Outline of Aristotle's Theory of Tragedy
Definition of Tragedy: “Tragedy, then, 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.” (translation by S. H. Butcher; click on the context links to consult the full online text) The treatise we call the Poetics was composed at least 50 years after the death of Sophocles. Tragedy is the “imitation of an action” (mimesis) according to “the law of probability or necessity.” Plot is the “first principle,” the most important feature of tragedy. The plot must be “a whole,” with a beginning, middle, and end. Character has the second place in importance.
Related: The Genre of Tragedy Reading