9. Differences between Aristotle and Plato
as mimicry ora
servile copy of
⚫ Aristotle interpreted it as
a creative process.
⚫ Aristotle compared it
10. Differences between Aristotle and
⚫Poetry presents acopyof
nature as it is. Poetry is
twice removed from reality
and it’s a ‘shadow of
⚫Plato takes up the cudgel
on behalf of philosophy
and shows that philosophy
is superior to poetry.
⚫Poetry may imitate men as
theyare, or betterand
worse. Poetry gives us
idealized version of reality.
⚫He takes up the cudgels
on behalf of poetry and
effectively brings out its
*Not a mere enunciation of the principles of the poetic art.
*Conclusions- firmly rooted in the Greek Literature.
*Approach – scientific – observation and analysis
*Deduces conclusions form Greek Literature – apply – varying degrees – literature as a whole.
*Do not cover literature produced later and in other countries.
*There is a considerable force in Dryden’s statement concerning the purpose of tragedy. [if
Aristotle had seen English Tragedy, he might have changed his mind- Dr. Johnson’s Life of
*Many ofAristotle’s conclusions on the nature of poetry and drama are of general application
and are as true today as they were in his own day.
*Purpose- to sort out those principles from established practice that made for a good poet.
*Treatise – 50 pages – 26 small chapters
*Summary of his lectures to his pupils – written either by them or himself.
*Believed to have had a second part – lost
*It is incomplete – omits some important questions he himself raises [eg. Discussion of comedy
and catharsis] which were reserved for a fuller treatment in the second part.
*Chapter - 1-4, 25 – poetry
*Chapter – 5 – comedy, epic and tragedy [general way]
*Chapter – 6 -19 – tragedy [14 chapters]
*Chapter 20-22 – poetic diction
*Chapter 23, 24 – epic poetry
*Chapter 26 – comparison- epic poetry and tragedy.
13. *Aristotle’s main concern – Tragedy – considered to be the most
developed form of poetry.
*Poetry, comedy and epic – parent and sister forms
*Lyric- form a constituent part of tragedy.
Its Emotional Appeal
*Poet – imitator [following Plato]
*Imitates three objects:
- things as they were or are. [what is past or present]
- things as they are said or thought to be. [what is
- things as they ought to be. [what is ideal]
*Like Plato, he believes that there is a natural pleasure in imitation,
which is an inborn instinct in man, constituting the one difference
between him and the lower animals.
15. * CHILD-earliest lesson in speech and conduct- learns from those around
him – pleasure in imitation.
*Poet/artist – grown-up child indulging in imitation for the pleasure it
*The instinct for harmony and rhythm [metrical composition]- poet.
*Poet’s imitations/pictures of life are not unreal- ‘twice removed from
reality’ – as Plato believed.
*They reveal truths of a permanent or universal kind.
*To prove – Aristotle institutes a comparison between poetry and history.
“The picture of poetry – not mere reproductions of facts but truths
embedded in those facts that apply to all places and times.” -
meaning Aristotle gives to imitation
• Relate What may happen
• More philosophical than history
• Express universal
• [how a person of a certain type
will on occasion speak or act
according to the law of
probability or necessity]
• Infuses a universal appeal into
them by stressing what they
have in common with all
persons, all places, or all things
in the same set of
• Relate what has happened
• Express The particular.
• [records particular
persons, places or things]
17. *It’s Function
*Aristotle envisages pleasure as the end of poetry.
*“The function of poetry is to please.” – Aristotle
*Two instincts : imitation; harmony & rhythm – indulged in for pleasure
they give. – outcome – pleasing both to the poet and the reader.
18. *It’s Emotional Appeal
*Like Plato – “Poetry makes an immediate appeal to the emotions.
*Tragedy – highest form of poetry.
*Tragedy – arouses the emotions of pity and fear.
pity – undeserved sufferings of the hero
fear – the worst that may befall him.
*Plato considered them baneful to the healthy growth of the mind.
*Aristotle has no fear.
*These emotions are aroused with a view to their purgation or
*Everybody has occasions of pity and fear in life.
*If they go on accumulating, they become an alien matter in the soul
by exceeding their normal proportions.
19. * In tragedy where the sufferings we witness are not our own.
*These emotions find a full and free outlet, relieving the soul of
*By showering them on persons other than ourselves we are lifted
out of ourselves and emerge nobler than before.
*It is this that pleases in a tragic tale, which normally will be
* Emotional appeal of poetry is not harmful, but health-giving and
Tragedy is an art that transmutes these disturbing
emotions into ‘calm of mind, all passion spent’.
