“Tragedy,” says Aristotle, “is an imitation [mimēsis] of an action that is serious, complete, and of a certain magnitude…through pity and fear effecting the proper purgation [catharsis] of these emotions.” Ambiguous means may be employed, Aristotle maintains in … But what is tragedy? But where Aristotle is descriptive in his own right, the neoclassical theorists developed it as a rule of tragedy with an addition of two other elements to make up three unities of drama assimilating Aristotle's emphasis upon the unity of action. Thus a person of a given character should speak or act in a given way, by the rule either of necessity or of probability; just as this event should follow that by necessary or probable sequence. Hence the error, as it appears, of all poets who have composed a Heracleid, a Theseid, or other poems of the kind. The practice of the stage bears out our view. 10 (Pre 19th Century) Characteristics of Tragedy. . A further proof is, that novices in the art attain to finish of diction and precision of portraiture before they can construct the plot. So in the Iphigenia, the sister recognizes the brother just in time. Plots, therefore, constructed on these principles are necessarily the best. In his Canterbury Tales, he introduces “The Monk’s Tale” by defining tragedy as “a certeyn storie… / of him that stood in greet prosperitee, / And is y-fallen out of heigh degree / Into miserie, and endeth wrecchedly.” Again, he calls his Troilus and Criseyde a tragedy because, in the words of Troilus, “all that comth, comth by necessitee… / That forsight of divine purveyaunce / Hath seyn alwey me to forgon Criseyde.”. An end, on the contrary, is that which itself naturally follows some other thing, either by necessity, or as a rule, but has nothing following it. Let us now discuss Tragedy, resuming its formal definition, as resulting from what has been already said. It is not life itself; it is life imitated on a stage. 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 aim of tragedy, Aristotle writes, is to bring about a "catharsis" of the spectators — to arouse in them sensations of pity and fear, and to purge them of these emotions so that they leave the theater feeling cleansed and uplifted, with a heightened understanding of the ways of gods and men. Surviving Dramatic Works of Aeschylus. Of the poetry which imitates in hexameter verse, and of Comedy, we will speak hereafter. As, therefore, in the case of animate bodies and organisms a certain magnitude is necessary, and a magnitude which may be easily embraced in one view; so in the plot, a certain length is necessary, and a length which can be easily embraced by the memory. Or, in other words, it refers to what is generally known as choric commentary in tragedy. To establish the basis for a reconciliation between ethical and artistic demands, Aristotle insists that the principal element in the structure of tragedy is not character but plot. He who has a why to live can bear almost any how. It is proper rather to Comedy, where those who, in the piece, are the deadliest enemies—like Orestes and Aegisthus—quit the stage as friends at the close, and no one slays or is slain. A well constructed plot, therefore, must neither begin nor end at haphazard, but conform to these principles. ATTENTION: Please help us feed and educate children by uploading your old homework! Fear and pity may be aroused by spectacular means; but they may also result from the inner structure of the piece, which is the better way, and indicates a superior poet. Hence those feelings of exhilaration, even exaltation, that many have testified to experiencing in the presence of supreme tragic art when superlatively performed. If the irrational cannot be excluded, it should be outside the scope of the tragedy. It includes analysis of the major events of past, present and what will happen in the future that intensify the dramatic effects. Nor, again, should the downfall of the utter villain be exhibited. Karl Marx & Frederick Engels – On Communism, 64. A tragedy is a representation of an action that is whole and complete and of a certain magnitude. It was not art, but happy chance, that led the poets in search of subjects to impress the tragic quality upon their plots. In Aristotle’s day the appropriate tragic figure would be a king, but he must be one whose fate would excite feelings of pity and fear in the audience. Removing #book# Thought, on the other hand, is found where something is proved to be or not to be, or a general maxim is enunciated. Indeed, he tells us, “the plot ought to be so constructed that, even without the aid of the eye, he who hears the tale will thrill with horror and melt to pity at what takes place.”. The Originals: Classic Readings in Western Philosophy. And when he speaks of “the form of action, not of narrative,” he means that the lines must be acted, not simply read. St. Thomas Aquinas – On the Five Ways to Prove God’s Existence, 17.
Dante makes a further distinction: Comedy…differs from tragedy in its subject matter, in this way, that tragedy in its beginning is admirable and quiet, in its ending or catastrophe fouled and horrible…. The plot should also be complex. Logic will get you from A to B. Professional writers in all subject areas are available and will meet your assignment deadline. He defines tragedy as "the imitation of an action that is serious and also as having magnitude, complete in itself." Characters make mistakes, suffer, and are destroyed in various ways. He defines tragedy as "the imitation of an action that is serious and also as having magnitude, complete in itself." This shows that Aristotle favors the complex plot as opposed to the simple plot in which reversal of the situation is almost impossible. Such an effect is best produced when the events come on us by surprise; and the effect is heightened when, at the same time, they follows as cause and effect. For example, the Roman poet Horace, in his Ars poetica (Art of Poetry), elaborated the Greek tradition of extensively narrating offstage events into a dictum on decorum forbidding events such as Medea’s butchering of her sons from being performed on stage.
