Saturday, September 8, 2007

Summary of Aristotle's Definition of Tragedy

Definition: "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; the form of action, not of narrative; with incidents arousing pity and fear, wherewith to accomplish its katharsis of such emotions" (

  • Tragedy shows rather than tells
  • Tragedy dramatizes what may happen (universal themes)
  • Creates a cause-and-effect chain that clearly reveals what may happen at any time or place
  • Tragedy arouses pity and fear in the audience
  • The beginning is called the incentive moment, the start of the cause-and-effect chain of events
  • The middle, or climax, must be caused by earlier incidents and itself cause the incidents that follow it
  • The end, or resolution, must be caused by the preceding events and should solve or resolve the problem created during the incentive moment
Complex Plot/Simple Plot:
  • Simple plot has only "change of fortune" or catastrophe
  • Complex plot has "reversal of intention" or peripeteia and "recognition" or anagnorisis connected with catastrophe
  • Peripeteia occurs when a character produces an effect opposite to that which he intended to produce, while anagnorisis "is a change from ignorance to knowledge, producing love or hate between the persons destined for good or bad fortune."
  • Best plots combine these two as a part of their cause-and-effect chain (i.e. the peripeteia leads directly to the anagnorisis); this in turn creates the catastrophe, leading to the final "scene of suffering."
Tragic Mistake/Tragic Flaw:
  • As the protagonist (a character of renown and prosperity) suffers, the audience experiences feelings of both pity and fear. Pity "is aroused by unmerited misfortune, fear by the misfortune of a man like ourselves."
  • Hamartia: tragic flaw or tragic mistake. The protagonist has mistakenly brought about his own downfall--not because he is sinful or morally weak, but because he does not know enough.
  • The downfall, then, follows logically from the chain of events described above. The "peripeteia" is really one or more self-destructive actions taken in blindness, leading to results diametrically opposed to those that were intended (tragic irony), and the anagnorisis is the gaining of the essential knowledge that was previously lacking.


Brando said...

The Story can "own us" emotionally if we really get into it. Like if we like the story a lot, and lets say someone dies we might cry because the story has "owned us" emotionally.

A story can "save us." if your stuck in an exact situation just like the book, the story might have answers on how to get you out of that sitution/scenario.

A story can "Direct Us." by showing us or guide us in any situation rather than saving us which is a bad situation. A story that can give direction can just guide us in everyway.

Louisa C. said...

In this passage the author is trying to say the sotries you (youth) hear help you when facing similar situation. Only the stories can look past the war, only the story can go beyond the emotion and memories. Only the stories are what helps you in the future, the story guides you and without it you are as well off as blind person walking toward a cliff. Do we control the stories? No we have to trust the stories and let them lead us.
I do agree with this passage I think that is why when we are young we are told stories with such strong morals so that you can learn from them. I also agree that stories guide you, you can’t guide them. When told a story about a disaster 9/11 and years later another incident occurs you can’t change that story and make the disaster okay and ignore it. You have to act on it then as done on the past.