Poetics: Chapter 17 - Summary

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      In chapters 17 and 18, Aristotle gives some practical suggestions to the practitioners of the art of writing tragedy.

(1) Visualise the Action

      The poet must, firstly, visualize what he wishes to represent This naturally involves the imagination. It is only when he 'sees the action in his mind's eye, that he can devise what is suitable. He could then know what to avoid as inconsistent to his Plot. This imaginative visualization would help the poet to make his action probable and appropriate. He would be able to keep clear of absurdities. Once again the example cited by Aristotle is obscure, as the play he refers to is lost.

      This is quite a valid point and is observed by most writers. It is especially valid for dramatists because absurdities are more strikingly obvious on the stage. Bradley has pointed out certain incongruities in King Lear. But one might add that, Shakespeare's handling of his material is excellent enough for spectators to overlook absurdities in general.

(2) Experience the Very Emotions, Represented by the Poet

      It would be good for the poet to work out the emotions with the very gestures of his characters or persons. If the poets experience the very emotions which they want to present in the characters of their play, they would be able to present them more convincingly. The writer who experiences the anger or passion which he wants to present, would be able to delineate these emotions in a life-like manner. He would be able to assign appropriate behavior and speeches to his character.

      Aristotle does take into account 'poetic inspiration'. Critics have often missed this observation of Aristotle and regard him as having "missed the soul" of poetry.

(3) Make an Outline First

      The third thing to do is to make a general outline of the action to be represented. Then would come the addition of names and episodes. Here Humphrey House remarks that Aristotle does not mean 'insert' episodes, but that he means 'make into episodes'. This is quite possible. First, the poet is to form a general outline of the action and then 'episodise' it, or make it into episodes. In this respect, the poet becomes a 'maker or a craftsman. It must be noted that the term 'episode' is the technical term for the events and incidents in the play. The episodes, however, should be causally connected with each other.

      After this comes the factor of giving proper names to the persons in the play. The giving of proper names to characters is also an important aspect of the process of dramatic construction. The assignment of names determines whether the drama will be fiction, myth, or history, and provides guidance in characterization.

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