Poetics: Chapter 3 - Summary

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The Difference in the Manner of Imitation

      The third difference between the arts lies in the manner of imitation. Different arts imitate objects in different manners. There can be three modes of imitation: (1) the poet may imitate through the medium of narrative at one moment, and at another in an assumed character (as Homer does); (2) he may remain the same throughout the poem; (3) the whole story may be represented dramatically, in the form of an action involving different persons.

Classification of Poetry on Basis of Manner

      It is on the basis of the manner of, an imitation that poetry is classified as epic or narrative, or dramatic. In dramatic representation, the characters do all the speaking, and act out the story. In the case of the narrative, the poet speaks throughout in the same character. Some, like Homer, narrate the story as well as tell it through characters who speak in dialogues. In drama, the characters do all the speaking. In dramatic poetry, the action is carried out by the dramatic personages. In tragedy, only the dramatic method is used. Drama is the name given to such poems that represent action. Aristotle makes it clear by giving the example of Sophocles, who through the higher characters he presents, is like Homer; at the same time, he is like Aristophanes because he is a dramatic poet.

      Aristotle then sums up the distinctions between the fine arts on the basis of medium, subject, and manner. Poetry is different from the other arts because of its medium. Poetry is further divided into dramatic and narrative, according to the manner of its imitation. Then Aristotle classifies dramatic poetry into tragedy and comedy on the basis of their objects of imitation. Aristotle's apparent liking for clear classification is shown in these chapters. The classification prepared the way for the main topic of the Poetics as it survives, namely, the discussion of tragedy.

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