Poetics: Chapter 8 - Full Text

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The Plot: its Unity

      The Unity of a Plot does not consist, as some suppose, in it's having one man as its subject. An infinity of things befall that one man, some of which it is impossible to reduce to unity; and in like manner, there are many actions of one man which cannot be made to form one action.

      Homer, as in all else surpasses merit, here too-whether from art or natural genius-seems to have happily discerned truth. In composing the Odyssey he did not include all the adventures of Ulysses such as his wounding of Parnassus, or his feigned madness at the mustering of the host incidents between which there was no necessary or probable connection: but he made the likewise the Iliad, center round an action that in our sense of the Odyssey, and word is one. The truth is that, Just as in the other imitative arts one imitation is always of one thing, so in poetry the story, as an imitation of an action, must represent one action, or a complete whole, with its several incidents so closely connected that the transposal or withdrawal of any of them will disjoin and dislocate the whole. For that which makes no perceptible change by its presence or absence is no real part of the whole.

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