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Poetics

Aristotle

Poetics

Table of Contents
Poetics...................................................................................................................................................................1
Aristotle...................................................................................................................................................1

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the manner or mode of imitation. Poetics Aristotle Translated by S. into the number and nature of the parts of which a poem is composed. let us begin with the principles which come first. They differ. by conscious art or mere habit. noting the essential quality of each. Comedy also and Dithyrambic poetry. being in each case distinct. or again by the voice. then. and the music of the flute and of the lyre in most of their forms. and similarly into whatever else falls within the same inquiry. are all in their general conception modes of imitation. language. H. taken as a whole. to inquire into the structure of the plot as requisite to a good poem. the objects. imitate and represent various objects through the medium of color and form. Following. Poetics 1 . so in the arts above mentioned. the imitation is produced by rhythm. or 'harmony. For as there are persons who.' either singly or combined. from one another in three respects− the medium. however. Butcher •I • II • III • IV •V • VI • VII • VIII • IX •X • XI • XII • XIII • XIV • XV • XVI • XVII • XVIII • XIX • XX • XXI • XXII • XXIII • XXIV • XXV • XXVI I I PROPOSE to treat of Poetry in itself and of its various kinds. Epic poetry and Tragedy. the order of nature.

or epic (that is. but the verse that entitles them all to the name. For the medium being the same. There is another art which imitates by means of language alone. now one means is employed. makes men better than they are. in the latter. There are. Poetics Thus in the music of the flute and of the lyre. for example. Such. So much then for these distinctions. It is the same in painting. or as worse. again. for even dancing imitates character. In dancing. tune. The same distinction marks off Tragedy from Comedy. and also Tragedy and Comedy. or speak in his own person. So again in language. hexameter) poets. also in other arts. goodness and badness being the distinguishing marks of moral differences). such as that of the shepherd's pipe. Tragedy as better than in actual life. the author of the Deiliad. III There is still a third difference− the manner in which each of these objects may be imitated. and Nicochares. rhythm. on the other. and. but between them originally the difference is. and the objects the same. Pauson as less noble. the inventor of parodies. the poet may imitate by narration− in which case he can either take another personality as Homer does. even if a writer in his poetic imitation were to combine all meters. by rhythmical movement. and lyre−playing. for Comedy aims at representing men as worse. as Chaeremon did in his Centaur. again. Such are Dithyrambic and Nomic poetry. indeed. emotion. People do. it follows that we must represent men either as better than in real life. Polygnotus depicted men as nobler than they are. as if it were not the imitation that makes the poet. and action. or any similar meter. and these men must be either of a higher or a lower type (for moral character mainly answers to these divisions. Cleophon as they are. Homer. may either combine different meters or consist of but one kind− but this has hitherto been without a name. are the differences of the arts with respect to the medium of imitation II Since the objects of imitation are men in action. On the same principle. whether prose or verse unaccompanied by music. Even when a treatise on medicine or natural science is brought out in verse. The same thing holds good of Dithyrambs and Nomes. rhythm alone is used without 'harmony'. and speak of elegiac poets. some arts which employ all the means above mentioned− namely. which are essentially similar to these. or as they are. we should bring him too under the general term poet. Hegemon the Thasian. worse than they are. and that either in prose or verse− which verse. and meter. unchanged− or he may present all his characters as living and moving before us. and yet Homer and Empedocles have nothing in common but the meter. now another. Now it is evident that each of the modes of imitation above mentioned will exhibit these differences. here too one may portray different types. so that it would be right to call the one poet. the name of poet is by custom given to the author. flute−playing. as Timotheus and Philoxenus differed in representing their Cyclopes. the other physicist rather than poet. which is a medley composed of meters of all kinds. to poetic imitations in iambic. elegiac. Such diversities may be found even in dancing. and become a distinct kind in imitating objects that are thus distinct. For there is no common term we could apply to the mimes of Sophron and Xenarchus and the Socratic dialogues on the one hand. add the word 'maker' or 'poet' to the name of the meter. 'harmony' and rhythm alone are employed. that in the first two cases these means are all employed in combination. Dionysius drew them true to life. Poetics 2 . then.

hence the measure is still called the iambic or lampooning measure. They add also that the Dorian word for 'doing' is dran. who allege that it originated under their democracy. but to the execution. from another point of view. and the manner. we delight to contemplate when reproduced with minute fidelity: such as the forms of the most ignoble animals and of dead bodies. We have evidence of this in the facts of experience. For the same reason the Dorians claim the invention both of Tragedy and Comedy. Homer is pre−eminent among poets. or some such other cause. that is he. the two classes of poets still followed their natural bent: the lampooners became writers of Comedy. each of them lying deep in our nature. for he alone combined dramatic form with excellence of imitation so he too first laid down the main lines of comedy. the instinct of imitation is implanted in man from childhood. Poetics These. for the poet Epicharmus. Thus the older poets were distinguished as writers of heroic or of lampooning verse. and through imitation learns his earliest lessons. Persons. The cause of this again is. belonged to that country. as representing action. meters being manifestly sections of rhythm. since the drama was a larger and higher form of art. as we said at the beginning.' but because they wandered from village to village (kata komas). Imitation. and saying perhaps. the objects. and the Athenian. by dramatizing the ludicrous instead of writing personal satire. there is the instinct for 'harmony' and rhythm. are by them called komai. that in contemplating it they find themselves learning or inferring. instances can be cited− his own Margites. In each case they appeal to the evidence of language. some say. according to the individual character of the writers. First. as the former did hymns to the gods and the praises of famous men. then. Hence. Poetry now diverged in two directions. starting with this natural gift developed by degrees their special aptitudes. A poem of the satirical kind cannot indeed be put down to any author earlier than Homer. not only to philosophers but to men in general. they say. who is much earlier than Chionides and Magnes. IV Poetry in general seems to have sprung from two causes. As. therefore. by the Athenians demoi: and they assume that comedians were so named not from komazein. Objects which in themselves we view with pain. 'to revel. of the same kind as Aristophanes− for both imitate persons acting and doing. of learning is more limited. So that from one point of view. but also by the Megarians of Sicily. whose capacity. in the serious style. though many such writers probably there were. then. prattein. at first composing satires. and the Epic poets were succeeded by Tragedians. however. is one instinct of our nature. Next. till their rude improvisations gave birth to Poetry. The outlying villages. being that in which people lampooned one another. The graver spirits imitated noble actions. But from Homer onward. the pleasure will be due not to the imitation as such. This may suffice as to the number and nature of the various modes of imitation. the coloring. and no less universal is the pleasure felt in things imitated. one difference between him and other animals being that he is the most imitative of living creatures. the name of 'drama' is given to such poems. 'Ah. Sophocles is an imitator of the same kind as Homer− for both imitate higher types of character. are the three differences which distinguish artistic imitation− the medium. Thus the reason why men enjoy seeing a likeness is. for example. and the actions of good men. being excluded contemptuously from the city. His Margites bears the same relation to comedy that the Iliad and Odyssey do to tragedy. The more trivial sort imitated the actions of meaner persons. and other similar compositions. The claim to Comedy is put forward by the Megarians− not only by those of Greece proper. Tragedy too is claimed by certain Dorians of the Peloponnese. that to learn gives the liveliest pleasure. Poetics 3 . The appropriate meter was also here introduced.' For if you happen not to have seen the original. But when Tragedy and Comedy came to light.

