Teachers and parents! Struggling with distance learning? Our Teacher Edition on Poetics can help.


Catharsis is the process of feeling and therefore purifying one’s body of strong emotion, particularly fear and pity. Aristotle refers to catharsis as “purification,” and he argues it is the ultimate aim of tragedyread analysis of Catharsis

Change of Fortune

A change of fortune is the part of a plot in which there is a change in fortune, either from good to bad or vice versa. Every tragedy has a change of fortune, Aristotle claims… read analysis of Change of Fortune


Character is one of the component parts of tragedy. By character, Aristotle does not always mean the people depicted in poetry; instead, character in Poetics often refers to a character’s moral fortitude and… read analysis of Character


Comedy is one of the five forms of poetry. According to Aristotle, comedy is an imitation of inferior people; however, that is not to say characters in comedies are inferior in every way… read analysis of Comedy

Complex Plot

A complex plot is one of the two kinds of plot. Plots can be either simple or complex, and a complex plot is one in which the change of fortune comes about because of… read analysis of Complex Plot
Get the entire Poetics LitChart as a printable PDF.
Poetics PDF


A complication is the part of a tragic plot that includes everything from the beginning of the play up to the point of the change of fortune. A tragedy must have both complication and… read analysis of Complication


Diction is the composition of a poem’s verse. Diction includes utterances—like commands, answers, and prayers—along with the following: phoneme, syllable, connective, noun, verb, conjunction, and inflection. Diction’s most important quality is clarity, Aristotle argues, as… read analysis of Diction

Dithyrambic Poetry

Dithyrambic poetry is one of the five forms of poetry. A dithyramb is an ancient Greek hymn and dance performed in honor of Dionysus, the Greek god of wine and theater, and it is… read analysis of Dithyrambic Poetry

Epic Poetry

Epic poetry is one of the five forms of poetry Aristotle examines in Poetics. Like tragedy, Aristotle argues that epic poetry is an imitation of admirable people, but he maintains that epic isn’t… read analysis of Epic Poetry


Error is often referred to by the Greek hamartia, and it is best understood as the fatal flaw that brings about a character’s downfall. In the plot of a tragedy, Aristotle argues, there… read analysis of Error

Iambic Trimeter

Iambic trimeter is a form of poetic verse that has three iambic units, or “feet,” which is a unit of poetry composed of an unstressed syllable followed by a stressed syllable. According to Aristotleread analysis of Iambic Trimeter


Aristotle argues that all art—be it a painting, a dance, or a poem—is an imitation. Art imitates some object (like an apple in a still life or a war in a poem), and that object… read analysis of Imitation


A lampoon is a type of comedy in which a single person is satirized. According to Aristotle, when comedy first emerged, lampoonists were known as poets of comedy because comedy was more highly regarded… read analysis of Lampoon

Lyric Poetry

Lyric poetry is one of the component parts of tragedy. Lyric poetry is verse put to song, and it is not found in epic poetry. Lyric poetry (in addition to spectacle) “is… read analysis of Lyric Poetry


For an artist to imitate an object of beauty, Aristotle says, that imitation must possess all the parts it aims to imitate, and its magnitude cannot be arbitrary. Magnitude speaks to the actual size of… read analysis of Magnitude


Medium is the means through which an artist imitates an object. In visual art and painting, the medium of imitation is color and shape. In the art of poetry, which Aristotle is particularly… read analysis of Medium


Mode is the way in which an artist imitates an object. For example, in epic poetry, the mode of imitation is narration; however, in tragedy, the mode of imitation is actors on… read analysis of Mode


An object is the thing that is imitated in a work of art. According to Aristotle, an object can be anything—including a person, an inanimate object, or an event—and it is often beautiful, although… read analysis of Object


A plot is a component of tragedy and, according to Aristotle, the most important part. Per Aristotle, tragedy is an imitation of “actions and of life,” and those events constitute the plot. Plots can… read analysis of Plot


Poetry is the form of art discussed by Aristotle in Poetics. According to Aristotle, the term poetry can be applied to any of the following forms: tragedy, epic poetry, comedy, dithyrambicread analysis of Poetry


Reasoning is a component part of tragedy. Reasoning is best understood as the effect produced by language—such as proof, refutation, or the production of fear and pity (catharsis)—and it allows characters to… read analysis of Reasoning


Aristotle defines recognition as “a change from ignorance to knowledge, disclosing either a close relationship or enmity, on the part of the people marked out for good or bad fortune” within a poem, particularly in… read analysis of Recognition


A tragedy has both complication and resolution, Aristotle says, and resolution is everything that happens from the beginning of the change of fortune to the end of the play. Aristotle argues that resolution and complication… read analysis of Resolution


Aristotle defines reversal as “a change to the opposite in the actions being performed” that occurs in accordance with necessity or probability. In other words, it refers to the kind of plot twist where things… read analysis of Reversal


Rhetoric is reasoning in written word. Aristotle doesn’t go too far into rhetoric in Poetics (he addresses that in his other manuscript Rhetoric); however, he does claim that poets of contemporary tragedy make their… read analysis of Rhetoric

Simple Plot

A simple plot is a plot in which a single, unified action is imitated and in which the change of fortune comes about without recognition or reversal. Episodic plots, in which the sequence of… read analysis of Simple Plot


Spectacle is a component part of tragedy. Spectacle is best understood as the visual effects of a tragedy, and Aristotle argues that it has more to do with “the art of the property-manager” than… read analysis of Spectacle


Tragedy is one of the five forms of poetry, and it is the form Aristotle pays most attention to in Poetics. Tragedy, according to Aristotle, “is an imitation of an action that is… read analysis of Tragedy


Unity is the state of being complete or whole. According to Aristotle, an object of imitation must be whole or complete, and when an action is imitated in a tragedy or an event is… read analysis of Unity