Aristotle's Poetics

Faux Pas: The French Theatre Academy’s Probable Rejection of Hamlet College

Aristotle, in his 335 BCE work of dramatic theory, Poetics, wrote several observations on the nature of ancient Greek theatre and poetry, and also gave his opinions about the qualities he thought theatre and poetry ought to have. Poetics was largely thought to be commentary on theatre and poetry until it received a surge of popularity in France as part of the neo-classical movement. The views and opinions Aristotle expressed in Poetics became wildly popular, especially among the members of the French academy, a panel established to maintain the purity of French arts and literature. Soon after the rediscovery of Poetics, the academy established a rule that no play could be produced unless it lived up to the Aristotelian standard. The Aristotelian standard the French academy set was that all plays had to adhere to the three unities Aristotle wrote about, and also have verisimilitude. In other words, all plays had to have unity of time, unity of place, unity of action, and also had to be believable. While these rules generated some great works, most notably from Corneille and Moliere, ironically enough, some English plays that were written and produced at the same time and probably would have been rejected by the Academy are...

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