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Orestes Character Analysis

Orestes is a figure in Greek mythology and Iphigeneia’s brother. He is the subject of Aeschylus’s Oresteia, Sophocles’s Electra, and Euripides’s Iphigeneia at Aulis and Iphigeneia in Tauris, all of which Aristotle mentions in Poetics. Aristotle uses Orestes, whose identity is concealed and later revealed in each of the tragedies that feature him, to explain how recognition works in tragedy.

Orestes Quotes in Poetics

The Poetics quotes below are all either spoken by Orestes or refer to Orestes. 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

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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Orestes Character Timeline in Poetics

The timeline below shows where the character Orestes appears in Poetics. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 6. Plot: Species and Components
Tragedy vs. Epic Poetry  Theme Icon
Fear, Pity, and Catharsis Theme Icon
...time. Aristotle gives Euripides’s Iphigeneia in Tauris as an example, in which both Iphigeneia and Orestes recognize at different times they are siblings. (full context)
Chapter 7. The Best Kinds of Tragic Plot
Tragedy vs. Epic Poetry  Theme Icon
Fear, Pity, and Catharsis Theme Icon
...more like comedy, Aristotle argues, in which enemies resolve their differences (even bitter enemies like Orestes and Aegisthus make up) and no one is killed. (full context)
Chapter 8. Other Aspects of Tragedy
Tragedy vs. Epic Poetry  Theme Icon
Fear, Pity, and Catharsis Theme Icon
Component Parts and Balance  Theme Icon
...the poet, and this form of recognition is not very artistic either. In the Iphigeneia, Orestes reveals his own identity, but Iphigeneia’s identity is revealed through a letter. “Orestes declares in... (full context)