Aristotle, Poetics (English) (XML Header) [genre: prose] [word count] [Arist. Poet.].
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1450b.1if a man smeared a canvas with the loveliest colors at random, it would not give as much pleasure as an outline in black and white. [Note] And it is mainly because a play is a representation of action that it also for that reason represents people.

Third comes "thought." This means the ability to say what is possible and appropriate. It comes in the dialogue and is the function of the statesman's or the rhetorician's art. [Note] The old writers made their characters talk like statesmen, [Note] the moderns like rhetoricians.

Character is that which reveals choice [Note], shows what sort of thing a man chooses or avoids in circumstances where the choice is not obvious, so those speeches convey no character in which there is nothing whatever which the speaker chooses or avoids.

"Thought" you find in speeches which contain an argument that something is or is not, or a general expression of opinion.

The fourth of the literary elements is the language. By this I mean, as we said above, the expression of meaning in words, [Note] and this is essentially the same in verse and in prose.

Of the other elements which "enrich" [Note] tragedy the most important is song-making. Spectacle, while highly effective, is yet quite foreign to the art and has nothing to do with poetry. Indeed the effect of tragedy does not depend on its performance by actors, and, moreover, 1450b.20for achieving the spectacular effects the art of the costumier is more authoritative than that of the poet.

After these definitions we must next discuss the proper arrangement of the incidents since this is the first and most important thing in tragedy. We have laid it down that tragedy is a representation of an action that is whole and complete and of a certain magnitude, since a thing may be a whole and yet have no magnitude. A whole is what has a beginning and middle and end. A beginning is that which is not a necessary consequent of anything else but after which something else exists or happens as a natural result. An end on the contrary is that which is inevitably or, as a rule, the natural result of something else but from which nothing else follows; a middle follows something else and something follows from it. Well constructed plots must not therefore begin and end at random, but must embody the formulae we have stated.

Moreover, in everything that is beautiful, whether it be a living creature or any organism composed of parts, these parts must not only be orderly arranged but must also have a certain magnitude of their own; for beauty consists in magnitude and ordered arrangement. From which it follows that neither would a very small creature be beautiful—for our view of it is almost instantaneous and therefore confused [Note]—nor a very large one,



Aristotle, Poetics (English) (XML Header) [genre: prose] [word count] [Arist. Poet.].
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