Aristotle's Poetics

Aristotle's Poetics Glossary


Catharsis is a key element of tragedy which induces pity and fear in the audience: pity of the hero's plight, and fear that it will befall us


Character is one of the six components of tragedy that refers not to the 'attributes' of a given person, but the person himself as a representative entity in the play.


Comedy presents human beings as "worse than they are" in life, in order to present a different type of imitation than in a classical tragedy.

complex plot

A complex plot involves a unity of action and purpose and ultimately leads to a climactic reversal and recognition.


Complication is the rising action of a dramatic work that extends from the beginning of the play to the climax or reversal.


Denouement is the unraveling of the plot that takes place after the climax.


Diction is one of the six components of tragedy; it includes how an actor delivers the lines written for him.


Drama presents actions before an audience with the use of actors, rather than oral recitation by a single narrator.


Epic presents actions through narrative and is usually recited orally by a single narrator.


Hexameter is the 'epic' meter or a line of 'six feet.'


Iambic is the 'dramatic' meter with a syncopated beat, more closely related to the way we speak in normal life.


Imitation is the defining purpose of all artists to represent life as it is, as we think it is, or as it should be.


Narrative is the dramatization of action by a single narrator.


Pity is one of the key elements of catharisis, driven by our empathy for the hero's plight.


Plot is one of the six components of tragedy, but the most important. Aristotle calls plot the "soul of tragedy," since it is the arrangements of incidents that justifies all the other elements of tragedy in its dramatization of action.


Poetry is any form of art which seeks to imitate life through words (or the rhythm of words).

simple plot

A simple plot is a plot that doesn't necessarily maintain unity, reversal or recognition; can be episodic.


A song is one form of conveying action in a tragedy.


Spectacle is one of the six components of tragedy; it includes anything that is presented before the audience onstage. Aristotle notes this is the least significant aspect of tragedy, since it is not vital to the actual 'text,' which can be read alone.


Thought is speech by characters used to explain, justify, or substitute for physical action.


Tragedy is an imitation of action that is serious, complete, of significant magnitude, depicted with rhythmic language and/or song, in the form of action (not narrative), that produces a 'purgation' of pity and fear in the audience.


Unity is the revolution of a work around a central axis, theme, or purpose. All components of the work must work towards this central purpose.