It’s Constituent Parts
The structure of the Plot
Simple and Complex Plot
*Poetry – imitative art
*Imitate two kinds of action:
* noble actions of good men – epic [hymns to gods and the praises of
famous men] – the graver spirits imitated - TRAGEDY
* mean actions of bad men – satire – the most trivial sort – COMEDY
*Epic and Tragedy – superior to – Satire and Comedy
*Tragedy superior to Epic
*Big space devoted to Tragedy - POETICS
21. * It’s Characteristics
“Tragedy 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”
22. * pity & fear and their purgation – emotional appeal of poetry.
* serious action – a tale of suffering exciting pity and fear.
*Action – comprises all human activities, including deeds, thoughts
- complete or self-contained – with a beginning, a middle
and an end.
Beginning – before which the audience or the reader does not
need to be told anything to understand the story.
-if something more is required to understand the story than
the beginning gives, the beginning is unsatisfactory.
Middle – follow events that would not follow otherwise.
End – lead to those other events that cannot but issues from
them and that lead to none others after them.
*Completeness – organic unity or a natural sequence of events that
cannot be disturbed.
23. *PLOT: certain magnitude, reasonable length – the mind may
comprehend fully in one view or within the required time.
*A reasonable length or size – an essential condition of beauty.
* Right proportion in itself and in all its parts.
*If it is too short, the mind will miss many things in it to comprehend
*If too long the mind, with its limited perspective, cannot take in all
the events within the time required by the story.
*“A length which can be easily embraced by the memory” – length
enough to unfold its sequence of events – the beginning, the
middle, and the end – naturally and fully.
24. *Artistic Ornament and Form of Action
* Artistic Ornament: Rhythm, harmony, and song – employed not all
together but as occasion demands.
-Rhythm and harmony (i.e. verse) – designed to enrich the
language of the play to make it as effective in its purpose as
* Form of Action: which tragedy assumes –distinguishes it from
narrative verse, eg. The epic.
-epic – narrator of the story is the poet
- tragedy – the tale is told with the help of living and moving
characters. The speeches and actions make the tale.
Epic - Narrative – the poet is free to speak in his own person or in the
likeness of someone else.
Tragedy – the dramatist is nowhere seen, to all is done by his
characters. - literature intended to be acted as well as read.
Epic – Narrative is intended only to be read.
25. *It’s Constituent Parts
*Six Constituent Parts in Tragedy:
Objects it imitates or represents
Medium it employs to imitate these objects
- spectacle - Manner of imitating them
26. • Plot / ‘arrangement of the incidents’ – chief part of tragedy.
• “Tragedy is an imitation not of men, but of an action and of life, and life
consists in action”.
• Whether plot makes a tragedy or character? “without action there cannot be a
tragedy; there may be without character.
• “Character determines men’s qualities, but it is by their actions that they are
happy or the reverse.”
• Tragedy is written not merely to imitate men but to imitate men in action.
• It is by their deeds, performed before our very eyes, that we know them rather
than by what the poet, as in the epic, tell of them.
27. *Hence it is these deeds (or incidents woven into a plot) that
matter more than their character.
*Since. However. Deeds issue from character, character is next
only in importance to plot.
* Thought: (what a character thinks or feels during his career in
* it reveals itself in speech.
*Plot imitates action
*Character – men
*Thought – imitates men’s mental and emotional reactions to the
circumstances in which they find themselves.
*Plot, character, thought – constitute the poet’s objects of
imitation in a tragedy.
*to accomplish them he employs the medium of diction or words
‘embellished with each kind of artistic ornament’, of which song
28. *Diction – he expresses the ‘thought’ of his characters and the
meaning of his play in general.
* spectacle/ stage representation: ‘connected least with the art
of poetry’ – the work of stage mechanic.
*But it constitute the manner in which tragedy is presented to the
*‘the power of tragedy is felt even apart from representation and
* Like the epic, it serves its purpose even when read and not acted
29. *The Structure of the Plot
*Unity of Time
*Unity of Place
*Unity of Action
*Arouse the emotion of pity and fear
*Complication [rising action]
*Unravelling/denouemnet [falling action]
Plot – ‘the soul of tragedy’ – artistic arrangement of its incident is of the
30. * Unity of action: actions in the life of the hero which are intimately connected with one another
and appear together as one whole.
* “the structural union of the parts being such that, if any one of them is displaced or
removed, the whole will be disjointed and disturbed.”
