The Poetics of Aristotle, by Aristotle

The Project Gutenberg EBook of Poetics, by Aristotle This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included with this eBook or online at Title: Poetics Author: Aristotle Translator: S. H. Butcher Release Date: November 3, 2008 [EBook #1974] Language: English Character set encoding: ASCII *** START OF THIS PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK POETICS ***

Produced by An Anonymous Volunteer, and David Widger

By Aristotle

A Translation By S. H. Butcher
[Transcriber's Annotations and Conventions: the translator left intact some Greek words to illustrate a specific point of the original discourse. In this transcription, in order to retain the accuracy of this text, those words are rendered by spelling out each Greek letter individually, such as {alpha beta gamma delta...}. The reader can distinguish these words by the enclosing braces {}. Where multiple words occur together, they are separated by the "/" symbol for clarity. Readers who do not speak or read the Greek language will usually neither

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The Poetics of Aristotle, by Aristotle

gain nor lose understanding by skipping over these passages. Those who understand Greek, however, may gain a deeper insight to the original meaning and distinctions expressed by Aristotle.]

Analysis of Contents


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The Poetics of Aristotle, by Aristotle


'Imitation' the common principle of the Arts of Poetry. The Objects of Imitation. The Manner of Imitation. The Origin and Development of Poetry. Definition of the Ludicrous, and a brief sketch of the rise of Comedy. Definition of Tragedy. The Plot must be a Whole. The Plot must be a Unity. (Plot continued.) Dramatic Unity. (Plot continued.) Definitions of Simple and Complex Plots. (Plot continued.) Reversal of the Situation, Recognition, and Tragic or disastrous Incident defined and explained. The 'quantitative parts' of Tragedy defined. (Plot continued.) What constitutes Tragic Action. (Plot continued.) The tragic emotions of pity and fear should spring out of the Plot itself. The element of Character in Tragedy. (Plot continued.) Recognition: its various kinds, with examples. Practical rules for the Tragic Poet. Further rules for the Tragic Poet. Thought, or the Intellectual element, and Diction in Tragedy. Diction, or Language in general. Poetic Diction. (Poetic Diction continued.) How Poetry combines elevation of language with perspicuity. Epic Poetry. (Epic Poetry continued.) Further points of agreement with Tragedy. Critical Objections brought against Poetry, and the principles on which they are to be answered. A general estimate of the comparative worth of Epic Poetry and Tragedy.


I propose to treat of Poetry in itself and of its various kinds, noting the essential quality of each; to inquire into the structure of the plot as requisite to a good poem; into

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that in the first two cases these means are all employed in combination. and speak of elegiac poets. rhythm. Such. Thus in the music of the flute and of the lyre. and action. or any similar metre. Comedy also and Dithyrambic: poetry. emotion. For as there are persons who. or 'harmony. elegiac.gutenberg. some arts which employ all the means above mentioned. let us begin with the principles which come first. however. then. There is another art which imitates by means of language alone. again. being in each case distinct. we should bring him too under the general term poet.—the medium. in the latter. the name of poet is by custom given to the author. the manner or mode of imitation. Following. verse. to poetic imitations in iambic. even if a writer in his poetic imitation were to combine all metres. indeed. taken as a whole. and also Tragedy and Comedy. goodness and badness being the distinguishing marks of moral differences). imitate and represent various objects through the medium of colour and form. rhythm alone is used without 'harmony'. by conscious art or mere habit. by Aristotle http://www. or epic (that is. on the other. tune.The Poetics of Aristotle. For there is no common term we could apply to the mimes of Sophron and Xenarchus and the Socratic dialogues on the one hand. which are essentially similar to these. are all in their general conception modes of imitation. So much then for these distinctions. from one: another in three respects. They differ. and the music of the flute and of the lyre in most of their forms. so in the arts above mentioned. Epic poetry and Tragedy. also in other arts. such as that of the shepherd's pipe. Such are Dithyrambic and Nomic poetry. Even when a treatise on medicine or natural science is brought out in verse. again. now one means is employed. and these men must be either of a higher or a lower type (for moral character mainly answers to these divisions. namely. or again by the voice. People do. In dancing. 'harmony' and rhythm alone are employed. may either combine different metres or consist of but one kind—but this has hitherto been without a are the differences of the arts with respect to the medium of imitation. so that it would be right to call the one poet. There are. by rhythmical movement. hexameter) poets. the objects. and similarly into whatever else falls within the same inquiry. the imitation is produced by rhythm. now another. II Since the objects of imitation are men in action.' either singly or combined. On the same principle. as if it were not the imitation that makes the poet. and that either in prose or verse—which. it follows that we 4 of 34 4/12/2012 9:41 AM . but between them the difference is. the order of nature. then. language. add the word 'maker' or 'poet' to the name of the metre. and metre.htm the number and nature of the parts of which a poem is composed. for even dancing imitates character. the other physicist rather than poet. and. which is a medley composed of metres of all kinds. and yet Homer and Empedocles have nothing in common but the metre. but the verse that entitles them all indiscriminately to the name. as Chaeremon did in his Centaur.

Cleophon as they are. or as worse. some say. The outlying villages. In each case they appeal to the evidence of language. or speak in his own person. Tragedy as better than in actual life. and the objects the same. worse than they are. are the three differences which distinguish artistic imitation. Hegemon the Thasian. they say. for the poet Epicharmus.The Poetics of Aristotle. Such diversities may be found even in dancing. III There is still a third difference—the manner in which each of these objects may be imitated. here too one may portray different types. unchanged—or he may present all his characters as living and moving before us. for example. Homer. 'to revel. Polygnotus depicted men as nobler than they are. belonged to that country. flute-playing. They add also that the Dorian word for 'doing' is {delta rho alpha nu}. Pauson as less noble. the objects. who allege that it originated under their democracy. the author of the Deiliad. as representing action. and become a distinct kind in imitating objects that are thus distinct. and Nicochares. 5 of 34 4/12/2012 9:41 AM . It is the same in painting.' but because they wandered from village to village (kappa alpha tau alpha / kappa omega mu alpha sigma). as Timotheus and Philoxenus differed in representing their Cyclopes. and lyre-playing. For the medium being the same.gutenberg. For the same reason the Dorians claim the invention both of Tragedy and Comedy. for Comedy aims at representing men as worse. The same thing holds good of Dithyrambs and Nomes. Sophocles is an imitator of the same kind as Homer—for both imitate higher types of character. of the same kind as Aristophanes—for both imitate persons acting and doing. the poet may imitate by narration—in which case he can either take another personality as Homer does. whether prose or verse unaccompanied by music. who is much earlier than Chionides and Magnes. The claim to Comedy is put forward by the Megarians. are by them called {kappa omega mu alpha iota}. from another point of view. Dionysius drew them true to life. So that from one point of view. makes men better than they are. the inventor of parodies. by Aristotle http://www. Hence.—not only by those of Greece These. 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}. Tragedy too is claimed by certain Dorians of the Peloponnese. the name of 'drama' is given to such poems.htm must represent men either as better than in real life. This may suffice as to the number and nature of the various modes of imitation. and the manner. So again in language. being excluded contemptuously from the city. {pi rho alpha tau tau epsilon iota nu}. as we said at the beginning. or as they are. then. and the Athenian. but also by the Megarians of Sicily. Now it is evident that each of the modes of imitation above mentioned will exhibit these differences.—the medium. The same distinction marks off Tragedy from Comedy.

His Margites bears the same relation to Comedy that the Iliad and Odyssey do to Tragedy. the two classes of poets still followed their natural bent: the lampooners became writers of Comedy. that is he. Thus the older poets were distinguished as writers of heroic or of lampooning verse. Having passed through many changes. Thus the reason why men enjoy seeing a likeness is. there is the instinct for 'harmony' and rhythm. that in contemplating it they find themselves learning or not only to philosophers but to men in general. The one originated with the authors of the Dithyramb. then. of learning is more limited. A poem of the satirical kind cannot indeed be put down to any author earlier than Homer. 'Ah. being that in which people lampooned one another. is one instinct of our nature. however. since the drama was a larger and higher form of art. Next. We have evidence of this in the facts of experience. it was not till late that the short plot was discarded for one of greater compass. each new element that showed itself was in turn developed. The graver spirits imitated noble actions. instances can be cited. though many such writers probably there were. and the actions of good men. which are still in use in many of our cities. The more trivial sort imitated the actions of meaner persons. according to the individual character of the writers. and there it stopped.—this raises another question. Be that as it may. and through imitation learns his earliest lessons. Objects which in themselves we view with pain. and the Epic poets were succeeded by Tragedians. that to learn gives the liveliest pleasure. Persons. or some such other cause. starting with this natural gift developed by degrees their special aptitudes. therefore. and the grotesque diction of the earlier 6 of 34 4/12/2012 9:41 AM . The cause of this again is. but to the execution. Sophocles raised the number of actors to three. the pleasure will be due not to the imitation as such. Imitation. and other similar compositions. the instinct of imitation is implanted in man from childhood. Whether Tragedy has as yet perfected its proper types or not. till their rude improvisations gave birth to Poetry. First. Homer is pre-eminent among poets. hence the measure is still called the iambic or lampooning measure. As.' For if you happen not to have seen the original. Aeschylus first introduced a second actor. Moreover. so he too first laid down the main lines of Comedy. The appropriate metre was also here introduced. Tragedy—as also Comedy—was at first mere improvisation. But from Homer onward. by dramatising the ludicrous instead of writing personal satire. it found its natural form. we delight to contemplate when reproduced with minute fidelity: such as the forms of the most ignoble animals and of dead bodies. and saying perhaps. and no less universal is the pleasure felt in things imitated. the other with those of the phallic songs. But when Tragedy and Comedy came to light.htm IV Poetry in general seems to have sprung from two causes. for example. at first composing satires. whose capacity. metres being manifestly sections of rhythm.—his own Margites. and added scene-painting.The Poetics of Aristotle. or in relation also to the audience. and whether it is to be judged in itself. and assigned the leading part to the dialogue. the colouring. one difference between him and other animals being that he is the most imitative of living creatures. for he alone combined dramatic form with excellence of imitation. as the former did hymns to the gods and the praises of famous men. by Aristotle http://www. Poetry now diverged in two directions. he diminished the importance of the Chorus. in the serious style. each of them lying deep in our nature.gutenberg. Tragedy advanced by slow degrees.

