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Aristotle’s Theory of Poetics

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Aristotle bases his theory of poetics on greek tragedy. He defines tragedy as "the imitation of an action that is serious and also as having magnitude, complete in itself. " (Melani, 2009) He views that, "Tragedy is a form of drama exciting the emotions of pity and fear. Its action should be single and complete, presenting a reversal of fortune, involving persons renowned and of superior attainments,and it should be written in poetry embellished with every kind of artistic expression. " . (Melani, 2009) Usually the writer would present the emotions of pity and fear within tragedy which interprets catharsis. Aristotle viewed the term catharsis as the "purging" of emotions such as pity or fear which are triggered with tragic action within greek plays Aristotle draws a difference between tragedy and other genres, as the audience watches the tragedy, they feel a "tragic pleasure of pity and fear". In order for the tragic hero to arouse these feelings in the audience, he cannot be either all good or all evil but must be someone the audience can identify with; however, if he is superior, the tragic pleasure is intensified.

His disastrous end results from a mistaken action, which in turn arises from a tragic flaw or from a tragic error in judgment. "Often the tragic flaw is known as hubris, pride that causes the hero to ignore a warning. It has been suggested that because the tragic hero's suffering is greater than his offense, the audience feels pity; because the audience members perceive that they could behave similarly, they feel pity. An example of this is evident within the tragedy Oedipus Rex. (Melani, 2009) Catharsis Aristotle argues that the best tragedies and some of the best plays, since Aristotle considers tragedy to be the highest dramatic form, when the use of reversal and recognition to achieve catharsis is present during a tragedy or a play, he finds that with this aspect in perspective they are the best. Aristotle often writes reversal works with a story's spine or center in order to ensure that the hero comes full circle.

An example of this is highlighted in the play Oedipus Rex, a hero who undergoes such a reversal and thus has cathartic self-recognition. Aristotle considers catharsis to be a form of redemption such that even though Oedipus' recognition is tragic it still redeems him: he no longer lives in ignorance of his tragedy but instead he decides to accept his fate. He sees that redemption is not the only result of catharsis; the audience also undergoes a catharsis in a good drama.

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The hero's catharsis induces both pity and fear in the audience, they pity the hero, and fear that his fate could possibly happen to us. Mimises Aristotle believes that there are two main aspects to think of art: some would consider art to be an expression of what is original and unusual in human behavious whilst Aristotle argues that art is "imitative", it is a representation of life, and this idea motivated Aristotle. "He devotes much of the Poetics to exploring the methods, significance, and consequences of the imitation of life.

Aristotle concludes that art's imitative tendencies are expressed in one of three ways: a poet attempts to portray our world as it is, as we think it is, or as it ought to be. " (Zuern) Aristotle believed that all poetry is an imitation or mimesis. Aristotle imagines that poetry springs from a basic human delight in mimicry. Humans learn through imitating and are fascinated by looking at imitations of the perceived world. The mimetic dimension of the poetic arts is, always representational. This was known as mimesis.

During Aristotle's time, critics considered epic poetry to be the supreme art form, but Aristotle though differently, he viewed tragedy as the better of the two forms. Aristotle believes that tragedy, can entertain its written form, but also can translate onstage into a drama of spectacle and music. Aristotle often felt that the use of the word "unity," was sometimes misunderstood. He considers that unity is the ability of the best dramatic plots to revolve around a central axis that 'unites' all actions within a play.

Aristotle believed that a unified drama will have a 'spine': a main idea which motivates all the action, character, thoughts, diction and spectacle in the play. (Gradesaver, 2012)

Work Cited

  1. "Aristotle's Poetics Study Guide. " . 4Shared, n. d. Web. 6 Sep 2012.
  2. "Aristotle's Poetics Themes. " GradeSaver . N. p. , n. d. Web. 6 Sep 2012.
  3. Melani, Lilia . "Tragedy. " . N. p. , 13 March 2009. Web. 5 Sep 2012.
  4. Zuern, John . "Aristotle Poetics. " CriticaLink. University of Hawai`i, 1999. Web. 6 Sep 2012.
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