Poetics

by

Aristotle

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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 should be some change of fortune—a change from good fortune to bad or vice versa—and that change should arise from some sort of error. For instance, Oedipus’s error (his fatal flaw) in Sophocles’s Oedipus Rex is pride, which causes Oedipus to ignore a god’s prophetic warnings. The best tragedies, Aristotle argues, are those with errors that lead to a change from good fortune to bad fortune, as such tragedies produce the level of fear and pity necessary for the audience to experience catharsis.

Error Quotes in Poetics

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

We are left, therefore, with the person intermediate between these. This is the sort of person who is not outstanding in moral excellence or justice; on the other hand, the change of bad fortune which he undergoes is not due to any moral defect or depravity, but to an error of some kind. He is one of those people who are held in great esteem and enjoy great good fortune, like Oedipus, Thyestes, and distinguished men from that kind of family.

Related Characters: Aristotle (speaker), Oedipus, Sophocles, Euripides
Related Symbols: Oedipus Rex
Page Number: 21
Explanation and Analysis:
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Error Term Timeline in Poetics

The timeline below shows where the term Error appears in Poetics. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 3. The Anthropology and History of Poetry
Tragedy vs. Epic Poetry  Theme Icon
Imitation  Theme Icon
Fear, Pity, and Catharsis Theme Icon
Component Parts and Balance  Theme Icon
...imitation of inferior people but that such people are not inferior in every way. “Laughable errors” or disgraces do not involve pain: for instance, a comedic mask may be “ugly and... (full context)
Chapter 7. The Best Kinds of Tragic Plot
Tragedy vs. Epic Poetry  Theme Icon
Fear, Pity, and Catharsis Theme Icon
Component Parts and Balance  Theme Icon
...shouldn’t be too moral, but the change a character undergoes should be due to an error, not immorality. A good plot does not involve a change from bad fortune to good,... (full context)