distinctively so called. in their length: for Tragedy endeavours. generalised his themes and plots. or prologues. the comic mask is ugly and distorted. but does not imply pain. They differ. and had greater affinities with dancing. by Aristotle http://www. For the iambic is. V Comedy is. The successive changes through which Tragedy passed. knows what is good or bad Tragedy. is a second point of difference. then. we will speak 7 of 34 4/12/2012 9:41 AM . in the full sense of the word bad. VI Of the poetry which imitates in hexameter verse. or increased the number of actors. and only when we drop the colloquial intonation. The additions to the number of 'episodes' or acts. and the other accessories of which tradition. abandoning the 'iambic' or lampooning form. knows also about Epic poetry. not. 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. Who furnished it with masks. As for the plot. and the authors of these changes. are heard of.htm satyric form for the stately manner of Tragedy. as we have said. must be taken as already described. This. as far as possible. because it was not at first treated seriously. to confine itself to a single revolution of the sun. for to discuss them in detail would. It was late before the Archon granted a comic chorus to a poet. however. and is narrative in form. It consists in some defect or ugliness which is not painful or destructive. but the elements of a Tragedy are not all found in the Epic poem. whereas Comedy has had no history. of all measures. which was originally employed when the poetry was of the Satyric order. Comedy had already taken definite shape when comic poets. are well known. the Ludicrous being merely a subdivision of the ugly. though at first the same freedom was admitted in Tragedy as in Epic poetry. the performers were till then voluntary. but of Athenian writers Crates was the first who. and of Comedy. Of their constituent parts some are common to both. whereas the Epic action has no limits of time. it came originally from Sicily. Once dialogue had come in. an imitation of characters of a lower type. Nature herself discovered the appropriate measure. again. To take an obvious example. in that Epic poetry admits but one kind of metre. doubtless. Epic poetry agrees with Tragedy in so far as it is an imitation in verse of characters of a higher type. or but slightly to exceed this limit. some peculiar to Tragedy.The Poetics of Aristotle. be a large undertaking. tells. The iambic measure then replaced the trochaic tetrameter. They differ.gutenberg. therefore. rarely into hexameters. All the elements of an Epic poem are found in Tragedy.—these and other similar details remain unknown.

org/files/1974/1974-h/1974-h. however deficient in these respects. And these complete the list. Again. one the manner. resuming its formal definition. but it is by their actions that they are happy or the reverse. that Spectacular equipment will be a part of Tragedy. Next. By 'Diction' I mean the mere metrical arrangement of the words: as for 'Song. it may be. and life consists in action. for these are the medium of imitation. must have six parts. then. Two of the parts constitute the medium of imitation. is the first principle. Diction. Hence. Song. and three the objects of imitation. By 'language embellished. as resulting from what has been already said. and an action implies personal agents. The tragedies of most of our modern poets fail in the rendering of character. the Plot is the imitation of the action: for by plot I here mean the arrangement of the incidents. or. in fact. Every Tragedy. through pity and fear effecting the proper purgation of these emotions. It is the same with almost all the early poets. Spectacle. not a quality. By 'the several kinds in separate parts. and Recognition scenes—are parts of the plot. Tragedy. others again with the aid of song. These elements have been employed. It is the same in painting. Now as tragic imitation implies persons acting. not of men. Let us now discuss Tragedy. that novices in the art attain to finish: of diction and precision of portraiture before they can construct the plot. you will not produce the essential tragic effect nearly so well as with a play which. Thought is required wherever a statement is proved. in the first place. and on actions again all success or failure depends. Plot. the several kinds being found in separate parts of the play.' I mean language into which rhythm. is an imitation of an action that is serious. Song and Diction. A further proof is. will not give as much pleasure as the chalk outline of a portrait. the most powerful elements of emotional: interest in Tragedy Peripeteia or Reversal of the Situation. complete. without action there cannot be a tragedy. therefore. in language embellished with each kind of artistic ornament. and of a certain magnitude. Plot. By Character I mean that in virtue of which we ascribe certain qualities to the agents. laid on confusedly. the soul of a tragedy: Character holds the second place. and of poets in general this is often true. Again. Dramatic action.' it is a term whose sense every one understands. The most beautiful colours. therefore. Again. 'harmony. that some parts are rendered through the medium of verse alone. for it is by these that we qualify actions themselves. and its end is a mode of action. a general truth enunciated. Polygnotus delineates character well: the style of Zeuxis is devoid of ethical quality. not of narrative. then. For Tragedy is an imitation. every play contains Spectacular elements as well as Character. and Thought.gutenberg.' I mean. who necessarily possess certain distinctive qualities both of character and thought. and well finished in point of diction and thought.The Poetics of Aristotle. there may be without character. Now character determines men's qualities. we may say.' and song enter. Tragedy is the imitation of an action. and. Song. and of the agents mainly with a view to the 8 of 34 4/12/2012 9:41 AM . The Plot. Hence the incidents and the plot are the end of a tragedy. and the end is the chief thing of all.htm hereafter. it necessarily follows. as it were. by the poets to a man. but of an action and of life. Thought. and these—thought and character—are the two natural causes from which actions spring. which parts determine its quality—namely. Thus Tragedy is the imitation of an action. yet has a plot and artistically constructed incidents. Diction. Character. A similar fact is seen in painting. by Aristotle http://www. Besides which. if you string together a set of speeches expressive of character. But most important of all is the structure of the incidents. in the form of action. is not with a view to the representation of character: character comes in as subsidiary to the actions. and here lies the difference between Zeuxis and Polygnotus.

it is the least artistic. and a magnitude which may be easily embraced in one view. is felt even apart from representation and actors. Besides. but must also be of a certain magnitude. the poets of our time. Nor. a beautiful object. For the power of Tragedy. according to our definition. Tragedy is an imitation of an action that is complete. for as the eye cannot take it all in at once. of all the parts. As. a middle. showing what kind of things a man chooses or avoids. in the case of animate bodies and organisms a certain magnitude is necessary. but after which something naturally is or comes to be. Now. but conform to these principles. Hence a very small animal organism cannot be beautiful. so in the or in which the speaker does not choose or avoid anything whatever.gutenberg. by which I mean. and an end. either by necessity. therefore. indeed. Of the remaining elements Song holds the chief place among the embellishments.—that is.htm action. 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. the faculty of saying what is possible and pertinent in given circumstances. an emotional attraction of its own. must not only have an orderly arrangement of parts. A well constructed plot. but has nothing following it. Character is that which reveals moral purpose. Third in order is Thought. Thought. the unity and sense of the whole is lost for the spectator. Fourth among the elements enumerated comes Diction. for the view of it is confused. we may be sure. are not expressive of character. a certain length is 9 of 34 4/12/2012 9:41 AM . as has been already said. but. or not to be. the object being seen in an almost imperceptible moment of time.The Poetics of Aristotle. whether it be a living organism or any whole composed of parts. A whole is that which has a beginning. therefore. by Aristotle http://www. the expression of the meaning in words. Speeches. is found where something is proved to be. and its essence is the same both in verse and prose. therefore. and connected least with the art of poetry. for there may be a whole that is wanting in magnitude. since this is the first and most important thing in Tragedy. which do not make this manifest. VII These principles being established. or as a rule. the language of the rhetoricians. can one of vast size be beautiful. let us now discuss the proper structure of the Plot. on the other hand. An end. and of a certain magnitude. The Spectacle has. A middle is that which follows something as some other thing follows it. the production of spectacular effects depends more on the art of the stage machinist than on that of the poet. A beginning is that which does not itself follow anything by causal necessity. again. is that which itself naturally follows some other thing. must neither begin nor end at haphazard. as for instance if there were one a thousand miles long. In the case of oratory. or a general maxim is enunciated. for beauty depends on magnitude and order. on the contrary. and whole. Again.

