The Poetics of Aristotle

Fragments from the study of Aristotle in English translation, which I consider that they are important for my research and  some of those from which I inspired.


«I propose to treat of Poetry in itself and of its various kinds, noting the essential quality of each; to inquire into the structure of the plot as requisite to a good poem; into the number and nature of the parts of which a poem is composed; and similarly into whatever else falls within the same inquiry» [1447a]
«So in the arts above mentioned, taken as a whole, the imitation is produced by rhythm, language, or ‘harmony’, either singly or combined» [1447b]

«People do, indeed, add the word ‘maker’ or ‘poet’ to the name of the metre, and speak of elegiac poets, or epic (that is hexameter) poets, as if it were not the imitation that makes the poet, but the verse that entitles them all indiscriminately to the name» [1447b]

«There are, again, some arts which employ all the means above mentioned,-namely, rhythm, tune and metre. Such are Dithyrambic and Nomic poetry, and also Tragedy and Comedy» [1447b]

«Since the objects of imitation are men in action» [1448a]

«The same distinction marks off Tragedy from Comedy; for Comedy aims at representing men as worse, Tragedy as better than in actual life» [1448a]

«Hence, some say, the name of ‘drama’ is given to such poems, as representing action» [1448a]

«First, the instinct of imitation is implanted in man from childhood, one difference between him and other animals being that he is the most imitative of living creatures; and through imitation he learns his earliest lessons» [1448b]

«Be that as it may, Tragedy -as also Comedy- was at first mere improvisation. The one originated with the leaders of the Dithyramb, the other with those of the phallic songs, which are still in use in many of our cities» [1449a]

«Once dialogue had come in, Nature herself discovered the appropriate measure» [1449a]

«For the iambic is, of all measures, the most colloquial» [1449a]

«For the Tragedy endeavors, as far as possible, to confine itself to a single revolution of the sun, or but slightly to exceed this limit; whereas the Epic action has no limits of time» [1449b]

«Tragedy, then, is 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 effecting the proper purgation of these emotions» [1449b]

«Now as tragic imitation implies persons acting, it necessarily follows, in the first place, that Spectacular equipment will be a part of Tragedy. Next, Song and Diction, for these are the medium of imitation» [1449b]

«The Plot is the imitation of the action» [1450a]

«Every Tragedy, therefore, must have six parts, which parts determine its quality -namely, Plot, Character, Diction, Thought, Spectacle, Song» [1450a]

«The separate parts into which Tragedy is divided -namely, Prologue, Episode, Exodos, Choric song; this last being divided into Parodos and Stasimon. These are common to all plays: peculiar to some are the songs of actors from the stage and the Commoi» [1452b]

«A well constructed plot should, therefore, be single in its issue, rather than double as some maintain. The change of fortune should be not from bad to good, but reversely, from good to bad. It should come about as the result not of vice, but of some great error or frailty, in a character either such as we have described, or better rather than worse» [1453a]

«He ought to show invention of his own, and skillfully handle the traditional material» [1453b]

«In constructing the plot and working it out with the proper diction, the poet should place the scene, as far as possible, before his eyes. In this way, seeing everything with the utmost vividness, as if he were a spectator of the action, he will discover what is in keeping with it, and be most unlikely to overlook inconsistencies» [1455a]

«Again, the poet should work out his play, to the best of his power, with appropriate gestures; for those who feel emotion are most convincing through natural sympathy with the characters they represent; and one who is agitated storms, one who is angry rages, with the most life-like reality» [1455a]

«Hence poetry implies either a happy gift of nature or a strain of madness. In the one case a man can take the mould of any character; in the other, he is lifted out of his proper self» [1455a]

«As for the story, whether the poet takes it ready made or constructs it for himself, he should first sketch its general outline, and then fill in the episodes and amplify in detail» [1455b]

«A letter is an indivisible sound, yet not every such sound, but only one which can form part of a group of sounds. For even brutes
utter indivisible sounds, none of which I call a letter. The sound I mean may be either a vowel, a semi-vowel, or mute. A vowel is that which without impact of tongue or lips has an audible sound. A semi-vowel, that which with such impact has by itself no sound, but joined to a vowel sound becomes audible, as G and D» [1456b]

«A newly-coined word is one which has never been even in local use, but is adopted by the poet himself» [1457b]

«As altered word is one in which part of the ordinary form is left unchanged, and part is the re-cast» [1458a]

«The perfection of style is to be clear without being mean» [1458a]


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