are heard of. again. Tragedy advanced by slow degrees. and assigned the leading part to the dialogue. Aeschylus first introduced a second actor. each new element that showed itself was in turn developed. or but slightly to exceed this limit. though at first the same freedom was admitted in Tragedy as in Epic poetry. The iambic measure then replaced the trochaic tetrameter. or in relation also to the audience− this raises another question. Poetics Whether Tragedy has as yet perfected its proper types or not. Tragedy− as also Comedy− was at first mere improvisation. are well known. whereas the Epic action has no limits of time. the performers were till then voluntary. and the authors of these changes. as we have said. and whether it is to be judged in itself. Moreover. resuming its formal definition. They differ. All the elements of an Epic poem are found in Tragedy. but of Athenian writers Crates was the first who abandoning the 'iambic' or lampooning form. we will speak hereafter. To take an obvious example. it came originally from Sicily. it found its natural form. of all measures. because it was not at first treated seriously. and had greater with dancing. distinctively so called. knows also about Epic poetry. 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. Epic poetry agrees with Tragedy in so far as it is an imitation in verse of characters of a higher type. is an imitation of an action that is serious. be a large undertaking. as resulting from what has been already said. Be that as it may. is a second point of difference. but does not imply pain. which was originally employed when the poetry was of the satyric order. he diminished the importance of the Chorus. whereas Comedy has had no history. Let us now discuss Tragedy. and only when we drop the colloquial intonation. V Comedy is. therefore knows what is good or bad Tragedy. in language embellished with each kind of artistic ornament. to confine itself to a single revolution of the sun. doubtless. Having passed through many changes. Nature herself discovered the appropriate measure. or increased the number of actors− these and other similar details remain unknown. and the grotesque diction of the earlier satyric form for the stately manner of Tragedy. and added scene−painting. This. must be taken as already described. but the elements of a Tragedy are not all found in the Epic poem. Of their constituent parts some are common to both. in their length: for Tragedy endeavors. then. it was not till late that the short plot was discarded for one of greater compass. in Poetics 4 . complete. They differ in that Epic poetry admits but one kind of meter and is narrative in form. an imitation of characters of a lower type− not. As for the plot. which are still in use in many of our cities. The one originated with the authors of the Dithyramb. as far as possible. or prologues. Once dialogue had come in. VI Of the poetry which imitates in hexameter verse. It consists in some defect or ugliness which is not painful or destructive. the comic mask is ugly and distorted. in the full sense of the word bad. the ludicrous being merely a subdivision of the ugly. however. Tragedy. then. Comedy had already taken definite shape when comic poets. Sophocles raised the number of actors to three. and of a certain magnitude. the several kinds being found in separate parts of the play. generalized his themes and plots. the other with those of the phallic songs. and there it stopped. rarely into hexameters. It was late before the Archon granted a comic chorus to a poet. The additions to the number of 'episodes' or acts. For the iambic is. some peculiar to Tragedy: whoever. and the other accessories of which tradition tells. Who furnished it with masks. The successive changes through which Tragedy passed. for to discuss them in detail would. and of Comedy.

Two of the parts constitute the medium of imitation.' I mean language into which rhythm. but of an action and of life. It is the same with almost all the early poets. Song. and an action implies personal agents. for these are the media of imitation. Polygnotus delineates character well. Plot. will not give as much pleasure as the chalk outline of a portrait. for it is by these that we qualify actions themselves. By 'language embellished. that novices in the art attain to finish of diction and precision of portraiture before they can construct the plot. which parts determine its quality− namely. Thought is required wherever a statement is proved. Poetics the form of action. Diction.' it is a term whose sense every one understands. It is the same in painting. And these complete the fist. and Recognition scenes− are parts of the plot. By Character I mean that in virtue of which we ascribe certain qualities to the agents. who necessarily possess certain distinctive qualities both of character and thought. Hence. Every Tragedy. others again with the aid of song. Next. But most important of all is the structure of the incidents. if you string together a set of speeches expressive of character. Thought. the language of the rhetoricians. Song. Thus Tragedy is the imitation of an action. every play contains Spectacular elements as well as Character. that Spectacular equipment will be a part of Tragedy. The tragedies of most of our modern poets fail in the rendering of character. and of poets in general this is often true. you will not produce the essential tragic effect nearly so well as with a play which. it necessarily follows in the first place. however deficient in these respects. through pity and fear effecting the proper purgation of these emotions. not a quality. or. Character. A similar fact is seen in painting. yet has a plot and artistically constructed incidents. not of narrative. and the end is the chief thing of all. The most beautiful colors. in fact. For Tragedy is an imitation. 'harmony' and song enter. or a general maxim is enunciated.' I mean. 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. Now as tragic imitation implies persons acting. Hence the incidents and the plot are the end of a tragedy. the poets of our time. a general truth enunciated. Poetics 5 . and Thought. Third in order is Thought− that is. on the other hand. Dramatic action. not of men. the faculty of saying what is possible and pertinent in given circumstances. therefore. By 'the several kinds in separate parts. therefore. Tragedy is the imitation of an action. Character is that which reveals moral purpose. must have six parts. the style of Zeuxis is devoid of ethical quality. Diction. Thought. Speeches. laid on confusedly. there may be without character. Plot. one the manner. the Plot is the imitation of the action− for by plot I here mean the arrangement of the incidents. but it is by their actions that they are happy or the reverse. By 'Diction' I mean the mere metrical arrangement of the words: as for 'Song. we may say. and on actions again all success or failure depends. is found where something is proved to be or not to be. and life consists in action. Besides which. as it were. Again. showing what kind of things a man chooses or avoids. which do not make this manifest. and of the agents mainly with a view to the action. and its end is a mode of action. the soul of a tragedy. is the first principle. Again. A further proof is. Again. Now character determines men's qualities. the most powerful elements of emotional interest in Tragedy− Peripeteia or Reversal of the Situation. by the poets to a man. are not expressive of character. and these− thought and character− are the two natural causes from which actions spring. Song and Diction. Spectacle. These elements have been employed. then. and three the objects of imitation. The plot. and here lies the difference between Zeuxis and Polygnotus. Character holds the second place. and well finished in point of diction and thought. In the case of oratory. and. therefore. without action there cannot be a tragedy. or in which the speaker does not choose or avoid anything whatever. that some parts are rendered through the medium of verse alone. it may be. is not with a view to the representation of character: character comes in as subsidiary to the actions.

but must also be of a certain magnitude. indeed. therefore. that the sequence of events. as it appears. A middle is that which follows something as some other thing follows it. Hence a very small animal organism cannot be beautiful. we may say that the proper magnitude is comprised within such limits. and whole. so the plot. An end. a beautiful object. for there may be a whole that is wanting in magnitude. again. A well constructed plot. For infinitely various are the incidents in one man's life which cannot be reduced to unity. must neither begin nor end at haphazard. Now. since this is the first and most important thing in Tragedy. therefore. an emotional attraction of its own. Poetics Fourth among the elements enumerated comes Diction. must not only have an orderly arrangement of parts. as for instance if there were one a thousand miles long. will admit of a change from bad fortune to good. so in the plot. Poetics 6 . but after which something naturally is or comes to be. the imitation is one when the object imitated is one. In composing the Odyssey he did not include all the adventures of Odysseus− such as his wound on Parnassus. But Homer. or as a rule. For the power of Tragedy. there are many actions of one man out of which we cannot make one action. here too− whether from art or natural genius− seems to have happily discerned the truth. in the case of animate bodies and organisms a certain magnitude is necessary. being an imitation of an action. the story of Heracles must also be a unity. As. They imagine that as Heracles was one man. The limit of length in relation to dramatic competition and sensuous presentment is no part of artistic theory. either by necessity. and so. according to our definition Tragedy is an imitation of an action that is complete. or other poems of the kind. for the view of it is confused. is felt even apart from representation and actors. A beginning is that which does not itself follow anything by causal necessity. the production of spectacular effects depends more on the art of the stage machinist than on that of the poet. and a length which can be easily embraced by the memory. to center round an action that in our sense of the word is one. And to define the matter roughly. in the other imitative arts. But the limit as fixed by the nature of the drama itself is this: the greater the length. consist in the unity of the hero. A whole is that which has a beginning. by which I mean. let us now discuss the proper structure of the Plot. and its essence is the same both in verse and prose. the more beautiful will the piece be by reason of its size. 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. Again. VIII Unity of plot does not. Hence the error. whether it be a living organism or any whole composed of parts. Of the remaining elements Song holds the chief place among the embellishments The Spectacle has. a middle. Besides. for beauty depends on magnitude and order. is that which itself naturally follows some other thing. or from good fortune to bad. the object being seen in an almost imperceptible moment of time. For had it been the rule for a hundred tragedies to compete together. the expression of the meaning in words. can one of vast size be beautiful. and a magnitude which may be easily embraced in one view. Nor. the performance would have been regulated by the water−clock− as indeed we are told was formerly done. As therefore. as in all else he is of surpassing merit. provided that the whole be perspicuous. a certain length is necessary. but has nothing following it. as some persons think. it is the least artistic. we may be sure. for as the eye cannot take it all in at once. and an end. but. too. and likewise the Iliad. the unity and sense of the whole is lost for the spectator. of all poets who have composed a Heracleid. and connected least with the art of poetry. VII These principles being established. on the contrary. as has been already said. but conform to these principles. according to the law of probability or necessity. of all the parts. and of a certain magnitude. a Theseid.