As therefore. that the sequence of events. is no part of artistic theory. being an imitation of an action. is a more philosophical and a higher thing than history: for poetry tends to express the universal. too. the other what may happen. of all poets who have composed a Heracleid. Poetry. as it appears. according to the law of probability or necessity. The work of Herodotus might be put into verse. Hence. And to define the matter roughly. But the limit as fixed by the nature of the drama itself is this: the greater the length. the more beautiful will the piece be by reason of its size. By the universal. evident from what has been said. the story of Heracles must also be a unity. if any one of them is displaced or removed.—what is possible according to the law of probability or necessity. to centre round an action that in our sense of the word is one. is not an organic part of the whole. the imitation is one when the object imitated is one.gutenberg. For had it been the rule for a hundred tragedies to compete together. here too—whether from art or natural genius—seems to have happily discerned the truth. and it would still be a species of history. the performance would have been regulated by the water-clock. we may say that the proper magnitude is comprised within such limits. so the plot. or from good fortune to bad. The true difference is that one relates what has happened.The Poetics of Aristotle. and a length which can be easily embraced by the memory. as in all else he is of surpassing there are many actions of one man out of which we cannot make one action. and likewise the Iliad. 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. must imitate one action and that a whole. and so. provided that the whole be perspicuous. consist in the Unity of the hero. In composing the Odyssey he did not include all the adventures of Odysseus—such as his wound on Parnassus. the structural union of the parts being such that. The limit of length in relation to dramatic competition and sensuous presentment. will admit of a change from bad fortune to good. the whole will be disjointed and disturbed. The poet and the historian differ not by writing in verse or in prose. with metre no less than without it. history the particular. I mean how a person of a certain type will on 10 of 34 4/12/2012 9:41 AM . For a thing whose presence or absence makes no visible difference. as some persons think. But Homer. They imagine that as Heracles was one man. moreover. a Theseid. but what may happen. For infinitely various are the incidents in one man's life which cannot be reduced to unity. the error. IX It is. that it is not the function of the poet to relate what has happened. or other poems of the kind. by Aristotle http://www.htm necessary.—as indeed we are told was formerly done. VIII Unity of plot does not. therefore. in the other imitative arts.

since he is a poet because he imitates. therefore. therefore. X Plots are either Simple or Complex. But tragedians still keep to real names. Such events seem not to be due to mere chance. as they write show pieces for competition. and then inserts characteristic names. 11 of 34 4/12/2012 9:41 AM . for even subjects that are known are known only to a few. so that what follows should be the necessary or probable result of the preceding action. none are well known. or by Recognition. But again. In Comedy this is already apparent: for here the poet first constructs the plot on the lines of probability. and it is this universality at which poetry aims in the names she attaches to the personages. which fell upon his murderer while he was a spectator at a festival. An action which is one and continuous in the sense above defined. for even coincidences are most striking when they have an air of design. These last should arise from the internal structure of the plot. it would be absurd to attempt it. Indeed. I call Simple. It makes all the difference whether any given event is a case of propter hoc or post hoc. when the change of fortune takes place without Reversal of the Situation and without Recognition. We must not. and in virtue of that quality in them he is their poet or maker. where incidents and names alike are fictitious. they follow as cause and effect. for there is no reason why some events that have actually happened should not conform to the law of the probable and possible. to please the players. The particular is—for example—what Alcibiades did or suffered. at all costs keep to the received legends. at the same time. for the actions in real life. Plots. and killed him. It clearly follows that the poet or 'maker' should be the maker of plots rather than of verses. Tragedy is an imitation not only of a complete action. Still there are even some tragedies in which there are only one or two well known names. as in Agathon's Antheus. Of all plots and actions the epeisodic are the worst. Such an effect is best produced when the events come on us by and what he imitates are actions. constructed on these principles are necessarily the best. and the effect is heightened when.gutenberg. A Complex action is one in which the change is accompanied by such Reversal. the rest being fictitious. The tragic wonder will thee be greater than if they happened of themselves or by accident. of which the plots are an imitation.—unlike the lampooners who write about particular individuals. which are the usual subjects of Tragedy.htm occasion speak or act. for. and yet they give none the less pleasure. Bad poets compose such pieces by their own fault. good poets. and yet give pleasure to all. according to the law of probability or necessity. by Aristotle http://www. but of events inspiring fear or pity. he is none the less a poet. I call a plot 'epeisodic' in which the episodes or acts succeed one another without probable or necessary sequence. and are often forced to break the natural continuity. they stretch the plot beyond its capacity. And even if he chances to take an historical subject. obviously show a similar distinction.The Poetics of Aristotle. 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. or by both. In others. We may instance the statue of Mitys at Argos.

This recognition. the recognition of persons. But the recognition which is most intimately connected with the plot and action is. the messenger comes to cheer Oedipus and free him from his alarms about his mother. as the name indicates. being between persons. meaning. Thus Iphigenia is revealed to Orestes by the sending of the letter. as in the Oedipus. Tragedy represents. XII [The parts of Tragedy which must be treated as elements of the whole have been already mentioned. Again in the Lynceus.The Poetics of Aristotle.htm XI Reversal of the Situation is a change by which the action veers round to its opposite. then. Two parts. then. such as death on the stage. The Episode is that entire part of a tragedy which is between complete choric songs. it is upon such situations that the issues of good or bad fortune will depend. but another act of recognition is required to make Orestes known to Iphigenia. but by revealing who he is. this last being divided into Parode and Stasimon. Episode. Moreover.gutenberg. by Aristotle http://www. producing love or hate between the persons destined by the poet for good or bad fortune. These are common to all plays: peculiar to some are the songs of actors from the stage and the Commoi. as we have said. and Danaus goes with him. Prologue. Even inanimate things of the most trivial kind may in a sense be objects of recognition. We now come to the quantitative parts. 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. he produces the opposite effect. Again. The parts of Tragedy which must be treated as 12 of 34 4/12/2012 9:41 AM . There are indeed other forms. bodily agony. combined. A third part is the Scene of Suffering. subject always to our rule of probability or necessity. and actions producing these effects are those which. we may recognise or discover whether a person has done a thing or not. and the separate parts into which Tragedy is wounds and the like. Thus in the Oedipus. by our definition. Exode. 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. Recognition. of the Plot—Reversal of the Situation and Recognition—turn upon surprises. The Scene of Suffering is a destructive or painful action. namely. Lynceus is being led away to his death. with Reversal. Recognition. The best form of recognition is coincident with a Reversal of the Situation. but the outcome of the preceding incidents is that Danaus is killed and Lynceus saved. to slay him. The Exode is that entire part of a tragedy which has no choric song after it. Choric song. will produce either pity or fear. is a change from ignorance to knowledge. The Prologue is that entire part of a tragedy which precedes the Parode of the Chorus.

yet is felt to be the most tragic of the poets. many of which end unhappily. are the deadliest enemies—like Orestes and 13 of 34 4/12/2012 9:41 AM . it neither satisfies the moral sense nor calls forth pity or fear. and those others who have done or suffered something terrible. of fortune presented must not be the spectacle of a virtuous man brought from prosperity to adversity: for this moves neither pity nor fear. or better rather than worse. The pleasure.gutenberg. in constructing his plots. Nor. Thyestes. therefore. satisfy the moral sense. Meleager.The Poetics of Aristotle. be arranged not on the simple but on the complex plan. however. reversely. the best tragedies are founded on the story of a few houses. as we have seen. from good to bad. and what he should avoid. It is. thence derived is not the true tragic pleasure. Such an event.—a personage like Oedipus. There remains. It is accounted the best because of the weakness of the spectators. where those who. therefore. Hence they are in error who censure Euripides just because he follows this principle in his plays. Like the Odyssey.—that of a man who is not eminently good and just. should the downfall of the utter villain be exhibited. Oedipus. again. The practice of the stage bears out our view. and also an opposite catastrophe for the good and for the bad.] XIII As the sequel to what has already been said. He must be one who is highly renowned and prosperous. The best proof is that on the stage and in dramatic competition. again. this being the distinctive mark of tragic imitation. fear by the misfortune of a man like ourselves. but of some great error or frailty. A plot of this kind would. as we have said. be single in its issue. for pity is aroused by unmerited misfortune. if well worked out. The quantitative parts the separate parts into which it is divided—are here enumerated. but. it merely shocks us. in the first place. Thyestes. A perfect tragedy should. rather than double as some maintain. The change of fortune should be not from bad to good.htm elements of the whole have been already mentioned. Nor. will be neither pitiful nor terrible. for the poet is guided in what he writes by the wishes of his audience. It follows plainly. it has a double thread of plot. moreover. At first the poets recounted any legend that came in their way. imitate actions which excite pity and fear.-yet whose misfortune is brought about not by vice or depravity. faulty though he may be in the general management of his subject. or other illustrious men of such families. but by some error or frailty. that of a bad man passing from adversity to prosperity: for nothing can be more alien to the spirit of Tragedy. on the fortunes of Alcmaeon. and Euripides. In the second rank comes the kind of tragedy which some place first. to be perfect according to the rules of art should be of this construction. in the piece. then. Now. the character between these two extremes. Telephus. Orestes. in a character either such as we have described. but it would inspire neither pity nor fear. the right ending. it possesses no single tragic quality. It is proper rather to Comedy. then. by Aristotle http://www. that the change. It should. A tragedy. such plays. It should come about as the result not of vice. and by what means the specific effect of Tragedy will be produced. A well constructed plot should. are the most tragic in effect. we must proceed to consider what the poet should aim at.

