypria and of the Little Iliad. the compound are best adapted to Dithyrambs. the Departure of the Fleet. This alone cannot be imparted by another. as far as may be. one thing sometimes follows another. but did not tend to any one result. familiar speech. however. to be constructed on dramatic principles.--the current or proper. and not easily embraced in a single view. As it is. as has been already observed. all these varieties are serviceable. For as the sea-fight at Salamis and the battle with the Carthaginians in Sicily took place at the same time. of two. he detaches a single portion. and so forth. and admits as episodes many events from the general story of the war--such as the Catalogue of the ships and others--thus diversifying the poem. It will thus resemble a living organism in all its unity. rare words to heroic poetry. If. a single period. with a beginning. a middle. the Neoptolemus. as also in compound words. Here again. These are. the plot manifestly ought. and yet no single result is thereby produced. the Laconian Women. It should have for its subject a single action. which reproduces. All other poets take a single hero. he failed to see. which of necessity present not a single action. and the like. It is a great matter to observe propriety in these several modes of expression. XXIII As to that poetic imitation which is narrative in form and employs a single metre. it must have been over-complicated by the variety of the incidents. and produce the pleasure proper to it. and the Little Iliad for eight--the Award of the Arms. at most. the most appropriate words are those which are found even in prose. This. he had kept it within moderate limits. we may say. the ornamental. the Mendicant Odysseus.

For of all measures the heroic is the stateliest and the most massive. and hence it most readily admits rare words and metaphors. a great--a special--capacity for enlarging its dimensions. and imitate but little and rarely. are the same. has the special merit of being the only poet who rightly appreciates the part he should take himself. Homer. Indeed each of his poems has a twofold character. many events simultaneously transacted can be presented. and in its metre. This condition will be satisfied by poems on a smaller scale than the old epics. it would be found incongruous. In all these respects Homer is our earliest and sufficient model. the iambic and the trochaic tetrameter are stirring measures. For sameness of incident soon produces satiety. and Scenes of Suffering. the pursuit of Hector would be ludicrous if placed upon the stage--the Greeks . and makes tragedies fail on the stage. or 'ethical.' Moreover. add mass and dignity to the poem. or woman. however. Epic poetry must have as many kinds as Tragedy: it must be simple. has wider scope in Epic poetry. Homer. admirable in all respects.XXIV Again. the heroic measure has proved its fitness by the test of experience.' or 'pathetic. Other poets appear themselves upon the scene throughout. or other personage. after a few prefatory words. but each with a character of his own. in diction and thought they are supreme. The Epic has here an advantage. Still more absurd would it be to mix together different metres. and relieving the story with varying episodes. none of them wanting in characteristic qualities. and answering in length to the group of tragedies presented at a single sitting. As regards scale or length. the latter being akin to dancing. and we can see the reason. because there the person acting is not seen. if relevant to the subject. owing to the narrative form. The Iliad is at once simple and 'pathetic. But in Epic poetry. The element of the wonderful is required in Tragedy. Epic poetry differs from Tragedy in the scale on which it is constructed. for it requires Reversals of the Situation. and these. with the exception of song and spectacle. we have already laid down an adequate limit:--the beginning and the end must be capable of being brought within a single view. Thus. which is another point in which the narrative form of imitation stands alone. to diverting the mind of the hearer. as we have said. the former expressive of action.' The parts also. at once brings in a man. and at the same time 'ethical. On the other hand. we must confine ourselves to the action on the stage and the part taken by the players. In Tragedy we cannot imitate several lines of actions carried on at one and the same time. The poet should speak as little as possible in his own person. Hence no one has ever composed a poem on a great scale in any other than heroic verse.' and the Odyssey complex (for Recognition scenes run through it). the thoughts and the diction must be artistic. or complex. Recognitions. The irrational. As for the metre. for it is not this that makes him an imitator. Nature herself. If a narrative poem in any other metre or in many metres were now composed. teaches the choice of the proper measure. on which the wonderful depends for its chief effects. and one that conduces to grandeur of effect. Moreover. Epic poetry has. as was done by Chaeremon.

