Among the most influential books in Western civilization, the Poetics is really a treatise on fine art. It offers seminal ideas on the nature of drama, tragedy, poetry, music and more, including such concepts as catharsis, the tragic flaw, unities of time and place and other rules of drama. This inexpensive edition enables readers to enjoy the critical insights of… See more details below
Among the most influential books in Western civilization, the Poetics is really a treatise on fine art. It offers seminal ideas on the nature of drama, tragedy, poetry, music and more, including such concepts as catharsis, the tragic flaw, unities of time and place and other rules of drama. This inexpensive edition enables readers to enjoy the critical insights of one humanity's greatest minds laying the foundations for thought about the arts.
"Whalley has produced precisely the kind of volume that is needed if the Poetics is to be successfully and seriously taught at the college level. This is the only edition of the Poetics that can truly claim to introduce adequately to a reader with no knowledge of Greek the problems and issues posed by the language of Aristotle's arguments. No current edition in use at the college level brings its readers to the same level of understanding of Aristotle's text that Whalley achieves in his translation and especially in his presentation of classical scholarship through the notes prepared for this edition." David Ferris, Department of Comparative Literature, Queens College and the Graduate School, City University of New York
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About the poetic art itself and the forms of it, what specific capacity each has, and how one ought to put together stories if the making of them is going to hold together beautifully, and also how many and what sort of parts stories are made of, and likewise about as many other things as belong to the inquiry into poetic art, let us speak once we have first started, in accord with nature, from the things that come first.
Now epic poetry and the making of tragedy, and also comedy and dithyrambic poetry, as well as most flute-playing and lyre-playing, are all as a whole just exactly imitations, but they are different from one another in three ways, for they differ either by making their imitations in different things, by imitating different things, or by imitating differently and not in the same way. For just as some people who make images imitate many things by means of both colors and shapes (some through art and others through habituation), and others by means of the voice, so too with the arts mentioned, all of them make imitations in rhythm, speech, and harmony, and with these either separate or mixed. For example, both flute-playing and lyre-playing, and any other arts there happen to be that are of that sort in their capacity, such as the art of the Pan-pipes, use only harmony and rhythm, while the art of dancers uses rhythm itself apart from harmony (for they too, through the rhythms of their gestures, imitate states of character, feelings, and actions). But the art that uses bare words and the one that uses meters, and the latter either mixing meters with one another or using one particular kind, happen to be nameless up to now. For we have nothing to use as a name in common for the mimes of Sophron and Xenarchus and the Socratic dialogues, even if someone were to make the imitation with [iambic] trimeters or elegiac [couplets] or anything else of that sort. Instead, people connect the poetic making with the meter and name “elegiac poets,” or others “epic poets,” calling them poets not as a result of the imitation but as a result of the meter as what is common to them, for even when they bring out something medical or about nature in meter, people are accustomed to speak of them in that way. But nothing is common to Homer and Empedocles except the meter, and hence, while it is just to call the former a poet, the latter is more a student of nature than a poet. By the same token, even if someone were to make an imitation by mixing all the meters, the very way Chaeremon made the Centaur as a patchwork mixture of all the meters, one would have to call him too a poet. As for these things, then, let them be distinguished in this way. And there are some arts that use all the things mentioned—I mean, for instance, rhythm and melody and meter—as do the making of both dithyrambs and nomes, and both tragedy and comedy.
Meet the Author
Aristotle was born in 384BC. For twenty years he studied at Athens at the Academy of Plato, on whose death in 347 he left, and some time later became tutor to Alexander the Great. On Alexander's succession to the throne of Macedonia in 336, Aristotle returned to Athens and established his school and research institute, the Lyceum. After Alexander's death he was driven out of Athens and fled to Chalcis in Euboea where he died in 322. His writings profoundly affected the whole course of ancient and medieval philosophy.
Malcolm Heath has been Reader in Greek Language and Literature at Leeds University since 1991.
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