Aristotle`s Poetics Powerpoint

Aristotle’s Poetics
Introduction to William Shakespeare’s Othello
AP Literature and Composition
Thursday, November 8
Aim: What is the structure and definition of a
Shakespearean tragedy?
Objective: To read and understand Aristotle’s
definition of tragedy.
Definition of Tragedy
“Tragedy is an imitation of an action that is serious,
complete, and of a certain magnitude; in language
embellished with each kind of artistic ornament, the
several kinds being found in separate parts of the play;
in the form of action, not of narrative; with incidents
arousing pity and fear, wherewith to accomplish its
katharsis of such emotions. . . . Every Tragedy,
therefore, must have six parts, which parts determine
its quality—namely, Plot, Characters, Diction, Thought,
Spectacle, Melody.”
Plot (Mythos)
The most important feature in tragedy
The way the play is structured and arranged
the outcome depends on a tightly constructed causeand-effect chain of actions (following Freytag’s
The plot must be “of a certain magnitude,” both
quantitatively (length, complexity) and qualitatively
(“seriousness” and universal significance)
the more universal and significant the meaning of the
play, the more the playwright can catch and hold the
emotions of the audience
Character (Ethos)
The protagonist should be renowned and prosperous,
so his change of fortune can be from good to bad. This
change “should come about as the result, not of vice,
but of some great error or frailty in a character.”
Hamartia, or a tragic flaw of the protagonist results in
generating pity and fear in the audience– he brings
about his own downfall, not because he is sinful, but
because he does not know enough (blindness)- often
termed tragic irony.
Through asides and monologues, the character’s inner
thoughts are revealed
The language of each character exposes a greater theme
or understanding
Diction, Song, and Spectacle
Diction- the use of figurative language, especially
metaphors, is “the mark of genius, for to make good
metaphors implies an eye for resemblances.”
Song- the Greek chorus should contribute to and
propel the plot, not just be “mere interludes.”
Spectacle- refers to the special effects that reflects the
art of the stage machinist (least important of the
Tragedy arouses the emotions of pity and fear (what he
termed katharsis) in order to purge away their excess,
to reduce these passions to a healthy, balanced
Fill out the first column of the “tragedy” worksheet
with the example of tragedy that you noticed in the do
now prompt.