Poetics

by

Aristotle

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Odysseus Character Analysis

Odysseus is a legendary hero in Greek mythology and the main character in Homer’s Odyssey. Aristotle uses Odysseus as an example of reversal and recognition in Poetics and refers multiple times to the “bath-scene” in the Odyssey, in which Odysseus’s identity is discovered by a nurse when she notices his telltale scar.

Odysseus Quotes in Poetics

The Poetics quotes below are all either spoken by Odysseus or refer to Odysseus. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Tragedy vs. Epic Poetry  Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Penguin Classics edition of Poetics published in 1997.
Chapter 8 Quotes

The best recognition of all is that which arises out of the actual course of events, where the emotional impact is achieved through events that are probable, as in Sophocles’ Oedipus and the Iphigeneia (her wish to send a letter is probable). Only this kind does without contrived tokens and necklaces. Second-best are those which arise from inference.

Related Characters: Aristotle (speaker), Oedipus, Iphigeneia, Odysseus, Sophocles, Euripides, Homer, Orestes
Related Symbols: Oedipus Rex
Page Number: 27
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 10 Quotes

Homer, in particular, taught other poets the right way to tell falsehoods. This the false inference In cases where the existence or occurrence of A implies the existence or occurrence of B, people imagine that if B is the case than A also exists or occurs—which is fallacious. So if A is false, but its existence would entail the existences or occurrence of B, one should add B; then, on the basis of its knowledge that B is true, our mind falsely infers the reality of A as well. An example of this can be found in the bath-scene.

Related Characters: Aristotle (speaker), Odysseus, Homer
Page Number: 41
Explanation and Analysis:

Probable impossibilities are preferable to implausible possibilities. Stories should not be constructed from irrational parts; so far as possible they should contain nothing irrational—or, failing that, it should be outside the narration (like Oedipus’ ignorance of the manner of Laius’ death) and not in the play itself (like the report of the Pythian Games in Electra, or the man who comes from Tegea to Mysia without speaking in the Mysians). Saying that the plot would have been ruined otherwise is absurd; plots should not be constructed like that in the first place. But is one does posit an irrationality and it seems more or less rational, even an oddity is possible; the irrationalities involved in Odysseus’ being put ashore in the Odyssey would be manifestly intolerable if a second-rate poet had composed them, but as it is the poet conceals the absurdity with other good qualities, and makes it a source of pleasure.

Related Characters: Aristotle (speaker), Oedipus, Orestes, Odysseus, Homer, Sophocles
Related Symbols: Oedipus Rex
Page Number: 41
Explanation and Analysis:
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Odysseus Character Timeline in Poetics

The timeline below shows where the character Odysseus appears in Poetics. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 5. Plot: Basic Concepts
Tragedy vs. Epic Poetry  Theme Icon
Imitation  Theme Icon
Component Parts and Balance  Theme Icon
...Aristotle reasons, Homer did not include in the Odyssey every last thing that happened to Odysseus. Instead, the whole of the Odyssey constitutes a single unified action—Odysseus’s journey home from the... (full context)
Chapter 7. The Best Kinds of Tragic Plot
Tragedy vs. Epic Poetry  Theme Icon
Fear, Pity, and Catharsis Theme Icon
...best structure of a tragedy is the “double structure,” like Homer’s Odyssey, which ends with Odysseus’s triumph and the deaths of wicked characters. However, Aristotle points out, this structure does not... (full context)
Chapter 8. Other Aspects of Tragedy
Tragedy vs. Epic Poetry  Theme Icon
Fear, Pity, and Catharsis Theme Icon
...like a scar. Tokens can also be external, like jewelry or a boat. For example, Odysseus is recognized by a scar. If recognition is employed merely for confirmation, this is less... (full context)
Tragedy vs. Epic Poetry  Theme Icon
Fear, Pity, and Catharsis Theme Icon
Component Parts and Balance  Theme Icon
...memory, when a character suddenly realizes something they forgot. Aristotle again raises the example of Odysseus, who weeps at the sound of a lyre because he is reminded of his past.... (full context)