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Aristotle's Definition of a Tragedy

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Abdullah Omari

on 12 September 2015

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Transcript of Aristotle's Definition of a Tragedy

“Tragedy, then, is
an imitation of an action
that is
serious, complete, and of a certain magnitude
in language embellished with each kind of artistic ornament
, the several kinds being found in separate parts of the play;
in the form of action, not of narrative
; with incidents arousing
pity and fear
, wherewith to accomplish its
of such emotions. . . . Every Tragedy, therefore, must have six parts, which parts determine its quality—namely,
Plot, Characters, Diction, Thought, Spectacle, Melody
.” (Aristotle's
Aristotle's Definition of a Tragedy
"Imitation of an action"
"in the form of action, not of narrative"
means the tragedy involves no narration. It is an imitation of an action and therefore is rather dramatized, or acted out, than narrated.
"Serious, complete, and of a certain magnitude"
means that
1. The issue in the play is serious and of great importance, or great magnitude - ex: death
2. The action is "complete" - meaning the play revolves around one issue and does not drift off topic
"Language embellished"
means the language in the play is poetic, decorated with figures of speech, rhythm, song, and harmony.
Arousing pity and fear
, wherewith to accomplish its
." Catharsis in Greek translates to "cleansing" in English. Catharsis in a tragedy refers to the point where all emotions are released. Throughout the tragedy, the audience feels pity towards the tragic hero due to the misery that falls upon him, and the events that occur around him. The audience also fears the hero in his times of rage.
1. Unity of plot - plot revolves around one issue and focuses on it. It takes place over a maximum of 24 hours.
2. Contains Peripety - Peripety refers to a change in state between the beginning and the end of the play, and the change must be from positive to negative
3. Contains Anagnorosis - A transition from ignorance to knowledge
4. Events occur in a cause-and-effect pattern
5. Contains an evil deed done to someone very close to the tragic hero.
The main character in a tragedy is the tragic hero. The tragic hero is not a perfect character, nor is he a bad character. He is usually noble and acquires noble characteristics. But, the tragic hero also has a flaw that leads to his downfall. This flaw is referred to as "hamartia." Hamartia also may mean a mistake the tragic hero makes.
Speeches by characters must reveal their characteristics
Saying the right thing and saying it in the best way it needs to be said, as long as it is relevant to the situation
- Poetic writing that creates a music-like effect
- Has a chorus that is not only there as an interlude; it also adds the unity of the plot
-Chorus sings, obviously
Spectacle involves the stage directions and staging of the play. The staging must support and exhibit the misery of the tragedy.
Diction is the choice of words
-In a tragedy, a playwright exhibits well constructed diction
-Also, playwright matches diction with character and their status
-"'Diction' I mean the mere metrical arrangement of the words"
History of Tragedy
-Satyr (Cyclops by Euripides
-It all begins in ancient Greece. (530 BC)
-Festival of City Dionysia.
-Roman Republic (250 BC)
-Hedda Gebler, Henrik Ibsen (1890)
-Female Hamlet
-Tragic Hero
-Arthur Miller

Greek Tragedy Terms
Nemesis : Retribution/Godly intervention
Hubris: Arrogance or overwhelming pride
Pathos: Emotions of pity & fear
Hamartia: tragic flaw
Mimesis: imitation of real life event
Peripeteia: reversal of fortune
Catastrophe: The falling action of the plot
Anagnorisis: Sudden realisation
Catharsis: purgation of emotions of pity and fear
King Lear
Tragic Hero
Tragic Hero is destined for downfall through his mistakes
Tragic Flaw
Depressing/Bloody ending, with promise of continuity
Because I would not see thy cruèl nails
Pluck out his poor old eyes, nor thy fierce sister
In his anointed flesh stick boarish fangs.
"I am a very foolish fond old man
-And to deal plainly, I fear I am not in my perfect mind"
What about Death of a Salesman?
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