The action may be done consciously and with knowledge of the persons. again. and no one slays or is slain. Let us then determine what are the circumstances which strike us as terrible or pitiful. But to produce this effect by the mere spectacle is a less artistic method. that it should be perpetrated in ignorance. it is evident that this quality must be impressed upon the incidents. and makes the discovery before it is done. indeed. Or. and indicates a superior poet.— (to be about to act with knowledge of the persons and then not to act. a son his father. The Oedipus of Sophocles is an example. or any other deed of the kind is done—these are the situations to be looked for by the poet. It is shocking without being tragic. are strangers to the purpose of Tragedy. and dependent on extraneous aids. So again with indifferent persons. for we must not demand of Tragedy any and every kind of pleasure.The Poetics of Aristotle. And since the pleasure which the poet should afford is that which comes from pity and fear through imitation. the incident is outside the drama even without the aid of the eye.—except so far as the suffering in itself is pitiful. There is then nothing to shock us. a brother. but only that which is proper to it. in the manner of the older poets. Here. he who hears the tale told will thrill with horror and melt to pity at what takes place. is in the Antigone. the deed of horror may be done. for no disaster follows. It is. It is thus too that Euripides makes Medea slay her children. but cases occur where it falls within the action of the play: one may cite the Alcmaeon of Astydamas. and skilfully handle the traditional material. or intends to kill. is the worst. a mother her son. If an enemy kills an enemy. The fourth case is) when some one is about to do an irreparable deed through ignorance. Let us explain more clearly what is meant by skilful handling. or very rarely. This is the impression we should receive from hearing the story of the Oedipus. however. Again. XIV Fear and pity may be aroused by spectacular means. but they may also result from the inner structure of the piece. but done in ignorance. a brother kills. while the 14 of 34 4/12/2012 9:41 AM . by Aristotle http://www. for example. One instance. and the tie of kinship or friendship be discovered afterwards. never.gutenberg.—and that wittingly or unwittingly. a son his mother. For the deed must either be done or not done. He may not indeed destroy the framework of the received legends—the fact. that Clytemnestra was slain by Orestes and Eriphyle by Alcmaeon but he ought to show invention of his own. and then not to act. where Haemon threatens to kill Creon. there is nothing to excite pity either in the act or the intention. But when the tragic incident occurs between those who are near or dear to one another—if.htm Aegisthus—quit the stage as friends at the close. The next and better way is that the deed should be perpetrated. there is a third case. or Telegonus in the Wounded Odysseus. Still better. But of all these ways. Actions capable of this effect must happen between persons who are either friends or enemies or indifferent to one another. and the discovery made afterwards. which is the better way. for instance. Those who employ spectacular means to create a sense not of the terrible but only of the monstrous. For the plot ought to be so constructed that. therefore. to be about to act knowing the persons. These are the only possible ways. found in poetry.

as has been already observed. be inconsistent. Thus a person of a given character should speak or act in a given way. but. They are compelled.gutenberg. recognising who he is. Enough has now been said concerning the structure of the incidents. by Aristotle http://www. or in the Return of the Greeks in the Iliad. it must not be brought about by the 'Deus ex Machina'—as in the Medea. in representing men who are irascible or indolent.htm discovery produces a startling effect. by the rule either of necessity or of probability. who suggested the type. as when in the Cresphontes Merope is about to slay her son. and the slave quite worthless. 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. is inappropriate. As an example of motiveless degradation of character. character must be true to life: for this is a distinct thing from goodness and propriety. but happy chance. then. It is therefore evident that the unravelling of the plot. and the right kind of plot. therefore. to have recourse to those houses whose history contains moving incidents like these. or unscrupulous cleverness. must arise out of the plot itself. This rule is relative to each class.—for Iphigenia the suppliant in no way resembles her later self. and also a slave. which lie beyond the range of human knowledge. This. the example of good portrait-painters should be followed. and most important. just as this event should follow that by necessary or probable sequence. XV In respect of Character there are four things to be aimed at. Again. the sister recognises the brother just in time. If the irrational cannot be excluded. Within the action there must be nothing irrational. So too the poet. As in the structure of the plot. It was not art. Such is the irrational element in the Oedipus of Sophocles. In this way 15 of 34 4/12/2012 9:41 AM . So in the Iphigenia. it should be outside the scope of the tragedy. the lament of Odysseus in the Scylla. The fourth point is consistency: for though the subject of the imitation. is why a few families only. The last case is the best. the son recognises the mother when on the point of giving her up. though the woman may be said to be an inferior being. the poet should always aim either at the necessary or the probable. so too in the portraiture of character. while reproducing the distinctive form of the original. furnish the subjects of tragedy. and the speech of Melanippe: of inconsistency. or have other defects of character. There is a type of manly valour. but valour in a woman. and which require to be reported or foretold. They. spares his life. make a likeness which is true to life and yet more beautiful. The second thing to aim at is propriety. should preserve the type and yet ennoble it. we have Menelaus in the Orestes: of character indecorous and inappropriate. that led the poets in search of subjects to impress the tragic quality upon their plots. Even a woman may be good. First.The Poetics of Aristotle. the Iphigenia at Aulis.—for antecedent or subsequent events. it must be good. still he must be consistently inconsistent. The 'Deus ex Machina' should be employed only for events external to the drama. no less than the complication. as here described. Again in the Helle. for to the gods we ascribe the power of seeing all things. since Tragedy is an imitation of persons who are above the common level.

Next come the recognitions invented at will by the poet. as in the Bath Scene in the Odyssey. Even these admit of more or less skilful treatment. Thus in the recognition of Odysseus by his scar. recalls the past and weeps. hearing the minstrel play the lyre. and hence the recognition. But of this enough has been said in our published treatises. and of these some are bodily marks. on seeing the place. 'So I too must die at the altar like my sister. not what the plot requires. A better kind is that which comes about by a turn of incident. by speaking himself. Nor should he neglect those appeals to the senses. Orestes in the Iphigenia reveals the fact that he is Orestes. as in the Odysseus Disguised as a Messenger. is nearly allied to the fault above mentioned:—for Orestes might as well have brought tokens with him. hence B (the disguised Odysseus) imagined that A would) recognise the bow which. from poverty of wit. which. therefore. as scars.The Poetics of Aristotle. First. 'I came to find my son. some external tokens. in another by the swineherds.—such as 'the spear which the earth-born race bear on their bodies. It was a natural reflection for Orestes to make. are the concomitants of poetry. again. or the little ark in the Tyro by which the discovery is effected. for here too there is much room for error. Another similar instance is the 'voice of the shuttle' in the Tereus of Sophocles. as necklaces. For example. This.. where the hero breaks into tears on seeing the picture. there is a composite kind of recognition involving false inference on the part of one of the characters. These then are rules the poet should observe. makes herself known by the letter. A said (that no one else was able to bend the bow. the least artistic form. and saying what the poet. in fact. any formal proof with or without tokens—is a less artistic mode of recognition. Of these some are congenital. he had not seen. Others are acquired after birth.htm Achilles is portrayed by Agathon and Homer.' or the stars introduced by Carcinus in his Thyestes. XVI What Recognition is has been already explained.. indeed. and to bring about a recognition by this means that the expectation A would recognise the bow is false inference.' where Odysseus. and on that account wanting in art.' Such too is the discovery made by Iphigenia in the play of Polyidus the Sophist. or again in the 'Lay of Alcinous. Thus in the Choephori: 'Some one resembling me has come: no one resembles me but Orestes: therefore Orestes has come.' So too in the Phineidae: the women. but he.gutenberg.' Again. the discovery is made in one way by the nurse. for here we were cast forth. the father says. by Aristotle http://www. She. which. inferred their fate:—'Here we are doomed to die. We will now enumerate its kinds. in the Tydeus of Theodectes. 16 of 34 4/12/2012 9:41 AM . The third kind depends on memory when the sight of some object awakens a feeling: as in the Cyprians of Dicaeogenes. is most commonly employed recognition by signs. The use of tokens for the express purpose of proof—and. and I lose my own life. The fourth kind is by process of reasoning.. indeed.' though not among the essentials.

