Aristotle Poetics

Poetics By Aristotle | Aristotle Poetics Summary | Aristotle poetics tragedy

Aristotle Poetics
Aristotle Poetics


          Poetics is one of the most important works of ancient Aristotle discusses and analyses the concept and art of creating poetry. The exact origins of Aristotle’s poetics are not known, but researchers believe that it was composed around 330 BCE and was preserved primarily as notes by Aristotle’s students. Aristotle here defines art and also suggests the criteria for evaluating the quality of given work of art. It is a 26-chaptered treatise on poetry. Poetics discusses the different kinds of poetry, the structure of a good poem, and the division of a poem into its components.The Poetics was lost to the Western world for a long time.

            For Aristotle poetry is an act of imitation, but it is different from the mere mimicking of sound. Poet is a creator and he creates something new through poetry. Aristotle defines poetry as a medium of imitation that represent duplicate life through character emotion and action. He defines poetry very broadly; including epic poetry, tragedy, comedy, dithyrambic poetry, and even some kind of music.

About Aristotle

            Aristotle was a philosopher and polymath from Greece. He moved to Plato’s Academy when he was 18. His teacher was Plato and he was the teacher of Alexander the Great. Aristotle composed most of his works between 335 and 323 BC, while he was in Athens. He had an amazing, passion for learning and possessed marvelous knowledge of the multi-disciplines. His most important treaties include – Physics, Metaphysics, Nicomachean Ethics, Politics, On the Soul, and Poetic. It is believed that his work if complied can be considered as a virtual encyclopedia of Greek knowledge. Aristotle is considered a genuine scientist. Aristotle’s work on aesthetics consists of Poetics, Politics, and Rhetoric.

Aristotle’s Analysis of Tragedy

          Aristotle considers tragedy as the most refined version of poetry that deals with the imitation of lofty matters. Sophocles, another ancient Greek tragedian is considered by Aristotle as the master of Tragic play. According to Aristotle Tragedy is an act of imitation, and he defines Tragedy as “The imitation of an Action”. Thus according to Aristotle, there are seven characteristic features of a Tragedy.

  • It is mimetic.
  • It is serious.
  • It tells a full story of an appropriate length
  • It contains rhythm and harmony.
  • Rhythm and harmony occur in different combinations in different parts of the tragedy.
  • It is performed rather than narrated.
  • It aroused feelings of pity and fear.

            Aristotle observes six components that constitute a successful tragedy Plot, Character, Thought, Diction, Song, and Spectacle.


            Plot is the soul of tragedy. It is the first principle and the most essential feature of a tragedy because the action is the most significant tragedy. There can be tragedy without character or music or dance, but there cannot be tragedy without an action plot in the arrangement incident. Following are the specification of a successful plot of a tragedy: – Completeness, magnitude, unity, determination, structure, and universality.

  • Completeness of the plot means the plot must be A Whole with a beginning, middle, and end.
  • The Magnitude of the plot refers to the length. It should be complex, compact, and comprehensive.
  • Unity in the plot refers to the Unity of Action.
  • Well Determinate Structure of the plot means the effective linking of the various events and incidents in the plot with remarkable coherence.
  • The Universality of the plot refers to the fact that whatever is imitated or shown in the tragedy should be closer to real life.


          Character comes of second importance next to Plot in a tragedy. Tragedy is the imitation of action, thought, or emotion. Aristotle explains four qualities of the character of the tragic hero:

  • The tragic hero should be well renowned and prosperous.
  • He should be courageous and dear to everyone.
  • He should be true to life that any one of the audience should be able to identify himself or herself.
  • The hero should be a consistent person.

            The Tragic flaw in the Character is known as Hamartia.


            The third important component of a tragic play is thought. Thought is important because actions spring out from thought. The cathartic effect of the tragic play by arousing the feeling of pity and fear is ultimately the product of thought.


            Diction takes the 4th place in the sequence of the importance of the components that constitute a tragedy. Diction is in the material arrangement of worlds in the play. The nature, quality type, and aptness of vocabulary used in a tragedy should be proper and appropriate to the character and plot of the tragedy.


            Aristotle calls the musical elements of the chorus a song or melody. The Song is a splendid aspect of a tragic play.


            Spectacle is the last component of a tragic play. It is of the lowest importance because it has very little to do with literature. The poet who creates an artistic work gives primary attention to the inner structure of the work.

Four Unique components of Tragedy

            There are four specific components in addition to the above-mentioned ones that make the tragedy a unique work of art. They are Anagnorisis (protagonist realize their own tragic flaw), Hamartia (error of Judgement), Peripeteia (Sudden reversal of fortune), and Catharsis (a medical term that means purgation).


            In the Poetic Aristotle gives more importance to Tragedy than comedy and history. In it, he writes about the type, structure length of tragedy, plot, and about unities of the poet.

            Thus now we can say that Poetics is an important work in the history of literary Criticism. I contributed a lot to the development of English Literature.

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