Poetics: Chapter 19 - Full Text

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Thought: its relation to Plot and Diction

      The Plot and Characters have been discussed, but it remains to consider the Diction and Thought. As for the Thought, we may assume what is said of it in our Art of Rhetoric, as it belongs more properly to that department of inquiry. The Thought of the personages is shown in everything to be affected by their speech, in every effort to prove or disprove, arouse emotion (pity, fear, anger, and the like), or to maximize or minimize things. It is clear, also that their mental procedure must be on the same lines as their action likewise, whenever they wish them to arouse pity or horror, or have a look of importance or probability. The only difference is that the act of the impression has to be made without verbal explanation; whereas with the spoken word it has to be produced by the speaker, and result from his language. What, indeed, would be the good of the speaker, if thought appeared in the required light even apart from what he says?

      As regards the Diction, one branch of the inquiry under this head is the turns given to the languages when spoken; e.g. the difference between command and prayer, simple statement and threat, question and answer, and so forth. The theory of such matters, however, belongs to Education and the professors of that art. For who can admit the fault imputed to Homer by Protagoras that in the words, "Sing goddess, of the wrath" he gives a command under the idea that he utters a prayer? For to tell someone to do or not do a thing, he says, a command. We may, therefore, pass this over as an inquiry that belongs to another art, not to poetry.

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