As it is. or things as they ought to be. be excluded. Take even the irrational incidents in the Odyssey. The tragic plot must not be composed of irrational parts. assuming that if one thing is or becomes. which we concede to the poets. XXV With respect to critical difficulties and their solutions. The poet being an imitator. But this is a false inference. provided the second be true. rare words or metaphors. or. if the second is.--as in the Electra.--things as they were or are. If a poet has chosen to imitate something. conversely. for example. Hence. or introduced technical inaccuracies in medicine. But once the irrational has been introduced and an air of likelihood imparted to it. as in the Mysians. such a plot should not in the first instance be constructed. How intolerable even these might have been would be apparent if an inferior poet were to treat the subject. For the mind. or in any other art the error is not essential to the poetry. the man who has come from Tegea to Mysia and is still speechless. Add to this. The secret of it lies in a fallacy. But in the Epic poem the absurdity passes unnoticed. where the first thing is untrue. For. It is Homer who has chiefly taught other poets the art of telling lies skilfully. For. where Odysseus is left upon the shore of Ithaca. where there is no expression of character or thought. a second is or becomes. <but has imitated it incorrectly> through want of capacity. These are the points of view from . the hero's ignorance as to the manner of Laius' death). those which touch its essence. the messenger's account of the Pythian games. Now the wonderful is pleasing: as may be inferred from the fact that every one tells a story with some addition of his own. the number and nature of the sources from which they may be drawn may be thus exhibited. we must accept it in spite of the absurdity. the first likewise is or becomes. the poet should prefer probable impossibilities to improbable possibilities. to add that the first is or has become. Within the art of poetry itself there are two kinds of faults. is ridiculous. There is an example of this in the Bath Scene of the Odyssey. the error is inherent in the poetry. falsely infers the truth of the first.--either current terms or. The vehicle of expression is language. knowing the second to be true. things as they are said or thought to be. or. men imagine that. that the standard of correctness is not the same in poetry and politics. Everything irrational should. it may be. like a painter or any other artist. and Achilles waving them back. But if the failure is due to a wrong choice if he has represented a horse as throwing out both his off legs at once. the absurdity is veiled by the poetic charm with which the poet invests it. The diction should be elaborated in the pauses of the action. any more than in poetry and any other art. character and thought are merely obscured by a diction that is over brilliant. it should lie outside the action of the play (as.standing still and not joining in the pursuit. knowing that his hearers like it. if possible. it is quite unnecessary. Accordingly. The plea that otherwise the plot would have been ruined. There are also many modifications of language. must of necessity imitate one of three objects. and those which are accidental. at all events. in the Oedipus. not within the drama.

