Poetics: Chapter 13 - Full Text

Also Read

The ideal structure of Tragedy. The ideal tragic hero and the error of judgment. Double ending.

      As the sequel to what has already been said, we must proceed to consider what the poet should aim at, and what he should avoid, in constructing his plots; and by what means the specific effect of Tragedy will be produced.

      We assume that, the finest form of Tragedy, the Plot must be not simple but complex; and further, that it must imitate actions arousing pity and fear since that is the distinctive function of this kind of imitation. It follows, therefore, that there are three forms of Plot to be avoided. (1) A good man must not be seen passing from happiness to misery, or (2) a bad man from misery to happiness. The first situation is not fear-inspiring or piteous, but simply odious to us. The second is the most untragic that can be; it has none of the requisites of Tragedy; it does not appeal either to the human feeling in us, or to our pity or our fears. Nor, on the other hand, should (3) an extremely bad man be seen falling from happiness into misery. Such a story may arouse the human feeling in us, but it wil not move us to either pity or fear; pity is occasioned by undeserved misfortune, and fear by the misfortunes of one like ourselves; so that there will be nothing either piteous or fear-inspiring in the situation. There remains, then, intermediate kind of personage, a man not pre-eminently virtuous and just, whose misfortune, however, is brought upon him not by vice and depravity; but by some error of judgment. He must be one of those enjoying great reputation and prosperity; e.g., like Oedipus, Thyestes and the men of similar royal families. The perfect Plot, accordingly has a single, and (as some tell us) and times double issues that the change in the hero's fortunes must be not from misery to happiness; but on the contrary, from happiness to misery; and the cause of it must lie not in any depravity, but in some great error on his part; the man himself being either such as we have described.

      A tragedy, then, to be perfected according to the rules of art should be of this construction. Hence they are in error who censure Euripides just because he follows this principle in his plays many of which end unhappily. It is, as we have said the right ending The best proof is that on the stage in dramatic competitions such plays, if well worked out, are the most tragic in effect; and Euripides. faulty though he may be in the general management of his subject is felt to be the most tragic of the poets.

      After this comes the construction of the Plot which some rank first, one with a double story (like the Odyssey) and an opposite issue for the good and the bad personages. It is ranked as first only through the weakness of the audience; the poet merely follows their public. writing as its wishes dictate. But the pleasure here is not that of Tragedy. It belongs rather to Comedy, where the bitterest enemies in the piece (e.g. Orestes and Aegisthus) walk off good friends at the end, with no slaying of anyone by anyone.

Previous Post Next Post