Aristotle's Poetics

Aristotelian Themes in A Doll's House

Considered the precursor of Western dramatic criticism, Aristotle’s notes on The Poetics arms modern readers with the language by which tragedy is evaluated and judged. In this essay I will examine how Aristotle’s classical vision of tragedy flourishes in modern plays such as Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll House. Particularly, I will argue that Ibsen’s form of realism employs Aristotle’s ideal of plot as “what is capable of happening according to the rule of probability or necessity” to achieve a social or political reaction where tension between Nora and her audience allow her to be portrayed as a tragic character (Aristotle pg. 127). The focus here is not on Nora and Torvald's life story of feminine exploitation, but rather on how the play's three-act plot structure adds to the fear and pity of dramatic tragedy.

From the outset, Ibsen faces a conflict between illustrating a “realistic” story supported by historical, internal, external, and subconscious supporting details between characters and the need to boil down to only the details necessary for the plot to convey a strong social message. Without artistic selectivity, the play would need to elaborate on every detail contributing to Nora’s subservient disposition. Nora’s...

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