for even subjects that are known are known only to a few. constructed on these principles are necessarily the best. It clearly follows that the poet or 'maker' should be the maker of plots rather than of verses. These last should arise from the internal structure of the plot. the reason being that what is possible is credible: what has not happened we do not at once feel sure to be possible. according to the law of probability or necessity. Plots. moreover. The tragic wonder will then be greater than if they happened of themselves or by accident. for the actions in real life. But tragedians still keep to real names. the whole will be disjointed and disturbed. for there is no reason why some events that have actually happened should not conform to the law of the probable and possible. none are well known− as in Agathon's Antheus. But again. evident from what has been said. which fell upon his murderer while he was a spectator at a festival. they stretch the plot beyond its capacity. The true difference is that one relates what has happened. The work of Herodotus might be put into verse. it would be absurd to attempt it. as they write show pieces for competition. In others. is not an organic part of the whole. at all costs keep to the received legends. and yet they give none the less pleasure. Tragedy is an imitation not only of a complete action. or by both. For a thing whose presence or absence makes no visible difference. of which the plots are an imitation. By the universal I mean how a person of a certain type on occasion speak or act. Poetry. when the change of fortune takes place without Reversal of the Situation and without Recognition A Complex action is one in which the change is accompanied by such Reversal. and the effect is heightened when. It makes all the difference whether any given event is a Poetics 7 . is a more philosophical and a higher thing than history: for poetry tends to express the universal. good poets. for. for even coincidences are most striking when they have an air of design. so that what follows should be the necessary or probable result of the preceding action. which are the usual subjects of Tragedy. but of events inspiring fear or pity. Such an effect is best produced when the events come on us by surprise. he is none the less a poet. and then inserts characteristic names− unlike the lampooners who write about particular individuals. since he is a poet because he imitates. or by Recognition. and it would still be a species of history. The poet and the historian differ not by writing in verse or in prose. Such events seem not to be due to mere chance. Poetics must imitate one action and that a whole. therefore. history the particular. and in virtue of that quality in them he is their poet or maker. therefore. I call a plot 'episodic' in which the episodes or acts succeed one another without probable or necessary sequence. IX It is. Still there are even some tragedies in which there are only one or two well−known names. In Comedy this is already apparent: for here the poet first constructs the plot on the lines of probability. at the same time. that it is not the function of the poet to relate what has happened. and it is this universality at which poetry aims in the names she attaches to the personages. The particular is− for example− what Alcibiades did or suffered. where incidents and names alike are fictitious. but what has happened is manifestly possible: otherwise it would not have happened. the rest being fictitious. and yet give pleasure to all. X Plots are either Simple or Complex. with meter no less than without it. Of all plots and actions the episodic are the worst. and are often forced to break the natural continuity. I call Simple. and killed him. the structural union of the parts being such that. and what he imitates are actions. to please the players. And even if he chances to take a historical subject. if any one of them is displaced or removed. they follows as cause and effect. the other what may happen. therefore. but what may happen− what is possible according to the law of probability or necessity. We must not. Bad poets compose such pieces by their own fault. We may instance the statue of Mitys at Argos. An action which is one and continuous in the sense above defined. Indeed. obviously show a similar distinction.

it merely shocks us. it is upon such situations that the issues of good or bad fortune will depend. Recognition. These are common to all plays: peculiar to some are the songs of actors from the stage and the Commoi. we may recognize or discover whether a person has done a thing or not. Tragedy represents. being between persons. It should. Episode. it may happen that one person only is recognized by the other− when the latter is already known− or it may be necessary that the recognition should be on both sides. as the name indicates. by our definition. the messenger comes to cheer Oedipus and free him from his alarms about his mother. is a change from ignorance to knowledge. of the Plot− Reversal of the Situation and Recognition− turn upon surprises. be arranged not on the simple but on the complex plan. and by what means the specific effect of Tragedy will be produced. then. But the recognition which is most intimately connected with the plot and action is. Even inanimate things of the most trivial kind may in a sense be objects of recognition. subject always to our rule of probability or necessity. will produce either pity or fear. The best form of recognition is coincident with a Reversal of the Situation. and the like. bodily agony. XI Reversal of the Situation is a change by which the action veers round to its opposite. this being the distinctive mark of tragic imitation. There are indeed other forms. then. This recognition. combined with Reversal. Poetics case of propter hoc or post hoc. wounds. 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. The Exode is that entire part of a tragedy which has no choric song after it. the recognition of persons. meaning to slay him. The quantitative parts− the separate parts into which it is divided− are here enumerated. A third part is the Scene of Suffering. We now come to the quantitative parts− the separate parts into which Tragedy is divided− namely. but by revealing who he is. but the outcome of the preceding incidents is that Danaus is killed and Lynceus saved. but another act of recognition is required to make Orestes known to Iphigenia. Lynceus is being led away to his death. Choric song. and Danaus goes with him. in the first place. Nor. Recognition. Again. such as death on the stage. and what he should avoid. Moreover. that of a bad man passing from adversity to prosperity: for nothing can be more alien to the spirit of Poetics 8 . Again in the Lynceus. Exode. moreover. XIII As the sequel to what has already been said. in constructing his plots. The parts of Tragedy which must be treated as elements of the whole have been already mentioned. this last being divided into Parode and Stasimon. we must proceed to consider what the poet should aim at. and actions producing these effects are those which. imitate actions which excite pity and fear. The Episode is that entire part of a tragedy which is between complete choric songs. as we have seen. The Prologue is that entire part of a tragedy which precedes the Parode of the Chorus. he produces the opposite effect. XII The parts of Tragedy which must be treated as elements of the whole have been already mentioned. Prologue. producing love or hate between the persons destined by the poet for good or bad fortune. as in the Oedipus. A perfect tragedy should. Two parts. that the change of fortune presented must not be the spectacle of a virtuous man brought from prosperity to adversity: for this moves neither pity nor fear. It follows plainly. Thus Iphigenia is revealed to Orestes by the sending of the letter. The Scene of Suffering is a destructive or painful action. again. as we have said. Thus in the Oedipus.