Hence the incidents and the plot are the end of the tragedy; and the end is the chief thing of all. Most of the Poetics is devoted to analysis of the scope and proper use of these elements, with illustrative examples selected from many tragic dramas, especially those of Sophocles, although Aeschylus, Euripides, and some playwrights whose works no longer survive are also cited. Hence the incidents and the plot are the end of a tragedy; and the end is the chief thing of all. | John Stuart Mill – On The Equality of Women, 57. and any corresponding bookmarks? Plato – On the Value of Art and Imitation, 67. An Introduction to Western Ethical Thought: Aristotle, Kant, Utilitarianism, 40. bookmarked pages associated with this title. John Rawls and the “Veil of Ignorance”, 56.
Again, since Tragedy is an imitation of persons who are above the common level, the example of good portrait painters should be followed. The limit of length in relation to dramatic competition and sensuous presentment is no part of artistic theory. Happiness is not something ready made. Again, if you string together a set of speeches expressive of character, and well finished in point of diction and thought, you will not produce the essential tragic effect nearly so well as with a play which, however deficient in these respects, yet has a plot and artistically constructed incidents. Do your little bit of good where you are; it's those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world. No matter.
Like Dante, he was under the influence of De consolatione philosophiae (Consolation of Philosophy), the work of the 6th-century Roman philosopher Boethius that he translated into English. Even a woman may be good, and also a slave; though the woman may be said to be an inferior being, and the slave quite worthless. The plot, then, is the first principle, and, as it were, the soul of a tragedy; Character holds the second place.
By ‘language embellished,’ I mean language into which rhythm, ‘harmony’ and song enter. He moves in us to pity because his misfortune is greater than what he actually deserves from his hamartia. In this way Achilles is portrayed by Agathon and Homer. https://pressbooks.bccampus.ca/classicreadings/, Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. An effective plot, we are told, will be both “complete” and “complex.” By “complete,” Aristotle refers to the order of incidents. William James – On the Will to Believe, 21. The ideas and principles of the Poetics are reflected in the drama of the Roman Empire and dominated the composition of tragedy in western Europe during the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries. One instance, however, is in the Antigone, where Haemon threatens to kill Creon. Dramatic action, therefore, is not with a view to the representation of character: character comes in as subsidiary to the actions. Words are medium of representation, and bearer of tragic meaning and effect. This stress placed by the Greek tragedians on the development of plot and action at the expense of character, and their general lack of interest in exploring psychological motivation, is one of the major differences between ancient and modern drama. Particularly significant is his statement that the plot is the most important element of tragedy: Tragedy is an imitation, not of men, but of action and life, of happiness and misery. It comes from your own actions. Tragedy, according to Aristotle, is an imitation. Thus a virtuous man whose fortune changes from prosperity to adversity will not do. Be on the lookout for your Britannica newsletter to get trusted stories delivered right to your inbox. . Aristotle – On Tragedy by Jeff McLaughlin is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted. It represents or imitates the reality. According to Aristotle, great tragedy provokes those feelings so strongly that the audience expends its emotions in the theater and leaves having been purged of them at least temporarily. Announcing our NEW encyclopedia for Kids! Besides, the production of spectacular effects depends more on the art of the stage machinist than on that of the poet. That was the question Aristotle asked himself and his definition attempts to answer it. On the basis of this kind of stylistic distinction, the Aeneid, the epic poem of Virgil, Horace’s contemporary, is called a tragedy by the fictional Virgil in Dante’s Divine Comedy, on the grounds that the Aeneid treats only of lofty things. These principles being established, let us now discuss the proper structure of the Plot, since this is the first and most important thing in Tragedy. By ‘Diction’ incidents. Thus, it is an imitation of action and life, of happiness and misery. I. Aristotle's Definition of Tragedy. Aristotle speaks constantly of pity and fear—the pity we feel for the tragic character and the fear that his fate arouses in us. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. Here, indeed, the incident is outside the drama proper; but cases occur where it falls within the action of the play: one may cite the Alcmaeon of Astydamas, or Telegonus in the Wounded Odysseus.
It contains much valuable information about the origins, methods, and purposes of tragedy, and to a degree shows us how the Greeks themselves reacted to their theater. Nor is the fall of an evil man properly tragic. This catharsis is brought about by witnessing some disastrous and moving change in the fortunes of the drama's protagonist (Aristotle recognized that the change might not be disastrous, but felt this was the kind shown in the best tragedies — Oedipus at Colonus, for example, was considered a tragedy by the Greeks but does not have an unhappy ending). Chaucer considered Fortune to be beyond the influence of the human will. The fourth point is consistency: for though the subject of the imitation, who suggested the type, be inconsistent, still he must be consistently inconsistent.
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