Mythos: Term Used in Tragedy

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      Mythos is the term used by Aristotle in his Poetics (c. 335 BCE) for the plot of an Athenian tragedy. It is the first of the six elements of tragedy that he gives. According to Aristotle, tragedy can be divided into six parts: mythos, ethos, dianoia, lexis, melos, and opsis. This refers to Greek tragedy plays. The first, mythos, is plot. A story has to have a plot, after all! This describes what happens in the story. There should be interesting things going on. A character should face stress or danger. Second, there is ethos, or characters. A story needs people to populate it. These characters are developed through what happens to them and what they say. Aristotle believed that a tragedy needed stock characters. There should be good characters and bad characters. The good guy should win in the end. Third, there is dianoia, which means ‘thought’ literally. Characters need to explain what they are doing and about their past. Fourth, there is lexis, which means language and refers to the language the characters use. It should be of high quality. Aristotle notes that we should use iambic pentameter in dialogue, because it is most often found in human conversation. Fifth, melos, means “melody” and this refers to the chorus. Since the chorus gives important information, it should be considered an important part of the play. Sometimes the chorus adds humor or suspense. Sixth, opsis is spectacle, which refers to how the play is staged. This includes costumes, props, and set, scenery, and anything else that are included in the production.

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