and Euripides. the best tragedies are founded on the story of a few houses− on the fortunes of Alcmaeon. faulty though he may be in the general management of his subject. and skilfully handle the traditional. are strangers to the purpose of Tragedy. it is evident that this quality must be impressed upon the incidents. many of which end unhappily. a son his father. There remains. for the poet is guided in what he writes by the wishes of his audience. a brother. Let us explain more clearly what is meant by skilful handling. and those others who have done or suffered something terrible. in the piece. But when the tragic incident occurs between those who are near or dear to one another− if. and dependent on extraneous aids. that Clytemnestra was slain by Orestes and Eriphyle by Alcmaeon− but he ought to show of his own. For the plot ought to be so constructed that. a mother her son. Nor. material. Such an event. then. XIV Fear and pity may be aroused by spectacular means. or other illustrious men of such families. A tragedy. Those who employ spectacular means to create a sense not of the terrible but only of the monstrous. Let us then determine what are the circumstances which strike us as terrible or pitiful. should the downfall of the utter villain be exhibited. for pity is aroused by unmerited misfortune. for instance. then. He may not indeed destroy the framework of the received legends− the fact. It should come about as the result not of vice. Oedipus. but by some error or frailty. it has a double thread of plot. and no one slays or is slain. Telephus. If an enemy kills an enemy. The change of fortune should be not from bad to good. for example. Now. satisfy the moral sense. the right ending. again. to be perfect according to the rules of art should be of this construction. Poetics 9 . Orestes. This is the impression we should receive from hearing the story of the Oedipus. yet whose misfortune is brought about not by vice or depravity. Thyestes. Like the Odyssey. The pleasure. where those who. or any other deed of the kind is done− these are the situations to be looked for by the poet. It is proper rather to Comedy. will be neither pitiful nor terrible. but only that which is proper to it. but. rather than double as some maintain. He must be one who is highly renowned and prosperous− a personage like Oedipus. Actions capable of this effect must happen between persons who are either friends or enemies or indifferent to one another. The practice of the stage bears out our view. It is accounted the best because of the weakness of the spectators. doubtless. for we must not demand of Tragedy any and every kind of pleasure. So again with indifferent persons. in a character either such as we have described. the character between these two extremes− that of a man who is not eminently good and just. however. yet is felt to be the most tragic of the poets. he who hears the tale told will thrill with horror and melt to pity at what takes Place. Hence they are in error who censure Euripides just because he follows this principle in his plays. Meleager. which is the better way. therefore. A plot of this kind would. as we have said. but of some great error or frailty. if well worked out. there is nothing to excite pity either in the act or the intention− except so far as the suffering in itself is pitiful. In the second rank comes the kind of tragedy which some place first. and indicates a superior poet. And since the pleasure which the poet should afford is that which comes from pity and fear through imitation. and also an opposite catastrophe for the good and for the bad. are the deadliest enemies− like Orestes and Aegisthus− quit the stage as friends at the close. At first the poets recounted any legend that came in their way. Thyestes. but it would inspire neither pity nor fear. fear by the misfortune of a man like ourselves. it possesses no single tragic quality. thence derived is not the true tragic pleasure. It is. are the most tragic in effect. or better rather than worse. be single in its issue. from good to bad. a brother kills. But to produce this effect by the mere spectacle is a less artistic method. it neither satisfies the moral sense nor calls forth pity or fear. Poetics Tragedy. The best proof is that on the stage and in dramatic competition. but they may also result from the inner structure of the piece. or intends to kill. reversely. A well−constructed plot should. such plays. even without the aid of the eye. therefore. a son his mother.

in the manner of the older poets. or have other defects of character. The last case is the best. never. the example of good portrait painters should be followed. for no disaster follows It is. The fourth point is consistency: for though the subject of the imitation. One instance. while the discovery produces a startling effect. spares his life. of inconsistency. by the rule either of necessity or of probability. found in poetry. should preserve the type and yet ennoble it. They. Poetics The action may be done consciously and with knowledge of the persons. and which require to be reported or foretold. Again. the incident is outside the drama proper. There is then nothing to shock us. and also a slave. while reproducing the distinctive form of the original. that led the poets in search of subjects to impress the tragic quality upon their plots. it should be outside the scope of the tragedy. It is thus too that Euripides makes Medea slay her children. So too the poet. where Haemon threatens to kill Creon. which lie beyond the range of human knowledge. must arise out of the plot itself. It was not art. The Oedipus of Sophocles is an example. the lament of Odysseus in the Scylla. and makes the discovery before it is done. and the tie of kinship or friendship be discovered afterwards. we have Menelaus in the Orestes. as when in the Cresphontes Merope is about to slay her son. and most important. so too in the portraiture of character. Again. there is a third case− [to be about to act with knowledge of the persons and then not to act. since Tragedy is an imitation of persons who are above the common level. in representing men who are irascible or indolent. XV In respect of Character there are four things to be aimed at. no less than the complication. the deed of horror may be done. it must be good. or Telegonus in the Wounded Odysseus. but. Such is the irrational element the Oedipus of Sophocles. for to the gods we ascribe the power of seeing all things. still he must be consistently inconsistent. however. First. They are compelled. These are the only possible ways. character must be true to life: for this is a distinct thing from goodness and propriety. to have recourse to those houses whose history contains moving incidents like these. the sister recognizes the brother just in time. In this way Achilles Poetics 10 . Again in the Helle. If the irrational cannot be excluded. The fourth case] is when some one is about to do an irreparable deed through ignorance. or in the return of the Greeks in the Iliad. Here. and the discovery made afterwards. as here described. it must not be brought about by the Deus ex Machina− as in the Medea. recognizing who he is. Within the action there must be nothing irrational. be inconsistent. as has been already observed. or unscrupulous cleverness is inappropriate. is why a few families only. or very rarely. Thirdly. There is a type of manly valor. make a likeness which is true to life and yet more beautiful. The second thing to aim at is propriety. For the deed must either be done or not done− and that wittingly or unwittingly. and the slave quite worthless. though the woman may be said to be an inferior being. It is shocking without being tragic. Thus a person of a given character should speak or act in a given way. but valor in a woman. Or. but cases occur where it falls within the action of the play: one may cite the Alcmaeon of Astydamas. The Deus ex Machina should be employed only for events external to the drama− for antecedent or subsequent events. furnish the subjects of tragedy. the son recognizes the mother when on the point of giving her up. who suggested the type. of character indecorous and inappropriate. to be about to act knowing the persons. This rule is relative to each class. 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 Iphigenia at Aulis− for Iphigenia the suppliant in no way resembles her later self. but happy chance. The next and better way is that the deed should be perpetrated. then. and then not to act. So in the Iphigenia. As in the structure of the plot. therefore. and the speech of Melanippe. is the worst. Enough has now been said concerning the structure of the incidents. Still better. This. is in the Antigone. again. As an example of motiveless degradation of character. but done in ignorance. that it should be perpetrated in ignorance. Even a woman may be good. and the right kind of plot. But of all these ways. It is therefore evident that the unraveling of the plot. indeed. the poet should always aim either at the necessary or the probable. therefore. just as this event should follow that by necessary or probable sequence.

therefore. before his eyes. The Poetics 11 . makes herself known by the letter.. as in the Odysseus Disguised as a Messenger. indeed. Orestes in the Iphigenia reveals the fact that he is Orestes. For example. This. XVI What Recognition is has been already explained. in fact. 'I came to find my son. and of these some are bodily marks. Thus in the recognition of Odysseus by his scar. is nearly allied to the fault above mentioned− for Orestes might as well have brought tokens with him. hearing the minstrel play the lyre. where Odysseus. the poet should place the scene. he had not seen. Others are acquired after birth. as if he were a spectator of the action. The fourth kind is by process of reasoning. and hence the recognition. We will now enumerate its kinds. Such is that in the Oedipus of Sophocles. or again in the Lay of Alcinous.' Again. as in the Bath Scene in the Odyssey. as necklaces. and on that account wanting in art. but he. and in the Iphigenia. These recognitions alone dispense with the artificial aid of tokens or amulets. In this way. by speaking himself. he will discover what is in keeping with it. on seeing the place. any formal proof with or without tokens− is a less artistic mode of recognition. . A said [that no one else was able to bend the bow. and to bring about a recognition by this means− the expectation that A would recognize the bow− is false inference. indeed. which.' So too in the Phineidae: the women. But of this enough has been said in our published treatises. from poverty of wit. the discovery is made in one way by the nurse.' Such too is the discovery made by Iphigenia in the play of Polyidus the Sophist. seeing everything with the utmost vividness. not what the plot requires. where the hero breaks into tears on seeing the picture. Poetics is portrayed by Agathon and Homer. XVII In constructing the plot and working it out with the proper diction. and be most unlikely to overlook inconsistencies. Another similar instance is the 'voice of the shuttle' in the Tereus of Sophocles. of all recognitions. inferred their fate− 'Here we are doomed to die. Of these some are congenital− such as 'the spear which the earth−born race bear on their bodies. for it was natural that Iphigenia should wish to dispatch a letter. is most commonly employed− recognition by signs. for here too there is much room for error. Nor should he neglect those appeals to the senses. are the concomitants of poetry. It was a natural reflection for Orestes to make. But. in the Tydeus of Theodectes. These then are rules the poet should observe. hence B (the disguised Odysseus) imagined that A would] recognize the bow which. the father says. Thus in the Choephori: 'Some one resembling me has come: no one resembles me but Orestes: therefore Orestes has come. or the little ark in the Tyro by which the discovery is effected. She. and saying what the poet.. recalls the past and weeps. the best is that which arises from the incidents themselves. the least artistic form. The third kind depends on memory when the sight of some object awakens a feeling: as in the Cyprians of Dicaeogenes. as scars.' or the stars introduced by Carcinus in his Thyestes. as far as possible. again.' So. which. and I lose my own life. A better kind is that which comes about by a turn of incident. for here we were cast forth. in another by the swineherds. 'So I too must die at the altar like my sister. Next come the recognitions by process of reasoning. there is a composite kind of recognition involving false inference on the part of one of the characters. First. some external tokens. The use of tokens for the express purpose of proof− and. Even these admit of more or less skilful treatment. where the startling discovery is made by natural means. though not among the essentials. Next come the recognitions invented at will by the poet.