to the best of his power.htm But. as if he were a spectator of the action. The need of such a rule is shown by the fault found in Carcinus. The purpose. he should first sketch its general outline. tempest-tost. the audience being offended at the oversight. Again. for it was natural that Iphigenia should wish to dispatch a letter. and his deliverance by means of the purificatory rite. This is the essence of the plot. To this ministry she is appointed. As for the story. and in the Iphigenia. XVII In constructing the plot and working it out with the proper diction. In the case of Orestes. there is the madness which led to his capture. before his eyes. On the stage. for example. the episodes are short. We must see that they are relevant to the action. where the startling discovery is made by natural means. A certain man is absent from home for many years. and left desolate. as far as possible. he is jealously watched by Poseidon. is outside the general plan of the play. The fact that the oracle for some reason ordered him to go there. In the drama. whether the poet takes it ready made or constructs it for himself.The Poetics of Aristotle. by Aristotle http://www. She is transported to another country. and. he is seized. with appropriate gestures. she disappears mysteriously from the eyes of those who sacrificed her. At length. he comes. but it is these that give extension to Epic poetry. but I too. However. the rest is episode. he attacks the suitors with his own hand. This fact escaped the observation of one who did not see the situation. he himself arrives. and one who is agitated storms. The general plan may be illustrated by the Iphigenia. one who is angry rages. In the one case a man can take the mould of any character. for those who feel emotion are most convincing through natural sympathy with the characters they represent. and by that remark he is saved. Some time later her own brother chances to arrive. Next come the recognitions by process of reasoning. in whose play he exclaims very naturally:—'So it was not my sister only.gutenberg. Meanwhile his home is in a wretched plight—suitors are wasting his substance and plotting against his son. where the custom is to offer up all strangers to the goddess. of his coming is outside the action proper. he will discover what is in keeping with it. 17 of 34 4/12/2012 9:41 AM . in the other. the piece failed. he makes certain persons acquainted with him. These recognitions alone dispense with the artificial aid of tokens or amulets. Amphiaraus was on his way from the temple. the poet should work out his play. After this. In this way. Thus the story of the Odyssey can be stated briefly. of all recognitions. the names being once given. however. and be most unlikely to overlook inconsistencies. and then fill in the episodes and amplify in detail. who was doomed to be sacrificed'. The mode of recognition may be either that of Euripides or of Polyidus. reveals who he is. the best is that which arises from the incidents themselves. and is himself preserved while he destroys them. A young girl is sacrificed. seeing everything with the utmost vividness. again. he is lifted out of his proper self. Such is that in the Oedipus of Sophocles. the poet should place the scene. Hence poetry implies either a happy gift of nature or a strain of when on the point of being sacrificed. with the most life-like reality. it remains to fill in the episodes.

—such as the tragedies on Ajax and Ixion.gutenberg. a practice first begun by Agathon. like Sisyphus. by Aristotle http://www. and scenes laid in Hades. Incidents extraneous to the action are frequently combined with a portion of the action proper.—to produce a tragic effect that satisfies the moral sense. therefore. or even a whole act. There are four kinds of Tragedy. and then again. The proof is that the poets who have dramatised the whole story of the Fall of Troy. if possible. each in his own branch. the seizure of the child. The poet should the Complication consists of the incidents presupposed in the drama. Both arts. the Pathetic (where the motive is passion). the poet should remember what has been often said. like Aeschylus. he shows a marvellous skill in the effort to hit the popular taste. the best test to take is the plot. Identity exists where the Complication and Unravelling are the same. and not make an Epic structure into a Tragedy—by an Epic structure I mean one with a multiplicity of plots—as if. This effect is produced when the clever rogue. In his Reversals of the Situation. or who have taken the whole tale of Niobe. for instance. The fourth kind is the Simple (We here exclude the purely spectacular element). the rest is the Unravelling. like Euripides. should always be mastered. in the manner not of Euripides but of Sophocles. the greatest number and those the most important. and transferring a speech. to combine all poetic elements. 'that many things should happen contrary to probability. sung as mere interludes. the Prometheus. the more so. The Unravelling extends from the accusation of murder to the end. Such an event is probable in Agathon's sense of the word: 'it is probable. Again. from one play to another? 18 of 34 4/12/2012 9:41 AM . the critics now expect one man to surpass all others in their several lines of excellence. is outwitted.htm XVIII Every tragedy falls into two parts. 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. In the Epic poem. each part assumes its proper magnitude.—Complication and Unravelling or Denouement. their choral songs pertain as little to the subject of the piece as to that of any other tragedy. instead of selecting portions. the Ethical (where the motives are ethical). or the brave villain defeated.' he says. exemplified by the Phorcides.The Poetics of Aristotle. Thus. it should be an integral part of the whole. either fail utterly or meet with poor success on the stage. however. in face of the cavilling criticism of the day. Even Agathon has been known to fail from this one defect. in the Lynceus of Theodectes. and not a part of her story. The Unravelling is that which extends from the beginning of the change to the end.—such as the Phthiotides and the Peleus. and share in the action. For whereas there have hitherto been good poets. to form the Complication. They are. In speaking of a tragedy as the same or different. but unravel it ill. In the drama the result is far from answering to the poet's expectation. or failing that. depending entirely on Reversal of the Situation and Recognition. however. owing to its length. Yet what difference is there between introducing such choral interludes.' The Chorus too should be regarded as one of the actors. you were to make a tragedy out of the entire story of the Iliad. As for the later poets. the Complex. Many poets tie the knot well.

not to poetry. we may assume what is said in the Rhetoric. or a mute. We may. Syllable. that which with such impact has by itself no sound. the other parts of Tragedy having been already discussed. a command. but only one which can form part of a group of sounds. according as they are aspirated or smooth. therefore. The only difference is. which inquiry belongs in detail to the writers on metre. a statement. Connecting word. Under Thought is included every effect which has to be produced by speech. the suggestion of importance or its opposite. it is evident that the dramatic incidents must be treated from the same points of view as the dramatic speeches. A vowel is that which without impact of tongue or lip has an audible sound. of the Verb.gutenberg. such as pity. Sentence or Phrase. by Aristotle http://www. and so forth. grave. For who can admit the fault imputed to Homer by Protagoras. an answer. A Syllable is a non-significant sound. anger. when the object is to evoke the sense of pity. a prayer. Noun.htm XIX It remains to speak of Diction and Thought.—what is a command. if the Thought were revealed quite apart from what he says? Next. The sound I mean may be either a vowel. for instance. or of an intermediate tone. a semi-vowel. goddess.—that in the words. the subdivisions being. Now. A Letter is an indivisible sound. as G and D. pass this over as an inquiry that belongs to another art. importance. and as a result of the speech. that the incidents should speak for themselves without verbal exposition.The Poetics of Aristotle. A semi-vowel. A mute. a question. One branch of the inquiry treats of the Modes of Utterance. but joined to a vowel sound becomes audible. fear. as S and R. while the effects aimed at in speech should be produced by the speaker. a threat. XX [Language in general includes the following parts:—Letter. fear. he says. or probability. 'Sing. and the like.' 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. as regards Diction. composed of a mute and a vowel: for GR 19 of 34 4/12/2012 9:41 AM . Inflexion or Case. For even brutes utter indivisible sounds.—proof and refutation. It includes. To know or not to know these things involves no serious censure upon the poet's art. These are distinguished according to the form assumed by the mouth and the place where they are produced. Concerning Thought. as they are acute. yet not every such sound. to which inquiry the subject more strictly belongs. For what were the business of a speaker. long or short. that which with such impact has an audible sound. the excitation of the feelings. But this province of knowledge belongs to the art of Delivery and to the masters of that science. none of which I call a letter.

