Poetics: Chapter 7 - Summary

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The Construction of Plot: the Necessity of the Action being a Whole

      The first requirement for the ideal construction of plot is that the action sought to be represented should be a whole. It should not merely be a collection of incidents or episodes. The whole is that which has a beginning, middle and end.

      Aristotle explains that the beginning does not come after something else as a consequence. But it is causally related to what comes after it. It does not, however, mean that the tragedy should begin from the beginning. It would be more effective if the tragic action were to begin later in the career of hero. But the beginning should be self-explanatory. It should not need the knowledge of any earlier circumstances to understand the story. Neither should it be of that nature as to make us ask why and how. The middle must follow naturally on the beginning and naturally. lead to the end, or the catastrophe. The end is causally related to something that went before it but has nothing coming after it.

The magnitude of the plot: comparison with living organism

      The plot should be of a certain magnitude because beauty depends on magnitude and order. Aristotle suggests the golden mean as regards the magnitude. It should be neither too small nor too large. It should not be so long that one forgets the beginning before one reaches the end. Neither should it be so small that its beauty cannot be appreciated. On the other hand, if it were too long, we would not be able to get a clear impression of the whole. Unless it is of a suitable length, one cannot appreciate the orderly arrangements of the parts of the whole. The length should be such that it can easily be retained by the memory. It must be long enough to0 allow a sequence of events within the limits of probability and necessity which can bring about the change of fortune

      Aristotle compares the plot of a tragedy to a living creature, or animal. This is significant. His concept of tragedy is that of an organic unity, something already propounded by Plato. Organic unity implies a symmetrical and proportionate relationship between the parts and the whole. Thus he insists that a plot should not consist of episodes or incidents which cannot show a proper relationship to the whole. "The organism must also be of a certain definite magnitude or size. Beauty, is a matter of size ad order and, therefore, not possible in a creature either of too minute a size or of too vast a size. Thus it is that the plot should be of a certain length i.e., a length that can be encompassed by memory. The plot is the very skeleton of the action, and hence its great importance.

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