* There may be many more actions in the life of the hero but unless they have something to do with
the tragedy that befalls him, they are not relevant to the plot and will all have to be kept out.
* “ For a thing whose presence or absence makes no visible difference, is not an organic part
of the whole.”
* Therefore the event comprising the plot will concern only one man and not more.
* If they concern more than one man, there will be no necessary connection between them, as the
actions of one man cannot be put down to another.
* Their introduction in the same story must therefore disturb its unity.
* Episodic plot are the worse- those in which episodes or events follow one another in mere
chronological order ‘without probable or necessary sequence.
31. *Unity of Time: [conformity between the time taken by the
events of the play and that taken in their representation on the
*“Tragedy endeavours 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.”
*The older critics were led to believe that for a good tragic plot it
was necessary to select an event or events that happened within
twenty four hours or so in life, so that when represented in
about one-fourth of that time on the stage they may not appear
unnatural, as they would if the plot-time were longer.
*But Aristotle no where insists on this as a condition of good plot.
*He merely states the prevailing practice but is not unaware of
the fact that, in this particular matter, ‘at first the same
freedom was admitted in tragedy as in epic poetry’.
32. *The Unity of Place: [conformity between the scene of the tragic event or
events and the time taken by them to happen] which was deduced as a corollary
from the so-called unity of time, is not mentioned at all.
*A good tragic plot should arouse the emotions of pity and fear in the
spectator or the reader.
*Pity – for the undeserving sufferings of the hero
* Fear – of the worst that may happen to him.
*“The Change of fortune should be not from bad to good, but,
reversely, from good to bad.”
*The unhappy ending is the only right ending, for it is the most
tragic in its effect.
*A happy ending will not afford the true tragic pleasure – that is
aroused by the emotion of pity and fear.
33. *Two ways to arouse the emotion of pity and fear:
*Spectacular means or mere theatrical effects, such as physical
torture, piteous lamentation, beggarly appearance, and so on;
*Inner structure of the plot such as a brother unknowingly killing a
brother and discovering the fact later, or intending good and doing
evil, or a little error visited by a too heavy punishment, and so on.
[ indicates a superior poet]
‘For the plot ought to be so constructed that, even without the aid
of the eye, he who hears the tale told will thrill with horror and melt
pity at what takes place.’
34. *The Plot divisible into two parts:
*unravelling or denouement
• Ties the events into a tangled
• Includes all the action from the
beginning to the point where it
takes a turn for good or evil.
• Rising Action
• Unties it.
• Extends from the turning-point
to the end.
• Falling Action.
*“A Perfect tragedy should be arranged not on the simple but on
the complex plan.”
*In a simple Plot there are no puzzling situations.
*In a complex Plot : peripeteia & anagnorisis.
*Peripeteia: reversal of the situation – ‘a reversal of intention, a
deed done in blindness defeating its own purpose’ – a move to kill
an enemy recoiling on one’s own head, the effort to save turning
into just its opposite, killing an enemy and discovering him to a
*Anagnorisis: recognition or discovery.- the discovery of the false
moves, taken in ignorance – “a change from ignorance to
*Both peripeteia and anagnorisis please because there is the
element of surprise in them.
*Choice of hero – limited to one whose actions most produce the
effect of pity and fear in the spectators.
*He cannot be an eminently good man, hurled from prosperity into
adversity, because his wholly undeserved suffering arouses, not pity
and fear, but a feeling of shock or revolt: that such a thing should
*Nor can he be a bad man, raised from adversity to prosperity,
because by his very badness he can neither excite our pity and fear,
nor deserve the good fortune that comes to him.
37. *Nor, again, can he be an utter villain, because his fall is a matter for
gratification rather than for pity and fear.
* one kind of character can best satisfy this requirement:
“a man who is not eminently good and just, yet whose misfortune is
brought about not by vice or depravity, but by some error or fatality
* His misfortune excites pity because it is out of all proportion to his
error of judgement, and his overall goodness excites fear for his
doom. No other character answers the tragic purpose so well.
38. *Observations on Comedy
* Not much has been said on comedy.
* Roots of comedy lie deep in satirical verse. [tragedy –epic poetry].
* Satirical Verse – owes it’s origin to the earlier phallic songs sung in honour of Dionysus,
the god of fertility.
* Epic poetry – originated from the earlier hymns to the gods and the praises of famous
* Tragedy – follows its parent form – epic poetry and the hymns – represents men as
nobler than they are.
* Comedy – follows its parent forms – satirical verse and phallic songs- represents men as
worse than they are.
