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Aristotle: Poetics

January 8th, 2007 Leave a comment Go to comments

The Poetics: Simple and Complex Plots

“Among the simple plots and actions the episodic are the worst. By ‘episodic’ I mean on in which there is no probability or necessity for the order in which the episodes follow one another. Such structures are composed by the bad poets because they are bad poets" 34

“Furthermore, since the tragic imitation is not only of a complete action but also of events that are fearful and pathetic, and these come about best when they come about contrary to one’s expectation yet logically"

“Some plots are simple, others are complex" By ‘simple’ action I mean one the development of which being continuous and unified in the manner stated above, the reversal comes without peripety or recognition, and by ‘complex’ action one in which the reversal is continuous but with recognition or peripety or both. 35

” ‘Peripety‘ is a shift of what is being undertaken to the opposite in the way previously stated"[that is, as defined in a note] the events do not just ‘happen,’ as was intimated" but are initiated by the hero with a certain purpose in mind a purpose which is then frustrated by the outcome"and this in accordance with probability or necessity.

I just realized another error in my construction of The Empiric, namely, that the action is not undertaken consciously by the protagonist, Jacoba, everything in the play just happens, passively, the only acting person is Nicolas, who is acting to do harm to the main character.

Example: “In Oedipus, the man who has come thinking that he will assure Oedipus, that is, relieve him of his fear with respect to his mother, by revealing who he once was, brings about the opposite. 36

“And ‘recognition’ is, as indeed the name indicates, a shift from ignorance to awareness, pointing in the direction either of close blood ties or of hostility"

So, the point being, that Jacoba should undertake whatever action she is undertaking consciously and with an intention, a defined and known purpose, the consequence of which turns out to be the opposite of what she had expected or intended, and the ultimate recognition, therein, of what has befallen her in the course of her action and the world’s response to it.

“The finest recognition is one that happens at the same time as peripety, as in the case with the one in Oedipus.

“But the form that is most integrally a part of the plot, the action, is the one aforesaid; for that kind of recognition combined with peripety will excite either pity or fear (and these are the kinds of action of which tragedy is an imitation according to our definition), because both good and bad fortune will also be most likely to follow that kind of event.

These then are the two elements of plot: peripety and recognition; third is the pathos" a pathos is a destructive or painful act, such as deaths on stage, paroxysms of pain, woundings, and all that sort of thing. 37

[From the notes] “The pathos is the foundation stone of the tragic structure. Its emotional potentialities will be explored" Peripety and recognition are limited to complex plots, indeed they constitute the definition of a complex plot. The pathos, on the other hand, can equally well be embodied in a simple plot (e.g., The Medea). In fact it appears that the happening or threatened happening of a pathos is the sine qua non of all tragedy.

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