Aristotle (384 -322 B.C)
A philosopher who studied under Plato in Athens
His works cover a range of materials – logic, moral philosophy, metaphysics, poetry, physics,
zoology, politics, and rhetoric
His “Poetics” was the first attempt to define the characteristics of tragedy and its effects upon
He believed tragedy is “an imitation of an action that is serious, complete, and of a certain magnitude; in
language, embellished with each kind of artistic ornament, the several kinds being found in separate
parts of the play; in the form of action, not of narrative, through pity and fear effecting the proper
purgation of these emotions.”
He believed that there were 6 basic elements to tragedy: plot, character, thought, diction, song, and
Plot = an imitation (MIMESIS) of action and life, happiness and misery. Plot is the soul of
The sequence of events should follow this order:
a. Reversal (PERIPETEIA) = a change in the fortunes of the tragic hero from good to bad –
the first reversal is the crisis
b. Recognition (ANAGNORISIS) = the hero gains some insight or truth about himself/herself
c. Suffering = the hero’s downfall
d. CATHARSIS = the purging or letting out of the emotions of pity and fear at the time of
the suffering of the hero. Pity is what we feel at a misfortune that is out of all proportion
to the faults of the person. Fear is what we feel when misfortune comes upon one like
ourselves. We can picture ourselves in the same situations; therefore, we feel fear. In
having this pity and fear aroused by the suffering of another we need not undergo the
same suffering to understand such an experience in life.
Not as important as the action or plot; merely the agent of the action
Tragic Hero: has to be drawn from the great families or, gods, thus the tragedy is not
just confined to the individual or to the family, but affects the entire nation. The tragic
hero will most effectively arouse pity and fear if he/she is not thoroughly evil, but a
person like any of us, through the tragic effect will be stronger if he/she is better than
most of us and if he/she faces his/her destiny with courage.
Misfortune is not brought about by vice and depravity, but by some error of judgement
(HAMARTIA). Often this tragic flaw was seen by the Greeks to be one of pride (HUBRIS).
They also questioned the extent of the role of fate (MOIRA) in hero’s downfall.
The or appropriateness of the message
The choice of words used to convey the meaning of the play
Use of literary forms and figures such as verse, rhyme, metaphor etc.
Musical parts, lyrical poetry (chorus)
Sections of outstanding horror to arouse pity and fear
Pageantry affected by costumes, props, and masks
1. Unity of Action: one main plot with no subplots, everything is relevant to the action of the main
plot. It should have a beginning, middle, and end
2. Unity of time: the action takes place in one day
3. Unity of place: the action takes place in one location