* Satire- ridicules personalities. - sinner
* Comedy – ridicules general vices - sin
39. * Characters: men who have ‘some defect or ugliness which is not
painful or destructive’.
*what they do is defective or ugly, too, provoking laughter, but leads
to no harm or pain either to themselves or to others.
*Nor are they despicable, for no one whom we hate can put us into
*They are merely ludicrous and no more – “the ludicrous being merely
a subdivision of the ugly”
*By excluding personal attacks, that form the subject-matter of the
satire, and the possibility of pain to the comic character we laugh
at, from the scope of comedy, and including only general follies
among its objects, Aristotle, disagreeing again with Plato, rules out
malicious pleasure as the basis of comedy.
*For when the pleasure arises not from a personal but a general foible
and causes no pain whatever either to the victims or to the
spectator, there can be no malice in it.
40. * Comedy shares the generalising power of poetry.
* equally represents not what has happened but what may happen: what
is probable in the given set of circumstances.
*Characters and conditions – is likely to be what it states.
* borne out of general and not an individual foible for its object.
*The very name it gives to its characters [eg: Brain-worm, Backbite,
Morose] suggest a section of humanity rather than particular men.
*So they represent more or less universal rather than individual frailties:
not how so-and-so behaved but how all men of the same type will
behave in the same circumstances.
41. *The Epic is earlier in origin than either tragedy or comedy.
*Grew out of old hymns to the gods and songs sung in praise of
*Nature- resembles tragedy closely but in its form it is different.
*Nature: imitation of serious action, ‘whole and complete, with a
beginning, a middle, and an end.
*“Whoever knows what is good or bad tragedy, knows also about
epic poetry.” – Aristotle
* The structure of its plot follows the same pattern.
*Complication – a turning point, and a denoument – it is either
complex or simple – i.e, with or without peripeteia and
*Observation on the Epic
It’s Nature & Form
Epic & Tragedy
It’s Nature & Form
42. *It has the same unity of action and produces the same kind of
pleasure, via: that arising from catharsis, since the epic also has
*Its characters are also of the nobler sort as those of tragedy.
*Four of its parts are also of the same: plot, character, thought, and
*The remaining two – song and spectacle – belong to tragedy [and so
to drama] only.
Form: The epic is different from tragedy.
imitates life by narration and not by dramatic action and speech
Admits of much greater length than tragedy.
No use for song and spectacle which form part of acting.
Communicates its meaning in mere reading or recitation.
Its length – it is not restricted like tragedy, where everything
happening everywhere cannot be shown for the simple reason that
the stage represents but one place and so but one set of
characters, I.e., those connected with at that place only.
43. *‘But in epic poetry, owing to the narrative form, many events
simultaneously transacted can be presented ; if relevant to the
subject, add mass and dignity to the poem.
*The epic here has an advantage – one that conduces to grandeur of
effect, to diverting the mind of the hearer, and relieving the story
with varying episodes.
*For sameness of incident soon produces satiety, and makes
tragedies fail on the stage.’
*But the narration gains in effect if the poet himself speaks as little
as possible and leaves all to be explained by his characters in the
44. *A third difference between the epic and tragedy is in the use of the
improbable or the marvellous.
*Poets are tempted to use it because it is pleasing.
*But there is a greater scope for it in the epic, where it is perceived
only by the imagination, than I tragedy, where it is perceived only
by the imagination, than in tragedy, where it is perceived by the
*Invisible to the eye in the epic, its improbability passes unnoticed;
but visibly seen on the stage, it appears absurd.
*“The poet should prefer probable impossibilities to improbable
*i.e., the believable false to the unbelievable true – a convincing lie
to an unconvincing fact.
*Such use of the supernatural alone is artistic and the more so in the
epic than in tragedy for the reason already stated.
45. * Epic & Tragedy
* Tragic Mode imitation is higher – Aristotle.
*The claims of the epic mode to superiority over the tragic are that it
appeals to a more refined audience, the cultural few, that it
achieves its effect without theatrical aid, and that its action is more
*Aristotle concedes all these points and yet concludes that tragedy is
the superior of the two.
*It also appeals to a cultivated audience when merely read and
unfolds its action within narrower limits.
*Even its performance in the theatre, with music to boot, conduces to
greater pleasure than less.
*While its limited length, attaining greater unity, works no less to the
same end, “for the concentrated effect is more pleasurable than one
which is spread over a long time and so diluted.”
*Tragedy therefore attains its end more perfectly than the epic.
46. *Observations on Style
* remarks on the language of poetry – Poetics.
* Comments on style – Rhetoric.
