Aristotle\'s Poetics
Aristotle’s Poetics is considered the first work of literary criticism in our
tradition. The couple of pages in the book mainly describe tragedy from

Aristotle’s point of view. He defines tragedy as being an imitation of an
action that is a whole and complete in itself and of a certain magnitude.

Aristotle also points out terms such as catharsis, which can be said that is the
purification of one’s soul. He argues in his Poetics that catharsis is
achieved through emotions of pity or fear, which is created in the audience as
they witness the tragedy of a character who suffers unjustly, but is not
entirely innocent. Then he moves on to describing the main elements of tragedy.

Such elements are: plot, character, language, thought, spectacle, and melody.

Then he classifies these in three parts, the media, the manner and the objects.

The language and melody constitute the "media", in which they effect the
imitation. Then there is the spectacle, 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.

To understand these ideas better he defines reversal and recognition for us.

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
fortune or bad. There is a phrase used by Aristotle in Poetics, "from the
machine," which is basically any implausible way of solving complications of
the plot. An example would be when Medea escapes from Corinth. She’s solving
her situation by escaping in her magic chariot. This "from the machine"
phrase should be employed only for events external to the drama, which lie
beyond the range of human knowledge, and which require to be reported or
foretold. 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.