Imitation of the hypothetical


Aristotle begins his chapter on Poetics by explaining that there are three forms of art; Epic poetry, Tragedy/Comedy, and lyre and flute playing (music). "The differences in the imitation of these arts come under three heads, their means, their objects, and their manner." He maintains that art is the imitation of life, that man enjoys the highest pleasure in learning-this he does through imitation. "Man is the most imitative creature in the world, (p. 227) posits Aristotle, claiming this is the differing characteristic between men and animals.

The main thrust of the selected text is the definition of a proper tragedy, which Aristotle believes must be itself an imitation of a "thing that might be," whereas a history deals with what has been. History, even written in verse, would still not be poetry. Therefore, it is not form, but matter which constitutes poetry. "The life and soul of a tragedy is plot" (p.232), according to Aristotle. Converse to modern perception, the character (which reveals the moral purpose of the 'agents') is not of as much importance as the tragedy's containing peripety (that is, inspiring either fear or pity) discovery, and suffering.

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