DISTINCTION BETWEEN TRAGEDY AND EPIC POETRY
In the Poetics, Aristotle has given a brief outline of how poetry could have evolved. We see from the beginning that Aristotle holds that the tragic evolved from the heroic strain, which in turn originated from the hjrmns of praise sung to the gods and the great men. Thus Aristotle establishes and affinity between the epic and the tragedy. The Affinity between Tragedy and Epic
Aristotle’s treatment of the epic is slight as compared to his treatment of tragedy. But he makes a few general statements, which bring out the salient features of the epic, and establishes the affinity as well as the difference between epic and tragedy. Both epic and tragedy are imitations of serious subjects, and deal with characters of the higher type. A number of elements are to be found common to both. These are Plot, Character, Thought and Diction. The structure in the case of both should show a unity, though in this matter, the epic is allowed more freedom than tragedy. The structure of the epic should be modelled on dramatic principles, according to Aristotle. Single actions should, as far as possible, be the proper content of the epic. The action should of course have a beginning, middle and end, be a complete organic whole, just as it should in tragedy. Aristotle expresses his admiration for Homer in this, as in all other respects. Homer chose a particular portion and not the whole of the Trojan war for his epic. It is only through such selection that the theme can be embraced in a single view. Epic poetry is similar to tragedy in that it has as many species as tragedy. The epic plots can be complex or simple, full of suffering, or concentrate on Character. Homer is again cited as the perfect model. His diction and thought are also supreme. Further, says Aristotle, the epic poet should not speak directly. It is better that he should speak through his .characters. This is the dramatic slant1 given to the epic by...
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