however. The Unraveling is that which extends from the beginning of the change to the end. exemplified by the Phorcides. The purpose. Thus the story of the Odyssey can be stated briefly. the rest is the Unraveling. On the stage. The fourth kind is the Simple. and by that remark he is saved. with appropriate gestures. however. he attacks the suitors with his own hand. For whereas there have hitherto been good poets. the Ethical (where the motives are ethical)− such as the Phthiotides and the Peleus. Amphiaraus was on his way from the temple. he makes certain persons acquainted with him. for those who feel emotion are most convincing through natural sympathy with the characters they represent. [the Unraveling] extends from the accusation of murder to the end. the audience being offended at the oversight. and his deliverance by means of the purificatory rite. when on the point of being sacrificed. and one who is agitated storms. the names being once given. one who is angry rages. A certain man is absent from home for many years. Hence poetry implies either a happy gift of nature or a strain of madness. and is himself preserved while he destroys them. the rest is episode. but unravel it Both arts. Again. the seizure of the child. it remains to fill in the episodes. A young girl is sacrificed. reveals who he is. he himself arrives. The poet should endeavor. he comes. he is jealously watched by Poseidon. Thus. who was doomed to be sacrificed'. Poetics need of such a rule is shown by the fault found in Carcinus. After this. the Complication consists of the incidents presupposed in the drama. There are four kinds of Tragedy: the Complex. is outside the general plan of the play. if possible. In the drama. the episodes are short. whether the poet takes it ready made or constructs it for himself. At length. there is the madness which led to his capture. the best test to take is the plot. This is the essence of the plot. to combine all poetic elements. the more so. However. to the best of his power. We must see that they are relevant to the action. and left desolate. To this ministry she is appointed. Meanwhile his home is in a wretched plight− suitors are wasting his substance and plotting against his son. The fact that the oracle for some reason ordered him to go there. The mode of recognition may be either that of Euripides or of Polyidus. the Prometheus. In speaking of a tragedy as the same or different. and. where the custom is to offer up an strangers to the goddess. The general plan may be illustrated by the Iphigenia. he is lifted out of his proper self. or failing that. in face of the caviling criticism of the day. XVIII Every tragedy falls into two parts− Complication and Unraveling or Denouement. the greatest number and those the most important. in the Lynceus of Theodectes. In the case of Orestes. of his coming is outside the action proper.. the critics now expect one man to surpass all others in their several lines of excellence.. but I too. Identity exists where the Complication and Unraveling are the same. to form the Complication. the Pathetic (where the motive is passion)− such as the tragedies on Ajax and Ixion. she is transported to another country. 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. with the most lifelike reality. in the other. she disappears mysteriously from the eyes of those who sacrificed her. Incidents extraneous to the action are frequently combined with a portion of the action proper. the poet should work out his play. Many poets tie the knot well. and scenes laid in Hades. [We here exclude the purely spectacular element]. he should first sketch its general outline. and then fill in the episodes and amplify in detail. In the one case a man can take the mould of any character. but it is these that give extension to Epic poetry. As for the story. and then again . again. tempest−tost. he is seized. Some time later her own brother chances to arrive. This fact escaped the observation of one who did not see the situation. the Piece failed. Poetics 12 . in whose play he exclaims very naturally: 'So it was not my sister only. for example. depending entirely on Reversal of the Situation and Recognition. each in his own branch.

Such an event is probable in Agathon's sense of the word: 'is probable. an answer. either fail utterly or meet with poor success on the stage. a command. For who can admit the fault imputed to Homer by Protagoras− that in the words.' The Chorus too should be regarded as one of the actors. Syllable. he shows a marvelous skill in the effort to hit the popular taste− to produce a tragic effect that satisfies the moral sense. for instance− what is a command. yet not every such sound. as S and R. or a mute. To know or not to know these things involves no serious censure upon the poet's art. therefore. we may assume what is said in the Rhetoric. if the Thought were revealed quite apart from what he says? Next. therefore. their choral songs pertain as little to the subject of the piece as to that of any other tragedy. A semivowel that which with such impact has an audible sound. it is evident that the dramatic incidents must be treated from the same points of view as the dramatic speeches. Connecting Word. as G and D. from one play to another. the poet should remember what has been often said. for instance. For even brutes utter indivisible sounds. XX Language in general includes the following parts: Letter.' he says. and not make an Epic structure into a tragedy− by an Epic structure I mean one with a multiplicity of plots− as if. A vowel is that which without impact of tongue or lip has an audible sound. This effect is produced when the clever rogue. or even a whole act. each part assumes its proper magnitude. fear. like Aeschylus. Under Thought is included every effect which has to be produced by speech. Verb. importance. you were to make a tragedy out of the entire story of the Iliad. They are. when the object is to evoke the sense of pity. a threat. and not a part of her story. in the manner not of Euripides but of Sophocles. is outwitted. the other parts of Tragedy having been already discussed. and as a result of the speech. The proof is that the poets who have dramatized the whole story of the Fall of Troy. The only difference is that the incidents should speak for themselves without verbal exposition. One branch of the inquiry treats of the Modes of Utterance. A Letter is an indivisible sound. Again. a prayer. fear. but only one which can form part of a group of sounds. none of which I call a letter. the excitation of the feelings. goddess. a question. to which inquiry the subject more strictly belongs. Poetics should always be mastered. XIX It remains to speak of Diction and Thought. but joined to a vowel sound becomes audible. like Euripides. and the like. Inflection or Case. 'that many things should happen contrary to probability. owing to its length. In the Epic poem. and transferring a speech. sung as mere interludes− a practice first begun by Agathon. like Sisyphus. not to poetry. or who have taken the whole tale of Niobe. the suggestion of importance or its opposite. pass this over as an inquiry that belongs to another art. Even Agathon has been known to fail from this one defect. concerning Thought. or probability. instead of selecting portions. A mute. The sound I mean may be either a vowel. We may. he says. and so forth. Sentence or Phrase. anger. 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. or the brave villain defeated. a semivowel. In the drama the result is far from answering to the poet's expectation. according Poetics 13 . Noun. For what were the business of a speaker. As for the later poets. of the wrath. Now. Yet what difference is there between introducing such choral interludes. and share in the action. while effects aimed at in should be produced by the speaker. In his Reversals of the Situation. It includes. the subdivisions being: proof and refutation. however. as regards Diction. that which with such impact has by itself no sound. a statement. 'Sing. such as pity. These are distinguished according to the form assumed by the mouth and the place where they are produced. it should be an integral part of the whole. But this province of knowledge belongs to the art of Delivery and to the masters of that science.

