Aristotle, Poetics (English) (XML Header) [genre: prose] [word count] [Arist. Poet.].
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1454b.1 [Note] The "god in the car" [Note] should only be used to explain what lies outside the play, either what happened earlier and is therefore beyond human knowledge, or what happens later and needs to be foretold in a proclamation. For we ascribe to the gods the power of seeing everything. There must, however, be nothing inexplicable in the incidents, or, if there is, it must lie outside the tragedy. There is an example in Sophocles' Oedipus. [Note]

Since tragedy is a representation of men better than ourselves we must copy the good portrait-painters who, while rendering the distinctive form and making a likeness, yet paint people better than they are. It is the same with the poet. When representing people who are hot-tempered or lazy, or have other such traits of character, he should make them such, yet men of worth [an example of hardness] [Note]; take the way in which Agathon and Homer portray Achilles.

Keep, then, a careful eye on these rules and also on the appeal to the eye [Note] which is necessarily bound up with the poet's business; for that offers many opportunities of going wrong. But this subject has been adequately discussed in the published treatises. [Note]

What a "Discovery" is has been already stated. [Note] 1454b.20As for kinds of Discovery, first comes the least artistic kind, which is largely used owing to incompetence—discovery by tokens. These may be congenital, like "the spear the Earth-born bear" or stars, like those which Carcinus [Note] uses in his Thyestes [Note]; or they may be acquired and these may be on the body, for instance, wounds, or external things like necklaces, and in the Tyro [Note] the discovery by means of the boat. There is a better and a worse way of using these tokens; for instance Odysseus, by means of his wound, was discovered in one way by the nurse and in another way by the swine-herds. [Note] Discovery scenes constructed to prove the point are inartistic and so are all such scenes, but those are better which arise out of a reversal scene, as, for instance, in "The Washing." [Note] In the second place come those which are manufactured by the poet and are therefore inartistic. For instance, in the Iphigeneia [Note] Orestes revealed himself. She was revealed to him through the letter, but Orestes says himself what the poet wants and not what the plot requires. So this comes near to the fault already mentioned, for he might just as well have actually brought some tokens. [Note] And there is "the voice of the shuttle" [Note] In Sophocles' Tereus.

The third kind is due to memory, to showing distress on seeing something.



Aristotle, Poetics (English) (XML Header) [genre: prose] [word count] [Arist. Poet.].
<<Arist. Poet. 1454a Arist. Poet. 1454b (Greek) >>Arist. Poet. 1455a

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