*Two essentials of good writing – clearness & propriety.
*The object of writing – communicate the writer’s meaning to be
clear and intelligible.
* the same mode of writing may not be proper for them all.
*The propriety or suitability of each mode of writing to the meaning it
is intended to convey.
*Intelligibility – current words are the best, for they are familiar
words – archaic words, foreign words, dialect words, newly-coined
words – that have an element of surprise and novelty in them.
*For the same reason the metaphorical use of words, conveying a
hidden resemblance between things apparently dissimilar, is to be
preferred to the plain.
47. * It partakes both of the familiar and the unfamiliar.
*It looks like familiar because ‘all men in their ordinary speech
make use of metaphors”, and unfamiliar because it often discerns
resemblances of a surprising nature.
*A perfect poetic style uses words of all kinds in a judicious
*All the same, compound words are best suited to the lyric which
strives after ornament, rare or unfamiliar words to the epic which
needs to be stately in expression, and metaphorical language to
the drama which keeps as close as possible to everyday speech.
*So far Poetic and Rhetoric follow more or less the same line, but
Rhetoric is further remarkable for its comments on composition in
prose and style in general
*‘the style of prose is distinct from that of poetry’ –
*poetry largely draws upon unfamiliar words to attain dignity and
*prose dealing with everyday subjects, can use only familiar or
48. * One source of charm is common to both – the use of metaphor.
*By employing it judiciously prose can also introduce an element of
novelty and surprise in its otherwise plain statements.
*In the arrangement of words into sentences it should avoid
multiplicity of clauses, parenthesis, and ambiguous punctuation.
* Words can be arranged into two kinds of style – loose or periodic.
*The loose style – made up of a series of sentences, held together by
*The periodic style – each sentence is a complete whole, with a
beginning, an end, and a length (or magnitude) that can be
comprehended at a glance.
49. * Each such sentences may form part of a bigger whole if the sense so
*While the loose style is formless, being just a chain of sentences that may
be increased or reduced at will,
* the periodic style has a form that cannot be so easily tampered with.
*the loose style therefore is less intelligible than the periodic and also less
*The one just runs on, and the other follows a measured course that
imparts to it the charm of poetry.
50. *The Value of his Criticism
* Plato’s approach to literature – social reformer.
* Aristotle – scientist
* Plato – wanted literature to do the work of morality
* Aristotle – expects it to be no more than what it is – an art.
*Aristotle clearly sees the distinction between the two which Plato
had failed to see.
*“The standard of correctness is not the same in poetry and
politics, any more than in poetry and any other art”.
*Politics- Social Science – is to be judged by the contribution it makes
to social well-being, poetry (literature) is to be judged by its proper
function – pleasure.
*To do this it has to make an appeal to the emotions, which is
cathartic and not harmful in its effect. [as Plato believed]
51. * By a scientific examination of the existing Greek literature
Aristotle discovers the principles by which literature can most
effectively discharge this function : it has unity of action and
propriety or decorum in all its parts – character, thought, style and
* In this way he judges literature by its own standards – the
*In tracing the origin and development of the three art forms, he
examines, and in conducting his inquiry in general with constant
reference to the past, he shows himself a master of the historical
* His interpretation of ‘imitation’ is also his own.
*An imaginative version of life, seeing the universal in the
particular – comedy no less than tragedy and epic.
* truths- higher order than the truths of history
*Aristotle – relating literature with life, states its philosophical
value to mankind.
52. * Akin to this philosophical approach is his stress on the psychological
element in literature: what kind of plot, character, and style, please
*Peripeteia and anagnorisis please most in a tragic plot, hamartia in
the tragic hero, and metaphor in style.
*Tragedy, comedy, and epic are all considered with reference to their
effect on the minds and hearts of their spectators or readers. In all
that he says of them he shows a remarkable awareness of what the
American call ‘audience psychology’.
*Limitations: He assigns higher rank to tragedy than it deserves.
*He forgets his own scientific approach and follows the established
*The epic, in which success so difficult to achieve is assigned the
*The succeeding ages were quick to see that unity of action is more
difficult of attainment in the sprawling length of an epic than in the
shorter compass of a tragedy.
53. *The omission of the lyric, a major poetic form right from the earliest
times is also inexplicable.
*Aristotle is also more concerned with the form of the literary types
he deals with than with their content and so lays down rules only for
* However for the largeness of its view- scientific, historical,
philosophical, psychological – and the depth of its observations, it is
even in its fragmentary form one of those rare books that have
powerfully moved mankind.