e. or of an intermediate tone. however. or as consisting of several parts linked together. as also with A− GRA. A Verb is a composite significant sound. as: 'Verily ten thousand noble Poetics 14 . By simple I mean those composed of nonsignificant elements. e. such. by a strange word. or of elements that are both significant. marking time. or from species to genus. such as ge. present or past. de.' for example− but it may dispense even with the verb.' A sentence or phrase may form a unity in two ways− either as signifying one thing. for not every such group of words consists of verbs and nouns− 'the definition of man. in which. The word sigynon. Metaphor is the application of an alien name by transference either from genus to species. or by analogy. but 'he walks' or 'he has walked' does connote time. Or. as 'in walking. long or short. or newly−coined. one which is in use in another country. 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. 'lance.' 'to. Inflection belongs both to the noun and verb. or strange.' or 'Cleon son of Cleon. and the like. Or. and expresses either the relation 'of. for lying at anchor is a species of lying.' the doron or 'gift' is not in itself significant. the same word may be at once strange and current. is capable of forming one significant sound− as amphi.' By double or compound. 'earth. a nonsignificant sound. A Sentence or Phrase is a composite significant sound. grave. but not in relation to the same people. not marking time. simple and double. as in the noun. that is.' or the like. Still it will always have some significant part. it may be placed at either end or in the middle of a sentence. 'Did he go?' and 'go' are verbal inflections of this kind. or contracted. Thus in Theodorus. which out of several sounds. A word may likewise be triple. or multiple in form. XXI Words are of two kinds. a question or a command. composed of a mute and a vowel: for GR without A is a syllable. each of them significant. therefore. But the investigation of these differences belongs also to metrical science. or from species to species. By a current or proper word I mean one which is in general use among a people. etoi. the definition of man by the unity of the thing signified. those composed either of a significant and nonsignificant element (though within the whole word no element is significant). peri. as they are acute. that it cannot correctly stand by itself at the beginning of a sentence− as men. or that of number. as 'man' or 'men'. or division of a sentence. a nonsignificant sound. no part is in itself significant. proportion. A Syllable is a nonsignificant sound. or metaphorical. For 'man' or 'white' does not express the idea of 'when'.g. Thus from genus to species. Thus the Iliad is one by the linking together of parts. some at least of whose parts are in themselves significant. whether one or many.g. From species to genus. as: 'There lies my ship'. or the modes or tones in actual delivery. A Noun is a composite significant sound. or ornamental.' Every word is either current. or altered. 'god−given. A Connecting Word is a nonsignificant sound.' is to the Cyprians a current term but to us a strange one. 'Hermo−caico−xanthus [who prayed to Father Zeus]. which neither causes nor hinders the union of many sounds into one significant sound. Plainly. or lengthened. like so many Massilian expressions. end.. which marks the beginning. which inquiry belongs in detail to the writers on meter. quadruple. Poetics as they are aspirated or smooth..

Sometimes too we qualify the metaphor by adding the term to which the proper word is relative. as old age is to life. also in N and S. if it consists of strange (or rare) words. metaphorical. is lofty and raised above the commonplace which employs unusual words. that differs from the normal idiom.' and old age. so is evening to day. the ornamental. not 'the cup of Ares.' and others of the same kind. PS and X. Masculine are such as end in N.' Here arusai. Yet a style wholly composed of such words is either a riddle or a jargon. and alteration of words. That diction. as in mia ginetai amphoteron ops. Such is the riddle: 'A man I saw who on another man had glued the bronze by aid of fire.' and the shield 'the cup of Ares. namely E and O. of contraction: kri. 'life's setting sun. or the second for the fourth. A diction that is made up of strange (or rare) terms is a jargon. A newly−coined word is one which has never been even in local use. therefore. We may then use the fourth for the second. and is here used for a large number generally. But nothing contributes more to produce a cleanness of diction that is remote from commonness than the lengthening. or in some letter compounded with S− these being two.' Or. Still this process bears to the sun the same relation as sowing to the seed. 'on the right breast. 'supplicator'. or neuter. kommi. We may apply an alien term.' There is another way in which this kind of metaphor may be employed. R. By unusual. 'the evening of life. 'to cleave. for ten thousand is a species of large number. still the metaphor may be used. again for arusai− each being a species of taking away.' and 'Cleft the water with the vessel of unyielding bronze. 'horns'. but is adopted by the poet himself. at the same time it is mean− witness the poetry of Cleophon and of Sthenelus. Instances of lengthening are: poleos for poleos. 'gum'. five end in U. peperi.' and tamein. Hence the expression of the poet 'sowing the god−created light.' for kerata. A certain infusion.' For some of the terms of the proportion there is at times no word in existence. Poetics deeds hath Odysseus wrought'. 'to draw away' is used for tamein. as if we were to call the shield. A word is contracted when some part of it is removed. Feminine. Nouns in themselves are either masculine. be called 'the shield of Dionysus. Analogy or proportion is when the second term is to the first as the fourth to the third. Now this cannot be done by any arrangement of ordinary words. the metaphorical. Peleiadeo for Peleidou. or when a syllable is inserted. and part is recast: as in dexiteron kata mazon. do.' or.' An altered word is one in which part of the ordinary form is left unchanged. For by deviating in exceptional cases from the normal idiom. and then deny of that term one of its proper attributes. The cup may. for PS and X are equivalent to endings in S. will raise it above the commonplace and mean. XXII The perfection of style is to be clear without being mean. From species to species. Three only end in I− meli. lengthened− anything. and ops. and areter. while the use of proper words will make it perspicuous. I mean strange (or rare) words. No noun ends in a mute or a vowel short by nature. Evening may therefore be called. 'the appearance of both is one. S. and the other kinds above mentioned. Thus the cup is to Dionysus as the shield to Ares. while. 'the old age of the day. the language will gain distinction. Thus the number of letters in which nouns masculine and feminine end is the same. Some such words there appear to be: as ernyges. at the same Poetics 15 . for the strange (or rare) word. 'pepper'. again. a jargon. 'honey'. of these elements is necessary to style. but by the use of metaphor it can. if it consists of metaphors. contraction.' but 'the wineless cup'.' A word is lengthened when its own vowel is exchanged for a longer one. and− of vowels that admit of lengthening− those in A. feminine. therefore.' dexiteron is for dexion. a riddle. For the essence of a riddle is to express true facts under impossible combinations. Neuter nouns end in these two latter vowels. in short. as: 'With blade of bronze drew away the life. on the other hand. such as end in vowels that are always long. in the phrase of Empedocles. to scatter seed is called sowing: but the action of the sun in scattering his rays is nameless. For instance. for hiereus. The clearest style is that which uses only current or proper words. 'priest. 'sprouters.

How great a difference is made by the appropriate use of lengthening. the partial conformity with usage will give perspicuity. Not if you desire his hellebore. 'feeds on. Setting an unseemly couch and a meager table. Thus Eucleides. may be seen in Epic poetry by the insertion of ordinary forms in the verse. The critics. I saw Epichares walking to Marathon. Setting a wretched couch and a puny table. worthless and unseemly.' Again. the elder. ouk an g'eramenos ton ekeinou elleboron. Yet a small man. or. grotesque. Yet a little fellow. diphron aeikelion katatheis oligen te trapezan. 'feasts on. for eiones booosin. again. Euripides substitutes thoinatai. Aeschylus in his Philoctetes says: phagedaina d'he mou sarkas esthiei podos. 'the sea shores roar. But the alteration of a single word by Euripides. therefore. and hold the author up to ridicule. if we take a strange (or rare) word. in the line. if for the line. The tumor which is eating the flesh of my foot. makes one verse appear beautiful and the other trivial. declared that it would be an easy matter to be a poet if you might lengthen syllables at will. no doubt. So. a metaphor. nun de m'eon oligos te kai outidanos kai aeikes. as in the verse: Epicharen eidon Marathonade badizonta. For example. Or. diphron mochtheron katatheis mikran te trapezan. 'the sea shores screech. strange (or rare) words. weak and ugly. would produce the like effect if used without propriety and with the express purpose of being ludicrous. He caricatured the practice in the very form of his diction. Or.' eiones krazousin. Poetics time. Even metaphors. we read. the truth of our observation will be manifest. but in any mode of poetic diction there must be moderation.' Poetics 16 .' for esthiei. are in error who censure these licenses of speech. or any similar forms of speech. Aeschylus and Euripides each composed the same iambic line. the difference will be felt if we substitute the common words. who employed the rarer term instead of the ordinary one. nun de m'eon mikros te kai asthenikos kai aeides. To employ such license at all obtrusively is. and replace it by the current or proper term. or any similar mode of expression.

