Poetics

by

Aristotle

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Complex Plot Term Analysis

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 recognition, reversal, or both. According to Aristotle, the best plots are complex, as complex plots are most effective for producing catharsis, which is the trademark of tragedy. Aristotle gives Homer’s Odyssey and Sophocles’s Oedipus Rex as examples of complex plots, as Odysseus undergoes recognition and Oedipus undergoes both recognition and reversal.

Complex Plot Quotes in Poetics

The Poetics quotes below are all either spoken by Complex Plot or refer to Complex Plot. For each quote, you can also see the other terms 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 7 Quotes

The construction of the best tragedy should be complex rather than simple; and it should also be an imitation of events that evoke fear and pity, since that is the distinctive feature of this kind of imitation. So it is clear first of all that decent men should not be seen undergoing a change from good fortune to bad fortune—this does not evoke fear or pity, but disgust. Nor should depraved people be seen undergoing a change from bad fortune to good fortune—this is the least tragic of all: it has none of the right effects, since it neither agreeable, nor does it evoke pity or fear. Nor again should a very wicked person fall from good fortune to bad fortune—that kind of structure would be agreeable, but would not excite pity or fear, since the one has to do with someone who is suffering undeservedly, the other with someone who is like ourselves (I mean, pity has to do with the underserving sufferer, fear with the person like us); so what happens will evoke neither pity nor fear.

Related Characters: Aristotle (speaker)
Page Number: 20-1
Explanation and Analysis:
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Complex Plot Term Timeline in Poetics

The timeline below shows where the term Complex Plot 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
Imitation  Theme Icon
Component Parts and Balance  Theme Icon
6.2 Simple and Complex Parts. According to Aristotle, plot is either simple or complex. A simple plot is a plot in which a single action of unity is imitated,... (full context)
Chapter 7. The Best Kinds of Tragic Plot
Tragedy vs. Epic Poetry  Theme Icon
Imitation  Theme Icon
Fear, Pity, and Catharsis Theme Icon
Component Parts and Balance  Theme Icon
7.2 First Deduction. The best tragedy is complex, not simple, and it imitates events that provoke fear and pity in the audience. This... (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
8.6 Kinds of Tragedy. According to Aristotle, there are four different kinds of tragedy: complex tragedy, which relies on reversal and recognition; tragedy of suffering, like plays about Ajax; tragedy... (full context)
Chapter 10. Epic
Tragedy vs. Epic Poetry  Theme Icon
Imitation  Theme Icon
Fear, Pity, and Catharsis Theme Icon
10.2 Kinds and Parts of Epic. Also like tragedy, an epic is either simple, complex, or based on suffering. The components of an epic are the same, too, except an... (full context)