Poetics: Chapter 16 - Full Text

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Types of Discovery or Recognition

      Discovery (Recognition) in general has been explained already. As for the species of Discovery, the first to be noted is (1) the least artistic form of it, of which the poet makes most use through mere lack of invention, Discovery by signs or marks. Of these signs, some are congenital, like the lance-head' which the Earth-born have on them, or 'scars' such as Carcinus brings in his Thyestes. Others are acquired after birth-these latter being either marks on the body, e.g., scars, or external tokens like necklaces, or to take another sort of instance, the ark in the Discovery in Tyro. Even these, however, admit of two uses, a better and a worse; the scar of Ulysses is an instance; the Discovery of him through it is made in one way by the nurse and in another by the swineherds. A Discovery using signs as a means of proof is less artistic, as indeed are all such as imply reflection; whereas one bringing them in all of a sudden, as in the Bath story, is of a better order. Next after these are (2) Discoveries made at will by the poet; which are not artistic for that very reason; e.g., Orestes' Discovery of himself in Iphigenia: where as his sister reveals who she is by the letter. Orestes is made to say what the poet rather than the plot demands. This, therefore, is not far removed from the first-mentioned fault, since he might have presented certain tokens as well. Another instance is the 'shuttle's voice' in the Tereus of Sophocles. (3) A third species is Discovery through memory, from a man's consciousness being awakened by something seen or heard. Thus in the cyprioe of Dicaeogenes, the sight of the picture makes Teucer burst into tears and in Tale of Alcinous, hearing of harper, Ulysses is reminded of the past and weeps; the Discovery of them being the result. (4) A fourth kind of Discovery is through a process of reasoning, e.g., in The Choephore: "One like me is here; there is, no one like me but Orestes: he, therefore must be here." Or that which Polvidus the Sophist suggested for Iphigenia; since it was natural for Orestes to reflect My sister was sacrificed, and l am to be sacrificed like her....

      (5) There is, also, composite Discovery arising from bad reasoning on the side of the other party. An instance of it is in Ulysses, the False Messenger: he said he should know the bow - which he had not seen; but to suppose from that, that he would know it again (as though he had once seen it) was bad reasoning. (6) The best of all Discoveries, however, is arising from the incidents themselves, when the great surprise comes about through a probable incident, like that in the Oedipus of Sophocles; and also in Iphigenia for it was not improbable that she should wish to have a letter taken home. These last are the only Discoveries independent of the artifice (artificial aids) of signs and necklaces. Next, come Discoveries through reasoning.

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