Aristotle’s Principles of Tragedy Notes by Dr. Honora M. Finkelstein The following are points made in Aristotle’s Poetics concerning the requirements of tragedy. They are important to keep in mind before examining Oedipus Rex by Sophocles. A tragedy must be an action worth serious attention. It must be complete in itself. It must be of some amplitude. It must be written in language enriched by a variety of artistic devices appropriate to the several parts of the play (rhythm, music, song). It must be presented in action, not narration. It must bring about a catharsis (purgation) of emotions through pity and fear. (Consider while you are reading Oedipus Rex how many times the idea of eyes and vision are used in the course of the play. I read once that in staging this play, the Greeks created a huge mask with great gaping eye holes; this would certainly contribute to the effect of pity and fear in the audience.) Spectacle is essential; song and diction (an arrangement of verses) are important; as is a medium or representation. Plot-Character-Thought o Action--or plot--is an ordered arrangement of incidents. o Character--defines the nature of the participants. o Thought--comes out of what the characters say. o Of these, plot is most important, followed by character. Then comes the thought, followed by the diction, then the song, then the spectacle.                MANNER MEDIUM REPRESENTATION      (1) Plot  (2) Character                  (3) Thought (4) Diction (5) Song (6) Spectacle Reversal = opposite happens to what is expected Discovery = change from ignorance to knowledge; leads to love or hate Calamity = destructive or painful action A well-conceived plot brings about a change in fortune. Tragic characters:  1. should be good;  2. should be appropriate;  3. should be lifelike; 4. should be consistent. Beware of "deus ex machina" endings! ("Deus ex machina" means "god from a machine," a phrase that derives from the ending of some Greek plays wherein a god or goddess was cranked down onto the stage via a basket and ropes; the god or goddess would solve all the problems of the play before being cranked back up offstage.) But these kinds of solutions to the problems in the play won’t satisfy because they aren’t true to life. Made with Xara Website by Susan Smily