Poetics: Chapter 11 - Full Text

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Parts of Plot: Peripety (reversal), Anagnorisis (Discovery) and Suffering

      A Peripety is the change from one stage of things within the play to its opposite of the kind described, and that too the probable or necessary sequence of events; as it is for instance in Oedipus; here the opposite state of things is produced by the messenger, who, coming to gladden Oedipus and to remove his fears as to his mother, reveals the secret of his birth....A Discovery is, as the very word implies, a change from ignorance to knowledge, and thus to either love or hate, in the personages marked for good or evil fortune. The finest form of discovery is one attended by Peripeties, like which goes with the Discovery in Oedipus. There are, no doubt, other forms of it; what we have said may happen in a way in reference to inanimate things, even things of a very casual kind; and it is also possible to discover whether someone has done or not done something. But the form most directly connected with the Plot and the action of the piece is the first mentioned. This, with a Peripety, will arouse either pity or fear-actions of that nature being what Tragedy is assumed to represent; and it will also serve to bring about the unhappy ending. The discovery, then, being of persons, it may be that of one party only to the other, the latter being already known; or both the parties may have to discover themselves. Thus Iphigenia is revealed to Orestes by the sending of the letter; but another act of Discovery is required to make Orestes known to Iphigenia.

      There are thus two parts to the Plot, then Peripety and Discover A third part is Suffering which we may define as an action of a destructive or painful nature, such as murder on stage, torture, wounding and the like. The other two have been already explained.

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