Aristotle's Poetics

Tragedy as a genre of Drama

How does tragedy illustrate the elements of Drama?

Asked by
Last updated by jill d #170087
Answers 1
Add Yours

Tragedy is an imitation of action with the following characteristics: it is serious, complete, of significant magnitude, depicted with rhythmic language and/or song, in the form of action (not narrative), and produces a 'purgation' of pity and fear in the audience (also known as catharsis).

Since tragedy is the imitation of action, it is chiefly concerned with the lives of men, and thus presents a stage for character and thought. Character - the qualities ascribed to a certain man - and thought, according to Aristotle, are the two causes from which actions spring. These elements also determine the success of a given action. Plot, then, is arrangements of incidents (successes or failures) that result from character and thought giving way to action.

With the above in mind, Aristotle lays out the six parts that define a tragedy:

a. plot

b. character

c. diction (rhythmic language)

d. thought

e. spectacle

f. song

Plot is the most important part of a tragedy for a number of reasons. First, the result of a man's actions determines his success or failure, and hence his happiness, so it is action which is paramount - not character, which doesn't necessarily affect every action. Second, without action, there cannot be a tragedy - but there can be a tragedy without character. Thirdly, diction, song, and thought - even elegantly combined - cannot replicate the action of life without plot.

Plot, then, is the 'soul of a tragedy,' and character comes second. Rounding out his rankings: thought, meaning what a character says in a given circumstance, followed by diction, song, and spectacle.