the metaphorical. rare words to heroic poetry. which of necessity present not a single action. we may say. whole and complete. and an end. 'from the house away. for to make good metaphors implies an eye for resemblances. and at the same time 'ethical. as in a tragedy. 'Achilles about. It will thus resemble a living organism in all its unity. a single period. This alone cannot be imparted by another. The Iliad is at once simple and 'pathetic. It would have been too vast a theme. It should have for its subject a single action. In heroic poetry. As regards scale or length. 'about Achilles.' instead of peri Achilleos. and all that happened within that period to one person or to many. and Scenes of Suffering. while the Cypria supplies materials for many. In all these respects Homer is our earliest and sufficient model. or an action single indeed. Here again. the Laconian Women.' instead of apo domaton. and produce the pleasure proper to it.' sethen. As it is. But the greatest thing by far is to have a command of metaphor. Recognitions. Thus did the author of the Cypria and of the Little Iliad. metaphors to iambic. or 'ethical. so in the sequence of events. of two. He never attempts to make the whole war of Troy the subject of his poem. or. for it requires Reversals of the Situation. at most. Epic poetry differs from Tragedy in the scale on which it is constructed. then. the ornamental. the Fall of Ilium. It will differ in structure from historical compositions. we have already laid down an adequate limit: the beginning and the end must be capable of being Poetics 17 . Moreover. and I to him. he detaches a single portion. It is precisely because such phrases are not part of the current idiom that they give distinction to the style. which reproduces. all these varieties are serviceable.' and the Odyssey complex (for Recognition scenes run through it). XXIV Again. however. the Departure of the Fleet. These are the current or proper. it must have been over−complicated by the variety of the incidents. It is a great matter to observe propriety in these several modes of expression. the Philoctetes. Such is the practice. Concerning Tragedy and imitation by means of action this may suffice. and yet no single result is thereby produced. or complex. are the same. indeed. as has been already observed. as far as may be.'or 'pathetic. of most poets. strange (or rare) words. the plot manifestly ought. the Eurypylus. the thoughts and the diction must be artistic. the Neoptolemus. But in iambic verse. XXIII As to that poetic imitation which is narrative in form and employs a single meter. domaton apo. the transcendent excellence of Homer is manifest. the compound are best adapted to dithyrambs. If. 'to thee. the Mendicant Odysseus. in diction and thought they are supreme. Poetics Again. though that war had a beginning and an end. it is the mark of genius. again.' Achilleos peri.' Moreover. 'away from the house. For this reason the Iliad and the Odyssey each furnish the subject of one tragedy. but a single period. Epic poetry must have as many kinds as Tragedy: it must be simple. he had kept it within moderate limits. and so forth.' and the like. the most appropriate words are those which are found even in prose. a middle. 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. Indeed each of his poems has a twofold character. Of the various kinds of words. For as the sea−fight at Salamis and the battle with the Carthaginians in Sicily took place at the same time. ego de nin. little connected together as the events may be. one thing sometimes follows another. All other poets take a single hero. as also in compound words. familiar speech. to be constructed on dramatic principles.' The parts also. but with a multiplicity of parts. and in its meter. This. with the exception of song and spectacle. and not easily embraced in a single view. he failed to see. and the Little Iliad for eight− the Award of the Arms. Ariphrades ridiculed the tragedians for using phrases which no one would employ in ordinary speech: for example. with a beginning. but did not tend to any one result.

Take even the irrational incidents in the Odyssey. we must accept it in spite of the absurdity. as was done by Chaeremon. But this is a false inference. but each with a character of his own. Homer. But in Epic poetry. because there the person acting is not seen. in the Oedipus. Thus. for it is not this that makes him an imitator. be excluded. provided the second be true. and answering in length to the group of tragedies presented at a single sitting. It is Homer who has chiefly taught other poets the art of telling lies skilfully. The plea that otherwise the plot would have been ruined. which is another point in which the narrative form of imitation stands alone. if the second is. or other personage. add mass and dignity to the poem. Now the wonderful is pleasing. But once the irrational has been introduced and an air of likelihood imparted to it. Everything irrational should. The irrational. Nature herself. This condition will be satisfied by poems on a smaller scale than the old epics. the heroic measure has proved its fitness by hexameter test of experience. such a plot should not in the first instance be constructed. as in the Mysians. For. On the other hand. it is quite unnecessary. the iambic and the trochaic tetrameter are stirring measures. has wider scope in Epic poetry. as we have said. the absurdity is veiled by the poetic charm with which the poet invests it. to add that the first is or has become. after a few prefatory words. admirable in all respects. men imagine that. a great− a special− capacity for enlarging its dimensions. Epic poetry has. if possible. The Epic has here an advantage. the poet should prefer probable impossibilities to improbable possibilities. the hero's ignorance as to the manner of Laius' death). a second is or becomes. In Tragedy we cannot imitate several lines of actions carried on at one and the same time. where there is no expression of character or thought. and imitate but little and rarely. and relieving the story with varying episodes. or woman. many events simultaneously transacted can be presented. or. none of them wanting in characteristic qualities. we must confine ourselves to the action on the stage and the part taken by the players. and makes tragedies fail on the stage. has the special merit of being the only poet who rightly appreciates the part he should take himself. How intolerable even these might have been would be apparent if an inferior poet were to treat the subject. Other poets appear themselves upon the scene throughout. owing to the narrative form. however. to diverting the mind of the hearer. and we can see the reason. the first likewise is or becomes. For the mind. or. and hence it most readily admits rare words and metaphors. where the first thing is untrue. Accordingly. not within the drama− as in the Electra. knowing the second to be true. teaches the choice of the proper measure. assuming that if one thing is or becomes. Hence. the pursuit of Hector would be ludicrous if placed upon the stage− the Greeks standing still and not joining in the pursuit. Hence no one has ever composed a poem on a great scale in any other than heroic verse. The element of the wonderful is required in Tragedy. and one that conduces to grandeur of effect. As it is. it would be found incongruous. and these. the latter being akin to dancing. on which the wonderful depends for its chief effects. the messenger's account of the Pythian games. If a narrative poem in any other meter or in many meters were now composed. the man who has come from Tegea to Mysia and is still speechless. if relevant to the subject. Homer. Poetics brought within a single view. where Odysseus is left upon the shore of Ithaca. at all events. The tragic plot must not be composed of irrational parts. There is an example of this in the Bath Scene of the Odyssey. it should lie outside the action of the play (as. falsely infers the truth of the first. The diction should be elaborated in the pauses of the action. For sameness of incident soon produces satiety. conversely. and Achilles waving them back. as may be inferred from the fact that every one tells a story with some addition of his knowing that his hearers like it. The secret of it lies in a fallacy For. But in the Epic poem the absurdity passes unnoticed. the former expressive of action. As for the meter. at once brings in a man. character and thought are merely obscured by a diction that is over−brilliant Poetics 18 . For of all measures the heroic is the stateliest and the most massive. The poet should speak as little as possible in his own person. is ridiculous. Still more absurd would it be to mix together different meters.