for the best known may be called the only one. the poet may perhaps reply. but the error may be justified. 'well-favoured. we must not look merely to the particular act or saying.--not to know that a hind has no horns is a less serious matter than to paint it inartistically. We must also consider by whom it is said or done. he is guilty of an error. where the poet perhaps employs {omicron upsilon rho eta alpha sigma} not in the sense of mules. as 'Now all gods and men were sleeping through the night. it was the fact'.' It is not meant that his body was ill-shaped. if.'--while at the same time the poet says: 'Often indeed as he turned his gaze to the Trojan plain. the effect of this or any other part of the poem is thus rendered more striking.' 'All' is here used metaphorically for 'many. Thus Hippias of Thasos solved the difficulties in the lines. again. If he describes the impossible. Further.' {omicron iota eta}. to whom. if possible. Other difficulties may be resolved by due regard to the usage of language.' does not mean `mix it stronger' as for hard drinkers. if the end of the art be thereby attained (the end being that already mentioned). But anyhow. or better.' This applies to tales about the gods. however. or avert a greater evil. First as to matters which concern the poet's own art.which we should consider and answer the objections raised by the critics. in examining whether what has been said or done by some one is poetically right or not. In this way the objection may be met.' to denote a fair face. Euripides. by what means. {zeta omega rho omicron tau epsilon rho omicron nu / delta epsilon / kappa epsilon rho alpha iota epsilon}.' Again. . as in the passage about the arms: 'Upright upon their butt-ends stood the spears. and ask whether it is poetically good or bad. very possibly. as in {omicron upsilon rho eta alpha sigma / mu epsilon nu / pi rho omega tau omicron nu}. but of sentinels. what Xenophanes says of them. when.--'alone she hath no part .--{delta iota delta omicron . We may note a rare word. Again. the representation be of neither kind. If. A case in point is the pursuit of Hector. Again. of Dolon: 'ill-favoured indeed he was to look upon.' all being a species of many. If. So in the verse. be avoided. but 'mix it quicker. as they are. the error is not justified: for every kind of error should. however. Again. or some accident of it? For example.--'But the objects are as they ought to be': just as Sophocles said that he drew men as they ought to be. 'alone. So.--This is how men say the thing is. that is. it be to secure a greater good.' This was the custom then. he marvelled at the sound of flutes and pipes. for the Cretans use the word {epsilon upsilon epsilon iota delta epsilon sigma}. the poet may answer. 'mix the drink livelier. 'this is what is said. for instance. does the error touch the essentials of the poetic art.' is metaphorical. . the solution may depend upon accent or breathing. a description may be no better than the fact: 'still. Again. or for what end. It may well be that these stories are not higher than fact nor yet true to fact: they are. but that his face was ugly. if it be objected that the description is not true to fact. whether. as it now is among the Illyrians. the end might have been as well. attained without violating the special rules of the poetic art.' Sometimes an expression is metaphorical.

that gives plausibility to the objection. or to what is tacitly assumed by a person of intelligence. jump at certain groundless conclusions. They allege that Odysseus took a wife from among themselves. or to the higher reality. that Telemachus should not have met him when he went to Lacedaemon. are justly censured when there is no inner necessity for introducing them.} and { tau omicron / mu epsilon nu / omicron upsilon (omicron upsilon) kappa alpha tau alpha pi upsilon theta epsilon tau alpha iota / omicron mu beta rho omega}. Or again. then. Again. Critics. for the ideal type must surpass the reality. So too workers in iron are called {chi alpha lambda kappa epsilon alpha sigma}. the question may be solved by punctuation. we urge that the irrational sometimes does not violate reason. But the Cephallenian story may perhaps be the true one. when a word seems to involve some inconsistency of meaning. find fault if a thing is inconsistent with their own fancy. as in Empedocles. In general. . 'wine. they pass adverse judgment and then proceed to reason on it. It is merely a mistake. In addition to which. just as 'it is probable that a thing may happen contrary to probability.mu epsilon nu (delta iota delta omicron mu epsilon nu) delta epsilon / omicron iota. Again.' The true mode of interpretation is the precise opposite of what Glaucon mentions. This. They think it strange. Such is the irrational element in the introduction of Aegeus by Euripides and the badness of Menelaus in the Orestes. The question about Icarius has been treated in this fashion.' though the gods do not drink wine. we should consider how many senses it may bear in the particular passage. and that her father was Icadius not Icarius. depravity of character. and. and things unmixed before mixed. we appeal to what is commonly said to be.--as {pi alpha rho omega chi eta kappa epsilon nu / delta epsilon / pi lambda epsilon omega / nu upsilon xi}. therefore. it may be impossible that there should be men such as Zeuxis painted. and in the same sense. For example: 'there was stayed the spear of bronze'--we should ask in how many ways we may take 'being checked there. a probable impossibility is to be preferred to a thing improbable and yet possible.' Hence Ganymede is said 'to pour the wine to Zeus. however. assuming that the poet has said whatever they happen to think.' Things that sound contradictory should be examined by the same rules as in dialectical refutation whether the same thing is meant. 'Yes.' Or again. The element of the irrational.' we say. the impossible must be justified by reference to artistic requirements. or to received opinion. may also be taken as a metaphor. The critics imagine he was a Lacedaemonian. We should therefore solve the question by reference to what the poet says himself. he says. Or by the usage of language. 'but the impossible is the higher thing. similarly. and.' To justify the irrational. or workers in bronze. where the word {pi lambda epsilon omega} is ambiguous. Thus any mixed drink is called {omicron iota nu omicron sigma}.-'Of a sudden things became mortal that before had learnt to be immortal. in the same relation. by ambiguity of meaning. With respect to the requirements of art.

