February 16, 2005


Aristotle said there are three differences in art when it comes to imitation: medium, objects, and manner. He says that men are generally the objects of imitation. They are the medium. Their medium is seen good or bad. This holds true in both the form of painting and that of poetry. Of course tragedy is more appealing than real life. The manner in which they are presented can be through narration, use of language.

Aristotle goes on to say that poetry came from two causes: the need for harmony and the instinct to imitate. He asks whether Tragedy and Comedy came from imitation. Comedy starting with songs that were still in use when Aristotle wrote The Republic, and Tragedy just developed on its own and halted at a certain point in time.

He says, "Now, according to our definition Tragedy is an imitation of an action that is complete, and whole, and of a certain magnitude; for there may be a whole that is wanting in magnitude. A whole is that which has a beginning, a middle, and an end. A beginning is that which does not itself follow anything by causal necessity, but after which something naturally is or comes to be. An end, on the contrary, is that which itself naturally follows some other thing, either by necessity, or as a rule, but has nothing following it. A middle is that which follows something as some other thing follows it. A well constructed plot, therefore, must neither begin nor end at haphazard, but conform to these principles. "

Aristotle says that the goal of life is to reach happiness. The end is happiness.

And continues...."a beautiful object, whether it be a living organism or any whole composed of parts, must not only have an orderly arrangement of parts, but must also be of a certain magnitude; for beauty depends on magnitude and order."

I agree with Aristotle that a beautiful thing must have order and some amount of magnitude. If I walk into a museum and encounter a painting that covers the length of an entire wall I can not possibly find the beauty in it. I could not take it in all at once. I would be overwhelmed and confused.

At the same time, if I encountered a painting the size of my hand, it would have no impact on me.

"Poetry, therefore, is a more philosophical and a higher thing than history: for poetry tends to express the universal, history the particular." I think that this also applies to painting. I feel that an artist's job is to educate the public and do so in a credible manner, not to simply record the history of his country. The artist is constantly being criticized for his work and criticizing it himself. I feel this gives the artist a more open state of mind and the insight to explore deeper issues.

"Of all plots and actions the episodic are the worst. I call a plot 'episodic' in which the episodes or acts succeed one another without probable or necessary sequence. Bad poets compose such pieces by their own fault, good poets, to please the players; for, as they write show pieces for competition, they stretch the plot beyond its capacity, and are often forced to break the natural continuity." Again, this relates to the artist. It is foolish to create a painting and add ornamental details that do not help the content of the painting. The painting would be recognizable and meaningful without the extra.

"A perfect tragedy should, as we have seen, be arranged not on the simple but on the complex plan. It should, moreover, imitate actions which excite pity and fear, this being the distinctive mark of tragic imitation. " The poet and the artist try to evoke a feeling from the audience in attempting to create a 'perfect tragedy' or a 'perfect painting.' What use is it to write or paint with no purpose in mind. Aristotle has a good point here.

A good poem is one that focuses on one issue, rather than two. I assume that this is so as not to confuse the audience and to create a more meaningful Tragedy.

Aristotle gives us four requirements of a character in a Tragedy: the first is that the person must be good. The second is propriety. The third, the character must be true to life, and fourth there must be consistency.

To sum up, Aristotle said so eloquently, "the plot manifestly ought, as in a tragedy, to be constructed on dramatic principles. It should have for its subject a single action, whole and complete, with a beginning, a middle, and an end. It will thus resemble a living organism in all its unity, and produce the pleasure proper to it. It will differ in structure from historical compositions, which of necessity present not a single action, but a single period, and all that happened within that period to one person or to many, little connected together as the events may be."

For further understanding of Aristotle's 'Poetics', click here

Posted by MelissaTrecaso at February 16, 2005 10:44 PM