to whom.' all being a species of many.. 'alone she hath no part. Again. or better. rare words or metaphors. zoroteron de keraie. These are the points of view from which we should consider and answer the objections raised by the critics.' Sometimes an expression is metaphorical. attained without violating the special rules of the poetic art. 'This is how men say the thing is. if the end of the art be thereby attained (the end being that already mentioned)− if. when. Within the art of poetry itself there are two kinds of faults− those which touch its essence. that is. 'mix the drink livelier' does not mean 'mix it stronger' as for hard drinkers. as they are. 'alone' is metaphorical. for the Cretans use the word eueides. . for example. does the error touch the essentials of the poetic art. or some accident of it? For example. the representation be of neither kind.' while at the same time the poet says: 'Often indeed as he turned his gaze to the Trojan plain. not to know that a hind has no horns is a less serious matter than to paint it inartistically.' It is not meant that his body was ill−shaped but that his face was ugly. In this way the objection may be met. must of necessity imitate one of three objects− things as they were or are. as it now is among the Illyrians.' Again. it may be. in examining whether what has been said or done by some one is poetically right or not. but the error may be justified. or for what end. The poet being an imitator. but 'mix it quicker. of Dolon: 'ill−favored indeed he was to look upon. very possibly. 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. as 'Now all gods and men were sleeping through the night. if. he is guilty of an error. however. the error is inherent in the poetry. by what means. the number and nature of the sources from which they may be drawn may be thus exhibited. what Xenophanes says of them. A case in point is the pursuit of Hector. Again. If. the poet may answer. 'But the objects are as they ought to be'. or introduced technical inaccuracies in medicine.' This was the custom then. If a poet has chosen to imitate something. the error is not justified: for every kind of error should. 'the mules first [he killed]. Add to this. or avert a greater evil. it was the fact'. Again. the end might have been as well. if possible.' where the poet perhaps employs oureas not in the sense of mules. oie. however. and those which are accidental. he marveled at the sound of flutes and pipes. 'this is what is said. First as to matters which concern the poet's own art. if it be objected that the description is not true to fact. just as Sophocles said that he drew men as they ought to be. we must not look merely to the particular act or saying. So. it be to secure a greater good. again. whether. So in the verse. as in the passage about the arms: 'Upright upon their butt−ends stood the spears. and ask whether it is poetically good or bad. Other difficulties may be resolved by due regard to the usage of language. be avoided. or in any other art− the error is not essential to the poetry. We may note a rare word.' applies to tales about the gods. Further. There are also many modifications of language. for instance. which we concede to the poets.. Poetics 19 . things as they are said or thought to be. If he describes the impossible. like a painter or any other artist. the poet may perhaps reply. The vehicle of expression is language− either current terms or. the effect of this or any other part of the poem is thus rendered more striking. a description may be no better than the fact: 'Still. It may well be that these stories are not higher than fact nor yet true to fact: they are. [but has imitated it incorrectly] through want of capacity.' 'All' is here used metaphorically for 'many. Euripides. 'well−flavored' to denote a fair face. or things as they ought to be. but of sentinels. for the best known may be called the only one. But anyhow. We must also consider by whom it is said or done. Poetics XXV With respect to critical difficulties and their solutions. as in oureas men proton. any more than in poetry and any other art. that the standard of correctness is not the same in poetry and politics.

if they have to represent 'the quoit−throw. The element of the irrational.' though the gods do not drink wine.' Or again. Things are censured either as impossible. similarly. and to men hou (ou) kataputhetai ombro. and things unmixed before mixed. there are five sources from which critical objections are drawn.' The true mode of interpretation is the precise opposite of what Glaucon mentions. Hence Ganymede is said 'to pour the wine to Zeus. Again. Such is the irrational element in the introduction of Aegeus by Euripides and the badness of Menelaus in the Orestes.' This.' we say. where the word pleo is ambiguous. or to the higher reality. or to received opinion. They think it strange. 'wine'. Again. or contrary to artistic correctness. and the more refined in every case is that which appeals to the better sort of audience. not Icarius. The critics imagine he was a Lacedaemonian. or contradictory. we appeal to what is commonly said to be.' Things that sound contradictory should be examined by the same rules as in dialectical refutation− whether the same thing is meant. may also be taken as a metaphor. and. Or by the usage of language. that Telemachus should not have met him when he went to Lacedaemon. In general. Thus. who therefore indulge in restless movements. It is merely a mistake. In addition to which. in the same relation. therefore. With respect to the requirements of art. Thus Hippias of Thasos solved the difficulties in the lines. find fault if a thing is inconsistent with their own fancy. we urge that the irrational sometimes does not violate reason. and in the same sense. The audience is supposed to be too dull to comprehend unless something of their own is thrown by the performers. or 'workers in bronze. that gives plausibility to the objection. are justly censured when there is no inner necessity for introducing them. Bad flute−players twist and twirl. a probable impossibility is to be preferred to a thing improbable and yet possible. the solution may depend upon accent or breathing. just as 'it is probable that a thing may happen contrary to probability.' To justify the irrational. So too workers in iron are called chalkeas. or irrational. 'but the impossible is the higher thing. Or again. XXVI The question may be raised whether the Epic or Tragic mode of imitation is the higher. assuming that the poet has said whatever they happen to think. and that her father was Icadius. jump at certain groundless conclusions. he says. or to what is tacitly assumed by a person of intelligence. didomen (didomen) de hoi. We should therefore solve the question by reference to what the poet says himself. the art which imitates anything and everything is manifestly most unrefined. as parocheken de pleo nux. Thus any mixed drink is called oinos. Poetics Again. the impossible must be justified by reference to artistic requirements. as in Empedocles: 'Of a sudden things became mortal that before had learnt to be immortal. They allege that Odysseus took a wife from among themselves. depravity of character. by ambiguity of meaning. then. the question may be solved by punctuation. But the Cephallenian story may perhaps be the true one. we should consider how many senses it may bear in the particular passage. or morally hurtful. it may be impossible that there should be men such as Zeuxis painted.' or hustle the Poetics 20 . they pass adverse judgement and then proceed to reason on it. 'Yes. for the ideal type must surpass the realty. Critics. If the more refined art is the higher. The answers should be sought under the twelve heads above mentioned. For example: 'there was stayed the spear of bronze'− we should ask in how many ways we may take 'being checked there. and. when a word seems to involve some inconsistency of meaning. however. The question about Icarius has been treated in this fashion.

is not inherent in it. Now. What. this censure attaches not to the poetic but to the histrionic art. has this same defect. If. fulfills its specific function better as an art− for each art ought to produce. as by Mnasitheus the Opuntian.] if. to an inferior public. Being then unrefined. it has vividness of impression in reading as well as in representation. Again. who are censured for representing degraded women. Such was the fault found in Callippides. and these produce the most vivid of pleasures. as by Sosistratus. then. the Epic imitation has less unity. the art attains its end within narrower limits for the concentrated effect is more pleasurable than one which is spread over a long time and so diluted. Next. Poetics 21 . stands to Epic in the same relation as the younger to the elder actors. it must seem weak and watery. then. with the number of each and their differences. as already stated− it plainly follows that tragedy is the higher art. it reveals its power by mere reading. And superior it is. all action is not to be condemned− any more than all dancing− but only that of bad performers. this fault. if it conforms to the Epic canon of length. moreover. Tragic art. the objections of the critics and the answers to these objections. not any chance pleasure. Poetics coryphaeus when they perform the Scylla. as a whole. as attaining its end more perfectly. each with a certain magnitude of its own. and. Yet these poems are as perfect as possible in structure. in the first place.. I mean. Mynniscus used to call Callippides 'ape' on account of the extravagance of his action. in all other respects it is superior. the causes that make a poem good or bad. Tragedy like Epic poetry produces its effect even without action. for example. tragedy is superior to epic poetry in all these respects. Tragedy. Tragedy. if it were cast into a form as long as the Iliad? Once more. or in lyrical competition. the poem is constructed out of several actions. Thus if the story adopted by the poet has a strict unity. it is said. like the Iliad and the Odyssey. or. Thus much may suffice concerning Tragic and Epic poetry in general.. If. So we are told that Epic poetry is addressed to a cultivated audience.. that any Epic poem will furnish subjects for several tragedies. We may compare the opinion that the older actors entertained of their successors. for gesticulation may be equally overdone in epic recitation. we say. each is. would be the effect of the Oedipus of Sophocles. [Such length implies some loss of unity. an imitation of a single action. Moreover. as is shown by this. as also in others of our own day. but the pleasure proper to it. because it has an the epic elements− it may even use the epic meter− with the music and spectacular effects as important accessories. and the same view was held of Pindarus. their several kinds and parts. who do not need gesture. Further. it is evidently the lower of the two. it must either be concisely told and appear truncated. then. in the highest degree attainable. which have many such parts.