who do not need gesture. . an imitation of a single action. Again. each with a certain magnitude of its own. Being then unrefined. as also in others of our own day. or morally hurtful. then. If. there are five sources from which critical objections are drawn. as by Sosi-stratus. if they have to represent 'the quoit-throw. and these produce the most vivid of pleasures. as a whole. The audience is supposed to be too dull to comprehend unless something of their own is thrown in by the performers. who therefore indulge in restless movements. stands to Epic in the same relation as the younger to the elder actors. all action is not to be condemned any more than all dancing--but only that of bad performers. And superior it is. Tragedy. that any Epic poem will furnish subjects for several tragedies. we say. Yet these poems are as perfect as possible in structure.' Tragedy. The answers should be sought under the twelve heads above mentioned.> if. which have many such parts. Next. or irrational. Now. Such was the fault found in Callippides. <Such length implies some loss of unity. this censure attaches not to the poetic but to the histrionic art. the art which imitates anything and everything is manifestly most unrefined. if it were cast into a form as long as the Iliad? Once more. and the more refined in every case is that which appeals to the better sort of audience. as is shown by this. Moreover. Further. if it conform to the Epic canon of length. XXVI The question may be raised whether the Epic or Tragic mode of imitation is the higher. it is said. for example. then. it has vividness of impression in reading as well as in representation. the poem is constructed out of several actions.Thus. in the highest degree attainable. for gesticulation may be equally overdone in epic recitation. Thus if the story adopted by the poet has a strict unity. Mynniscus used to call Callippides 'ape' on account of the extravagance of his action. for the concentrated effect is more pleasurable than one which is spread over a long time and so diluted. So we are told that Epic poetry is addressed to a cultivated audience. What. or in lyrical competition. Tragedy like Epic poetry produces its effect even without action. to an inferior public. in all other respects it is superior. as by Mnasitheus the Opuntian. it must either be concisely told and appear truncated. has this same defect. in the first place. Things are censured either as impossible. who are censured for representing degraded women. I mean. the art attains its end within narrower limits. this fault. Bad flute-players twist and twirl.' or hustle the coryphaeus when they perform the 'Scylla. like the Iliad and the Odyssey. We may compare the opinion that the older actors entertained of their successors. and the same view was held of Pindarus. it reveals its power by mere reading. is not inherent in it. because it has all the epic elements--it may even use the epic metre--with the music and spectacular effects as important accessories. Tragic art. it must seem weak and watery. or contrary to artistic correctness. the Epic imitation has less unity. or contradictory. or. it is evidently the lower of the two. If the more refined art is the higher. would be the effect of the Oedipus of Sophocles. each is.

moreover. as attaining its end more perfectly. with the number of each and their differences. their several kinds and parts. then. not any chance pleasure. fulfils its specific function better as an art for each art ought to produce. as already stated it plainly follows that Tragedy is the higher art. the causes that make a poem good or bad. the objections of the critics and the answers to these objections. by Aristotle .If. and. * * * End of The Project Gutenberg Etext of The Poetics. Tragedy is superior to Epic poetry in all these respects. Thus much may suffice concerning Tragic and Epic poetry in general. but the pleasure proper to it.