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Theatre at Epidaurus

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Aristotle was the younger of the
three great philosophers:
Socrates, Plato and Aristotle.
All three of these philosophers
of life, science, metaphysics and
humanities had similar yet
different views.
Each thought they were
improving on and cultivating the
others’ ideologies into a more
refined and acceptable concept
of how they saw life, with
Aristotle Aristotle having the final word of
the three.

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Biography
The great trilogy of philosophy began with Socrates. His pupil Plato
further expanded the realm of thought and at his death passed the
torch to his pupil, Aristotle.
Aristotle was the son of a physician. At the age of eighteen Aristotle
came to Athens from Macedonia to study with Plato. Although he
was an original thinker who made great contributions of his own, he
remained a student in Plato's Academy for twenty years.
When Plato died, Aristotle may have felt disappointment in not being
chosen to head the school which Plato had founded but at the time
Philip, King of Macedonia, invited him to become the tutor of his son
who came to known as Alexander the Great. Aristotle later returned
to Athens where he founded his own school, The Lyceum.
Aristotle was not only an original and deep thinker but an observer,
an organizer, a systematizer of knowledge. He laid the foundation of
all sciences and philosophies by defining and classifying the various
branches of knowledge: Psychology, Metaphysics, Politics, Rhetoric
and Logic.

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Aristotle and Tragedy
Aristotle and Tragedy

from
The Poetics

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Basic Vocabulary
• Anagnorisis: The critical moment of recognition or discovering ,
preceding peripeteia
• Arete:Magnanimous Pride, Courage, Spine of a fish, Ridge of a
mountain, Ear of wheat
• Catastrophe: Sudden disaster, Overturning, the event that switches the
plot from ascending to descending action
• Catharsis:Discharge or cleansing of pent up emotions
• Hamartia: Tragic Flaw
• Hubris: Excessive and selfish pride, arrogance
• Pathos: Pity and Fear
• Peripeteia: A sudden turn of events, reversal in action, sudden change, a
falling
• For more definitions see:
http://maven.english.hawaii.edu/criticalink/aristotle/terms/sophocles.html
• Or http://faculty-staff.ou.edu/L/A-Robert.R.Lauer-1/ArisHorLong.html

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The Famous Definition
“A
“A tragedy,
tragedy, then,
then, isis the
the imitation
imitation of of anan
action
action that
that isis serious
serious and
and also,
also, asas having
having
magnitude,
magnitude, complete
complete in in itself;
itself; in
in language
language
with
with pleasurable
pleasurable accessories,
accessories, each each kindkind
brought
brought separately
separately in in the
the parts
parts ofof the
the
work;
work; in
in aa dramatic,
dramatic, not not inin aa narrative
narrative
form;
form; with
with incidents
incidents arousing
arousing pitypity andand
fear,
fear, wherewith
wherewith to to accomplish
accomplish its its catharsis
catharsis
of such emotions.” Aristotle, Poetics
of such emotions.”

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The Parts of a Tragedy

• A Prologue • Choral Portions


• Episodes – The Parode ends the
Prologue
• An Exode
– A Stasimon (choral
ode) separates
episodes
– A Commos ( a
lamentation)
– paeans (prayers)

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Six Elements of Tragedy

• Plot (or Fable) • Thought


• Characters • Spectacle
• Diction • Melody

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Plot
is the most important element.
“Tragedy
“Tragedyisisessentially
essentiallyananimitation
imitationnot
notof
ofpersons
personsbut
butof
of
action
actionand
andlife,
life,of
ofhappiness
happinessand
andmisery.”
misery.”

“All
“Allhuman
humanhappiness
happinessor
ormisery
miserytakes
takesthe
theform
formof
ofaction;
action;
the
theend
endfor
forwhich
whichwe
welive
liveisisaacertain
certainkind
kindof
ofactivity
activitynot
notaaquality
quality

“Character
“Charactergives
givesus
usqualities,
qualities,but
butititisisour
ouractions
actions--what
whatwe
wedo
do--
that
thatwe
weare
arehappy
happyororthe
thereverse.”
reverse.”
Aristotle, The Poetics
Important and clear excerpt:
http://www.vanderbilt.edu/AnS/english/kupomse/poetics.html
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The Perfect Plot
• must have a single and not a double issue

• the change in the hero’s fortunes must be


not from misery to happiness, but happiness
to misery;
• and the cause of it [the hero’s change] must
lie not in any depravity but in some great
error on his part.

