Aristotle, Poetics (English) (XML Header) [genre: prose] [word count] [Arist. Poet.].
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1456a.1 The fourth element is spectacle, like the Phorcides [Note] and Prometheus, and all scenes laid in Hades. One should ideally try to include all these elements or, failing that, the most important and as many as possible, especially since it is the modern fashion to carp at poets, and, because there have been good poets in each style, to demand that a single author should surpass the peculiar merits of each.

One must remember, as we have often said, not to make a tragedy an epic structure: by epic I mean made up of many stories—suppose, for instance, one were to dramatize the IIiad as a whole. The length of the IIiad allows to the parts their proper size, but in plays the result is full of disappointment. And the proof is that all who have dramatized the Sack of Troy as a whole, and not, like Euripides, piecemeal, or the Niobe story as a whole and not like Aeschylus, either fail or fare badly in competition. Indeed even Agathon failed in this point alone. In "reversals," however, and in "simple" stories [Note] too, 1456a.20they admirably achieve their end, which is a tragic effect that also satisfies your feelings. This is achieved when the wise man, who is, however, unscrupulous, is deceived—like Sisyphus—and the man who is brave but wicked is worsted. And this, as Agathon says, is a likely result, since it is likely that many quite unlikely things should happen.

The chorus too must be regarded as one of the actors. It must be part of the whole and share in the action, not as in Euripides but as in Sophocles. In the others the choral odes have no more to do with the plot than with any other tragedy. And so they sing interludes, a practice begun by Agathon. And yet to sing interludes is quite as bad as transferring a whole speech or scene from one play to another.

The other factors have been already discussed. It remains to speak of "Diction" and "Thought." All that concerns Thought may be left to the treatise on Rhetoric, for the subject is more proper to that inquiry. [Note] Under the head of Thought come all the effects to be produced by the language. Some of these are proof and refutation,



Aristotle, Poetics (English) (XML Header) [genre: prose] [word count] [Arist. Poet.].
<<Arist. Poet. 1455b Arist. Poet. 1456a (Greek) >>Arist. Poet. 1456b

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