some at least of whose parts are in themselves significant. or metaphorical. quadruple. each of them significant.' the {delta omega rho omicron nu} or 'gift' is not in itself significant. as 'man' or 'men '. A Sentence or Phrase is a composite significant sound. or contracted. Or. those composed either of a significant and non-significant element (though within the whole word no element is significant). in which.' for example—but it may dispense even with the verb. Or. by a strange word. is capable of forming one significant sound. Thus the Iliad is one by the linking together of parts. or multiple in form. By simple I mean those composed of non-significant elements. a non-significant sound. or of elements that are both significant. no part is in itself significant. or ornamental.—either as signifying one thing. {delta epsilon}. A Connecting word is a non-significant sound. Inflexion belongs both to the noun and verb. which out of several sounds.' or the like.' 'to. such as {gamma eta}. 'Hermo-caico-xanthus who prayed to Father Zeus>. that it cannot correctly stand by itself at the beginning of a sentence. or that of number. A Noun is a composite significant sound. and the like.] XXI Words are of two kinds.' or 'Cleon son of Cleon. e. or altered. or strange. {eta tau omicron iota}. or lengthened. Still it will always have some significant part. A Verb is a composite significant sound. or division of a sentence. simple and double. or as consisting of several parts linked together. the same word may be at once strange and current.' Every word is either current. But the investigation of these differences belongs also to metrical science. like so many Massilian expressions. end.—GRA. as 'in walking. 'Did he go?' and 'go' are verbal inflexions of this kind.g. A word may likewise be triple. therefore. or the modes or tones in actual delivery.' or 'white' does not express the idea of 'when'. for not every such group of words consists of verbs and nouns—'the definition of man. or newlycoined. but 'he walks. Thus in Theodorus.htm without A is a syllable. 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. one which is in use in another country. For 'man. which marks the beginning. and expresses either the relation 'of. present or past. the definition of man by the unity of the thing signified. but not in relation to the same people. it may be placed at either end or in the middle of a sentence.gutenberg. e. such. 'god-given. By a current or proper word I mean one which is in general use among a people. {pi epsilon rho iota}. as {mu epsilon nu}. as in the noun.—as {alpha mu theta iota}.' or 'he has walked' does connote time. The word 20 of 34 4/12/2012 9:41 AM . whether one or many. a non-significant sound.' A sentence or phrase may form a unity in two ways. not marking time. marking time.g. By double or compound. which neither causes nor hinders the union of many sounds into one significant sound.The Poetics of Aristotle. by Aristotle http://www. a question or a command. as also with A. however.

that is. not 'the cup of Ares. 'priest. {delta omega}.' For some of the terms of the proportion there is at times no word in existence. or neuter. as: 'Verily ten thousand noble deeds hath Odysseus wrought'. Thus from genus to species. 'supplicator.. still the metaphor may be used. Sometimes too we qualify the metaphor by adding the term to which the proper word is relative. for lying at anchor is a species of lying. but is adopted by the poet himself.' but 'the wineless cup. 'to draw away. or by For instance. Hence the expression of the poet 'sowing the god-created light.' There is another way in which this kind of metaphor may be employed. Feminine. for ten thousand is a species of large number. as in {mu iota alpha / gamma iota nu epsilon tau alpha iota / alpha mu phi omicron tau episilon rho omega nu / omicron psi}. Instances of lengthening are. An altered word is one in which part of the ordinary form is left unchanged. as: 'There lies my ship'. [Nouns in themselves are either masculine. Analogy or proportion is when the second term is to the first as the fourth to the third. Thus 21 of 34 4/12/2012 9:41 AM . {delta epsilon xi iota tau epsilon rho omicron nu} is for {delta epsilon xi iota omicron nu}.' Here {alpha rho upsilon rho alpha iota}. The cup may. Masculine are such as end in {nu}. and {Pi eta lambda eta iota alpha delta epsilon omega} for {Pi eta lambda epsilon iota delta omicron upsilon}: of contraction. proportion.gutenberg. Thus the cup is to Dionysus as the shield to Ares. or from species to genus. 'the evening of life. feminine.' and {alpha rho eta tau eta rho}.The Poetics of Aristotle.' or. Evening may therefore be called 'the old age of the day. 'horns. by Aristotle http://www. to scatter seed is called sowing: but the action of the sun in scattering his rays is nameless.—these being two. again.' and 'Cleft the water with the vessel of unyielding bronze. or in some letter compounded with {sigma}. {sigma}.' Or.' for {kappa epsilon rho alpha tau alpha}. as: 'With blade of bronze drew away the life. and {omicron psi}. or the second for the fourth. From species to species. as if we were to call the shield. and then deny of that term one of its proper attributes. Still this process bears to the sun the same relation as sowing to the seed. in the phrase of Empedocles. or from species to species.' is to the Cyprians a current term but to us a strange one..' and {tau alpha mu epsilon iota nu} again for {alpha rho upsilon alpha iota}. 'lance.' is used for {tau alpha mu epsilon iota nu}. be called 'the shield of Dionysus.' and old age. such as end in vowels that are always long.—{pi omicron lambda eta omicron sigma} for {pi omicron lambda epsilon omega sigma}. so is evening to day. 'sprouters. and is here used for a large number generally.' for {iota epsilon rho epsilon upsilon sigma}.—{kappa rho iota}.—each being a species of taking away. as old age is to life. 'life's setting sun. as in {delta epsilon xi iota-tau epsilon rho omicron nu / kappa alpha tau alpha / mu alpha zeta omicron nu}. We may then use the fourth for the second. and—of vowels that admit of lengthening—those in {alpha}. or when a syllable is inserted. {rho}. 'to cleave.' A word is lengthened when its own vowel is exchanged for a longer one.' {An ornamental word. and {xi}. therefore. Metaphor is the application of an alien name by transference either from genus to species. Some such words there appear to be: as {epsilon rho nu upsilon gamma epsilon sigma}. and part is re-cast. We may apply an alien term. A word is contracted when some part of it is removed. namely {eta} and {omega}.htm {sigma iota gamma upsilon nu omicron nu}.' and the shield 'the cup of Ares.} A newly-coined word is one which has never been even in local use. From species to genus.

For example Aeschylus and Euripides each composed the same iambic line.The Poetics of Aristotle. 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}. or any similar forms of speech. the metaphorical.gutenberg. for {psi} and {xi} are equivalent to endings in {sigma}. the partial conformity with usage will give perspicuity. {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}. again. if it consists of metaphors. a riddle. So. and hold the author up to ridicule. {pi epsilon pi epsilon rho iota}: five end in {upsilon}. the truth of our observation will be manifest. Three only end in {iota}.—anything. For the essence of a riddle is to express true facts under impossible combinations. By unusual. How great a difference is made by the appropriate use of lengthening. But nothing contributes more to produce a clearness of diction that is remote from commonness than the lengthening. For by deviating in exceptional cases from the normal idiom. of these elements is necessary to style. and replace it by the current or proper term. also in {nu} and {sigma}. A certain infusion. will raise it above the commonplace and mean. by Aristotle http://www. Such is the riddle:—'A man I saw who on another man had glued the bronze by aid of fire. No noun ends in a mute or a vowel short by nature. if we take a strange (or rare) word. Yet a style wholly composed of such words is either a riddle or a jargon. Thus Eucleides. strange (or rare) words. a jargon. while the use of proper words will make it perspicuous. are in error who censure these licenses of speech. who employed the rarer term instead of the ordinary one. Now this cannot be done by any arrangement of ordinary words. if it consists of strange (or rare) words. therefore. That diction. at the same time it is mean:—witness the poetry of Cleophon and of Sthenelus. is lofty and raised above the commonplace which employs unusual words. a metaphor. grotesque. A diction that is made up of strange (or rare) terms is a jargon. or any similar mode of no doubt. for the strange (or rare) word. But the alteration of a single word by Euripides. lengthened. The clearest style is that which uses only current or proper words. Neuter nouns end in these two latter vowels. while. and alteration of words. Even metaphors. but by the use of metaphor it can. in short.] XXII The perfection of style is to be clear without being mean.' and others of the same kind. 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.—{mu eta lambda iota}. The critics. or. that differs from the normal idiom. I mean strange (or rare) words. therefore. makes one verse appear beautiful and the other trivial. and the other kinds above mentioned. Aeschylus in his Philoctetes says: {Phi alpha gamma epsilon delta alpha iota nu alpha / delta / eta / mu omicron 22 of 34 4/12/2012 9:41 AM . but in any mode of poetic diction there must be moderation. the language will gain distinction. metaphorical. To employ such license at all obtrusively is. may be seen in Epic poetry by the insertion of ordinary forms in the verse.htm the number of letters in which nouns masculine and feminine end is the same. on the other hand. at the same time. contraction. the elder. the ornamental. declared that it would be an easy matter to be a poet if you might lengthen syllables at will. {kappa omicron mu mu iota}.

and so forth. for to make good metaphors implies an eye for resemblances. all these varieties are serviceable. strange (or rare) words. the ornamental. familiar speech. Euripides substitutes {Theta omicron iota nu alpha tau alpha iota} 'feasts on' for {epsilon sigma theta iota epsilon iota} 'feeds on. It is precisely because such phrases are not part of the current idiom that they give distinction to the style. which reproduces. to be constructed on dramatic principles. This. the metaphorical.' Again. It is a great matter to observe propriety in these several modes of expression. {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. XXIII As to that poetic imitation which is narrative in form and employs a single metre. This alone cannot be imparted by another.—the current or proper. the compound are best adapted to Dithyrambs. as in a tragedy. {Alpha chi iota lambda lambda epsilon omega sigma / pi epsilon rho iota} instead of {pi epsilon rho iota / 'Alpha chi iota lambda lambda epsilon omega sigma}. he failed to These are. Or. {delta omega mu alpha tau omega nu / alpha pi omicron} instead of {alpha pi omicron / delta omega mu alpha tau omega nu}.} We read. if for the line. indeed. and the like. metaphors to iambic. Of the various kinds of words. {rho epsilon theta epsilon nu}. as far as may be. in the line. however. by Aristotle http://www.gutenberg. Or. {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). Concerning Tragedy and imitation by means of action this may suffice.htm upsilon / sigma alpha rho kappa alpha sigma / epsilon rho theta iota epsilon iota / pi omicron delta omicron sigma}. Ariphrades ridiculed the tragedians for using phrases which no one would employ in ordinary speech: for example.The Poetics of Aristotle. {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}. the plot manifestly ought. {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}. the most appropriate words are those which are found even in prose. But the greatest thing by far is to have a command of metaphor. It 23 of 34 4/12/2012 9:41 AM . eta iota omicron nu epsilon sigma kappa rho alpha zeta omicron upsilon rho iota nu} Again. In heroic poetry. for {eta iota omicron nu epsilon sigma / beta omicron omicron omega rho iota nu. the difference will be felt if we substitute the common words. But in iambic verse. rare words to heroic poetry. it is the mark of genius. as also in compound words. {epsilon gamma omega / delta epsilon / nu iota nu}.