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“Tragedy is ... an imitation an
action…of
incidents arousing
pity and fear.”

Pity and Fear = Pathos

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Ascending or Rising Action
• The Actions or
Incidents of the plot
become more
on
cti

suspenseful
ga
di n

• Empathy for the hero


en

and his situation


a sc

increases.
• Pathos and irony
increase
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Climax

o s
h
P at
nd catastrophe
a
n
it o
c
A
ing
ce
n d episode
s
A
episode
episode

1st Decision
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The
Thecatastrophe
catastrophecreates
createsthe
the
CLIMAX
CLIMAX

catastrophe

D
n
it o

en
c

ou
A

em
n g
di

en
n

t
c e
s
A

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Anagnorisis or
Recognition
Scene by the
Tragic Hero

Catastrophe: scene of death


or moral destruction of the protagonist

Peripetieia or the
change of fortune
for the
Tragic Hero

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Definition of Catastrophe
It is a narrative that excites pity or terror by a succession of sorrowful events,
miseries or misfortunes leading to a catastrophe. The hero or protagonist will have some
sort of limitation but will be a person of a high status. His suffering will not be
commensurate with his weakness or mistake (hamartia) or pride (hubris). It is from this
that pity will arise, as he will suffer far too much. The emotion of pity and fear experienced
in the catastrophe bring about catharsis or purgation.

1.The plot may be either simple or complex, although complex is better. Simple plots have only a “change of fortune”
(catastrophe). Complex plots have both “reversal of intention” (peripeteia) and “recognition” (anagnorisis) connected
with the catastrophe. Both peripeteia and anagnorisis turn upon surprise. Aristotle explains that a peripeteia occurs
when a character produces an effect opposite to that which he intended to produce, while an anagnorisis “is a change
from ignorance to knowledge, producing love or hate between the persons destined for good or bad fortune.” He
argues that the best plots combine these two as part of their cause-and-effect chain (i.e., the peripeteia leads directly to
the anagnorisis); this in turns creates the catastrophe, leading to the final “scene of suffering” (context). Application to
Oedipus the King.

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The Climax is the high
point of action and
emotion

s ,
Ca A
si
o ri
gn
a rt s
teia , a n
r e p a tha
p er i p e
r o p h ea
occ rsis
T h e
d ca t ast
e n t ur s
an is ev
f th
o
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catastrophe

D
n
it o

en
c

ou
A

em
ing

en
n d

t
c e
s
A

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1st - The Hero makes a
decision.

• We meet the hero/protagonist at his most successful;


he has power, wealth, respect, and love. He has worked
hard for his success.

• The protagonist makes a decision, based on his


hamartia, and thereby sets forces in motion. He does
not realize he has set off a chain reaction of incidents
which will culminate in a catastrophe.
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In his book Technique of the Drama (1863), The German critic Gustav Freytag
proposed a method of analyzing plots derived from Aristotle's concept of unity
of action that came to be known as Freytag's Triangle or Freytag's Pyramid. In
the illustration above, I have borrowed from both critics to present a graphic
that can be employed to analyze the structure and unity of a narrative's plot.
Tools for Analyzing Prose Fiction (Barbara F. McManus)

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Three Forms of Plot to be
avoided:
• A good man must not be seen passing from
happiness to misery;
• A bad man from misery to happiness
• An extremely bad man be seen falling from
happiness to misery.
Aristotle, Poetics

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Characters

The Second Most Important Element


of Tragedy

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“ There remains, then, the intermediate kind of
personage, a man not pre-eminently virtuous and just,
whose misfortune, however, is brought upon him
not by vice and depravity but by some error of
judgment, of the number of those in the enjoyment of
great reputation and prosperity….”

In the Characters, there are four points to aim at


• good
• appropriate
• realistic
• consistent

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