Aristotle’s Element of Tragedy
Aristotle presents the element of tragedy as more then the textbook definition; an event resulting in great loss and misfortune, but describes how it is an art that can enhance all types of poetry. He defines tragedy as being an imitation of an action that is a whole and complete in itself and of a certain extent. Aristotle shows how tragedy is actually more important than the history itself because it brings out people’s emotions, instead of simply presenting the facts. It is clearly stated throughout the essay that plot is key to good poetry and outweighs every other element.
Step by step, Aristotle explains the importance of 6 main necessary elements of plot, character, verbal expression, thought, visual, and song composition. Aristotle states that poetry must target the emotions of pity or fear, which is created in the audience, as they see the tragedy of a character that suffers unfairly, but is not completely innocent.
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Then he moves on to describing the main elements of tragedy, which include, plot, character, language, thought, visual, and melody. Then he classifies these in three parts, the media, the manner and the objects.
The verbal communication and song composition, constitute the media, in which they effect the replication. Then there is the display, which is the manner, and the remaining three, the plot, character and thought are the objects that are imitated. Aristotle considers the plot to be the most important of these elements. He describes the plot as not being a unity revolving around one man. Instead, he states that many things happen to one man, which may not always go together, to form a unity.
At the same time, he says that among the actions that a character performs there are many that may be irrelevant to one another, but yet they form a unified action. Aristotle continues depicting the plot categorizing it in two manners: simple and complex. In a simple plot, a change of fortune takes place without a reversal or recognition. In contrast, in a complex plot, the change of fortune involves recognition or a reversal or both. He then defines reversal and recognition.
Reversal or peripety is a change from one circumstance to its exact opposite. Recognition is a change from ignorance to knowledge leading either to friendship or hostility depending on whether the character is marked with good or bad fortune. There is a phrase used by Aristotle in Poetics, “from the machine,” which is basically any unlikely way of solving difficulty of the plot. Lastly, Aristotle explains the importance of the chorus in a tragedy. According to him, it should be regarded as one of the actors.
Therefore, the chorus should be integrated into performance and be considered as part of the whole. Aristotle is correct in his importance of plot, but the characters are of equal importance. If the audience can connect with the characters on a personal level, then they are much more attached and emotionally involved with the story. Also the more information that is given about the characters, the more the audience gets an understanding as to why the story is playing out like it is.