the Mendicant Odysseus. the transcendent excellence of Homer is manifest. the Departure of the Fleet. which of necessity present not a single action. but with a multiplicity of parts. though that war had a beginning and an end. All other poets take a single hero. In Tragedy we cannot imitate several lines of actions carried on at one and the same time. again. As it is. but a single period. For as the sea-fight at Salamis and the battle with the Carthaginians in Sicily took place at the same time. and produce the pleasure proper to it. by Aristotle http://www. and the Little Iliad for eight—the Award of the Arms. and relieving the 24 of 34 4/12/2012 9:41 AM . one thing sometimes follows another. a middle. It will thus resemble a living organism in all its unity. while the Cypria supplies materials for many. or. or 'ethical. a great—a special—capacity for enlarging its dimensions. For this reason the Iliad and the Odyssey each furnish the subject of one tragedy. are the same. we may say. If. and these. with the exception of song and spectacle. of two. But in Epic poetry. and Scenes of Suffering. of most poets. in diction and thought they are supreme. whole and complete. the Fall of Ilium. to diverting the mind of the hearer. or complex. He never attempts to make the whole war of Troy the subject of his poem. In all these respects Homer is our earliest and sufficient model. a single period. it must have been over-complicated by the variety of the incidents.' Moreover. and in its metre. if relevant to the subject. however. Epic poetry must have as many kinds as Tragedy: it must be simple.' The parts also. the thoughts and the diction must be artistic. It would have been too vast a theme. the Philoctetes. and yet no single result is thereby produced. he had kept it within moderate limits. Thus did the author of the Cypria and of the Little Iliad. Such is the practice. and an end. the Eurypylus.' and the Odyssey complex (for Recognition scenes run through it). for it requires Reversals of the Situation.' or 'pathetic. many events simultaneously transacted can be presented. and we can see the reason. The Iliad is at once simple and 'pathetic. Epic poetry differs from Tragedy in the scale on which it is constructed. at most. Epic poetry has. as has been already observed. and answering in length to the group of tragedies presented at a single sitting. XXIV Again. The Epic has here an advantage.The Poetics of Aristotle. then. and all that happened within that period to one person or to many. owing to the narrative form. It will differ in structure from historical compositions. with a beginning. he detaches a single portion.htm should have for its subject a single action. the Neoptolemus. 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. and at the same time 'ethical. Here again. we must confine ourselves to the action on the stage and the part taken by the players. or an action single indeed. so in the sequence of events. and one that conduces to grandeur of effect. the Laconian Women. little connected together as the events may be. add mass and dignity to the poem.gutenberg. and not easily embraced in a single view. As regards scale or length. This condition will be satisfied by poems on a smaller scale than the old epics. Indeed each of his poems has a twofold character. we have already laid down an adequate limit:—the beginning and the end must be capable of being brought within a single view. but did not tend to any one result. Moreover.

at all events. the messenger's account of the Pythian games. the poet should prefer probable impossibilities to improbable possibilities. provided the second be true. 25 of 34 4/12/2012 9:41 AM . For. the former expressive of action. after a few prefatory words. where Odysseus is left upon the shore of Ithaca. on which the wonderful depends for its chief effects. There is an example of this in the Bath Scene of the Odyssey. but each with a character of his own. The diction should be elaborated in the pauses of the action. The plea that otherwise the plot would have been ruined. not within the drama. or woman. as we have said. or. at once brings in a man. For. Homer. we must accept it in spite of the absurdity. As it is. knowing the second to be true. in the Oedipus. be excluded. has the special merit of being the only poet who rightly appreciates the part he should take himself. Thus. none of them wanting in characteristic qualities. For sameness of incident soon produces satiety. falsely infers the truth of the first. On the other hand. The secret of it lies in a fallacy. conversely. or.gutenberg. as was done by Chaeremon. But once the irrational has been introduced and an air of likelihood imparted to it. Hence. the pursuit of Hector would be ludicrous if placed upon the stage—the Greeks standing still and not joining in the pursuit. assuming that if one thing is or becomes. But this is a false inference. if possible. Nature herself. it is quite unnecessary. teaches the choice of the proper measure. is ridiculous. for it is not this that makes him an imitator. to add that the first is or has become. For the mind. the latter being akin to The tragic plot must not be composed of irrational parts.—as in the Electra.The Poetics of Aristotle. and makes tragedies fail on the stage. As for the metre. and imitate but little and rarely. which is another point in which the narrative form of imitation stands alone. a second is or becomes. Take even the irrational incidents in the Odyssey. Still more absurd would it be to mix together different metres. But in the Epic poem the absurdity passes unnoticed. knowing that his hearers like it. Homer. the first likewise is or becomes. character and thought are merely obscured by a diction that is over brilliant. where the first thing is untrue. Now the wonderful is pleasing: as may be inferred from the fact that every one tells a story with some addition of his own. has wider scope in Epic poetry. For of all measures the heroic is the stateliest and the most massive. if the second is. the heroic measure has proved its fitness by the test of experience. Hence no one has ever composed a poem on a great scale in any other than heroic verse. it would be found incongruous. and hence it most readily admits rare words and metaphors. Accordingly. If a narrative poem in any other metre or in many metres were now composed. admirable in all respects. or other personage. The poet should speak as little as possible in his own person. it should lie outside the action of the play (as. such a plot should not in the first instance be constructed. It is Homer who has chiefly taught other poets the art of telling lies skilfully. men imagine that.htm story with varying episodes. the absurdity is veiled by the poetic charm with which the poet invests it. How intolerable even these might have been would be apparent if an inferior poet were to treat the subject. The element of the wonderful is required in Tragedy. Other poets appear themselves upon the scene throughout. because there the person acting is not seen. the man who has come from Tegea to Mysia and is still speechless. the iambic and the trochaic tetrameter are stirring measures. by Aristotle http://www. The irrational. as in the Mysians. and Achilles waving them back. Everything irrational should. where there is no expression of character or thought. the hero's ignorance as to the manner of Laius' death).

htm XXV With respect to critical difficulties and their solutions. if it be objected that the description is not true to fact. those which touch its essence. does the error touch the essentials of the poetic art. Again. the effect of this or any other part of the poem is thus rendered more striking. But anyhow.—'But the objects are as they ought to be': just as Sophocles said that he drew men as they ought to be. it be to secure a greater good. The poet being an imitator. If a poet has chosen to imitate something. when. or in any other art the error is not essential to the poetry. the representation be of neither kind. for instance. or introduced technical inaccuracies in medicine. Further. by what means. it may be. for example. however. the number and nature of the sources from which they may be drawn may be thus exhibited. 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. or better. Again. or avert a greater evil.—either current terms or. and ask whether it is poetically good or bad. the poet may answer.—things as they were or are. which we concede to the poets.The Poetics of Aristotle. whether. what Xenophanes says of them. There are also many modifications of language. in examining whether what has been said or done by some one is poetically right or not. the error is not justified: for every kind of error should.' This was the custom then. as in the passage about the arms: 'Upright upon their butt-ends stood the spears. The vehicle of expression is language. Within the art of poetry itself there are two kinds of faults. rare words or metaphors. Add to this. 26 of 34 4/12/2012 9:41 AM . These are the points of view from which we should consider and answer the objections raised by the critics. to whom. but the error may be justified. if the end of the art be thereby attained (the end being that already mentioned). the error is inherent in the poetry. We must also consider by whom it is said or done. and those which are accidental. as they are. or some accident of it? For example. the poet may perhaps reply. things as they are said or thought to be. A case in point is the pursuit of Hector. if possible.—This is how men say the thing is. it was the fact'. If. we must not look merely to the particular act or saying. like a painter or any other artist. If he describes the impossible. or things as they ought to be.' Again. he is guilty of an error. (but has imitated it incorrectly) through want of capacity.gutenberg. that the standard of correctness is not the same in poetry and politics. a description may be no better than the fact: 'still. however. It may well be that these stories are not higher than fact nor yet true to fact: they are. if. the end might have been as well. 'this is what is said. by Aristotle http://www. be avoided. attained without violating the special rules of the poetic art.' This applies to tales about the gods. must of necessity imitate one of three objects. that is. First as to matters which concern the poet's own art. Euripides. or for what end. very possibly. If. as it now is among the Illyrians. any more than in poetry and any other In this way the objection may be met.—not to know that a hind has no horns is a less serious matter than to paint it inartistically.

