Poetics: Chapter 11 - Summary

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Peripety or Reversal

      One of the elements in complex plot of a tragedy is Peripety. Peripety is a change at some point in action from one state of circumstance to another, generally to the opposite state. Of course, it should happen logically. Peripety should arise inevitably. Again, Peripety, as F. R. Lucas points out, is not a simple change brought about anyhow. It is misleading to simply term peripety as reversal. It involves the tragic effect of human effort producing exactly the opposite result to its intention. "A peripeteia occurs when a course of action intended to produce a result, x produces to reverse of x. Thus the messenger from Corinth tries to cheer Oedipus and dispel his fear of marrying his mother; but by revealing who Oepidus really is, he produces exactly the opposite result." This is connected with what has now come to be known as Tragic irony.

Anagnorisis or Discovery

      Discovery, as the name itself implies, is a transition from ignorance to knowledge. It is a recognition of 'truth', truth of situation, truth as to identity, or recognition of the true facts. The tragic effect is the greatest when Peripety is simultaneous with Discovery, when Discovery is accompanied by the change in fortune. This happens in Oedipus: the change in fortune takes place from the point when he discovers his true parentage.

      Peripety and Anagnorisis, as critics pointed out, is very much a part of the best tragedies, even in the modern era. In Ibsen's Doll's House, Nora's efforts to save her husband result in her losing him. With this she gets the flash of the truth."

      The third element is the scene of suffering. These include actions of a destructive kind, or painful nature, such as murders, tortures, woundings, and the like.

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