Poetics (Aristotle)

different types of poetry
epic poetry
tragedy
comedy
dithyrambic poetry
most forms of flute and lyre playing

distinctions between different types of poetry
means
object
manner

difference between tragedy and comedy in terms of imitated objects
tragedy – better characters
comedy – worse characters

claim to be the originators of both tragedy and comedy
Dorians

changes that tragedy went through
Aeschylus: from 1 actor to 2 actors; less role of chorus; dialogue is major element
Sophocles: 3rd actor; scene painting
Tragedy acquired magnitude; trochaic tetrameter -> iambic meter
number of episodes was increased

most conversational type of meter
iambic

“the ridiculous”
some error or ugliness that is painless and has no harmful effects

what comedy deals with
the ridiculous

where the creation of plots came first
Sicily

main differences between epic and tragedy
tragedy is dramatic while epic is narrative
tragedy different meters (mainly iambic) while epic uses heroic
epic has no time limit
tragedy has all parts of epic, but epic does not have all parts of tragedy

definition of a tragedy
Tragedy is an imitation of a noble and complete action, having the proper magnitude; it employs language that has been artistically enhanced by each of the kinds of linguistic adornment, applied separately in the various parts of the play; it is presented in dramatic, not narrative form, and it achieves through the representation of pitiable and fearful incidents, the catharsis of such pitiable and fearful incidents

two natural causes of human action
thought and character

six parts of tragedy (in order of importance)
plot
character
thought
diction
melody
spectacle

most important part of a tragedy
arrangement of incidents (plot)

reason why plot is the most important part of tragedy
tragedy is not an imitation of men, per se, but of human action and life and happiness and misery

2nd most important part of tragedy
character

thought (part of tragedy)
the ability to say whatever is pertinent and fitting to the occasion

diction (part of tragedy)
the expression of thoughts through language (same whether in verse or prose)

least artistic and essential part of tragedy (and the art of poetry)
spectacle

how a plot can be a complete whole
has a beginning, middle, and end

difference between a historian and a poet
a historian narrates events that actually happened while a poet writes about things that could happen

difference between the concerns of history and poetry
poetry is more concerned with the universal while history more with the individual

worst type of plot
episodic

when tragedy can be intensified
when it occurs unexpectedly

2 kinds of plots
simple and complex

reversal
change of fortune in the action of the play to the opposite state of affairs

recognition
change from ignorance to knowledge

most effective recognition
the one that occurs with reversal

3 parts of a plot (tragedy)
reversal
recognition
suffering

parts of the quantitative aspect of tragedy
prologue
episode
exode
choral

2 types of choral
parode
stasimon

prologue
complete section of a tragedy before the parode of the chorus

episode
complete section of a tragedy after which there is no song of the chorus

parode
entire first speech of the chorus

stasimon
song of the chorus without anapests and trochees

kommos
a lament sung in common by the chorus and the actors

best kind of tragedy plots
complex plots that imitate fearful and pitiable incidents

plots to avoid
good guy goes from happiness to misery
bad guy goes from misery to happiness
bad guy goes from happiness to misery

character that can evoke pity and fear
someone who undeservedly falls into misfortune; we recognize that it is someone like ourselves who encounters this misfortune

what makes a good plot
has a single issue
fortune to misfortune
reversal is not caused by depravity
hero must be better than average person

pleasures of tragedy
pity and fear

how deeds are done (by order of aristotle’s preferences)
avoided after sudden knowledge
done in ignorance
done with knowledge
avoided but with full knowledge

4 points in regard to character (in order)
good
appropriate
like reality
consistent

where the resolutions of the plots should occur
through the plot itself and not by means of deux ex machina

6 types of recognition
use of external signs (least artistic)
contrived by occasion by the poet (also inartistic)
prompts an event w/ emotional significance
deductive reasoning (2nd best)
false reasoning
arises from incidents themselves (best)

4 kinds of tragedy
the complex
tragedies of suffering
tragedies of character
tragedy of spectacle

aristotle’s final remarks on plot
poet should visualize action
poet should work out action w/ gestures
poet should 1st put them down in universal form and then extend them by adding episodes
must have complication and resolution of action
4 kinds of tragedies
appropriate magnitude
chorus is one of the actors

7 parts of diction
letter
syllable
connective
noun
verb
inflection
sentence

letter
an indivisible sound; vowel, semivowel, and mute

syllable
nonsignificant sound made from mute and a vowel

connective
a nonsignificant sound that neither hinders nor promotes the creation of one significant sound from many sounds

noun
a compound significant sound, not indicating time, no part of which is significant by itself

verb
a compound significant sound indicating time

inflection
characteristic of a noun or verb signifying the genitive or dative relation, or other similar ones, or indicating the singular/plural

speech
a compound significant sound w/ parts that are significant by themselves

metaphor
the transference of a name from the object to which it has a natural application

2 types of nouns
simple and compound

4 ways a metaphor is used
genus to species
species to genus
species to species
transference by analogy

types of words
standard
strange
a metaphor
ornamental
coined
lengthened
contracted
altered

3 subdivisions of nouns
masculine, feminine, neuter

suitable words for dithyrambs
compounds

suitable words for heroic verse
strange

suitable words for iambic verse
metaphors

epics has the same parts as tragedies except it does not have
song and spectacle

why aristotle loves homer
poet reduces own voice in the narrative (to fulfill his function as an imitator) and employment of false reasoning

false reasoning
believing that the first event is true when the second event is known to be true

when it is necessary to intensify the diction
only in those parts of the poem that lack action and are unexpressive of character and thought

two categories of error
essential and accidental

essential error
if poet chooses to imitate but imitates incorrectly through lack of ability

accidental error
if poet erred by choosing an incorrect representation of the object or made a technical error

what aristotle says we must consider when a word seems to signify something contradictory
different meanings it might have

we must prefer
a persuasive impossibility to an unpersuasive possibility

5 sources that criticisms of poetry are derived from
action is impossible
action is irrational
action is morally harmful
contradictory
contains technical errors

why aristotle thinks tragedy is superior to epic
has music and spectacle
provides vivid experience in reading
shorter (compact > diluted)
more unity