find fault if a thing is inconsistent with their own fancy. may also be taken as a metaphor.' all being a species of many. when a word seems to involve some inconsistency of meaning.' Sometimes an expression is metaphorical. but of sentinels. jump at certain groundless conclusions. For example: 'there was stayed the spear of bronze'—we should ask in how many ways we may take 'being checked there. In general. They think it strange. that gives plausibility to the objection. Or again.' does not mean `mix it stronger' as for hard drinkers.' to denote a fair face. then. 'mix the drink livelier. 'wine.—'alone she hath no part.' The true mode of interpretation is the precise opposite of what Glaucon mentions. where the poet perhaps employs {omicron upsilon rho eta alpha sigma} not in the sense of mules. 'well-favoured.' Hence Ganymede is said 'to pour the wine to Zeus. as in {omicron upsilon rho eta alpha sigma / mu epsilon nu / pi rho omega tau omicron nu}.' It is not meant that his body was ill-shaped. but that his face was ugly. So in the verse. assuming that the poet has said whatever they happen to think. So too workers in iron are called {chi alpha lambda kappa epsilon alpha sigma}.} 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}. by Aristotle http://www. as in Empedocles. The question about Icarius has been treated in this fashion. for the best known may be called the only one. again.'—while at the same time the poet says: 'Often indeed as he turned his gaze to the Trojan plain. or workers in bronze. the impossible must be justified by reference to artistic requirements. or 27 of 34 4/12/2012 9:41 AM . {zeta omega rho omicron tau epsilon rho omicron nu / delta epsilon / kappa epsilon rho alpha iota epsilon}. for the Cretans use the word {epsilon upsilon epsilon iota delta epsilon sigma}. It is merely a mistake. Or by the usage of language.. but 'mix it quicker. Again.' though the gods do not drink wine. and things unmixed before mixed. Thus Hippias of Thasos solved the difficulties in the lines. that Telemachus should not have met him when he went to Lacedaemon. as 'Now all gods and men were sleeping through the night.—as {pi alpha rho omega chi eta kappa epsilon nu / delta epsilon / pi lambda epsilon omega / nu upsilon xi}. the solution may depend upon accent or breathing. and. Again. We may note a rare word. they pass adverse judgment and then proceed to reason on it.—{delta iota delta omicron mu epsilon nu (delta iota delta omicron mu epsilon nu) delta epsilon / omicron iota. therefore. 'alone. Again.htm Other difficulties may be resolved by due regard to the usage of language.' {omicron iota eta}. by ambiguity of meaning. Thus any mixed drink is called {omicron iota nu omicron sigma}. he marvelled at the sound of flutes and pipes..The Poetics of Aristotle.' 'All' is here used metaphorically for 'many. Critics. So. he says. They allege that Odysseus took a wife from among themselves.' is metaphorical. we should consider how many senses it may bear in the particular passage.—'Of a sudden things became mortal that before had learnt to be immortal.. the question may be solved by punctuation. where the word {pi lambda epsilon omega} is ambiguous.gutenberg. and that her father was Icadius not Icarius. however. But the Cephallenian story may perhaps be the true one. The critics imagine he was a Lacedaemonian. of Dolon: 'ill-favoured indeed he was to look upon.' Or again.

similarly. or to what is tacitly assumed by a person of intelligence. for gesticulation may be equally overdone in epic recitation. by Aristotle http://www. it may be impossible that there should be men such as Zeuxis painted. The answers should be sought under the twelve heads above mentioned. or contrary to artistic correctness. 'but the impossible is the higher thing. we say. Tragic art.htm to the higher reality. or in lyrical competition. So we are told that Epic poetry is addressed to a cultivated audience. Such is the irrational element in the introduction of Aegeus by Euripides and the badness of Menelaus in the Orestes. depravity of character. and in the same sense. Tragedy like Epic poetry produces its effect even without action. in all other respects it is superior.The Poetics of Aristotle. in the same relation. all action is not to be condemned any more than all dancing—but only that of bad performers.' or hustle the coryphaeus when they perform the 'Scylla. Next. it is said. and the more refined in every case is that which appeals to the better sort of audience. this censure attaches not to the poetic but to the histrionic are justly censured when there is no inner necessity for introducing them. who therefore indulge in restless movements. or morally hurtful. Things are censured either as impossible. a probable impossibility is to be preferred to a thing improbable and yet possible. just as 'it is probable that a thing may happen contrary to probability. 'Yes. and the same view was held of Pindarus. Now. and.' To justify the irrational. then. is not inherent in it. XXVI The question may be raised whether the Epic or Tragic mode of imitation is the higher. Bad flute-players twist and twirl. this fault. as by Sosi-stratus. Being then unrefined. Tragedy. who do not need gesture. the art which imitates anything and everything is manifestly most unrefined. then. or to received opinion. or irrational. Again.' Tragedy. if they have to represent 'the quoit-throw. it is evidently the lower of the two. 28 of 34 4/12/2012 9:41 AM . as a whole. Again. as also in others of our own day. we urge that the irrational sometimes does not violate reason. to an inferior public.' Things that sound contradictory should be examined by the same rules as in dialectical refutation whether the same thing is meant. Such was the fault found in Callippides. Thus. If. In addition to which. Mynniscus used to call Callippides 'ape' on account of the extravagance of his action. in the first place. The element of the irrational. If the more refined art is the higher.' we say. or contradictory. it reveals its power by mere reading. for the ideal type must surpass the reality. stands to Epic in the same relation as the younger to the elder actors. as by Mnasitheus the Opuntian. The audience is supposed to be too dull to comprehend unless something of their own is thrown in by the performers.gutenberg. we appeal to what is commonly said to be. We may compare the opinion that the older actors entertained of their successors. who are censured for representing degraded women. there are five sources from which critical objections are drawn. has this same defect. With respect to the requirements of art. We should therefore solve the question by reference to what the poet says himself.

that any Epic poem will furnish subjects for several tragedies. If. if it conform to the Epic canon of length. Special rules. with the number of each and their differences. as already stated it plainly follows that Tragedy is the higher art. complying with the rules is very easy. They may be modified and printed and given away--you may do practically ANYTHING with public domain eBooks.gutenberg. apply to copying and distributing Project Gutenberg-tm electronic works to protect the PROJECT GUTENBERG-tm concept and trademark. If you do not charge anything for copies of this eBook. Thus if the story adopted by the poet has a strict unity.htm or 1974-h. unless you receive specific Produced by An Anonymous Volunteer. it has vividness of impression in reading as well as in representation. so the Foundation (and you!) can copy and distribute it in the United States without permission and without paying copyright royalties. an imitation of a single action. performances and research. Moreover. by Aristotle *** END OF THIS PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK POETICS *** ***** This file should be named 1974-h. Thus much may suffice concerning Tragic and Epic poetry in general. because it has all the epic elements—it may even use the epic metre—with the music and spectacular effects as important accessories. You may use this eBook for nearly any purpose such as creation of derivative works. it must seem weak and watery. (Such length implies some loss of unity. Tragedy is superior to Epic poetry in all these respects. Further. and David Widger Updated editions will replace the previous one--the old editions will be renamed. in the highest degree attainable. not any chance pleasure. but the pleasure proper to it. as attaining its end more perfectly. which have many such parts. like the Iliad and the Odyssey. reports. if it were cast into a form as long as the Iliad? Once more. the objections of the critics and the answers to these objections. for example.gutenberg. each is. as is shown by this. and. fulfils its specific function better as an art for each art ought to produce. their several kinds and parts. Creating the works from public domain print editions means that no one owns a United States copyright in these works.The Poetics of Aristotle. Redistribution is subject to the trademark license. by Aristotle http://www. for the concentrated effect is more pleasurable than one which is spread over a long time and so diluted. End of the Project Gutenberg EBook of Poetics.) if. would be the effect of the Oedipus of ***** This and all associated files of various formats will be found in: http://www. or. it must either be concisely told and appear truncated. set forth in the General Terms of Use part of this license.htm And superior it is. moreover. the causes that make a poem good or bad. especially commercial 29 of 34 4/12/2012 9:41 AM . Project Gutenberg is a registered trademark. and may not be used if you charge for the eBooks. I mean. the art attains its end within narrower limits. the poem is constructed out of several actions. the Epic imitation has less unity. each with a certain magnitude of its own. Yet these poems are as perfect as possible in structure. and these produce the most vivid of pleasures. then.

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