[PDF Notes] Get complete information on Aristotle’s contribution to the concept of tragedy

Aristotle devotes a large part of his Poetics, Chapters VI – XIX, to talking about tragedy. Tragedy is, according to him, an imitation of an action that is serious, complete, and of a certain magnitude in language embellished with each kind of artistic ornament, the several kinds being found in separate parts of the play; in the form of action, not of narrative; through pity and fear (di eleou kai phobou) effecting the proper purgation (katharsis) of these emotions.

The plot, Aristotle says, must be a complete whole. It must have a beginning, middle and end. “Tragedy is not an imitation of persons.” “The first essential, the life and soul, so to speak of tragedy, is plot”.

Plots, according to Aristotle, may be divided into two types – simple and complex. A simple plot is one without peripeteia and anagnorisis. Peripeteia means reversal of intention, while anagnorisis means disobey, recognition, or the revelation of truth. A complex plot is one having peripeteia or anagnorisis, or both. Humphry House clinches the issue: “it is impossible to treat character and action on Aristotle’s theory, as separable: they are inextricably interdependent

Aristotle has used two words in relation to character – Ethos and Dania – the former indicating the moral disposition in character, while the latter means the intellectual element, which determines all rational conduct through which Ethos seeks an external expression.

Another characteristic is that there must be consistency. And this consistency is based upon what Aristotle calls probability and necessity, which, when simplified, will mean rationality. Aristotle also insists that the tragic characters should be appropriate. The character must not be at variance with that of the class to which the individual belongs.

Goodness is essential in Aristotle’s tragic theory, because unless the characters have goodness, our tragic emotions cannot be roused.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *