Tragedy is an imitation of an action that is serious, complete and of a certain magnitude." (Aristotle). Examine the statement critically and substantiate your answer with the examples from any two of the plays you have read." ‘The Poetics
The Poetics is chiefly concerned with Tragedy which is regarded as the highest poetic form. In it the theory of tragedy is worked out so admirably, with such insight and comprehension, that ‘it becomes the type of the theory of literature’ (Abercrombie). Aristotle in his Poetics studies the tragedy in detail, giving its definition, and analysing its various constituents and elements. Aristotle defines tragedy as “the imitation of an action, serious, complete, and of a certain magnitude, in a language beautiful in different parts with different kinds of embelishments, through action and not narration, and through scenes of pity and fear bringing about the ‘Catharsis’ of these or such like emotions.” Thus in a tragedy we have the object imitated namely ‘action’. The medium of imitation is ‘language made beautiful by different means’. Themanner of imitation is direct presentation. The purpose of imitation is to bring about the ‘purgation’ of emotions like pity and fear. The definition is comprehensive enough. It includes stage-presentation which refers to costume and setting. It does not leave out music and diction which form the medium for these presentations of action. The manner is indicated by the spectacle; and the objects of imitation are the other three—moral bent, thought and plot. Constituent parts of Tragedy
Having examined the definition, nature and function of Tragedy, Aristotle comes to a consideration of its formative or constituent parts. He enumerates its formative elements as Plot, Character, Diction, Thought, Spectacle and Song. Plot, Character and Thought are concerned with the objects of representation. Diction and Song (Melody) have to do with the means of representation; and spectacle relates to the manner of representation. Out of these, some call for more attention than the others. (a) Plot : Aristotle declares plot to be of supreme importance, the soul of Tragedy, more important than the mere revelation of personal qualities (character), or the intellectual processes (thought) of the dramatic characters concerned. Characterisation is subsidiary, since it only adds to the revelation of what is best revealed in action. Nor does a string of speeches, however, finely worked out, provide the same tragic effect as a well-built plot. But all the parts are essential to the perfect whole. Aristotle considers plot “the first principle, the soul of Tragedy.” “The most important of these parts is the arrangement of incidents; for Tragedy is not an imitation of man, but of human action and life and happiness and misery.” The arrangement of incidents is the plot. Tragedy is possible without character but not without action. Aristotle’s action means ‘process’ not ‘activity.’ A play without action, in this sense, would be a play in which nothing happens—in which there is no beginning and no end. Character without action will not achieve the end of a Tragedy. A group of speeches that show character is not in itself drama. Unless the speeches are incorporated into a plot, they remain ‘set pieces,’ no matter how interesting they may be individually. Ten great soliloquies chosen from six plays by Shakespeare, for example, would make extremely entertaining reading, but no one would think of calling them a drama. Reversal and Recognition are the most powerful means of securing the tragic effect, because they are parts of the plot rather than the characterization, they confirm the idea that plot is more important than the character. (b) Characterization : As regards characterisation in general, Aristotle lays they down four essential qualities. First, the characters must begood. Secondly, they must be appropriate. Thirdly, they must have life-likeness. Fourthly, they must...
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